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Sun, Dec 21, 2008 - Page 12 News List

New Zealand turns a pest into luxury business

Enterprising manufacturers are blending Australian brushtailed possum fur with merino wool, creating high-end clothing while helping the country avoid an ecological disaster

By David brooks  /  AFP , WELLINGTON

Many in the commercial possum industry want the poisoning to be reduced or stopped and for government authorities to work more closely with the commercial industry.

“The issue is whether the commercial industry can play a major role in meeting the animal health and biodiversity goals, and if it can then we should be giving it all the support we can give,” said Steve Boot, owner of Basically Bush.

Basically Bush is a trading company responsible for buying more than half the possum fur caught by hunters for commercial use in New Zealand.

Boot estimates that around 1.8 million possums have been harvested in the wild by the commercial industry over the last year.

“If we could grow it to 3 million possums harvested and keep that up for five to 10 years, it would be very difficult to find animals in some areas,” he said.

But Christophers said commercial harvesting could never replace the trapping and poisoning possum control program run by the government.

“Some people think it’s a substitute for possum management; it’s certainly a good supplement but it’s not a substitute,” he said.

“Show me the people who are going to go out there and do all this work. It’s hard work and it’s not everybody’s cup of tea,” he said. “If we stop using 1080 we will lose species, it’s as simple as that.”

But he said conservation authorities were happy to work with the fur industry and don’t want any conflict.

Boot says most in the possum business would be happy if their hunting was so successful that it killed off their industry.

“By and large the industry feels that if it ever got to the point in 15 to 20 years time that there weren’t enough possums left to support it then we should all be able to hold our heads up and say well done,” he said.

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