Just because something is worth doing, doesn’t mean that it’s worth overdoing, at ridiculously extravagent expense. If you hired a team of crack mercenaries to get rid of a mouse in your kitchen, people would rightly judge you an idiot spendthrift.

Spend half a million dollars to whack a single ferret, though, and it’s just another day in the public service.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) spent nearly half a million dollars on an operation to kill one stoat.

In August 2022 a male stoat was identified on Chalky Island/Te Kakahu-O-Tamatea, in Fiordland which has been predator-free since 1999.

Cue the ka-ching of taxpayer-funded cash registers.

Select committee documents show from the time the animal was detected to its capture eight months later DOC spent $483,260.

These include costs such as incident management team costs, staff time, conservation dog handlers, helicopter and boat expenses.

The Government agency spent just over another $210,000 on ensuring the island was pest free by installing surveillance systems and doing biosecurity planning.

You know, if you want a ferret offed, I know a guy who’d do it for a box of .22 ammo and a slab of Speights.

In the documents DOC explained that had the stoat not been caught it could have killed Kakapo chicks, nationally endangered Ted Te Kakahu skinks and Little Spotted Kiwi chicks.

Auckland University Professor of Conservation Biology, James Russell told RNZ the fact Kakapo have been reintroduced to the island makes it a “precious place.”

“That isolation that has protected the birds is also what makes some of these operations so expensive such as doing a predator incursion response.”

No, it’s the fact that it’s a government operation that makes the operation so expensive. Troughers don’t come cheap, after all.

Russell said he supported DOC’s decision to spend the money on the stoat eradication.

“We have to decide, do we want to keep investing in this and push through these reinvasions and hopefully work towards a predator free New Zealand or will we just kind of draw the line and say we’re not willing to spend any more money on these predator incursion responses.”

He said islands around the country have seen similar stoat incursions.

“On Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands in the Hauraki Gulf they had no less than four stoat incursions over a year in 2021.”

Russell said the animal can swim or hitchhike on peoples’ boats.


Which begs the question: shouldn’t the “biosecurity planning” have been in place, already?

No one, of course, is against eradicating pests where they can be. That doesn’t mean there should be an open cheque book.

Somewhat ironically, Russell goes on to have a little whine about government departments being “restructured”. When public servants are blowing nearly half a million dollars just to trap a ferret, taxpayers might just feel that that’s totally justified.

Punk rock philosopher. Liberalist contrarian. Grumpy old bastard. I grew up in a generational-Labor-voting family. I kept the faith long after the political left had abandoned it. In the last decade...