Upcoming aerial 1080 drop, Luggate – ‘unjustifiable & very dangerous to community’ – an ag-pilot speaks out


By Carol Sawyer


The immediate threat to Luggate township, (near Wanaka, Central Otago), is that the prevailing wind at this time of year comes straight down the valley to Luggate. See ag-pilot John Sarginson’s testimony here:

“‘The Pisa range to the Southwest of Luggate is known to generate Katabatic winds (downhill winds). Katabatic winds are very common on calm wind days typical of the days we have in Autumn, Winter and Spring, hence fog in the lower catchments. These winds start from high on the Pisa range and start flowing down the hillsides, gaining speed as the night approaches. They flow with strength well into the small hours of the night. Hence there is often no fog in these areas in the evenings.

It is very common for places like Luggate and Queensberry to experience long periods (> 10 hours) of quite strong Katabatic winds, say > than 15 knots (30 km/h) late evenings. The Katabatic winds are strongest when channelled by valleys. Luggate has four main valley systems that line these winds up for the Luggate township. The four valleys are Luggate Creek, Alice Burn, Tin Hut, and Dead Horse Creek. All four valley katabatic wind systems converge on the township of Luggate.

As a former accredited agricultural pilot with more than 6000 hours of flight time I would consider dispensing 1080 in the hills to the south of Luggate during these times of the year to be a very high risk to all. The baits may fall in no wind, but when the wind increases, maybe days later, some baits will fall further in scrub and others are blown across exposed areas causing toxic dust to become airborne again. Sublethal amounts of a harmful poison would be distributed onto roofs that collect drinking water and onto gardens that grow food.

No one can guarantee such drift of 1080 dust will not cause future health risks to our generation, or to generations of the future.

No one can guarantee that people won’t suffer increased illnesses or deficiencies.

No one can guarantee that people’s lives will not be shortened by 1080 toxic dust.

And worse still, no one can claim to detect acute 1080 poisoning in all instances, and sublethal poisoning is almost impossible to detect.

My past work has involved the application of many chemicals onto our land, including 1080 poison, and I still have a vested interest in aerial ag operations and wish to protect it. It is my view from the knowledge I have gained in industry, that sublethal 1080 poisoning is a very real and dangerous risk that should be avoided. Effects from sublethal 1080 poisoning can’t be detected or traced, symptoms mirror other serious illnesses, there is no known antidote, and again no one knows the extent of its real dangers.

John Sarginson, Thornbury, Southland, 28 May, 2019


Statements from the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) Review (2007) outlined the threat from toxic 1080 dust . See note 2 at end.

Also the NZ Journal of Ag Research has an interesting article on dust contamination. See note 3 at end.

A scoping study was done by the Institute for Environmental Science and Research (ESR) which mentions the possibility of dust inhalation and dust deposition on food and crops and in drinking water. See note 4 at end.



In mid-May, 2019, I spoke to Eric Chagnon, operations manager OSPRI, Dunedin, who told me there has been no change in their information/justifications for the drop since last year. In other words the status quo remains the same as it was in June, 2018. Here are the findings at that time, as revealed in a response to an OIA request by Alan Galletly:

OSPRI’s findings:

260 possums tested – NONE with TB
130 ferrets tested ONE with TB in 2012
6 feral pigs tested – NONE with TB

See complete OIA response below. Note 1.



When Mt Roy, Wanaka, was due to be aerially 1080-poisoned, in early 2015, one of the justifications for it, received via OIA request, was that same ferret found at Luggate, 20 km away, in 2012.

Mt Roy never happened. The Alice Burn East drop at Luggate should not be happening either!



This drop is less than 1 km from the nearest homes in Luggate Village and the baits will be going directly into the Alice Burn and Luggate Creek, which flows through Luggate Village and through the Luggate Campground. Poisoned carcasses will also end up in the two waterways. ( Both the end of Atkins Rd and end of Kingan Rd, including the Camp Ground, are less than 1km away from the drop boundary.)



The land is NOT inaccessible for trapping… see photo… and this is borne out by the fact they trapped possums there for TB testing! There is no need to arerially and indiscriminately drop poison from helicopters onto this land. See photos.



Note 1:

Alan Galletly’s OIA request and OSPRI responses… 2018

Question: How close to the drop zone is the nearest infected herd?

Answer: Adjacent to the aerial control


Q :What monitoring of possums has been done in the drop zone? If so when was this done?

A: None

Not guilty!

Q : Have possums been caught in the drop zone. If so when

A: Yes: 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2016


Q: Were any possums tested for TB from the drop zone? What number were tested for TB? What was the results of those tests?

A: Yes: 260 tested , 0 positive for TB


Q: Have any ferrets been caught in the drop zone ? If so when.

A: Yes: 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2018


Q: Were any ferrets tested for TB from the drop zone? What number were tested for TB? What was the results of those tests?

A: Yes: 130: 1 positive for TB (2012)


Q: Have any feral pigs been caught in the drop zone? If so when?

A: Yes: 2014 and 2015


Q: Were any feral pigs tested for TB from the drop zone? What number of feral pigs were tested for TB? What were the results of those tests?

A: Yes; 6 tested; 0 positive for TB


Q: What percentage of the drop zone is Department Of Conservation estate. What is the total hectares of DOC estate in the drop zone if any?

A: Out of total consented area of 1,973 hectares:

292 ha DOC
1,681 ha private land


Q: Spending taxpayers money to solve a non-existent problem – bovine TB

What is the total OSPRI budget for the Luggate aerial drop and is it expected to exceed that budget ?

A: The Alice Burn East Aerial is not expected to exceed the budgeted amount of $194,640


Q: How close to the drop zone is the nearest infected herd?

A: Adjacent to the aerial control

Q: Finally I must remind you of your obligation to consult with the local community. To date you have failed dismally and the behaviour of OSPRI staff at the Wanaka event can best be described as childish and completely unacceptable for such an government appointed organization. You are obliged to address public concerns and you have failed to do so to date. I ask when are you going to do this in a public forum?

A: OSPRI considers that all statutory obligations for the operations concerned have been met. No further public forum is planned


Note 2: DUST

Statements from the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) Review (2007).

475 5 Agency App. E “The main conclusion that can be drawn..is that dust drift can occur over a considerable distance off-site (at least 1 km)”

475 3 Agency App. E “Three aerial operations using cereal baits were monitored for dust drift in 1997 and 1998..The maximum deposition of 1080 falling in dust [from cereal bait] was 25.2 μg/m²..residues in dust inside all treatment areas were significantly greater than outside at day 1, but not at day 5”

477 1 Agency App. E “[1080 concentration in dust, μg/m², inside treatment area] Day 1 3.81 , Day 5 0.1..outside treatment area (day 1) 0.2 at 200m, 0.06 at 1 km”

475 6 Agency App. E “The Agency is not aware of any other studies reporting on dust drift from aerial application of 1080..there is insufficient information to know whether other bait types or delivery buckets would create more or less dust”

476 2 Agency App. E “Trace levels (of 1080) were found in 11 plant samples [after 1080 cereal operations at Whitecliffs and Titirangi]..the maximum measured was 0.014 mg/kg..on day 1..it is unknown whether the residues in plants resulted from dust deposition or uptake from the soil, the authors attributed them to dust.”

13 1 Submitter 9143 “Observation on the day of the poison operation showed that the fine particles and dust were blown across the forest canopy from the helicopter bait bucket” (Meads report)

3 2 Submitter 9143 “181 mm of rain fell in the second fortnight after the poison operation. Thus an influx of 1080 may have washed from the tree tops to the ground” (Meads Report)


“The risk of drift of 1080 dust:

While the 1080 concentration found in the bait dust
was much greater inside than outside the treatment
areas, results were less clear for the soil, leaf litter,
and plant samples. In some of these cases, similar
concentrations of 1080 were found outside as inside
the treatment areas. These results indicate that bait
dust can drift outside the boundaries of a treated
area up to and possibly more than 1000 m. ”



Study by the Institute for Environmental Science and Research (ESR):

“Dust drift may potentially arise from aerial application of 1080. This is because physical abrasion from transport, loading and aerial application of 1080 bait can generate dust particles that could drift over loading zone and application zone boundaries. Some of these particles could deposit on food or crops, or in water tanks used for drinking water. Other particles may be sufficiently fine to travel significant distances and be inhaled by people.”

In the end, I am told by a researcher, the study “…. was flawed though. For example control sample got contaminated (again) and they ‘couldn’t get hold of the distilled water for the collection points’. Not sure why as distilled water is widely available isn’t it!?! ”


Photos of Luggate: Tracey Morrow


This slideshow requires JavaScript.