Not all corners of Otago were pleased by the Otago Regional Council's recent announcement a new strain of the rabbit calicivirus is set to be released.
Farmers and townsfolk dealing with plagues of rabbits initially welcomed the approval of the application to import and release RHDV1 K5, a Korean variant of the rabbit calicivirus illegally released in Otago in 1997. The releases will be on 100 Otago sites in March and April.
However, concerns have been raised about whether the approach was humane, whether the risks to pets had been adequately addressed and the efficacy of the virus.
Among those who contacted the ODT yesterday was Landscape By Design consultant Dr David McKay, of Dunedin, who called the issue of rabbits in New Zealand a "very complex, very deep issue" and the release of a new strain of the rabbit calicivirus a "Band-Aid" approach.
"There will come a time when the land is not productive at all," he said. "What we're seeing now is the symptoms of what happened 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago.
"Rabbits are not the problem, they are the symptom of an issue. The problem is modern intensive farming. We don't understand the land any more.
"If you've got 10 million rabbits and you kill 99.9% of them, you've still got a huge breeding population and they bounce back really fast."
He said his research into "survival, resilience, well-being and continuance" included a research interest in the RHD virus.
"We have people without work," Dr MacKay said. "Every property used to have rabbiters. Properties with rabbiters, who have retained them throughout and managed their rabbits as part of standard operations, do not have rabbit problems. Therein lies the problem and the solution, I suggest: Understanding, attitude, and practice."
Dr MacKay said his main concern was "we don't understand the potential for it [RHDV1 K5] to be nasty".
There was "no way of ensuring" the virus would not jump to another species.
However, the regional council has published information that "no other animal has ever developed an infection from being exposed to RHDV1".
Sarah Hexamer was another who wrote to the ODT this week. She is concerned the virus could spread before a vaccine for pet rabbits takes effect.
Further, she said, many pet owners would not understand the language used by the council, and would not realise "that all our pet bunnies come from the European rabbit genealogy" and would require a vaccination.
Information provided by the council states the Cylap vaccine, available in New Zealand, "has been helping to protect rabbits from the current RHDV1 for many years".
Australian Government studies had have indicated the vaccine "will also help to protect domestic rabbits against the RHDV1 K5 strain.
"Pet rabbit owners are advised to discuss this with their veterinarian to ensure their rabbit has the best protection available."