Cromwell farmer Donald Young has implored the Otago Regional Council to import a new Australian strain of rabbit virus, saying the recently introduced K5 virus has been a failure.

Mr Young, whose Lowburn property was one of the first sites to get the virus earlier this year, was speaking at the Otago Federated Farmers annual meeting in Balclutha yesterday.

He had been in contact with farmers in Canterbury and ''the story is just the same failure as Otago''.

Landcare Research also seemed slow when field staff sent in blood samples for testing.


''It took only three days to get results 21 years ago when RHD virus was found on my property. Now we are told to be patient, it might work.

''The same virus took only 32 hours to kill the rabbits 21 years ago.''

While farmers faced criticism in 1997 that the release was not done properly, it was ''a hell of a lot better than this one'', Mr Young said.

He believed RHDV2, which had just been released in the Alice Springs area, should be imported before the next breeding season.

Mr Young was also angry at what he called a ''total lack of support and concern'' the dedicated field staff and involved farmers had been shown by the regional council.

''Both elected members and senior staff have a lot to answer for,'' he said.

ORC chief executive Sarah Gardner said some areas had reported a 70% decline in rabbit numbers, but she was also aware results were patchy and there were reports that some areas had seen no change.

''We are hopeful, but we know there have been mixed results and we know that there is further work to do,'' she said.


It was suspected the reason for variation in death rates was in background immunity levels, but that would not be known for a while.

The virus was ''never going to be a silver bullet'' and it was important to use other, traditional means of rabbit control.

A campaign would be launched soon for owners of smaller properties, such as lifestyle blocks.

Mrs Gardner said she understood how frustrating it was and the council was ''as concerned as anyone''.

Field staff were ''devastated'' when nothing happened and she was sad to hear they did not feel supported, and would be following that up, she said.