If we lose 1080, we're shot: Butcher

Graeme Martin
Graeme Martin
Rabbit numbers could get out of control in Otago if any of the most effective tools used to curb their numbers is lost, the Otago Regional Council has warned.

"If we lose 1080, we're shot, well and truly," Cr Duncan Butcher said at a compliance committee meeting this week.

Council chief executive Graeme Martin asked the committee to commit to "reinvigorate a leadership" on the protection and development of new rabbit control tools.

Rabbit control was a "never ending, costly and difficult battle" on much of Otago's land as it was inherently rabbit prone, he said in a report to the committee.

"Over 120 years or more, introduced rabbits have been very damaging in environmental and economic terms."

Regular monitoring of rabbit numbers throughout Otago in the past 12 years had shown control was still needed as numbers were not going down overall, he said.

He warned that if any tools used - 1080, pindone-type toxin baits, diseases or hunting - "fell over" then the region would be in "serious difficulty".

With 1080 under constant pubic attack mainly for its use as Tb control, some councils were moving to make its use more stringently controlled to the point of banning it, and at the same time, use of anti-coagulant toxins - the only serious alternative to 1080 - was also coming under attack, he said.

"If we lost that, in two years' time, it would be irretrievable, rabbit numbers would be out of control, unless we've got the tools."

There was new research beginning in Australia looking at rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) genetic resistance, but work being done in Europe was to ensure immunity or resistance to the disease was increased, he said.

Chairman Stephen Cairns proposed Mr Martin, or someone he nominated, go to Australia to investigate the research being done there.

Cr Butcher said the council could not just be the policeman through its new regional pest management strategy; it needed to get proactive.

Someone needed to "get on a plane post haste" to see if there was anything in the Australian research that could help Otago.

"We have to be on top of what is happening with RHD."

Cr Gretchen Robertson said while the council did need to start some leadership, it was also at serious risk if it pinned all its hopes on a "silver bullet" from Australia, as it was putting off the inevitable discussion on issues such as 1080 being phased out and immunity.

"We need some serious risk analysis, what would happen in the worst-case scenario."

Cr Michael Deaker said the council could not afford to "take its foot off the throat" of rabbit numbers, so needed to look at linking up with research facilities, like Invermay Agricultural Centre in Mosgiel and the University of Otago, to encourage accelerated research in the area.

"Not just about killing rabbits but stopping them reproducing. Let's find a long-term really big solution."

Cr Gerry Eckhoff, a Roxburgh farmer, said there was a real fear out there that 1080 could be "ushered out", but it was imperative it be retained as last year's dry spring had allowed vast numbers of young rabbits to survive.

The committee recommended actions be considered to invigorate leadership on protection and development of rabbit control tools and the chief executive should follow up on overseas and local research.


As long as DOC dont use it ..

I think the comment in the referred article, is about the willy-nilly way that DOC use 1080. On the whole, the referred to article raises a very valid point, and should not be discarded because it flies in the face of the DOC paradigm.

A few months later

http://www.nzcpr.com/guest153.htm Is this the same man who is now defending the use of 1080?

Much more suitable for this debate

Agreed, and a much more suitable argument, with referral for readers to follow up. I am deeply concerned at the long term effect of a number of substances used in farming and horticulture.Some seem quite innocuous, but with continual use residual effect is a given.

1080 - response to Red Tussock

All my comments are researched and supported by my 40 year farming experience. I am currently spokeswoman for FATE, Farmers Against Ten Eighty which was formed last year by concerned farmers who know that most farmers are responsible. However there are many that do not have enough information either for rabbit controls or tb controls.
In particular farmers are encouraged to rely on outside groups, AHB, DOC & Regional Councils who continually see 1080 as their only control tool - farmers are not given all the facts and unless we ask very specific questions we get very little. 1080 is a large and self-perpetuating industry, not a pill to solve all our farming concerns. There are many "accidents" each year which potentially cause residue in our food chain - domestic animals are tested at the rate of slightly under 2 animals per month for the whole of the country - not much likliehood of finding issues with that testing regime - and non- disclosure packages are signed by some of our fellow farmers. 
It is not scaremongering to say that 1080 is teratogenic - alters embryo & foetus, It is not scaremongering to say that continuous low exposure of 1080 alters internal organs of living creatures, man included - this is noted in support documents from the various government departments as risk factors for the poison - apply for and read them, you won't think there is any possibility of safety in the use of 1080. It doesn't distinguish between pests and our native biodiversity, is not medicine to cure TB nor does it have any magical properties.
It is a poison, it has no antidote, it is dissolved in water like headache pills but it still poisons. It is imbibed into cellulose and so is taken up by leaf litter, grass, trees, plants (like fertilizer is) - it has the potential to kill both first hand and secondary and to persist for very long periods of time in the environment.
 No I am not ill-informed and I love farmers but I know there are a number who continue to accept the big business of the 1080 industry line that 1080 is great, it kills the pest animals and everything else is just fine - it is killing us and our forest eco-structure - its label states it is an Ecocide. It is exceptionally cruel & we still have the problems it is supposed to cure - think about it. You may contact me on 03 7533082 or chaos1@xtra.co.nz

Wildlife Vs pest species

I hope you are referring to pest destruction and not wildlife destruction. I agree there is 1080 residual build up, and much is 1080 used as a panacea for all ills rural. However, to point at farmers and accuse them of its wanton use in the past turns a blind eye to the Local Government Acts that forced them to use it or have it used without their consent. A wanton user of 1080 in NZ is DOC, who, having been given a huge conservation reserve, are suddenly faced with the prospect that they have to manage it - something that to date they are not proving to be very good at.

This fact makes the argument that the land was or is mismanaged and should be added to the nations conservation estate look a bit silly. It proves the old adage right, "Be careful of what you wish for". Most farmers are responsible in the use of 1080, whereas DOC are somewhat reckless, with an often hidden agenda in mind with regard to game animal control as an unfortunate side kill. An example is the Blue Mountains in recent years.

Please do so then ..

You make a blanket assertion as to the long term pollution effects of poisons", and an offhand referral to "non disclosure agreements". Not all poisons pollute long term, and as for the non-disclosure agreements ... is it possible to see one? To make these types of assertions without some sort of link to a credible source seems inadequate to the debate.

No debate is helped by the modification of fact to suit a certain lobbies' goal. It occurs to me that the Sue Kedgleys, and Simon Bridges and their legion of ill-informed followers have ordained themselves the Dept of Silly Rural Policemen. They have suddenly gained amazing farming skills to make them experts in the management of rural affairs. Sadly, much of the decline in rabbit control has been caused by similar ill informed bureaucratic ideology.[Abridged]

At least try it

Many farmers and regional councillors are saying that shooting rabbits is not an effective way of controlling these pests.
But how do they know that when so many of them have not tried it? In the 18 months that I have lived in this area, I could count on one hand the amount of times that I have heard anyone shooting. A few months after a 1080 aerial drop and $60,000 later, the rabbits are back just about as thick as ever.
I would have thought that following a 1080 drop, the odd rabbit or two that were crafty enough not to eat 1080 baits, would have been hunted down and shot before they started breeding proliferately again. But no, that hasn't happened

1080 is not a panacea for all our wildlife controls

1080 is not a particularly effective tool for rabbit control. Trapping, shooting, cyanide and other more hands on controls are more efficient. It is time all farmers, all regional councils and others in the pest control movements got off their butts and stopped saying " we have done the best we can with the 1080 pill." It doesn't solve what we perceive to be problems, whereas better farm management shows better results for both rabbits and TB. We will then remove this ecotoxin from out pest management tool box and start getting real results. 1080 has been used for everything for nearly 60 years - we still have the problems and we now have very real issues of exports containing residue. It is a pity that so many farmers have signed up to disclosure documents in order to get paid for the continuing stuff-ups made by operators. Time to take the blinkers off and ban 1080, it's that simple! We will then see everyone taking responsibility for their own work instead of saying - Oh 1080 it.
Just ban 1080 - Its that simple!


While it is somewhat refreshing to see councillors recognising there must be more and urgent research put into alternatives to 1080, pindone and anti coagulant poisons as methods currently used to target rabbits; and also good to see the old home truths of practical ground-based hunting and the job opportunities that method creates; it should be recognised first and foremost that the regular repeated application of deadly poisons, which seriously pollute the general environment, can hardly be classed as responsible environmental management or even responsible pest management.

The seeking out and introduction of safe methods is 40 years overdue. The legacy of incidents, accidents, unintended animal and human deaths through the use of poisons is fast being exposed, despite the past use of non-disclosure contracts to hide disclosure to the general public.

It is time the poison industry was broken and replaced by safe alternatives. The oft-heard claims that poisons are cheaper is dubious if all cost and socio-ecenomic beneifits are considered.

Biological ally ..

The difference today is RCD. The sad thing is that land owners are not taking advantage of the ally they have, and nail the areas as the RCD goes through on a grand scale. The effort has been disjointed - some are doing a good job, others have sat back and done little. The scale of Central and its climate defeats rabbit destruction. The sparsity of owners and the productivity and profit on a per Hct basis just does not support the intensity of management achievable elsewhere. The dry climate is rabbit heaven. There is hope in my view. In the valley basins we have vineyards rabbit proofing themselves, which will help any district management work. What is needed is some sort of district co-ordination by someone who knows rabbits ... and that person will have a few years under his belt. What is needed is for us to learn as much as we can from these guys before they leave for better pastures.

And talking them to death wont work either ..

It bemuses me greatly to read about our mainly urban councilors again trying to talk rabbits to death. Please do not do it. It does not work. No committee in my living memory has ever killed a rabbit, no scientist in his white coat has killed a rabbit (In the wild). Please do not encourage these people. They get paid a lot already.

Heres a good idea - how about local landowners form groups that levy their own rates based on the work required to bring the rabbits under control. Let's call them Rabbit Boards. The board will hire fit keen young people, who will love nothing better than the challenge that 6 days per week in the outdoors can offer, equip them with a small 4wd, a shotgun and 5 dogs, a phone, and a raincoat for the odd wet day, and let them loose.

What say we call them Rabbit Board Workers. Oh I forgot - we replaced them with public servants about 1980 didn't we. When we had Rabbit Board Workers we had rabbits under control across most of Otago and Southland, with the exception of Central, and Maniototo. In South Otago, if you saw a rabbit you rang said keen man, and he would come within a couple of days and kill it. He also counted it, as he threw it into his little 4WD but it was dead, not alive and counted as we have today.

It seems Rabbits are counted so that our councilors and public servants can have expense-paid hand-wringing meetings about them. Spend the money where it is needed most - on the man with rifle in hand, and dust behind his ears.

When the boards were replaced by council-managed pest destruction services, we went from a situation of about 40 men in the field and 3 in the office, too 40 in the office and 3 in the field. It may have balanced up a bit, but there just simply is not enough men on the ground. Rabbits can be controlled, by hard work and dedication, two things lacking in the current pest control regime.


I worked on the rabbit boards in the 1970s in the Alexandra area when this "new" poison 1080 was first seen by me. It has been used regularly ever since then for some 40 years, and what is the result? The rabbits are as thick as ever.I dont know what the answer is, as we shot them,dogged them,cyanided them and killed them any which way we could. But I do know that 1080 is not the way to eradicate rabbits as forty years of observation has shown me that!