Sunday, April 3, 2011

Canada geese in crosshairs in New Zealand

Canada geese fly over a pond during the mild spring weather in Newstead, N.Y., Monday, March 21, 2011. - Canada geese fly over a pond during the mild spring weather in Newstead, N.Y., Monday, March 21, 2011. | The Associated Press          New Air NZ planes begin US, UK flights (Source: NZPA)

When he lived in the countryside about an hour’s drive from Manhattan, Anders Crofoot enjoyed watching Canada geese fly overhead.

But after 13 years of farming in New Zealand, where geese have repeatedly gorged on his grass and crops and defecated all over his pasture, Mr. Crofoot has reached a breaking point. He wants the bird eradicated from his adopted country.

“They’ve been incredibly devastating,” he said. “If you haven’t experienced it, you don’t really realize the damage geese cause.”

New Zealand is among several regions in the world where geese are in the crosshairs. Last month, the country declared the Canada goose a pest, announcing that it would no longer manage the bird as a hunting resource.

In a matter of weeks, farmers like Mr. Crofoot will be allowed to shoot geese at will. And airport officials will be allowed to cull the bird. Geese were deemed a significant aviation hazard after a flock flew into a plane’s engines in New York State in January, 2009. The plane lost power and crashed in the Hudson River.

“As the population of Canada geese continues to increase, so does their risk to aviation safety and the damage they inflict to pasture and crops,” New Zealand Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson said in a recent statement. “The current status where the geese populations are managed as a game bird is not working.”

Not everyone agrees with Ms. Wilkinson, particularly New Zealand’s hunters. They’re worried about how far the government and farmers might go to reduce flocks. (No cull target has been set.)

In other parts of the globe, the question of what to do with increasing Canada goose populations has pitted governments against animal activists. Last weekend in New York City, more than 100 people gathered at Prospect Park to voice support for the maligned bird.

“End the war on geese and urban wildlife,” one protester’s sign read. “Keep them flying, not dying,” declared another.

Rally organizer Mary Beth Artz said she and others are worried the city will gas geese again this summer. Last July, about 400 of the park’s geese were rounded up and euthanized with carbon dioxide, part of an effort to make the skies around New York’s airports safer for planes.

In all, nearly 1,700 geese were killed in the metropolitan region and nearby Nassau County in 2010, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“They’re just being used as scapegoats,” . “What bothers me is these are defenceless and peaceful birds that so many people love.”

Nearly extinct in the United States in the early 1900s, Canada geese have exploded in numbers in Northeastern and Midwestern states. The New York City region has an estimated 20,000 geese, a figure that more than doubles during migration season.

Even in Canada, communities coast to coast are struggling to manage the bird. Culls have occurred in Nova Scotia, while biologists have suggested Vancouver Island’s goose population is too high and the bird is harming the island’s habitat.

Back in New Zealand, Mr. Crofoot doesn’t know whether his eradication idea will fly with the country’s Department of Conservation. He and other farmers are scheduled to meet with department officials on Monday.

About 50 Canada geese were brought to New Zealand from North America in 1905. At last count, the bird’s population stood around 32,000 in the South Island alone, prompting farmers to lobby the government to significantly curb the number of geese.

“They’ve been dubbed the grubby goose,”.  raises sheep in the South Island and is a pest management spokesman with Federated Farmers. “They consume a lot of grass and, just as importantly, excrete a lot of dung.”

By Mr. Crofoot’s estimate, five geese eat as much grass as one ewe.

Jay Graybill of Fish and Game New Zealand, a hunting organization that had been managing the bird, doesn’t believe the South Island’s goose population is out of control. He noted the organization fielded an average of 13 complaints from farmers in the region each year.

Now that the government has taken over responsibility for geese, A clear plan is required on how the bird will be managed. Eradication, he argued, isn’t needed, nor is it realistic.

“I think it would be very difficult,”. referring to the eradication suggestion. “The birds are widespread, and they’re very cunning.”

2. New Air NZ planes begin US, UK flights

Air New Zealand's three new planes will start flying the return service to Los Angeles and London today.

The airline took delivery of its first Boeing 777-300 aircraft - equipped with a new interior - just before Christmas.

It now has two more and the Civil Aviation Authority has just approved the use of the new Skycouch seats in economy.

Air New Zealand spokesman Mark Street said there has been good feedback from passengers travelling on the ad hoc services since January.

Another two triple seven planes will be delivered in the next 12 months.

Each plane can carry 338 passengers.

The plane's interior is officially known as the Skycouch but has come to be known as Cuddle Class for its seating arrangement.

The Skycouch is the first economy seating that allows the traveller to lie flat, or a couple to curl up.

Chief executive Rob Fyfe said there has been huge interest in the new aircraft.

3. STANSTED: Never a dull day for Nick Barton, who keeps airport flying

NO TWO days are ever the same for Stansted Airport's new boss Nick Barton.

On Tuesday he welcomed bmibaby as the airport's third budget airline, and on Friday he will jet out to Copenhagen where Stansted is nominated for a best low-cost airport award.

At the start of May, he will fly to Kuala Lumpur, where Virgin boss Richard Branson will serve him beverages while wearing a full stewardess outfit – complete with lipstick and stockings – after the billionaire lost a bet.

A typical day may see him welcome the US President, or deal with thousands of frustrated holidaymakers grounded by an ash cloud.

His job sounds glamorous, but he works 18-hour days, only really sees his wife and three young children at weekends and constantly feels the heat of Ryanair breathing down his neck as the world's busiest airline demands impeccable airport efficiency.

The 44-year-old, who took over as managing director in December after six years as a director, said: "I love my job. It's challenging and exciting. People enjoy travelling and there is an infectious buzz around the airport.

"I never have a boring day. Every single day I am tested by something different."

Stansted is the third biggest airport in the UK, with up to 80,000 passengers passing through every day.

But although London is the most sought-after destination in the world – ahead of New York, Paris and Dubai – Stansted does not operate to capacity.

Reaching capacity is Nick's key target, as well as cementing their status as the airport with the most destinations in Europe and targeting more long-haul flights, hopefully to the USA.

"I am confident that we can get the airport operating to its full capacity.

"We have the terminal and the infrastructure. We were down on traffic in 2010, but Stansted is very much led by the UK economy.

"While Heathrow is driven by hub traffic, where people touch down and then fly somewhere else, we are driven by the UK's economic performance, which has suffered in the past few years.

"But I believe we are close to the end of the tunnel."

Last May hopes of 13,000 new jobs and a £9 billion injection to the local economy were grounded for good after a controversial plan for a second runway at Stansted was scrapped.

Environmental campaigners rejoiced, but the airport was left to rue a missed opportunity.

"I believe aviation is a very powerful tool for growth and economic benefits," said Nick. "I think the economic case was very strong for a second runway, although nobody was in denial about the environmental impact.

"Some suggest we don't care about the environment, but we have a very good environmental track record. We are not just pursuing growth for the sake of it, and we strive to reduce our carbon footprint. We charge airlines more to use inefficient, noisy planes.

"But it's time to park the idea of the second runway, and focus on how we can move forward and increase performance."

Stansted Airport employs 1,350 people, while 11,500 in total work at the airport, and Nick pointed to the economic significance of the site.

"Many small to medium enterprises in this region rely on us, and we are one of the biggest single-site employers in East Anglia," .

"We have had no compulsory redundancies during the most difficult period for aviation since Orville Wright took off, and eventhough BAA was told this week to sell Stansted, I believe any new owner would want to keep the infrastructure.

"Flying is about supporting businesses and providing the social benefit of allowing people to travel and have fun."

Nick's top travel tip for people in the region is to take advantage of flights from Stansted to Kuala Lumpur.

From there, you can take budget flights to Bali for £20, or end up in New Zealand or Australia on the cheap.

"From Kuala Lumpur, you have access to the most beautiful and exotic locations in the world, and it's very cheap," said Nick.

Neha Jain

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