1080 is the best we have

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13th June, 2011 19 comments

A blue duck (whio) being attacked by a stoat/DoC

New Zealanders identify strongly with the land. Even those who have never spent a night in a back-country hut or gone to sleep to the sound of rain falling on a tent like to think they could if they wanted to. New Zealanders consider access to the outdoors a birthright, even if many never actually take it up.

For all that it is fashionable to say New Zealand is not as green as its citizens like to think it is – and like to portray abroad – vast tracts of native forests still remain, and 30% of New Zealand lies within the conservation estate. That sounds good in theory, but in practice there is far too much land for the Department of Conservation and other agencies to adequately cover and far too many pests at work in the forests. As a result, New Zealand’s native bush is being eaten alive, and so are the endemic species, particularly birds, that live in them.

These species, some of which grew fat and flightless during their long period of evolution in the absence of mammalian predators, have been unable to cope with the onslaught of such introduced pests as rats, possums and stoats. The birds are largely defenceless – sitting ducks, if you like – for the predators that make meals out of them. New Zealand has one of the highest extinction rates of native species in the world. You won’t find that statistic in the tourism brochures. Nor, probably, the statistic that there are 30 million possums that every night eat our forests, birds and chicks. Or that 60% of kiwi chicks are eaten by stoats.

It is against this backdrop that Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright released her report this week on the use of 1080 poison. Wright has made a cogent case for more, not less use of 1080, drawing on what has been learnt about the best use of it to minimise by-kill and maximise pest eradication. What’s more, Wright makes a strong appeal for urgency. A single helicopter, using GPS and mechanised loading, can cover thousands of hectares of inaccessible terrain in a day. “Without active management, many of our iconic species are in danger of extinction,” she says. In areas with no pest control, kiwi are declining at 2-6% a year. At 6%, they will likely be gone within a generation.

The message is clear, but do we want to hear it? As Rebecca Macfie reports, opposition to 1080 is vociferous. DoC staff have been assaulted by 1080 protestors. Local bodies on the West Coast and in Taupo have voted to ban the poison, and it appears in some places intimidation is causing DoC to stop using it. United Future leader Peter Dunne, a critic of 1080, describes the new focus as “an urban beat-up” and says if 1080 hasn’t worked in the past 50 years, why would we want to use more of it?

The answer may be we have not been using enough to keep up with the explosion in pest numbers. Only  an eighth of the public conservation estate has any pest control operating on it. There is none in Kahurangi National Park. Wright concedes controlled scientific trials have not been done, but argues there is sufficient evidence that when used strategically, 1080 is the most cost-effective tool available in the current arsenal, it significantly knocks back pest numbers and, most importantly, it allows native species populations to increase. No other available toxin measures up as well.

Wright’s report should be accepted and acted upon by the Government and its agencies as well as local authorities, the Animal Health Board and landowners. If it is shelved, the greatest price will be paid by those bird species with the fewest numbers and the least time left. As a starting point, all agencies with an interest in conservation should read the report thoroughly. That would provide the basis for a well-informed debate although, as Wright has made clear, it is action, not talk, that is required.

13th June, 2011 19 comments

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19 Responses to “1080 is the best we have”

  1. david tranter Jun 27 2011, 6:23pm

    Barry Baxter; Jo Pollard's pet food interests use FARMED venison by-products only. Since you've got that wrong it rather throws into question the validity of your other comments.
    AJD; Afrer 20 years of involvement in various social issues I have to smile at your notion that just because someone has the label "independent" it makes them independent!
    Madeleine; I've seen several excellent summaries by Jo Pollard of her work on 1080.
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  2. Madeleine Ware Jun 26 2011, 3:25pm

    Tony - Possums have been photographed and filmed eating chicks and eggs. This means they are not strict herbivores. Also, just because beech leaves may be unpalatable, it doesn't mean that honeydew/beech seeds are. Rodent populations, and then stoat populations, jump hugely when the beeches seed mast. Rodents and stoats are wild animals.
    Paul - Have you evidence for any of that? My sources indicate no evidence of bioaccumulation and no findings of hazardous levels in any water supplies.
    Tracie - Please name for me an example of a terrestrial plant that 1080 is known to have damaged and/or killed. Also, eels and fish seem to be OK. If 1080 was so hazardous to human health, then why are we still drinking tea?
    David - I looked at Jo Pollard's website. Is there a point she's making with all those out-of-context quotes? I can't seem to find her summary/argument anywhere.
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  3. AJ D Jun 24 2011, 11:38am

    David Tranter's and Tracie Piercy's accusations that Dr Wright is somehow in the pocket of DOC and the AHB and is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the current government are grossly inaccurate. The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment is an INDEPENDENT government watchdog - in fact Dr Wright has often taken an extremely hard line against government and industry interests.

    I have watched the 1080 debate with great interest over the past few months and before this report came out, the anti-1080 lobby were hopeful that the PCE report would vindicate their stance. As soon as they realised it didn't, they have discredited the Commissioner at every opportunity. This goes to show just how unreasonable and in denial of the facts much of the anti-1080 lobby is. If this report doesn't change their minds, nothing will. I think it is time to realise they are simply the lunatoc fringe - a bunch of 'flat-earthers' who deserve no more of our attention.
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  4. AJ D Jun 24 2011, 11:27am

    As Craig says below Forest & Bird, which represents some 70,000 New Zealanders, supports the use of 1080 as a safe and necessary tool for the protection of the animals an plants which make New Zealand unique and attract visitors from all over the world. I would add to this that Federated Farmers, which represents the interests of over 20,000 farmers, supports the use of 1080 as a safe and necessary tool to control bovine tuberculosis, a disease which could jeopardise our $12 billion meat and dairy industry.

    Both organisations have joined forces to educate NZers about how and why 1080 is used now through a website called www.1080facts.co.nz I would suggest anyone wishing to comment on this thread visit the website to get an accurate understanding of 1080 before regurgitation old and out-dated rhetoric about "1080 killing native birds" or "1080 poisoning our waterways". As Dr Wright concluded, the evidence simply doesn't support these claims.
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  5. Barry Baxter Jun 24 2011, 10:09am

    Here is the rebuttal of Jo Pollards work from the Dept of Conservation.

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  6. Barry Baxter Jun 23 2011, 1:43pm

    Jo Pollard has interests in pet food made from wild venison so has her own agenda.
    Pietak cherry picked all her information from DoC studies and only published what fitted her side of the argument.
    For an unbiased peer reviewed scientific study of our current knowledge on 1080 I suggest that readers take a look at the NZ Journal of Ecology Vol 35 No 1 2011.
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  7. david tranter Jun 22 2011, 10:34am

    To those who still maintain that there is no valid science opposing the use of 1080 I suggest as just one example they take a look at Jo Pollard's website www.1080science.co.nz. After all, isn't science supposed to consider all evidence rather than ignoring everything that doesn't suit a pre-determined concusion?
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  8. Chris Wells Jun 21 2011, 11:42pm

    Looks to me like the science is well on the side of 1080 being the best option to protect our native birds. I look forward to the day when technology advances enable us to control these pests in a better way, but in the meantime, we need to act now.
    Personally, I'm for the birds, not the pests.
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  9. Paul Murray Jun 21 2011, 9:46am

    No pest control in the Kahurangi National Park aye? That statement is an insult to the hard-working pest controllers working in the Kahurangi, the Department of Conservation staff, the people living on the fringes of the park, the tax-payers of New Zealand who fund the millions of dollars used for this supposedly non-existent pest control...and to the pests themselves!

    It would seem that the editor of The Listener had a quick read of the report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright and read her erroneous statement (or many of them) "...almost no pest control is done within the spectacular Kahurangi National Park..." and Chinese whispered that falsehood into a full-blown fabrication.

    The truth of the matter is that there has been a LOT of pest-control work in the Kahurangi, for example, in 2008 the Animal Health Board blanketed 54,000 ha around Karamea with poison, much of it in the park, the Department of Conservation has poisoned the Heaphy Track many times and has had an ongoing stoat trapping operation there for many years. DOC has a drop scheduled in the Kahurangi of over 20,000 ha this winter, so not only has there already been a whole lot of trapping and poisoning going on, it is on going.

    Perhaps the minister and the editor meant that there have been no effective pest-control operations in the Kahurangi National Park to highlight the fact that the many aerial pest-control programmes in the park have been ineffective and that the efficacy of the approach has been far less than expected?

    Or perhaps such false statements (and there are many others in both the report and the editorial) highlight the bias in the report toward supporting an unworkable Government pest-eradication policy at the expense of the very native fauna and flora the poison campaign is supposed to be protecting?

    The Wright Report is based on studies by the AHB and DOC and other government-sponsored analysis and ignores the many other independent scientific research papers on the subject that show a very different outcome to that required to substantiate Government policy. It is a farce of the top order, it is a fallacious document meant to sate the general public into believing that the government is doing everything it can to protect us from the perils of pests and their imminent threat to our environment and our sacred forests and birds. It is high time for a comprehensive study of the issue by an INDEPENDENT body without hidden agendas to thoroughly assess the subject of pest-control, the use of toxins, the impact of aerial pesticide use on the environment, tourism industry, agricultural exports, rural communities, the international image of New Zealand and to find a better way to address the challenge of protecting our land, forests and animals...this would be a far better use of public money than constantly trying to convince an increasingly aware public that blanketing the country with pesticide is a good idea.

    I am one of the many rural people affected by aerial by aerial 1080 programmes, I live in Karamea and have experienced the horror of huge helicopters dropping poison around where my family and I live, I have felt the negative impact of the policy on my tourism business, I know the international reputation of New Zealand is being irreversibly damaged, I have seen rat populations explode after an aerial 1080 poison drop (this is supported by scientific studies by Landcare Research and Dr Jo Pollard, both of which were ignored by the Wright Report), I have friends who have had their pets die horrible deaths from 1080 poisoning, I have seen the poisoned carcasses of dead animals floating down rivers near my home and on the beaches that I invite travellers to come and enjoy, I have lived in the uncertainty and fear of having the environment around my home poisoned with dangerous pesticide that is banned in most other countries and I have seen the detrimental effect of the ubiquitous skull and cross bones 1080 (and other poison) signs that blight our roads, our national parks, the very scenic attractions we encourage visitors to our country and my region to enjoy...and I have suffered the constant Government line that opposition to aerial poisoning is wrong and that the Cavalier spreading of deadly toxin indiscriminately over our country is right...


    The Listener is well known as a servile mouthpiece for the Beehive (with the exception of Jane Clifton...go Jane!) This latest nonsense has finally convinced me (and many others I know) to cancel my subscription and start reading North & South for at least that publication exhibits the impartial, unbiased reporting requisite with good journalism.
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  10. Andrew Ward Jun 17 2011, 7:07pm

    Why should our native birds lives, & their mere survival be held to ransom by self centred, self serving groups wanting to protect their hunting rights, clean water advocates? (yeah right)
    Let's be clear & focused, once our native birds are gone,... their GONE!
    We can always restock forests with hunters prey of deer & pigs etc. Though with the destruction they cause why would we, & besides, why would anybody want to come down on the same side as a rat, stoat, or possum.
    At last, instead of the nay sayers having the spotlight, we have a report coming down on the side of common sense, 1080 the place!
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  11. david tranter Jun 17 2011, 11:08am

    I had to smile at Mike McGavin's comment that 1080 is being "fine tuned". The stuff turns up in so many places where it's not supposed to be it's just not funny. And one has to question the expertise of the operators who actually drop the stuff when one of them told me, "Ëven if we did drop it directly over your community's (underground) water source it would filter out in the gravel". Yeah. Right.
    It's high time those who advocate 1080 use read some of the well-researched reports that condemn its use. The reports of scientists Jo Pollard and Alexis Pietak would be a great start.
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  12. Mike McGavin Jun 16 2011, 7:48pm

    Screw the 100% Pure slogan. It's silly to define something as crucial as our pest management by a short term marketing slogan invented by our tourism agency. We know there's a serious ecological problem with rats, possums and stoats, and we should be dealing with it without reference to a tourism brand that we already know is a lie. Obviously we should be researching alternatives more to find anything better but the problem is critical right now.

    Paul, have you seriously heard of birds eating dead carcasses? Stoats do that, and that's the main way 1080 gets them. Dogs sometimes do too. Birds go for the pellets far less than they used to now that steps are taken to make them less appealing. 1080 use is perpetually being fine tuned.
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  13. June McIntosh Jun 16 2011, 10:20am

    100% CLEAN GREEN NZ ? YEAH RIGHT!!!!! 100% POISON GREEN NZ a more likely scenario if the ill named AHB, DOC & Ms Wright have their way!
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  14. Tracie Piercy Jun 15 2011, 9:54pm

    A fine example of one government dept. aiding and abetting another government dept, feeding a financial jugonaught. The blantant use of a toxin rated by the "World Health Orginisation" as a CLASS 1A, Poison (thats as toxic as you can get!) being used here in New Zealand against the manufacturers recommendations is nothing short of eco genoside. I am embarrassed to be a New Zealand citizen contributing through my rates (oh yes we do) to the annihilation of our eco system in this manner. Through unsubstantuated science but very clever media ploys, like this article, there has been a 'belief' portrayed to the general public that the possum is the end of our forests and the death of the dairy industry."....... and in the name of eradication the financial solution is 1080.
    The Animal Health Board endorse the use of 1080 when they know the main spread of Bovine Tb is through transport, DoC are using it because they are misguided and underfunded.
    It is so ironic that DoC and AHB who are charged with the care of land and animals, are ennihilating our eco system with one of the worlds most toxic poison, using it in a cavalier manner that is causing catostrophic harm to every living thing we are bent on trying to save.
    Our image of Clean Green New Zealand is in jepardy, the sight of thousands of 1080 poison signs that line our forest edged roadsides must leave a questionable image in our tourists minds. Nor will it be a proud day when our meat export industry comes under scrutiny and traces of 1080 are detected in our meat.

    1080 is toxic to all forms of life, Microbes, algae, terrestrial plants, inverterbrates, fish, birds, mammals and it is a secondary posion.
    1080 Causes birth defects, damage to reproductive organs, reduced fertility and damage to other organs including heart and brain in mammals and other animals.
    1080 is particularly risky to human health because it is so toxic, hard to detect, has a long latency period before symptoms occur, and has no antidote.
    Was approved without sufficient validation, use of expert opinion, or objectivity, as required by law.
    In my opinion the author is naive, this is a report written by the government, for the government. As for the author advising "all agencies with an interest in conservation should read this report". I would recommend that " all agencies with an interest in conservation" also read the recent report released by Dr Jo Pollard. Quite a different story.
    Quit be naive New Zealanders, its your countryside they are destroying in the name of conservation and animal health.
    Just who will be accountable for the destruction of a countries ecosystem......... I wonder.
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  15. Craig Bonner Jun 15 2011, 7:53pm

    Sixty percent of kiwi chicks are eaten by stoats. I guess you could say that we can have either stoats and no kiwis, or 1080 and kiwis. No brainer really. Forest and Bird endorse the use of 1080 and so do I.
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  16. Whenua Management Jun 15 2011, 7:38pm

    Jan Wright,as Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment,expresses contempt for her official status by stating that more 1080 should be used. Throwing millions of dollars worth of 1080 out of helicopters over pristine forest completely denies our propaganda driven '100% Pure' image and here is a Commissioner of The Environment actually wanting an increase in one of the most toxic chemicals in the world added to our land! She denies all scientific evidence of the danger of 1080 and obviously has not read up on the subject at all. There should be a huge reduction or a banning of use of this chemical that has no antidote.Ms Wright should consider resigning . She is making a mockery of the environment.
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  17. Tony Orman Jun 15 2011, 3:59pm

    The editorial is naively believing the propaganda pumped out by DOC, Animal Health Board and others. The fact is there never was 70 million possums. Now revised to 30 million it is probably still too high. Travel a highway or country road and observe how few "road kills" there are. This represents a natural progression wildlife populations follow from liberation to peak then drop to low stable level.
    Besides even if the 70 million figure was accepted Landcare Research scientist Graham Nugent said the estimated foliage "gobbled" was nowhere near the daily foliage production of NZ's vegetation.
    Some possum facts:-
    • Possums are herbivores, not carnivores.
    • Possum numbers are much higher in marginal country and along lower bush edges where possums will "graze" pasture, than in forest. One study near Wellington suggested possum numbers were  400 percent higher (i.e. 4 times) that of numbers in the forest itself.
    • Possum numbers in rugged country are usually "controlled" by the rigourous environment especially climate. In inclement weather, natural mortality of possums may be as high as 40 percent.
    • The generally unpalatable nature of beech forest does not support high wild animal numbers.
    On Tb in October 2001, Dr Frank Griffin of Otago University addressed a Marlborough Deer farmers' function. The scientist said that New Zealand's pest management strategy focused narrowly on "killing possums and skin tests"  and  was not the solution to the Tb problem.
    After all, the skin test to detect Tb in stock, is widely acknowledged as being 80 to 85 accurate. So that means one in 10 cattle can be Tb infected but give an erroneous “clear” of Tb reading. So the "hidden" Tb infected animal continues to infect fellow cattle.
    Why doesn't AHB use the much more accurate blood test to detect TB? Strange.
    Of wildlife vectors for Tb, ferrets are far more likely than possums as Landcare Research
    Your editorial has failed to realise the incestuous relationship. Both DOC and AHB - the two biggest users of 1080- are government funded. The PCE is government funded. The 1080 factory is government owned.
    Realise too DOC and AHB bureaucrats will perpetuate the possum myth to keep the future of their jobs intact. That's the nature of the bureaucratic beast.
    On native birds, wild cats are in considerable numbers. DOC never mentions them.
    I am in the high back country every week. Driving back on farm tracks anywhere from 8 kms to 25 kms and on country shingle roads, I never see possums in the headlights. Hares, rabbits, cats, ferrets, occasionally deer, but never possums. I do see possums (1-2 occasionally) lower down on sealed roads.
    Frankly the possum pest is a beat-up.And its costing NZ millions a year.
    And on 10980 I have witnessed the demise of native falcons, more porks, tomtits and robbins following 1080. As a Kiwi, I care and get angry.
    -Tony Orman
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  18. Paul Cohen Jun 15 2011, 1:12pm

    This is pure political and corporate propaganda. One of the main reasons for the decline in native birds is the indiscriminate use of a barbaric poison that most of the world has banned. 1080 poison causes slow painful deaths to all that eat it. This "super toxic" poison which can last months in the environment, bioaccumulates, travels in the soil affecting our seas, rivers and our drinking water supply. There is also the secondary kill when birds and other species eat the dead poisoned carcasses. DoC currently use enough annually to kill 20 million people, and they want use more? And that doesn't include the poisons they use on island around NZ. There are other alternatives, and they know it, yet this big money machine produces false political and corporate science and the "The Listener" endorses it, shame on you. And do hope that you'll have someone to write up about the real science regarding aerial poisons.
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  19. david tranter Jun 14 2011, 11:13pm

    Having lived for some years on the West Coast where I learned of the downside of 1080 aerial drops I am moved to ask - has the writer of this article read any of the well-researched critiques of the negative effects of 1080? There are plenty available if a balanced account of 1080 is the aim. Citing such matters as protestors hassling DOC staff (what would you do if 1080 was being dropped in your water catchment areas?) while ignoring all the evidence against its use suggests the same biased, pre-conceived conclusion which Jan Wright obviously set out to "prove".
    As a former chief economist of one of New Zealand's major banks once told me, "Ït is an old rule in business consulting that clients can find any opinion they are prepared to pay for".
    So too, it seems, when politically driven agendas require public servants to write what governments want them to write.
    David Tranter
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