NZ Possum toss - too much


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23-09-2010 08:26 AM


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23-09-2010 08:26 AM



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2010-09-23 08:26:41

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SCHWARTZ, Dominique


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NZ Possum toss - too much -

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NZ Possum toss - too much

Dominique Schwartz reported this story on Thursday, September 23, 2010 08:25:00

TONY EASTLEY: While possums are protected in their native Australia, across the Tasman they're an
introduced pest, considered fair game for hunters.

Even so, a school sporting competition may have overstepped the boundary on what is acceptable
behaviour, as New Zealand correspondent Dominique Schwartz reports.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: One of the fundraising events on the school calendar at Colyton in central New
Zealand is a possum hunt.

Pelts fetch a few dollars apiece and the hunter who bags the most is celebrated at a school gala.

Other rural communities here hold similar events not just to raise money but to keep a lid on the
possum population which presents problems for both farmers and the native flora and fauna.

But animal protection groups say Colyton school has stepped over the line with its latest contest
for students - possum carcass tossing

BOB KERRIDGE: Well we're absolutely appalled by that, that a school who is dealing with young
vulnerable minds would in fact allow their children and in fact encourage their children to
undertake acts like that on any animal whether dead or alive and we just are showing no respect.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: Bob Kerridge is the president of New Zealand's RSPCA. He says animal cruelty by
children is on the rise and he's worried about what message Colyton is sending.

BOB KERRIDGE: Well we had a very bad case of abuse of a young puppy that was thrown through a
basketball hoop and then kicked and really badly injured, which we were able to rescue and since
has been adopted out.

But that involved children as young as 11, so you have to ask yourself well what motivates them to
do something like this, what have they been taught?

And maybe they've gone to this very school that does that to possums.

MICHAEL CUMMINGS: It certainly sparked a quite raucous debate.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: The editor of the Manawatu Standard, Michael Cummings, has received thousands
of emails and texts since running the story in the local paper

MICHAEL CUMMINGS: It's kind of really divided people I think there's people on one side of the
fence who are saying they are pests, what's the big deal, the PC brigade is going mad and then
there are other people who are saying it's not on, it's disrespectful and it's sending the wrong
message to our children.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: New Zealand's RSPCA says it can't take action against the school, but will ask
it to stop the event. The Ministry of Education says it doesn't have a position on possum carcass
tossing, but encourages every school board to work within its community in deciding what is

And the general public?

Well an online opinion poll so far has 60 per cent of respondents saying that the carcass toss is
harmless fun rather than disrespectful or cruel.

This is Dominique Schwartz in Auckland for AM.