Monday, July 25, 2016

Predator free?

Today the government announced a new goal to make New Zealand predator-free by 2050. Its a bold ambition, and one worth supporting. But when you poke into the details, it starts to look a bit sketchy.

They do at least understand that there's going to be some hard work involved. Initially, the plan will focus on eradicating introduced predators (meaning rats, stoats and possums; Moonbeam is safe for now) from offshore islands while expanding predator suppression (meaning aerial 1080 campaigns) and onshore fenced "islands". Unfortunately, their way of doign this is with a public-private partnership. Yes, a flagship conservation strategy, and its just a way to channel money to government cronies while paying too much for services. I'm also unsure that their initial investment of $26 million over five years is even remotely commensurate with the scale of this problem, and I suspect that DoC will have some juicy advice on how much it will really cost. Still, even if its nowhere near enough for the task, and parasitised by National's cronies, more money is welcome.

The really amusing bit is the long-term. Their policy includes the line that by 2025,

we will have developed a breakthrough science solution capable of removing at least one small mammal predator from the mainland entirely

Leaving aside the questions of whether they're promising biological warfare on rats and stoats, to introduce a new predator to eat them (because we know how well that worked out in the past), or just to build a better mousetrap, this isn't policy so much as wishful thinking. Its the policy equivalent of "I will win the lottery", or maybe "Baby Jesus will ride in on a sparkly unicorn, wave his magic wand, and make this problem disappear". In other words, not real. If this is their policy, then it is simply not going to happen.

(Well, unless they couple it with a $50 million a year increase in science funding for possum-specific plagues, feral cat breeding programs, and advanced mousetrap design. But that's about as likely as them not awarding this PPP to a collection of their donors and cronies, and it not delivering worse results than DoC would have got by doing it in-house...)

National has form on this sort of wishful-thinking-as-policy. In case anyone has forgotten, their 2009-10 economic policy, intended to "close the gap" with Australia, boiled down to "we will dsicover oil". This is no different. And its simply not credible. While I support the goal, New Zealand deserves a government which actually presents credible plans for achieving it, rather than this sort of underpants-collecting nonsense. And we won't get that under National.