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 expanding 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.
Left unchecked, wallabies could spread across one third of New Zealand over the next 50 years.
The damage wallabies can do
- 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
The first map shows the central North Island, with current and predicted distributions of dama wallabies shown on it. In the North Island in 2015, wallabies could be found around Rotorua. They reached as far north as the Bay of Plenty coast. It was predicted that by 2020 wallabies would have spread to the edge of Tauranga in the north-west. By 2025 they could reach as far as Whakatane in the east. By 2035 they could spread to Taupo. It was predicted that by 2065 their range could reach:
- Hamilton and into the lower Coromandel in the northwest
- past Turangi in the south-west
- as far as northern Hawke's Bay in the south-east
- through Te Urewera National Park in the east.
The second map shows the central South Island, with current and predicted distributions of Bennett's wallabies shown on it. In the South Island in 2015, wallabies were mostly found in southern Canterbury. This population was around Lakes Tekapo and Pukaki and almost reached the coast at Oamaru and Timaru. A second population occurred east of Wanaka. Small numbers also occurred in isolated areas in Waitaki, Waimakariri, and Banks Peninsula. It was predicted that by 2020 and 2025 the ranges of these populations would have increased. By 2035 the southern Canterbury and Otago populations were expected to have merged. The populations in Waimakariri and Banks Peninsula would also have spread but remain separate. By 2065 it is expected that the southern Canterbury and Otago population of wallabies will have spread south into Otago and north into more of Canterbury. The populations in Waimakariri and on Banks Peninsula will have merged and covered more of central Canterbury.
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. 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.
Wallaby programme funding
MPI is leading a national wallaby management 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.
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.