Dung Beetle
Release Strategy Group

Our economy is largely based on livestock that came to this country without any means of waste disposal. In the establishment of New Zealand’s pastures little thought was given to the significance of biodiversity in creating a sustainable system. There is little doubt the waste products of cattle and sheep have negative impacts on the New Zealand environment and that this impact is a result of the low biodiversity of our pastures. Having to deal with the dung on the ground and the consequences of its run-off is a cost to both farmers and the wider community. New Zealand lacks native pastoral dung-burying beetles. The beetles that naturally process the dung of herbivores have not been considered seriously for introduction until now. We believe that this project will bring about one of the biggest changes in New Zealand farming this century.

The project process and progress

A group of farmers and other land owners, following presentations by Landcare Research, established the Dung Beetle Release Strategy Group. The group successfully applied to MPI’s Sustainable Farming Fund in 2008. Agrilink manages this $1m+ project, which in addition to the funding from SFF includes funding from farmer sponsors, Landcare Research, Dairy NZ, Environment Southland, and Greater Wellington Regional Council. Landcare Research is the science provider.


An application was made to ERMA and approval to import 11 species of dung beetles was granted in February 2011. All eleven species were chosen because of their preferences for the different climate and soil variables found in New Zealand and their activity at different times of the year. All are known to utilise large herbivore dung and live specifically in open pasture.

Since approval was given, there has been a concerted campaign by those opposed to the introduction of dung beetles to have the project stopped. Yet the project remains focused on delivering the groups original objectives of rebalancing NZ’s farming systems. The group has chosen to take a precautionary approach and approved the establishment of a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) with scientists and industry representatives to provide further advice on the beetles’ introduction. The results from 3 field trials and a review of public health issues are due to be presented to the TAG in September 2013.


Further research has been accumulated by the DBRSG and their science provider Landcare Research, with this being published on their website www.dungbeetle.org.nz. Beetle importation and mass rearing has continued. There have been many hurdles to overcome through the quarantine and mass rearing programme, including several species dying. We are now more confident in our process and currently (2013) have good populations of 4 species.

Media interest has been extremely high, including The Discovery Channel, Campbell Live, One News, 3 News, and numerous reports in newspapers and radio. Most can be accessed from the Dung Beetle website’s media page.

The next challenges

The group’s immediate focus is on having the concerns raised following the ERMA (now EPA) approval addressed by the TAG and a decision reached on how to proceed.

Any biological control system will take many years to establish. Therefore establishing a business model that will ensure the projects long term survival is vital.

Follow the Dung Beetle Release Strategy group’s progress here: dungbeetle.org.nz


About Agrilink

Agrilink provides consultancy services to individual clients and their industry organisations to optimise resource use efficiency through developing and implementing practical solutions. We apply this knowledge to our project management of large multi-stakeholder projects.

Agrilink has the most comprehensive resource use inventory of NZs primary production systems. We combine this with our life cycle thinking to focus on improving business profitability while partnering to create a better world.

Did you know:
Our exotic dung beetles are all buriers rather than rollers.