Pig Politics: The Great Barrier debate over wild pigs

by Vomle Springford / 02 January, 2019

A new documentary series gives an insight into life on Great Barrier Island and a growing problem facing the small community.

Tensions are rising on Great Barrier Island over an out-of-control wild pig population, with some residents urging local authorities to eradicate the pigs but as a new doco series highlights, the issue is not so black and white.

Pig Politics investigates whether the wild pigs are pests, pork or pets from the different, and sometimes comically contradictory, perspectives of the island’s residents. 

Director Sophie Black says life on the island is tough with many people growing their own food, and the pigs upset the balance when they root up plants, pasture and gardens. They can also destroy native bush areas, and disturb ground-nesting birds and their eggs.

“People describe it like a rotary hoe has come through the garden.”

Black says at the heart of the debate about the pigs, which were introduced to the island by European settlers in the 1800s, is how they are classified.

DOC considers the pigs pests but they are also ‘mahinga kai’ – a natural food source for customary harvest.

The Blackwells, who feature in the series and are firmly “pro-pig”, say many people on the island rely on wild pork to help feed their families and friends.

Read moreMot' grows up: How Motueka emerged from Nelson's shadow | Searching for the South Island's 'grey ghost'

Wayde Blackwell, a keen pig hunter with his pet pig, Pumba, who was the runt of a wild pig litter. Blackwell found him nearly dead on the side of the road; now fully grown Pumba spends his days rooting around the Blackwell's paddocks.

Wayde Blackwell, a keen pig hunter with his pet pig, Pumba, who was the runt of a wild pig litter. Blackwell found him nearly dead on the side of the road; now fully grown Pumba spends his days rooting around the Blackwell's paddocks.

Wayde Blackwell, a fifth-generation islander loves pigs, hunting pigs and even has a pet pig he rescued from the wild, called Pumba.

“For Wayde's whole lifetime and generations before him, it’s always been a food source,” says Black.

“It’s something quite important for them to sustain their lifestyle.”

While filming, Black discovered some residents have taken it into their own hands to get rid of the pigs.

John* who owns a property near Medlands Beach, says they annihilate his land every year so he set up two pig traps, and has “no scruples about killing them”. He’s also a vegetarian.

Black says it was these contradictions and the interesting dynamic on the island between ‘locals’ and ‘off-islanders’, that drew her to document the issue.

“It became clear that this one topic had so many points of view.”

She says one of her favourite parts of filming was when she and the director of photography, Pepe de Hoyos, went out hunting with Johnny and Wayde Blackwell, chasing them through the bush with cameras.

As a vegetarian herself, she says it was interesting for her personally to reconcile her own beliefs about killing animals at the same time as trying to get to the truth of the story.

“In that way, I can definitely relate to everyone we met life's complex, there are no simple answers.”

Watch the full series of Pig Politics here.

*John is a pseudonym 

Follow NOTED on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and sign up to our email newsletter for more stories about life in New Zealand.

Latest

Huawei's dogged determination: Can it make a breakthrough in New Zealand?
108428 2019-07-16 00:00:00Z Tech

Huawei's dogged determination: Can it make a break…

by Peter Griffin

The tech company at the centre of a trade war between the US and China is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to prove it can be trusted.

Read more
The many miracles of Aretha Franklin movie Amazing Grace
108368 2019-07-15 00:00:00Z Movies

The many miracles of Aretha Franklin movie Amazing…

by Russell Baillie

A long-lost concert movie capturing Lady Soul in her prime is heading to the New Zealand International Film Festival.

Read more
The untold history of China's one child policy
108182 2019-07-14 00:00:00Z History

The untold history of China's one child policy

by RNZ

Nanfu Wang explains the story behind her film One Child Nation, which screens at the International Film Festival this July.

Read more
Is Vladimir Putin right about the death of liberal democracy?
108314 2019-07-14 00:00:00Z World

Is Vladimir Putin right about the death of liberal…

by Paul Thomas

Vladimir Putin reckons “the liberal idea has become obsolete”. As Mandy Rice-Davies said, “Well, he would, wouldn’t he?”

Read more
The psychology of psychopaths and social media users
108199 2019-07-14 00:00:00Z Psychology

The psychology of psychopaths and social media use…

by Marc Wilson

Psychologists are getting a picture of people who are big on social media. It's not always pretty.

Read more
Acclaimed writer Greg McGee on his family's stolen children
108138 2019-07-13 00:00:00Z History

Acclaimed writer Greg McGee on his family's stolen…

by Clare de Lore

Greg McGee always knew his great-grandfather had kidnapped his father and uncles as infants, but now for the first time he’s revealing that...

Read more
Video-streaming platforms are failing their impaired customers
108303 2019-07-13 00:00:00Z Tech

Video-streaming platforms are failing their impair…

by Peter Griffin

When it comes to video streaming, the hearing- and visually impaired can only dream about the technology that’s passing them by.

Read more
We like big vehicles and we cannot lie
108312 2019-07-12 00:00:00Z Politics

We like big vehicles and we cannot lie

by The Listener

It would take a psychologist to explain Kiwis’ love for utes and SUVs. But it’s not the only reason people are revved up over the attempt to reduce...

Read more