Possums go to waste as demand grows
9th Mar 10, 3:25pm
Textiles New Zealand has entered discussions with the Department of Conservation (DoC) and Animal Health Board to boost the number of possums commercially harvested for use in clothing manufacturing. The fur industry has criticised the departments in the past for limiting access to harvesting areas and poisoning animals, leaving them to die in the bush reports The NZ Herald. Textiles New Zealand chief executive Elizabeth Tennet said there was the potential to increase the annual harvest from 1.7 million animals to more than 3 million - a move that would double the industry's annual revenue to $200 million. The fur market was growing, both domestically and overseas, where possum fur was becoming more popular, she said. About 40 per cent of New Zealand's possum fur harvest goes to China. Tennet said about 45 million possums remained in New Zealand, and Kiwi-made possum products were popular with tourists visiting the country. Snowy Peak chief executive Peri Drysdale, whose company has been a pioneer of the merino-possum blend, said there were occasional shortages of the fur. "It comes and goes ... . there's big chunks of time where we are all anxiously wondering if there will be enough [possum fur] for tomorrow and the next day, and then there's periods of time when there's more than we know what to do with." Drysdale said there was a problem with the health board - which kills possums to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis - and DoC poisoning animals that were not collected and went to waste. Steve Boot, co-director of Basically Bush, an East Coast company that buys possum furs and skins from harvesters, said DoC had entered into the dialogue with Textiles New Zealand because of budget cuts. In last year's Budget, the department was forced to shave $54 million from its spending over the next four years, meaning planned possum control on 23,000ha of land would not go ahead.