A must watch also is Poisoning Paradise, the doco made by the GrafBoys (banned from screening on NZ TV, yet a 4x international award winner). Their website is tv-wild.com. Their doco is a very comprehensive overview with the independent science to illustrate the question marks that remain over the use of this poison. There are links also on our 1080 resources page to most of the groups, pages, sites etc that will provide you with further information to make your own informed decision on this matter. You can also find further 1080 articles at ‘categories’ (left of the news page) or by using the search box. Other vital info regarding risk to humans can be found on the Suspected 1080 Poisoning page.
If you are pro poisoning of the environment, EnvirowatchRangitikei is not the place to espouse your opinions. Mainstream would be the place to air those. This is a venue for sharing the independent science you won’t of course find there.
Note: We aim to raise awareness by providing independent information on environmental poisons … and we don’t endorse violence.
THE INCREDIBLE LETTER BELOW HAS BEEN PREPARED BY DOCTORS WHO ARE CONCERNED ABOUT 1080 POISON BEING DEPOSITED IN DRINKING WATER
Open letter to the Government, Friday, 21st September 2018.
As doctors, we are extremely concerned about the health risk of depositing poisoned bait over 22,500 hectares of the Hunua water catchment area. Specifically, we are concerned about Sodium Fluoroacetate (SMFA / 1080), a known deadly poison which is known to cause sub-lethal effects on reproduction and is classified as a teratogen, having potential to contaminate the Auckland water supply.
There is no effective antidote for 1080 poisoning in humans.
We are extremely concerned that public officials are not adopting a far more precautionary approach to the safety of the Auckland water catchment, especially when the effects of 1080, a highly soluble poison, is not quantifiably able to be tested on how it affects the health of humans.
Studies show that 1080 affects the reproductive organs, the cardiac system, and respiratory system in mammals. There is no safe minimal level known and water testing and sampling after aerial 1080 application cannot prudently protect the public from risk of exposure from this poison.
As doctors, we are responsible for the health of individuals and communities. Therefore, we ask the government to immediately stop the usage of sodium fluoroacetate which has potential to contaminate the New Zealand water supply.
An excellent and informative interview. Fiona McQueen (MBChB, MD, FRACP) wrote The Quiet Forest, The Case Against Aerial 1080 in 2017. She graduated from the University of Otago in Medicine in 1980 and has worked as a consultant rheumatologist within the NZ public health system for the last 26 years. She completed an MD in Immunology in 1996 and was made Professor of Rheumatology in 2009. She has had a distinguished international academic career and has been active in research and teaching. She has had a life-long passion for tramping and experiencing the NZ bush, especially the alpine regions of the South Island. This has led to a deep interest in conservation. (Information cited from her book).
Word’s getting around isn’t it? Remember this one? One of the great aspects of social media & the internet. All being severely curtailed however as we speak.
Almost on the verge of losing its native species New Zealand is beginning to realize the environmental implications of 60 years of indiscriminate aerial application of toxic pesticides and chemicals like 1080 (sodium fluoroacetate) in its forest ecosystem. Secondary poisoning due to rat poison is posing a big threat for the birds of prey and insectivores. Though no one wanted it that way, birds are being poisoned when the insects eat the poisonous rat bait and the birds then eat the insects.
For such a small country, New Zealand packs a poisonous punch. Its Department of Conservation (DoC) has a toolbox full of chemical weapons and is willing and able to use them. Last year alone saw aerial broadcasting of 800+ tonnes of toxic bait across an estimated 700,000 HAs of its native forest ecosystems (including lakes and rivers) in a campaign against rats dubbed the Battle for the Birds. The poison used was 1080 (sodium fluoroacetate), which kills by interrupting cellular respiration and affects all life forms requiring oxygen. The extreme toxicity and agonizing mode of action has sparked much controversy about the inhumanity of using such a poison. There is also no known antidote and in the opinion of many 1080 should have been banned outright years ago. In New Zealand, it has been used for over 60 years to control introduced species such as rabbits, possums and rats.
Poisons are a booming business, especially for the “treatment” of rats on islands. In this instance, the poison is brodifacoum a second-generation anticoagulant used for island eradications. The method of aerial application is like “blitzkrieg”, but lack of accuracy and by kill risk means that these operations can impact, as is often witnessed, on sea mammals, fish and birds.
Brodifacoum is also persistent and bioaccumulative.
The New Zealand state-owned enterprise, Animal Control Products imports as much as 90% of the world’s supply of pure manufactured 1080 annually from the United State’s Tull Chemical Company (the sole manufacturer). This is then processed into various baits. But New Zealand’s pest control industry is not all about spreading bait from helicopters or ground-based operations in its own ecosystem, it is also about export opportunities. Animal Control Products has found a niche market for selling New Zealand expertise and products for pest control solutions and island restorations. It is a lucrative sideline for this government. New Zealand provides the skill to kill, marketing its expertise and branding, and proudly presiding over island eradications.
But does the world need such a thing as island eradications and ecosystem restorations? And if we are to believe the world does need such drastic measures, the question needs to asked. Are poisons really working? The respected science journal, Nature, reported in 2012 that “Killing rats is killing birds”. Canada and the United States are planning to restrict the use of blood-thinning rat poisons, such as brodifacoum.
The disastrous eradication of Alaska’s Rat Island used 42 tonnes of brodifacoum. This resulted in the demise of 420 birds including 46 bald eagles that tragically came to dine on rat. One would hope that the island eradication industry would think twice about using poisons that have far reaching environmental implications. Rats will go wherever we go. But still, aerial poisoning of islands is heralded as the “final solution” to the problem of rats. This way of looking at island conservation as a poisoning opportunity was born in New Zealand.
These images were captured in the Taupo Region in 2016, images of contorted deer that have died a slow agonizing death from 1080 poisoning. For over 50 years the New Zealand Government has been systematically dropping massive amounts of food, laced with this cruel and universally toxic poison into its forest ecosystems. Enough poison every year to kill the entire population of NZ four times over. No other country is doing, or ever has done, anything remotely similar on such a scale.
A vet has told us that a typical death from 1080 is like TWO DAYS of slow electrocution. In addition as per this video mothers die with their young or sometimes their surviving young are left to die from starvation. In a bungled Turangi aerial drop, four horses died, one of which had coughed up its own lungs reports Reihana Robinson in her book The Killing Nation! The Animal Welfare Act was tweaked to allow this kind of animal death with 1080 poisoning. See below how long the other animals take to die, some of them non-target of course, although DoC would have you believe, in spite of their own documentation stating otherwise, that non-target animals do not die in 1080 drops:
The three shareholders by the way, should you feel inclined to contact them, are Beef & Lamb NZ Ltd, Dairy NZ and Deer Industry NZ. (OSPRI NZ is Operational Solutions for Primary Industries).
Note, there is no antidote to 1080 & a retired NZ Doctor has spoken out and said if you die of the poison nobody will know because Doctors are bullied by the MOH into NOT testing for 1080.
NOTE: For further articles on 1080 use categories at left of the news page.
If you are new to the 1080 poisoning program, a must watch is Poisoning Paradise, the doco made by the GrafBoys (banned from screening on NZ TV, yet a 4x international award winner). Their website is tv-wild.com. Their doco is a very comprehensive overview with the independent science to illustrate the question marks that remain over the use of this poison. There are links also on our 1080 resources page to most of the groups, pages, sites etc that will provide you with further information to make your own informed decision on this matter.
If you are pro poisoning of the environment, EnvirowatchRangitikei is not the place to espouse your opinions. Mainstream would be the place to air those. This is a venue for sharing the independent science you won’t of course find there.
Finally we don’t endorse violence in any way shape or form.
NOTE: Periodically & randomly the facebook share option will disappear from posts on the news page. If it is not appearing, click on the heading of the article to go to its own page, usually the share button will show up there. (All else failing, on the actual post’s page, copy & past the url to your facebook page)
The nasty part is that brodifacoum, a poison graded 8/10 for its ability to cause animal suffering, needed to be introduced first to kill pests inside the fence. It also killed native birds including weka and pukeko.
Do the ends justify the means? A human equivalent would be if a ruling party decided to clear out a country, exterminating all unwanted people and restocking with different people who are representatives of a “chosen race”. Wait a minute, hasn’t that been done before?
Andrea Midgen, chief executive of the SPCA, recently spoke out about the associated animal cruelty saying, “1080 (and other poisons) causes intense, prolonged suffering to animals and therefore we cannot support its use”.
Remember the cover up with the Putaruru family who were admitted to Waikato Hospital after eating Wild Boar? The Doctor’s notes indicated suspected 1080 poisoning from the get go, but nobody tested, not till a long time afterwards. The Doctor’s recommendations were ignored. We kept hearing it was Botulism. Remember the healthy young 23 year old hiker in the South Island who died suddenly after hiking and whose Doctor suspected the same? Recommended & sent her heart for testing only to find the Lab conveniently (?) lost it? Remember the retired doctor who recently told us Doctors are bullied by the MOH not to test for 1080 poisoning. Remember how he was threatened with prosecution after advising the public via mainstream media how to test before & after a 1080 drop?
This information below is from the ‘NO to 1080 use in NZ’ facebook page.
In 1951, Prof. Peters, a biochemist at Oxford University, England, explained his theory of ‘lethal synthesis’ which included studies with cows and sheep on the effects of Fluoroacetic Acid (the chemical upon which 1080 poison is based) in the journal Science News Letter (7 July, page 3)
He joked: “if anyone was contemplating using fluoroacetic to poison his mother-in-law, he had better pick a Saturday to do it. [because] By the time the coroner’s office opened on Monday the citric acid evidence would be gone.”
Less than 5 years after this publication, aerial 1080 poison operations began. Why is New Zealand’s Dept of Conservation still in denial about the complexities of these tests, 67 years later? Where are the public health studies?
There are of course many groups that are not listed here. I have only listed those groups with 1,000 or more followers or members.
Here they are again with the latest figures and now three new groups have reached the 1,000 member target – “America Against 1080 – Stop Poison Drops in New Zealand”, “Operation Ban 1080 Open”, and “ABC’s of 1080”.
PLUS there are three groups of over 1,000 members that I realized I didn’t count before – “Stop 1080 Poison “, “Anti 1080 Action Ruapehu”, and “Ban 1080 Poison in New Zealand”.
Operation Ban 1080 – 84,670
NO to 1080 Use in NZ – 31,821
1080 Eyewitness – 22,065
Ban 1080 Party – 13,888
Hikoi of a Poisoned Nation – 9.389
New Zealand’s Not Clean Green – 8,688
The Graf Boys – 6,211
Ban 1080 – South Island – 4,331
Ban 1080 Poison in New Zealand – 4,224
Stop 1080 Poison – 3,944
Operation Ban 1080 Open – 3,875
Stop 1080 NOW – 3,408
Anti 1080 Action Ruapehu – 1,776
ABC’s of 1080 – 1,118
America Against 1080 – Stop the Poison Drops in New Zealand – 1,003
TOTAL = 200,411
PS : There will be some overlap, particularly between “Operation Ban 1080” and “Operation Ban 1080 Open” members, but counteracting that there are many CURRENT groups just under the 1,000 member threshold.
For example –
Groups with under 1000 members/ followers :
Stop Poisoning Coromandel Peninsula – 987
1080 in Fiordland – 819
Church of Poison Free New Zealand – 775
1080 Poison Protest Action TPPA – 743
Save Raukumara From 1080 – 722
1080 Alternatives NZ – 721
Stop 1080 Poison Fox Baits in Tasmania – 453
1080 Free Rolleston – 438
NZ Farmers Against 1080 Poison – 417
Whangarei Ban 1080 – 266
Northland 1080 – 238
Dunedin Against 1080 – 146
Controversy over 1080 erupted this month, with five protesters arrested for interfering with a poison drop. In Taupo, a fake bomb was discovered at a firm behind the drops. In the middle of the debate is Taupo mayor Rick Cooper, who believes a 1080 `gravy train’ is making a small group of people rich. Special investigation by Tony Wall.
RICK COOPER looks uncannily like the figure in the oil painting in his Taupo District Council office, right down to the open-neck blue shirt and grey blazer. The subject is not an ancestor or a former mayor, but TV mob boss Tony Soprano. The inspiration? “He shot the bastards, encased them in concrete. He is my mentor – `just get on with it’.”
He is joking, of course, but you suspect His Worship wouldn’t mind meting out some mob justice to those he believes are poisoning the environment with the aerial spread of 1080.
Although Cooper “hates” 1080 – “if I was prime minister I would ban it by lunchtime” – he has no problem with ground control, where the poison is laid by hand in bait stations, targeting possums only.
What enrages him is “indiscriminate aerial bombardment”, which he says is causing “carnage” in our forests, killing everything from insects and plants to birds, pigs, deer and domestic farm animals, as well as threatening waterways.
Cooper’s council has passed a resolution – six for and four against – to advocate for the abolition of aerial 1080 poisoning and to seek alternative possum eradication methods. The Westland District Council has passed a similar resolution and the mayor of Kaikoura has called for a 1080 ban, as a groundswell of opposition to the deadly poison, banned in most countries, builds.
The Department of Conservation, regional councils and the Animal Health Board use 1080 to control possums in order to protect forests and birdlife and to prevent the spread of bovine TB. In 2007, after a lengthy submissions process, the Environmental Risk Management Agency (Erma) found 1080 was safe and decided to allow its continued use, including aerial operations.
But that has not silenced opponents such as Cooper, who fired off emails to all the agencies involved, as well as Prime Minister John Key, in a desperate attempt to halt a 1080 drop over 26,000ha of the Kaingaroa State Forest east of Taupo this month.
The operation was unnecessary, Cooper says, as the terrain was easily accessible – “it’s flat country my grandmother could ride her bike around” – and could have been done by foot. He says the obsession with aerial operations is denying work to possum trappers and undermining the trade in meat and fur.
A 1080 “gravy train” keeps the aerial drops going, Cooper claims. There is too much money being made for them to be abolished, he says, conspiratorially. He talks of closed-door deals, conflicts of interest and a lack of transparency from the agencies involved. “I think it’s a bit like something died in the back paddock and hasn’t been buried.”
Cooper points to multimillion-dollar contracts awarded to a local firm, Epro Ltd, to spread 1080 from the air. Its director and co-owner, Roger Lorigan, used to work at Environment Waikato, which issues resource consents for 1080 work, in its pest management unit. A former colleague, Kevin Christie, also has his own firm, Ecofx based in Otorohanga, which has also won big contracts.
Their boss at Environment Waikato was John Simmons, now the biosecurity and natural heritage group manager at the council, in charge of pest management. In the late 90s, the council sold its possum control business to Lorigan and Christie, and Cooper claims they have been milking it ever since. However, his concerns were not shared by the auditor-general, who in a 2004 report found no evidence of any conflict of interest.
But Cooper remains suspicious. “It doesn’t matter where you go with this stuff, you keep finding the same people, the same names, and no one you can independently trust. My question is, what methodology did they use to sell those companies?”
Cooper has been challenging Environment Waikato chairman Peter Buckley on the issue. Buckley says he initially had concerns about how the companies were set up, but since becoming chairman has been satisfied that everything was above board. Lorigan says they were simply management buy-outs of pest destruction businesses, no different to those conducted by several other councils around the country. He says that 1080 contracts awarded to his firm are won fairly. “We just tender along with everyone else.”
Simmons says allegations of bias and closed-door deals were raised by a rival operator in 2004, and dismissed by the auditor-general. “It is disappointing that this has again surfaced unnecessarily.” He says Epro and Ecofx are experts in their field and, “I am sure the majority of ratepayers… have a high level of assurance in the professional manner in which the work is undertaken.”
A copy of the auditor-general’s report, provided to the Sunday Star-Times, shows that, while there was no evidence that Simmons had ever had any financial interest in Epro or Ecofx and there was nothing to suggest their relationship was inappropriate, there was another conflict, involving an “independent consultant” employed by the council to act as moderator and recorder in the 1080 contract process.
The person had a business relationship with both Epro and Ecofx, and while the council knew this, it had done nothing about it. Figures released to the Star-Times by Environment Waikato show it has paid around $2 million to Epro and Ecofx for aerial 1080 contracts over the past 10 years, but most of the contracts the firms won were with the Animal Health Board, which refuses to reveal payments for reasons of commercial sensitivity.
Epro and Ecofx recently applied for 10 and 20-year consents to continue aerial 1080 operations on a non-notified basis, although they later withdrew the applications and settled for year-long consents. (Their current 10-year consents are due to expire next month.)
“We kicked up such a stink they had to back out,” Cooper says. “That’s protecting your business isn’t it? Non-notified consents, 10 years for a poison. You can’t even put a bedroom on your house without a resource consent.”
Lorigan says Cooper’s allegations and inflammatory comments are inciting threats against his firm. Just a day after the Star-Times visited Epro this month, staff discovered a suspicious package – a 20-litre container with a clock and protruding wires – on machinery at its depot. Bomb disposal experts were called in and houses evacuated, but it was a hoax.
The incident came a day after two dogs died, apparently after eating 1080 pellets by the side of the Napier-Taupo highway. A friend of the owner later paraded the body of one of the dogs through the middle of Taupo in a wheelbarrow.
Lorigan says the bomb hoax proves anti-1080 protesters are “terrorists”.
“You just get sick of it, where’s it going to end? We’ve had threats and stuff like that, at the end of the day we’re just a contractor. That’s what drives me nuts, we’re just a business.
“Rick’s taking it very personal and that’s quite a shame. We’re a business that has employed 50 people, I find it very disappointing that a mayor can do that in his own town. Why isn’t he worried about how the town is going and promoting tourism?”
Cooper does not condone the bomb hoax, but says he understands the anger of whoever was behind it.
“There are a lot of disappointed people around this district that know the truth behind this madness. I’m glad I have no part in this diabolical 1080 nonsense because if I did, I fear I would have been tarred and feathered.”
COOPER IS an unlikely crusader against 1080. Your typical protester is a bearded, Swanndri-wearing bushwhacker, but Cooper made his fortune selling cars, owns half of the commercial real estate in Taupo – “I’m the biggest ratepayer in this town… $280,000 a quarter” – and races Mustangs in his spare time. He gives his $81,000 mayoral salary to charity.
But he is also a keen deer hunter and has “hated” 1080 most of his life. Soon after he won the mayoralty for the first time in 2007, Epro bungled a 1080 drop at Turangi.
“They were spraying 1080 all over the place down the bottom of the lake… they threw it across this place where these kids’ ponies were. I go down there… can you imagine the scene? You’ve got four horses thrashing and dying on the ground, one takes four days to die. I was going, `What is going on in this country? How in God’s name did a helicopter pilot biff this shit here, in this horse paddock?’ To this day those kids haven’t even had an apology.”
Epro, which failed to tell the owners to move the horses, was formally warned by Environment Waikato and a year later the regional council finally paid the owners $9100 compensation.
The incident convinced Cooper to campaign for the abolishment of aerial 1080 drops. He has spent so much time on the issue the past three years he has had to employ a “mayoral support officer”, Graham Sperry, who is chairman of the anti-1080 New Zealand Wildlands Biodiversity Management Society, to take up some of the 1080 workload.
Documentary maker Clyde Graf, whose film on 1080, Poisoning Paradise, has been nominated for awards in the UK, is a hunting companion of Cooper. He says for 1080 opponents, having the mayor in their corner has been invaluable.
“He’s a fairly staunch, brave sort of a guy,” Graf says. “He doesn’t get pushed around easily, he just stands up for what he believes in. His position as mayor, he’s not trying to defend , he’s not sucking up to bureaucracies and the big bullies, following government policy – because 1080 is locked into government policy.”
But others are not so impressed.
The Conservation Department says it is “disappointed” the council has not recognised the “key role” aerial 1080 plays in protecting vulnerable wildlife such as kiwi, while the Animal Health Board, which spent $53m on possum control the past financial year, claims inaccurate comments have been made about the aerial use of the poison. Board chief executive William McCook disputes Cooper’s claim the east Taupo drop zone was flat country that could have been covered by foot.
He says the area is extensively forested and poses some “serious health and safety risks” for ground control operators. Aerial control is the most cost-effective method, he says, and provides even coverage. McCook says 80% of the operations in the region are ground based, using traps and poison.
Ailsa Gathergood, a Taupo district councillor and farmer who voted against the resolution to advocate for the abolishment of aerial 1080, says farmers are generally in favour of it to protect their cattle from TB. Birdlife in bush areas she has visited has bounced back after aerial drops, she says. Gathergood says farmers are feeling resentment that they did not get to put their side of the story before the council passed its resolution.
Will it cost Cooper votes? “We’ll see what happens at the next local body elections [in October],” she says.
Cooper claims not to care. “It could go either way, but I am true to my beliefs and I don’t give a shit if it sees me out of here – I’ll just go fishing.”
AT EPRO’S base on Broadlands Rd, there is a framed notice on the wall from Environment Waikato, praising the work the firm has done to prevent the spread of bovine TB.
Lorigan says in the mid 90s, Taupo had 250 cattle herds on movement control because of TB – today there are none. “Isn’t that pretty damn good?”
He confirms 1080 contracts have been worth millions to his firm, but denies it has made him wealthy. “Do you know any millionaire possum hunters?” Costs include helicopters, poison, staff and vehicles, he says.
Lorigan says aerial 1080 drops are more cost effective than ground control – helicopters can cover 20,000ha in two days, but the average man only 20ha a day. He believes 1080 is safe. Cooper claims a hunting estate Lorigan owns near the southern end of Lake Taupo has never had 1080 dropped on it, but Lorigan says that is simply not true. “I’m a mad-keen hunter, and I don’t have a problem with it .”
Lorigan says incidents where pets and domestic farm animals have died after eating 1080 were “human error”, and he’s not talking his own.
“It’s not the poison’s fault. It’s like if a dog runs out on the road and gets run over, is it the car’s fault? It’s the owner, and that’s what the story is with most of the problems with 1080 – people don’t take responsibility for their own dogs or for their domestic animals, keeping them under control.”
That comment shows Lorigan’s lack of compassion, Cooper says, and points out that the horses Epro killed in 2007 were in their own paddock.
Cooper questions the need for 1080 at all. He says possums simply aren’t there any more. He recently went spotlighting and in four hours, saw just two possums. He and other 1080 opponents have tried to prise data from the AHB showing possum numbers before and after aerial operations.
The board refuses to supply the information, McCook telling the Star-Times: “The AHB does not provide data like that requested by Mr Cooper because it forms just one aspect of the decision to undertake a pest control operation.
“This data may be interpreted in isolation from other contributing and often complex technical information, which has the potential to give an incomplete and even misleading perspective of why an operation is to take place.”
This just adds fuel to Cooper’s fire. He suspects the numbers are being “cooked” to justify further drops and keep the gravy train running.
“A lot of focus has been on `these anti-1080 radicals’,” Cooper says. “The funny thing though, is the anti-1080 people have got none of this [money] at stake, and people who like 1080 have got lots of it at stake – the helicopter operator, the farmer, the Animal Health Board guys on a hundred and fifty f—— thousand a year, the guys with their three-piece suits driving around in their BMWs, and the Epros the Ecofxs.
“If we all put the flag up now and said, `we’ve got this under control, possum populations are right down, we don’t need you [aerial operators] any more’, what would happen? The gravy train would stop.”
For all his strong words, Cooper has been powerless to stop the drops – this month Epro completed the east Taupo drop, on behalf of the AHB. Environment Waikato and other regional councils issue resource consents for aerial drops, and each operation has to be approved by the medical officer of health for the district. Local councils can make submissions, but essentially are cut out of the decision-making loop.
Cooper says he will keep up his vocal campaign against the poison until those in power start listening.
“My job is to protect the environment and the inhabitants therein. How do we stop it? It’s a real good question. It’s a bit like starting on P – how do you get off the shit? The only way is people power – that’s all we’ve got.”
1080 – a controversial killer
Sodium monofluoroacetate, or 1080, has been used for about 50 years in New Zealand to control possums. It is a chemical reproduction of a naturally occurring, biodegradable toxin which exotic plants produce. It has accidentally killed dogs, deer, horses, cows, and birds after being dropped from the air.
The SPCA is against the poison because of the cruel way it kills – animals can take days to die. Proponents of its use say it breaks down in the environment – opponents say it is a threat to our waterways, not to mention our “clean, green” image. Possum numbers are estimated to be the same today – about 70 million – as decades ago.
Opponents of 1080 say this is evidence the poison programme hasn’t worked.
Supporters say without it, possum numbers would be even higher. New Zealand uses most of the world’s supplies of 1080, and it is banned in most other countries. It is imported from the US by Animal Control Products Ltd, a state-owned enterprise, which mixes the poison into cereal bait and sells it to contractors such as Epro.
The contractors are hired by the Conservation Department and regional councils, which want possums eradicated to protect birdlife and forests, and by the Animal Health Board, an incorporated society tasked with eradicating bovine tuberculosis, which could cost farmers billions if it gets out of control. For this reason, the powerful lobby group Federated Farmers supports the use of 1080, as does Forest and Bird. In 2007, the Environmental Risk Management Agency reviewed the use of 1080, taking submissions and eventually ruling the poison was safe and could continue to be used. Opponents say the review was a whitewash and relied on dodgy science. Some 1080 protesters have been labelled “terrorists”, after a 1080 contractor’s dog was deliberately fed 1080 on the West Coast in 2008, and just this month a fake bomb was left at Epro’s depot in Taupo.
Taupo man Chris Short epitomises the lengths 1080 opponents are prepared to go to make their point. In 1995, he hijacked a crop-spraying helicopter and forced the pilot to fly him into Tongariro National Park. He spent eight months in jail. Last year a terminally ill Short spent six days on Mt Tongariro protesting 1080. He vowed to die on the mountain but was eventually persuaded to come down.
This is from Stuff. Surprizingly. Instead of the usual mainstream ‘bona fide justification for poisoning everything and saving our native birds’ (not) it actually acknowledges the information that campaigners for clean water and for refraining from poisoning the entire ecocide have been advocating for decades. Perhaps they’re now getting too loud to ignore.
Damon Rusden has restated the scientific case for continued use of aerial 1080 to control pests, but his argument fails to address the social side of the debate.
Underpinning the continued reliance on aerial 1080 lies the ambitious goal of turning back the clock – of eliminating every single introduced rodent, mustelid and marsupial with the aim of making New Zealand “predator free”. While there is virtually unanimous agreement that our native flora and fauna deserve protection, the feasibility and costs of returning the country to a pre-European state are often overlooked.
In fact, the logic behind being “predator free” requires closer examination. Is this nostalgic vision of returning the country “to what it once was” really what we need and want? Is it possible, and at what cost? If we are going to try to turn back the clock on introduced species, there needs to be consensus on how far back we want to go, and the methods of doing so need to be evaluated in more than just scientific terms.
Taking a big picture view on introduced animals may mean allocating some areas as predator free focus points, while other areas are managed with different outcomes in mind. Introduced species do have their benefits – possums yield fur, for example, and this is a valued resource on many levels. Accepting that possums are part of our national ecosystem and managing them accordingly, might therefore be a better option in some areas.
The ‘where’ and ‘why’ of 1080 also needs careful consideration. Rusden asserts that 1080 is dropped “in areas which are inaccessible by foot”. This might have been true once, but it is far from the truth today. On the West Coast, aerial 1080 is being applied to areas that are easily accessible on foot, with well-established hut and track networks.
The recent Karnbach operation is a case in point, with aerial 1080 placed in the main Waitaha riverbed and on the surrounding tracks. The supposed precision of aerial application resulted in baits submerged in the river itself. This operation, along with many others in the region, was conducted by Ospri as part of the TBFreeNZ program.
These operations have nothing to do with saving native birds or forests. Any benefits to native species are an unintended consequence of protecting the farming industry. The two goals should not be confused, or seen as one and the same.
Rusden goes on to claim that “much of the substance of the anger at 1080 seems to draw from the anti-establishment well”. In fact, there is more than anti-government sentiment at play here. There are sound ethical and animal welfare concerns surrounding 1080 use. What Rusden also fails to mention, is that the majority of aerial 1080 proponents do not live in the areas where it is being dropped.
A lot of the anger and resentment stems from a feeling of absolute powerlessness and lack of meaningful engagement with what is happening in one’s backyard. People who live in a place are often deeply passionate about it in a wholly different way to someone who comes to visit once a year. While the visitor may prize the area for its chortling flocks of tui, the family down the road obtain their water, and possibly their food, from the same block of bush. There is a fundamental difference in perspective. When the helicopters laden with poison buzz over your backyard your water supply, meat safe and recreation ground are all potential targets.
The science may be clear, but it doesn’t take into account the social, cultural or resource value associated with our ecosystems. For those who live in these areas, the anger at this top-down approach is heartfelt and understandable. Simply writing it off as emotion or anti-government sentiment is not helpful.
Economic consequences are another consideration. The current regime of aerial 1080 drops offers little or no economic return to local communities. It would be heartening if locals were approached ahead of any drop, to identify areas that would be feasible trapping targets. Employment is a real concern in areas such as the West Coast, particularly when many of the traditional industries are being shut down. Local residents should be given the priority when it comes to pest control work.
The debate around 1080 is more than the sum of all scientific papers on the topic. It is as much a social issue as it is a scientific one. There are cultural and economic aspects that need to be considered, alongside the goal of bringing back the birds and restoring the forests.
Everyone is keen to see flourishing ecosystems, but people must remain part of that picture.
Photo: please advise if the excellent header image is yours & would like to be credited, or you would like me to remove it.
NOTE ON COMMENTING:
If you are pro poisoning of the environment or anything else, EnvirowatchRangitikei is not the place to espouse your opinions. Mainstream would be the place to air those. This is a venue for sharing the independent science you won’t of course find there.