Survey probes attitudes to pest control

Scientists have created an online survey based on new research to test how New Zealanders feel about pest management and want as many people as possible to take part.

Associate Professor James Russell

The survey, a research project supported by senior scientists at Auckland and Victoria universities and the Department of Conservation, has produced a new Pest Management Attitude scale and is the first of its kind.

“The scale we have come up with is similar to an existing scale measuring environmental attitudes but the information we are seeking is more specific,” says Associate Professor James Russell from the University of Auckland’s School of Biological Sciences.

“That’s because while people might be very proactive in environmental sustainability, which is great, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will support a rat eradication project in their region in the ongoing fight against introduced species.”

Survey questions based on the new scale include whether pest control interferes with nature, has unknown side effects, is beneficial for future generations, or is less important than other conservation issues.

It has already been tested on over 2,600 residents from two communities, the first in Wellington where the survey found 84% of people were generally pro-predator management.

The other survey has just been released and looked at the different attitude of inhabitants on four of Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf islands to pest management and also compared those results to a community on the Auckland mainland.

The results suggest island communities are generally more supportive of pest control than their mainland counterparts but attitudes varied. Rakino landowners were the most supportive, with comments in the survey suggesting that may be linked to a successful rat eradication there eight years ago.

But a strong theme among island respondents was that communities wanted to know exactly what was planned for any pest control programme and whether they would be consulted.

“There have been a wide range of pest management initiatives on those islands going back some decades and we do think that how those were done and the level of community engagement makes a big difference to how people feel about future programmes, which is critical in working towards a Predator Free New Zealand,” Associate Professor Russell says.

The survey is based on the new Pest Management Attitudes scale designed by Joanne Aley (Department of Conservation), Associate Professor Taciano Milfont (Victoria University of Wellington) and Associate Professor James Russell (University of Auckland), and is published in Wildlife Research.

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