Now that we have a new Government that is promising to get us back to reality, it would be great if we could get conservation of our native species back on track. "Dreamtime economics" seems to have abandoned the protection of native plants and animals from our dogs, cats and feral goats.

When I was farming, dogs were naturally a vital part of our operation, but we were always very careful to ensure they were under our control. When dogs were not working they were clipped to the fence by a small chain and clip collar. Our livelihood could have been destroyed by Taenia ovis (sheep measles), which is spread by roaming dogs.

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All the farmers I knew in that Waverley valley in 1985 had this strict control of dogs, because, if they didn't, their lambs were rejected at the works. There were kiwi calling most nights from the surrounding bush as a bonus.


In 1999 I moved on to my 5ha lifestyle block here in Aramoho and there have had regular attacks on my sheep from roaming dogs ever since. Other lifestylers tell me it is pretty much the same all over New Zealand.

A few weeks ago I had to spend half a day burying my old pet ewe, which had died of internal wounds from a dog attack while I was away on holiday. She would not have run very fast, because she was due to drop twin lambs, and it must have been a horrible way to die. I was told I was lucky, as my neighbour lost 18 lambs.

Council dog rangers and police spend a lot of hard work on this problem but say there is really nothing they can do.

But if we can't keep sheep safe, how on Earth can we protect the real natives of these lovely islands: kiwis, penguins and all the other critters that have no defence against our exotic pets?

I believe we have to "get real" about keeping exotic predator-type pets like goats, cats and dogs, and it starts with education at schools. The real nature of exotic species and what they are doing to native species should be a science subject in early school.

Children need to know facts about their pets, to counter the adverts on TV suggesting you reward your dog for licking a child's face clean. Children could analyse dog saliva to determine how dangerous it is.

Class trips (run by the Department of Conservation or Horizons) could visit the bush that has been damaged by feral goats.

Kids with facts behind them will grow into the best police of all to ensure our native species get a fair deal from politicians and their "warm fuzzy" propaganda machine.

Rob Butcher is a retired engineer, beekeeper and farmer turned conservationist.