His family’s farmed successfully at Ruapuke for generations but now Phillip Swann’s 200-hectare beef and sheep farm is suddenly under threat from wild pigs illegally released in the area.

Phillip — or Swanny as he’s known — didn’t realise himself until a year ago that pigs, like possums, carry tuberculosis (TB) which can be brought into the pasture his cows eat, potentially threatening his livelihood.

“If I lost a cow with TB it’s $1000 (gone)”, he told the Chronicle early this week. And if his whole herd was infected the cost would be $100,000.

It’s “huge money” which no farmer can afford to lose, he says.

Swanny’s had a couple of hunter friends out recently who’ve killed 19 pigs on bush-clad land in the foothills of Mt Karioi where his property borders that of neighbour Malcolm Jackson’s, and where the pigs are “hanging out at the moment”.

DOC has also set a couple of cages in the area with “pig tucker”, says Swanny, and might yet have to employ its own pig-hunters.

The area has been free of TB-infected animals for a long time now, he adds, thanks to DOC’s vigilance in getting rid of possums and pigs.

And the Karioi reserve area is only tested every two years, whereas a lot of other areas are tested on a six-month basis.

Swanny insists now that the way forward is through education. “People need to consider the possible consequences of transporting and releasing wild pigs that could well be carrying the disease.”

He’s backed by the Animal Health Board, which runs a TBfree programme. In a media release last week programme spokesman Brent Webster condemned the release of wild pigs into Karioi reserve — which is part of Pirongia Forest Park — on the grounds that it could “undo the effort put into ensuring the area remains free of the disease”.

And DOC’s Waikato area manager, Matt Cook, said the deliberate release of pigs into a TBfree zone was a criminal offence.

He said wild pigs had been released in the Karioi area previously but had never become established in pest proportions. “The department (DOC) will put whatever effort is necessary into preventing that from happening as a result of this latest illegal release.”

Swanny reckons he’d rather not have pork in his freezer after seeing for himself the devastation the unwanted wild pigs have caused to his paddocks — with four months’ worth of grass lost — and knowing now the implication of
TB and how it could “destroy our district”.

Edith Symes