Mt Roy from across Lake Wanaka

Mt Roy from Butterfield Wetland at sunset

by Carol Sawyer

In these sad times it is perhaps worth remembering that there was an aerial 1080 poison drop that we did stop, five years ago — Mt Roy in Wanaka. It is next to impossible, particularly in remote areas, to stop a drop. This drop was so close it was almost inside a wealthy tourist town (not that the wealthy opposed it), and there were many other available reasons to oppose it, some unusual, such as it being a wedding venue and also it being home to a special gecko.

This was still a battle and a half: who knows what specific reason or reasons made the poisoners (OSPRI/TB-free) go away, but go away they did.  They never dropped their horrid 1080 and they have never come back, despite saying merely that the drop was “postponed”. I was told by an MP privately at the time that OSPRI sloped off with their tail between their legs because of this opposition. Here are some of the possible reasons:


On 2 May 2015 I wrote on Facebook:

Mt Roy, a.k.a. Coromandel peak, is the scene of many weddings. People come from all over the world to have their wedding photos taken on Mt Roy. It is perfectly accessible by walking track but not in a long white gown, so people get flown up there by helicopter. Alpine Helicopters, who also do 1080 drops, and who participated in the Matukituki aerial 1080 drop in December 2014, are one of the companies that take people there. I hope they give the inside of their choppers a good clean in between missions. As you can see – not possum country. And despite the ORC declaring Mt Roy a regionally significant wetland for the purposes of the upcoming 1080 drop, not very wet-looking either. How many tourists/ wedding couples will want to be photographed up there when they know one of the world’s deadliest poisons has been scattered around ??!!”


Orange-spotted aka Roy's Peak gecko

Tony Jewell photo via Carol Sawyer.

Then, of course, there was the Roy’s Peak gecko, a beautiful orange-spotted alpine gecko, and at that time there were only seven known to exist in the whole world… on Mt Roy/Mt Alpha, Wanaka.

In April 2015 I wrote:

“TB-Free Aerial 1080 drop on MtRoy, scheduled for mid-May, to kill possums:

“Roy‘s Peak gecko, Wanaka, about to become Extinct! 1080 is an indiscriminate poison, highly toxic to all oxygen-breathing organisms. The gecko’s insect food will be killed. It’s reproduction interfered with, ‘probably temporarily’, Landcare tell me, but it is thought to only breed every four years anyway, The plants it eats will be covered in toxic dust. The 1080 poison itself may well kill it anyway. There is what Landcare term an “INFORMATION GAP” with regard to effects of 1080 on lizards. It is nationally, critically endangered and named after MtRoy. As far as I have been able to ascertain this beautiful little alpine gecko has not been found anywhere else. It lives up near the tops. How many possums has anyone seen roaming up there?!

“I have been told all the jewelled geckos disappeared in Waianakarua Scenic Reserve after a 1080 drop there. This alpine gecko is so rare and so special. If you don’t care about your town, if you don’t care about your dogs, if you don’t care about tourists gazing at poison-laden choppers traversing the hillside all day and ‘skull and crossbone’ signs everywhere, if you don’t care about air laden with toxic green dust, toxic carcases in the waterways …. at least care about this little creature which has been here for millennia.

“Why would you take any risk at all with such a precious creature ? There seem to be none in captivity. Once gone it is gone forever.”


There was also a vineyard at the base of the mountain, Rippon Vineyard, which would have been coated in toxic 1080 dust. It had biodynamic status. Not that the vineyard owners seemed at all concerned… they never said tickety-boo, publicly anyway… but it was another issue. I wrote to the Biodynamic people. They said it was always up to the landowner to declare what poisons were dropped around them, and that they didn’t monitor that or where 1080 drops happened. Worth noting!


One big issue was that the helicopters and their buckets would have been very visible to the township and the tourists, as they flew along the face of the mountain.


It had its funny aspects. I had an interesting correspondence with the Otago Regional Council’s lawyer in Dunedin about the fact this dry mountain had been declared a regionally significant wetland as part of justification for the 1080 drop.

“Not so,” I said. “It is a 5,500 ft high mountain in one of the driest parts of the country and is covered in tussock and schist rock.”

The lawyer e-mailed back in triumph “Scaife’s Lagoon is located at 1000 ft”. Well, I said, Wanaka and the lake are at 1,000 ft. The lagoon is at lake level. So then he had a wee think and responded that Mt Roy was a Potential significant wetland! Maybe in the next Ice Age?


There was a lot of adverse publicity in Wanaka about this aerial 1080 drop, including on the local Facebook page Upper Clutha Community Notices, thanks to the great admin there at the time, Hikuwai Drifter, who allowed it.

On 28 June 2015, I wrote:


Official word from OSPRI — no 1080 aerial poisoning on Mt Roy until at least May/June, 2016!

As well as this, part of a letter from OSPRI to affected parties states :

“If and when the Mount Roy aerial is rescheduled you will be consulted.”

I presume they mean aerial drop. I hope everyone takes good notice of the words “if and when“. Maybe there is a chance it just might not happen at all, folks.