Richard Bowman, who had a decades-long career with the Southland Regional Council, says if landowners are making efforts to control rabbits, the Otago Regional Council should step in and help.

During the annual plan public hearing, via video call yesterday, he presented a land-holder and community-led rabbit management model to councillors.

It suggested the ORC took a pragmatic approach and helped landowners and communities who wanted to help themselves.

The submission said rabbit control methods on large farming properties, including fencing, shooting and poisoning, carried out on a long-term basis, were not as effective on small holdings in semi-rural or peri-urban areas.

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Co-ordinating landowners, many of whom were not permanent residents, posed challenges.

Bowman said the council should provide liaison, advice and incentives to assist those landowners to co-ordinate their control efforts, in order to optimise results.

"It would target those landowners, and more particularly groups of landowners, who are prepared to invest their own funds and effort to control rabbits over the long term," he said.

"For co-operative programmes to work, it is essential that the rules in the regional pest management plan are enforced wherever necessary to protect those landowners who are committed to rabbit control from those who are not."

He said the ORC would also need to ensure it had enough staff, armed with the necessary social and technical skills to support existing community-led rabbit control programmes and to encourage new groups to form.

"Successfully adopting such an approach would address a lot of the criticism the council has received over perceived unsatisfactory management of rabbits in the past," Bowman said.