Akatarawa Forest (wikipedia pic)

You are going to hear from some of the people that have been pushed into the background by censorship and by a government that does not want the public to know what [1080] is doing in our conservation. –Michael Kay chairing a recent meeting in Manakau of people opposed to the proposal.   

Greater Wellington Council (GWRC) tries to justify the poisoning

By Roger Childs

1100 year old Rata tree

GWRC has announced a major operation in the Akatarawas to start in November, aimed at saving old forests, including an 1100-year-old Rata. The main target is the possum which has actually been in the forests of New Zealand for over 160 years. During that time the vegetation has survived.

The lethal pesticide sodium fluoroacetate (1080) will be used. 

It follows previous aerial 1080 possum control operations, which were carried out in the area in 2007 and 2013. GWRC says: It is a necessary response to growing possum numbers and will ultimately protect and enhance the area’s biodiversity …

Catchment General Manager, Wayne O’Donnell observes If we leave them (possums) unchecked we will see significant degradation of the forest environment and the habitats it provides for a wide range of regionally and nationally significant native plants, birds and animals.

The Department of Conservation (DoC) claims that1080 is biodegradable and dissolves quickly in water. Not all scientists agree and many claim that the poison can be lethal for many months after it has been dropped. 

1080 is disastrous for our biodiversity

Scientist Jim Hilton sums up the impact of 1080 and other poisons on our ecosystems:

Modern science tells us 80% or more of the targeted wildlife species are killed by poisons. Stoats, rats, possums, deer, pigs, goats, tahr, chamois and wallaby are now in very low numbers in the forests which are regularly poisoned.  We also know that 70% or more of non-target wildlife, like robins, tomtits, frogs and insects, are also killed.

All we are doing with aerial poisons like 1080 is constantly diluting our wildlife, native and introduced. It is an expensive exercise in futility, financially unsustainable, ecologically unsustainable and not doing the job of saving species at all. It is killing them, some faster than others. 

DoC has been poisoning the land with 1080 for over 60 years and there is no peer reviewed evidence that it has done any good. 

On the contrary, there is plenty of research and anecdotal evidence to suggest that sodium fluoroacetate, which was developed as an insecticide, has killed tens of thousands of birds and a major item of their diet: millions of insects.

The interference of people in the ecosystem throws natural interactions out of balance. Just as in north Sydney, where a 1080 campaign to kill foxes led to the proliferation of rabbits and bandicoots.

A better approach — trapping

Possum industries employ over 1500 people, and earn more than $130 million each year. Demand for products such as clothing, footwear, furnishing, cat food and dog rolls is increasing. Sometimes the possum fur is blended with merino wool to make high quality socks, hats, gloves, cardigans, skirts, jerseys, throws, blankets and cushions. The pelts are turned into leather bags, shoes, headgear and accessories.

There are many agents and retail outlets throughout New Zealand. For example Possum Fibre and Skin Merchants New Zealand has 13 agents from Northland to Invercargill including one in Waikanae. 

Possums are a resource and the best way to keep them under control is by hunting and trapping.

A history of failure and degradation

1080 has been used for more than half a century and there is no reliable evidence that it has helped our environment. New Zealand uses over 85% of the world’s supply which begs the question – why is it banned in many countries and most American states? It is time New Zealand did the same – stopped poisoning the land and saved the nation’s wildlife. Even DoC concedes that kiwi, kaka and kea are among the many casualties of 1080 drops.

The use of 1080 requires consent from the Medical Officer of Health. It also must comply with both the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, and the Resource Management Act. It’s time for the Medical Officer say “No more”.