Decline ahead because of the drop in tourism
By Marty Foote
The Covid-19 pandemic is going to change the face of the NZ possum industry. The possum fibre industry has relied very heavily (80%+) on the tourism industry, which has been temporarily obliterated and will never regain the sorts of visitor numbers recorded in recent years.
Many of the current possum fibre businesses will disappear. It remains to be seen if the Woods family trust will continue to bankroll the Wool Yarns/Basically Bush partnership.
The NZ Possum Fur & Wild Animal Management Society is a group that has been set up to create cooperative arrangements. It is a model that will allow truly cooperative partnerships to be developed between harvesters, manufacturers, retailers and wild animal management agencies.
This season = a perfect storm
This season will be a disaster for all. The international fur-skin industry has been caught in a perfect storm, with a normal downturn in skin prices at the same time as Covid-19. The same thing will happen now, as did happen 30 years ago, when there was a massive collapse of fur-skin prices, and fur farmers knuckled down, killed off all stock, except for those animals needed to maintain genetics, and waited the storm out.
Fibre product producers have pretty much, lost their normal tourist sales outlets and they will have to develop new markets if they are to stay in the game.
I’m picking that it will two years before the fur-skin market starts to pick up again and this gives us the time we need, without the New Zealand Fur Council’s (NZFC) interference, to build the sorts of relationships we will need to bring back profitability to the possum industry.
The fibre industry can then become a partnership industry that is able to use the fibre, from poorer quality skins, so that we can maximise the returns from all possum products, which will include meat that will be harvested in larger and larger quantities as the skin/fibre prices rise.
I am interested in working with people that want to create a possum industry that works together, for the benefit of everybody.
My immediate future involves the push to get the wild animal control industry opened up to fair, transparent and competitive tendering processes. I was never going to be in a position to drive a change in the possum products industry, until a competitive contracting system is adopted by the Department of Conservation (DOC).
Output contract trappers have proved, over and over again, that trapping is the most effective form of possum control.
Some DOC rat and stoat trapping operations have also proved that trapping is the most effective form of controlling these pests. If possum, rat and stoat control was tendered, as complete output contract operations, then the wild animal control will become even more effective.
The contracting side of things means that I am in contact with new, much younger, entrants to the possum industry, who will be the future drivers and leaders.
The divisive work of the 1080 business
The 1080 industry has successfully managed to split the wild animal control, possum harvesting and government management components into individual silos that they can control, for the 1080 industry’s own benefit. This is how they have done it:
- Politicians have been allowed to force DOC Operations Managers to ignore the rules written for the planning and procurement of wild animal control.
- DOC’s insistence that only 1080 can achieve effective landscape scale control and DOC’s refusal to allow competitive tendering of all wild animal control.
- The manipulation of the possum products industry, by a few wealthy individuals, who have been allowed to control a NZ Government owned natural resource, for their personal enrichment, at the expense of the many, who work in the possum industry.
We have the ability to stop the excesses of the greedy few and we have the ability to force the Government to treat the possum industry just like all other primary production industries, where rules are in place to stop the sort of monopolistic control by one partnership that has been allowed to develop in the possum industry.
A possible future
If we stop the total noisy and negative focus being on just anti-1080, anti-DOC, anti-NZFC, etc … we can start putting together a positive workable solution that looks after the needs of possum harvesters, contract trappers and the good people working for DOC.
We need to beat off the combined efforts of politicians, DOC National Managers, OSPRI, Regional Councils, poison factories, 1080 application companies, Federated Farmers, plantation forestry owners, Forest & Bird, NZFC, the Morgans and Plowmans, etc … and we can stop their lies and manipulation of the situation for their short term benefit, which is at the expense of the environment they are supposed to be protecting.
All of us in the possum and wild animal management industries, need to start working together and encourage new entrants to join with us, to create the sorts of structures that will stop the types of selfish excesses that have always plagued the possum and wild animal management industries.
Now is the time to start planning what our future possum and wild animal management industry will look like, as the world emerges from the current economic recession, over the coming months and years.
We have the opportunity to rid ourselves of the negative controlling attitudes, displayed by the New Zealand Fur Council, the 1080 industry and others, and replace them with positive attitudes that will be supportive of everyone involved.
This is an abridgement by Roger Childs of the original piece which was much longer.