Wallabies in NZ: controlling their numbers

Wallabies were introduced to New Zealand for hunting, but they have become a pest. Find out what we're doing to control them.

Why wallabies are a problem

Wallabies were introduced to New Zealand in the late 1800s, mainly for sport and the value of their skin. They have become a significant farm pest and damage native plants.

New Zealand is home to 5 wallaby species. Most wild wallabies can be found in the wider Rotorua Lakes area and in South Canterbury, but they have been spreading into neighbouring areas. They prefer to live where they can find cover (for example, tussock, scrub, or bush), so they can be very hard to see or find.

Left unchecked, wallabies could spread across one third of New Zealand over the next 50 years.

The damage wallabies can do

Wallabies can:

  • damage native forests and tussocks
  • compete for feed with sheep, cattle, and other livestock
  • damage crops, young trees, and fences
  • increase the risk of erosion.

Maps of wallaby distribution

Stopping the spread of wallabies

Wallabies are classified as an unwanted organism in the Biosecurity Act 1993. They can't be bred, sold, moved, or exhibited without a permit. They can breed from a young age, so populations can build quickly if not effectively managed.

They are a threat to our forest taonga as many native species are damaged by wallabies and not able to grow back over time. It's estimated that wallabies spread 0.8km in the North Island and 1.9km in the South Island every year.

The economic impact of wallaby spread could reach $84 million a year by 2025.

Reporting wallabies

Wallabies are naturally elusive, hiding in bush or scrub during the day and coming out to feed at night.

Locating individual wallabies and wallaby populations is critical to control and stopping their spread.

Sightings of wallabies – dead, alive, paw prints, or scat (poo or droppings) – reported by landowners and the public are fundamental to success.

Wallaby programme funding

MPI is leading a national wallaby eradication programme.

The programme has $27.4 million of funding from 2020 to 2024. It is part of the Government's $1.3 billion Jobs for Nature Programme.

The programme will help support regional communities. It will create jobs and give extra work to businesses providing goods and services.

What we'll be doing

  • Surveillance and population control in the Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Canterbury, and Otago.
  • Building fences to slow the spread of wallabies.
  • Improving wallaby detection and control methods.

Note that Kawau Island in the Hauraki Gulf is home to parma, dama, swamp, and brush-tailed rock wallabies. These wallabies cannot spread so they are not part of the programme.

Help from other organisations

We're not doing this work alone. We are working with partner organisations including councils, farmers, and iwi.

Regional councils

Pest animals – Bay of Plenty Regional Council

Wallabies – Waikato Regional Council

Managing animal pests – Environment Canterbury Regional Council

Bennett's wallaby – Otago Regional Council

Government

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)

What to hunt: Wallabies – Department of Conservation

Iwi organisations

Te Arawa Lakes Trust

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu

Research organisations

Landcare Research

Industry and non-governmental organisations

Federated Farmers

Forest & Bird

Beef + Lamb New Zealand

New Zealand Forest Owners Association

Find out more

Review of current and future predicted distributions and impacts of Bennett's and dama wallabies in mainland New Zealand [PDF, 2.3 MB]

Control and monitoring of pest wallabies – Bionet [PDF, 2.8MB]

Jobs for Nature

Last reviewed: