Some in dark about Queenstown Gardens night shoot to control problem bunnies

by Lauren Pattemore - Nov 28, 2023

A night shoot to cull problem rabbits will be carried out in the Queenstown Gardens this evening, however some locals and visitors are in the dark about the council pest control operation.

A spokesperson for the Queenstown Lakes District Council says the milder and drier winter has resulted in an increase in rabbit numbers, which is having a "detrimental effect" on plantings in the gardens. 

The gardens are located on a peninsula adjacent to Queenstown Bay, just a few minutes from the town's CBD.

The spokesperson says the operation will begin at 9pm, and is expected to go for three or four hours, with access to the gardens closed and security staff at entry points to police this.

The council has employed one professional contractor, who'll be using thermal imaging technology to shoot rabbits from the band rotunda to the southern point of the gardens.

"Shooting is the safest option in this location," the spokesperson says.

"Laying poison that could be on the ground and/or in bait stations for months when so many people and dogs visit the gardens isn’t possible."

Despite the proximity to central Queenstown, most people walking through the gardens this morning didn't know about the planned shoot.

Although signage was erected earlier today at the site, and some advertisements were placed in local newspapers, the council had opted not to send out a general media statement on it.

Two Queenstown women taking their weekly Tuesday morning walk through the gardens were surprised about the news, and "that it had got the green light".

"Kids don’t want to come here and find dead rabbits...surely there's a better way, a more humane way."

The women say they're yet to see any rabbits on their strolls through the gardens, and have concerns about a shooting operation so close to the CBD.

It's a short, picturesque stroll from the CBD, but tonight the Queenstown Gardens are a no-go area as a contractor gets set to shoot problem rabbits.

However, another woman visiting from Sydney had just seen one, telling Crux she'd even taken a video of it.

She'd been staying in Queenstown since Friday and hadn't heard of the planned shoot, despite staying nearby at the Millennium Hotel on Frankton Road.

She says she doesn't have any concerns about the shooting going on near the hotel and close to town.  

Meanwhile a couple visiting from the United States who had been in town for a few days, as well as another group of three visitors from the United Kingdom, had spotted signage alerting to the pest control operation while walking into the gardens. 

The council spokesperson says a letterbox flyer drop of nearby residences, including some hotels, was carried out, a social media post published, and a dedicated webpage set up in the lead-up to tonight's rabbit cull.

"In this specific instance of a one-off, brief operation in a confined area, QLDC has shared information publicly about the night shoot via several channels including direct communication with those living and working closest to the garden and on-site signage. These methods were selected as the most effective way to reach those using the gardens in the lead up to the operations.

"We have been in direct contact with specific businesses, clubs and user groups at the gardens including bowls, tennis, disc golf and the ice rink in advance to ensure there was no clash with their bookings or schedules.

"We wish to reassure the community that all safety precautions have been taken in our planning for this work and will be put in place during the operation itself."

The council has also notified the police, although the operation remains weather dependent.

Main image: Signs at the Queenstown Gardens this morning alert visitors to a rabbit control operation, schedule for tonight, from 9pm.

Read more: QLDC plans Queenstown rabbit shoot in public gardens

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