Rabbits pose risk to airport runway safety

17 Jul

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By Kelly Macleod and Isabelle Bambach, Bond University journalism students

Safety at Gold Coast Airport is at risk from a sprawling colony of rabbits whose network of burrows under the site are potentially undermining the integrity of runways.

Airport managers raised their concerns with the Gold Coast City Council last week about the potential dangers.

Chair of Community and Cultural Development Councilor Bob La Castra said the invasion of rabbits at the airport was the biggest colony on the coast.

The issue has allegedly been traced back to pet rabbits escaping after being smuggled from New South Wales into Queensland, where they are illegal.

“There has been a problem with rabbits around the southern end for some time, but when there was an escaped pet rabbit which came to the council’s attention, it just alerted us to the fact that we needed to remind the community that rabbits are illegal,” he said.

“They cause a lot of problems to crops, to nature vegetation. One rabbit per hectare can basically stop the growth of small trees and shrubs and two rabbits can turn into 184 rabbits very quickly.

“They are a major pest which is why they’re illegal in Queensland and they shouldn’t be smuggled in from New South Wales because of the serious problems they cause.”

The Gold Coast Airport has called for extra help since the amount of rabbits has increased and existing tactics to rid them have failed.

Wildlife management company and long-time partner of the airport, Ecosure, have been working with the Gold Coast City Council and Biosecurity to control the issue.

Gold Coast Airport general aviation manager Charles Martin said they were taking the situation seriously.

“Our reality is that we are never going to get rid of all the rabbits, but it’s highly important to us to have effective control measures in place to ensure the runways remain safe,” he said.

Cr La Castra said there had been discussions about a long-term solution to control the pests.

“Implementing fences and barriers would be a simple and effective approach to stop the rabbits coming in from New South Wales, and is something we are talking about with the state government,” he said.

“Managing these pest species is a priority for Queensland and the city of the Gold Coast.”

Caption: Gold Coast Airport is working towards eradicating rabbits that pose a risk to runway integrity.

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