This story starts back in 2002. The winner of the NZ Skeptics' Bent Spoon award that year was Green MP Jeanette Fitzsimons. She won the award for supporting the idea of using Possum Peppering to rid NZ of possums.
Peppering is a long discredited idea that comes from Rudolf Steiner. Steiner is responsible for a lot of early nonsense, including biodynamic farming and Waldorf (Steiner) schools. I found out today that Weleda, the homeopathic manufacturer, was created under the supervision of Steiner. Eurythmy.
The idea is that a fine powder can be made from burning the remains of an animal, and that powder can be sprayed over the area (or perimeter of the area) you want to eradicate the animal from. Apparently peppering stops the animals reproducing, and can take a while to be effective - although there are also users who say it works within days. Warnings are given that this is a "last resort" and will totally remove the animal that is being targeted from the area. Apparently for animals, Venus needs to be in Scorpio for the peppering to be effective!
Of course, this idea sounds nonsense. As well as the implausibility, there was a study in New Zealand (opens new window) back in 1992 which found no immediate or short term effect on possums.
In 2010, a $330k funding request (opens new window) for Environment Waikato funding was turned down, and late last year possum peppering was in the running (opens new window) for an award at the WWF-New Zealand Conservation Innovation Awards but luckily didn't win.
Now it seems that peppering is going to be used for eradicating rabbits (opens new window):
In Moeraki, they have a rabbit problem and are impatient to wait for the upcoming release of a new rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus. A local councillor was approached by a Biodynamic "expert" and has organised for funding to pay for a trial of peppering.
Local farmer Doug Stalker said he was "one of the keenest advocates of giving it a chance" but is not so sure as the rabbit population was pretty similar to what it was.
Lincoln-based Landcare Research research leader Bruce Warburton said he, too, was a skeptic:
"I would like to think that I am reasonably open-minded, so if somebody can set up an experiment and apply Western science to it, and show that it works, then great. But that hasn't been done"