Legal Issues Relating to Use of RCD

26 September 1997

Following the Government's moves to make the possession and use of rabbit calicivirus (RCD) lawful, the Ministry of Agriculture is concerned that those involved in the collection, preparation and spreading of RCD need to be aware of other legal obligations that may apply to them.

Animals Protection Act 1960

The Animals Protection Act 1960 will apply to those persons who inoculate captured wild rabbits or domestic rabbits with the RCD virus for the purposes of generating more virus material. Those wishing to do this are required to operate in accordance with a code of ethical conduct which may be sought by making application to the Director-General of Agriculture.

Carrying out this activity without a code of ethical conduct is an offence. However, the collection of dying or dead rabbits from the environment and the formulation of viral material from the bodies is not an offence.

Resource Management Act 1991

The Resource Management Act is also likely to be applicable in some circumstances. Those circumstances include:

  • where a regional plan does not provide for the discharge into the environment of organisms such as RCD or baits containing such an organism.
  • where baits containing RCD are likely to land in water

Depending upon the region concerned and the contents of the regional plan, those intending to spread RCD may require a resource consent. Clarification should be sought from the council concerned.

Those opposed to the spread of RCD or those who consider their businesses may be detrimentally affected may seek redress by seeking an enforcement order or an abatement notice against those intending to spread the virus. Alternatively, affected people may wish to prosecute those people spreading RCD in breach of the Resource Management Act.

Pesticides Act 1979

The Pesticides Act 1979 may also apply depending upon the circumstances. Individuals collecting rabbits that died from the effects of RCD and generating virus-laden material for their own use can do so free from the requirements of the Pesticides Act. Farmer groups, Regional Councils or commercial operators manufacturing virus-laden substances for rabbit control are subject to the requirements of the Pesticides Act. The Ministry is looking into the appropriate application of this Act. The Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act does not apply.

Legal Advice

Those who believe that some of the provisions of the Animals Protection Act, Pesticides Act, Resource Management Act may apply to them in their dealings with RCD should seek their own legal advice. They should also be aware of their obligations under other legislation, such as the Health and Safety in Employment Act.

Biosecurity Act 1993

The Ministry of Agriculture's Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Barry O'Neil, is re-evaluating the "unwanted" organism status of RCD in light of the Government's removal of the offence provisions relating to the possession and use of RCD.

Dr O'Neil said the Biosecurity Amendment Bill (No. 4), due to become law soon, makes it an offence to spread an unwanted organism. "It would therefore be inconsistent for RCD to remain an unwanted organism, given that the Government has decided it should no longer be an offence to possess or spread it."

Dr O'Neil hoped to make a decision on the status of RCD within a week or two, before the Biosecurity Amendment Bill (No. 4) becomes law.

Media inquiries to:
Dr Peter O'Hara, Deputy Director-General (04)474 4100/(04) 526 7883 (hm)
Debbie Gee, Manager, Corporate Communications (04) 474 4258/(04) 380 0087



Last Updated: 09 September 2010

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