Ring-necked doves, a scourge of agricultural crops in some parts of the world, should be banned in New Zealand before they become a problem, says Hamilton agricultural consultant Vaughan Jones.
Mr Jones, who was brought up and farmed in South Africa during his earlier years, said in Africa large numbers of the doves learned to follow maize planters and eat the seed.
Ring-necked doves are classified as an "emerging pest" by the Australian Department of Agriculture.
In Australia, where there are isolated populations in the wild, the Agriculture Department said they pose a serious threat with significant potential to establish further populations and become a pest.
Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) principal conservation advisor Erik Van Eyndhoven said ring-necked or Barbary doves were first introduced into New Zealand in the late 19th century.
Today they were mainly kept as captive birds in aviaries, but some had escaped and formed small feral populations, mainly around Auckland, Whangarei and Napier.
He said they had no official status under the Biosecurity Act 1993.
"We are aware that ring-necked doves are a pest in other countries, however they've had little impact in New Zealand to date. While MPI has no immediate plans to regulate or manage this species we do monitor introduced organisms to determine any emerging risks."
He said regional councils had the ability to manage established pests in their regions, but to date no councils had listed the dove as a pest on their regional management strategies.
Mr Jones said people in Hamilton had ring-necked doves in dovecotes in their gardens, and like domestic pigeons, the doves were free to come and go.
"Here it will be 20-30 years before they increase to uncontrollable numbers. They should be forbidden, and all disposed of now when it is possible to do so. Now's the time to fix it.
"[In South Africa] these jolly things in their thousands would land and walk along the rows. They're pretty smart. They were very bad in the Cape Town area where we farmed."
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