A bid to eradicate bovine tuberculosis in Hawke's Bay will see $20 million committed to possum control in the region over the next five years.
Hawke's Bay farmers and hunters have since 2019 been struggling with bovine tuberculosis's spread. As at February, 15 herds were infected.
Operational Solutions for Primary Industries (Ospri) works to control the spread of the disease, which is mainly transmitted by possums.
Ospri says what it is doing is working. Between August and October it completed aerial operations covering about 30,000 hectares including in Waipunga near the Napier Taupō Road, Waikoau, Willowflat and Poronui-Ripia.
Hawke's Bay Farmer Nick Dawson said bovine TB had taken Hawke's Bay farmers by surprise, especially the speed that it spread.
He felt that "maybe we got a bit complacent", after being TB free for so long and farming systems weren't in place to stop what had previously been seen as a "old fashioned disease".
"When it hit, it hit hard and it hit farmers very hard."
1080 is used by Ospri in its aerial work, as it is the most effective way of reducing possum numbers. Other Ospri operations include, buffering work to protect farms, treatment of source areas and ground control.
The only way to eradicate TB in some areas is with 1080, because "the terrain is so horrendously rugged and know one understands, how rugged it is," Dawson said.
Ospri says over 355,000 hectares have been "controlled" in Hawke's Bay since the TB outbreak response kicked off in October of 2019.
The aim is to lower the possum population to a level by 2026 where it can be maintained long enough to break the disease cycle.
Ospri's Disease Control GM Simon Andrew said in other areas over New Zealand, maintaining a low possum population had been successful.
"We have seen as much as a 98 per cent reduction in possum populations."
"Once we have targeted the source of infection, we fully expect the number of infected herds to fall over time."
Ospri's biggest issue in the past has been its relationship with local farmers, but it says that has changed.
"We are now in a better position to engage with the community and have improved our regular communication with farmers."
Dawson said forging and maintaining those relationships was key.
"If you don't get access to land, you're not going to be able to eradicate anything and TB will harbour again."
The $20 million committed to eradicating TB from cattle and deer herds also includes treating the areas that are sources of infection.
"Our possum control work will not only allow the bush to regenerate and enhance biodiversity throughout Hawke's Bay, but it will also contribute to protecting an important source of kai for hunters and the local community," Andrew said.
Ospri is a partnership between primary industries and government.
It is the management agency for the National Bovine Tuberculosis Pest Management Plan, and manages the national animal identification and traceability system. It is a not-for-profit company overseen by a Board of Directors and receives money from shareholders and investors to run pest reduction programmes.