Goats trot up an Atawhai street. Photo: Sara Hollyman.

Feral goats cause carnage

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Residents of an Atawhai subdivision have been left feeling gruff due to a large mob of feral goats who are running riot through their neighbourhood.

Rural property in the hills of Atawhai are providing safe living and breeding grounds for a large goat population who are becoming brazen and cheeky, but the owners of this land do not want the goats culled on their property.

Atawhai resident Gwen Ellis has been living in her suburban home for nearly 2 years and says the goats have been a problem ever since they began building.

“Apart from a quiet lull of a few months, they’ve pretty much been an on-going issue since the start of our build.”

She estimates she has spent over $1000 trying to keep the goats out of her property, and has now had to make their fences higher, as the goats have started jumping over them to get to her garden.

“You don’t expect that when you build a residential house and spend all that money on landscaping that you would have a problem with feral goats constantly coming in and destroying it.”

Gwen says that she has had many conversations with both Nelson and Tasman councils, which jointly manage the region’s best management strategy. However, these have been no help, with some of the conversations being labelled “ridiculous”.

“In one of the more ridiculous conversations I was told ‘well it’s not really our (council’s) problem even if they are on the road, but if they come on to your property you’re allowed to kill them yourself’.

“How am I supposed to do that? I don’t own a firearm and even if I did, you can’t just discharge a firearm in a residential area.”

Gwen’s neighbourhood had 20 goats roaming the streets last week, four of which jumped the fence into her garden.

Nelson City Council group manager environmental management Clare Barton says that they are aware that there have been issues with ‘feral’ goats but the ongoing control of them is a “fraught issue”.

“It is a fraught issue because some people want to retain the goats and the ability to control them is complex.”

She says that under the Urban Environment Bylaw, they can enforce fencing of livestock, but these particular goats are not covered under that due to them being ‘feral’.

Goats are also not considered a pest under the combined Tasman-Nelson Pest Management Strategy which provides a framework for both councils to efficiently and effectively manage pests.

Tasman District Council team leader biosecurity and biodiversity Paul Sheldon says that most Regional Pest Management Strategies do not cover goats as they are already covered under the Wild Animal Control Act

“Goats are very mobile and can be classed as domestic stock or a pest depending on who’s perspective is taken, so somewhat controversial.”

“Goats are specifically covered in the Wild Animal Control Act … and animals in urban areas are also often controlled under Urban Amenity bylaws … so in my view the instruments already exist and declaring goats as an urban pest under the Biosecurity Act is both unnecessary and potentially difficult.”

The Department of Conservation (DOC) oversees the administering of the Wild Animals Control Act but they say Atawhai’s feral goat situation isn’t their problem either.

“DOC’s goat control is focussed on the protection of native species and other conservation values from goats and particularly in national parks and other conservation areas,” says Chris Golding, DOC Motueka operations manager.

Gwen just wants a resolution that will keep the goats out of the streets and out of her yard.

“It would be nice if the council are going to abdicate responsibility, that they at least facilitate a meeting between the landowners.”

“We feel a bit like we are banging our heads against the wall because nobody will commit to a solution, we are ratepayers, so it would be nice for the council to do something.”

Clare Barton say council will arrange a meeting between landowners to discuss an ongoing goat control plan.