Plans to use poison on a popular recreation reserve have raised the ire of Alexandra locals.

Last week the Otago Regional Council advised the Central Otago District Council the Lower Manorburn Dam Reserve was indicative of non-compliance under the Regional Pest Management Plan.

All landowners must control rabbits to level 3 or below on the Modified McLean Scale (MMS 3), however most of the reserve was at least level 4 on the scale, with some of the area at level 5.

A breach of the level 3 rule was an offence under section 154N (19) of the Biosecurity Act and could lead to the ORC issuing a notice to take over the land and undertake the required work at the landowner’s expense.

The Central Otago District Council planned to start a rabbit control operation at the Lower Manorburn Dam Reserve on Monday, using carrot bait laced with the toxin Pindone — an anti-coagulant which took 10-20 days to kill a rabbit after it was ingested.

According to pest control guidelines, Pindone was the bait of choice because it caused the least suffering, had a reduced danger to domestic pets, and was a suitable means of controlling rabbits in the rugged areas found within the Manorburn reserve.

Pindone carrot was used in winter when food sources were most scarce and fewer young rabbits were present. However it did pose a risk to humans and domestic animals.

In October, public outcry against the use of the toxin at the reserve convinced council to explore other methods of pest management; however these methods were less effective.

Lower Manorburn Reserve working group member Nigel Murray visited the reserve with his dogs at least weekly and was concerned for people walking their dogs, and other wildlife, if the council proceeded with the drop.

‘‘You know they wouldn’t be dropping that poison in the middle of Pioneer Park in town — just because this is a bit more rural from the town centre doesn’t mean it’s not frequented by exactly the same people, if for different reasons,’’ he said.

‘‘Use something that does not jeopardise my dogs or my friends’ dogs and the people that use this place just for recreation, let alone what it will do to an unknown population of wildlife and biodiversity in this area. ’’

Mr Murray understood the importance of managing rabbits at the reserve, but he believed not enough was known about the impact of Pindone on wildlife.

‘‘I know rabbits are a problem that we need to get rid of, but we need to do it in a way so that we all enjoy it, that we’re not killing the indigenous population.’’

Mr Murray had started a petition to stop the use of Pindone at the reserve.

Central Otago District Council parks and recreation manager Gordon Bailey said the previous method trialled last year was ineffective, controlling only 60 rabbits, and Pindone was the most effective control method for the area.

‘‘Pindone-laced carrot is the recommended initial control option with follow up control of strategic night shooting to keep rabbits at MMS 3 or below. If council does not take control action now the rabbit population will rapidly increase even further through the spring as the breeding season kicks in. Council also needs to be a good neighbour as both the neighbouring farms to the reserve undertake significant feral rabbit control.’’