A Coromandel conservation group says Waikato Regional Council is fueling community discord by major funding of the controversial pest control plans of private groups and introducing a new council policy of secrecy regarding increased poison operations on the peninsula.
Opposition to a cross-peninsula fence and 1080 drops
The Upper Coromandel Landcare Association (UCLA), which represents farmers and other landowners who kaitiaki thousands of hectares from Colville to Moehau, has stated its firm opposition to a cross-peninsula pest fence proposal, planning for which was included in a four-year grant of $390,038 to Te Ara Hou Kennedy Bay Ltd, managed by former DOC employee Nicholas Hamon. The proposed barrier would span Kennedy Bay to Koputauaki, potentially reigniting bitter community-wide conflict that raged over a similar failed proposal further north.
UCLA also expressed alarm at WRC-funded plans for recurring cross-peninsula aerial 1080 toxin operations run by the new company across a swath from Kennedy Bay to Papa Aroha in what would be a major shift to privatisation of poison drops.
The Te Ara Hou grant was approved in a community-excluded WRC session on 22 July. Companies Office records reveal the company, with no track record, was actually incorporated only two months before the cash handout.
According to UCLA spokesperson Reihana Robinson, “There has been no public consultation, no transparency, and no accountability. There is, however, widespread and vocal community opposition to the aerial 1080 plan already.”
Don’t fence me in
“As for the pest-proof fence proposal, the idea that a massively expensive, ineffective, and socially divisive hard barrier is even being considered, let alone funded by targeted Coromandel regional rates, is outrageous,” Robinson said. “WRC and Te Ara Hou have not done their homework and are out of touch. This is not about Kennedy Bay or Ngati Porou – it’s about all the rest of us who would be fenced in.”
The last attempt, by the Moehau Environment Group (MEG) in 2006 from Waikawau to Colville, was overwhelmingly opposed by the people who were to be fenced in, Robinson said. “No successful fenced area anywhere in New Zealand includes farms, homes, businesses, holiday parks, and campgrounds like we have on the northern Coromandel.”
Residents who stopped the MEG fence warned of increased 1080 drops, loss of income, health risks, costs to ratepayers, extermination of traditional kai, bans on pets and working dogs, and adverse effects on native species.
Regional Council gagging and not consulting
UCLA has also noted a new WRC gag-order policy of withholding information regarding poisons being laid by council-funded private groups. A copy of MEG’s most recent successful $400,000 grant application, requested from WRC by UCLA under the Official Information Act, was released after several delays heavily redacted – all requested mapping and toxin information was blacked out.
“MEG and Te Ara Hou, with WRC’s blessing, are thumbing their noses at local residents and the Coromandel-Colville Community Board, which three times in the last decade passed resolutions against use of 1080 and other residual toxins,” Robinson said. “And Waikato Regional Council, including our local representative Denis Tegg, are seemingly unaware or completely dismissive of on-the-ground community sentiment.”
“These publicly funded poison jobs affect neighbours. Toxic hopper dust and poisoned animal carcasses cross property lines and know no boundaries. Mokopuna, the food chain, our drinking water, pets, and livestock are all at risk. People have the right to know. People are not happy.”
“No public consultation, no transparency and no accountability” sounds like the KCDC. –Eds