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Sunday, January 01, 2006

Pets or pests? Tas community divided on rabbit invasion. 01/01/2006. ABC News Online

Pets or pests? Tas community divided on rabbit invasion. 01/01/2006. ABC News Online

On Tasmania's west coast, there is community division over the fate of thousands of rabbits making the Queenstown moonscape their home.

In Gormanston, locals are feeding the hardy bush rabbits in the afternoons, while in Queenstown residents are increasingly concerned about thier gardens being eaten.

Gormanston resident Noeline Bradshaw says the hundreds of black, white, brown and grey rabbits that have moved into the old mining town are part of the community.

"The local pet, I suppose these days is a rabbit to most of the people that's left up here, they're even becoming a tourist attraction," she said.

"It's something to do when you've got time to spare and the kiddies all love to see it, people drive up from Queenstown with their kiddies around dusk to show them the rabbits."

But the rabbits are feasting on gardens and disturbing mine regeneration projects, with West Coast Mayor Darryl Gerrity saying the community is divided.

"To some they're a pest, to some they're a feed, and to some they're cuddly little things," he said.

The Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment says people can apply for a permit to use baits to cull the rabbits on their properties.

But Mr Gerrity says the division means it is not a simple process of baiting the rabbits.

"There is an issue with baiting within a town - people do have pests, dogs, cats and small kids, and it has to be sensitively done," he said.

"But I think those that object to them are in the minority, but their concerns need to be alleviated, where they're coming into their gardens."
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