Politicians join fight against 1080

The aerial application of 1080 poison, such as this recent operation in South Westland, is being...
The aerial application of 1080 poison, such as this recent operation in South Westland, is being questioned increasingly by local body politicians. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Opponents of 1080 appear to have adopted new tactics to end the use of the poison.

The Westland and Taupo district councils have both taken political stances against the poison and last week Dunedin City Councillor Fliss Butcher signalled her wish for a community debate, saying the poison should not be used.

So far, opponents have not targeted authorities which grant or refuse consent on the poison's use such as regional councils, but the Taupo District Council has said it wants the Government to ban aerial application of 1080.

The latest criticism comes just two years after the Environmental Risk Management Authority (Erma) reassessed the poison.

It confirmed the value of 1080 in the fight against possums but required tighter controls on users and better monitoring of aerial operations, while also calling for more research to find alternative control methods.

Cr Butcher said she did not accept Erma's findings, claiming they were "rigged" because Erma announced its decision at the same time as it released documentation supporting the poison.

"Many people across New Zealand are still unhappy with the aerial dropping of 1080 poison."

Cr Butcher said she respected the views of a friend who has hunted and trapped possums in the bush for 40 years, and recalls the "destruction" following a 1080 drop, and also the findings of two Hamilton film-makers and critics of the use of 1080, Clyde and Steve Graf.

She also questioned research which said 1080 which fell into waterways was harmless.

The chairman of Tb-free Otago, Stephen Korteweg, said he was disappointed Cr Butcher had not spoken to him.

She appeared to have ignored scientific research before criticising the poison and asking the council's planning and environment committee to consider its use.

"For a person of her calibre, I'd think she would first research the facts before she states her opposition to it."

Mr Korteweg said he would like to meet Cr Butcher and hear her concerns.

There had been "endless" studies into 1080, he said, the latest by Erma, but it appeared some people refused to accept the findings.

In announcing the decision to lobby the Government to stop aerial application of 1080, Taupo Mayor Rick Cooper said: "We need to stop the aerial bombardment by helicopters dumping 1080 indiscriminately over large tracts of land.

"This method is uncontrolled and the risk to the environment and waterways is too great . . ."

Mr Korteweg said such claims were incorrect.

Aerial application was confined to areas inaccessible by foot with cereal bait rates of 2.5kg a ha, of which 0.15% was 1080 poison.

Helicopters used GPS systems to ensure it was applied accurately and away from waterways.

Nationally, less than 20% of all poison operations used aircraft, except for the West Coast, where it was 25%.

Mr Korteweg said the only way to keep bovine tuberculosis rates down was to suppress possum numbers.

He could not say what it would mean should the DCC oppose the use of 1080, but if it was banned nationally, it would make Tb eradication very difficult.

"Life without 1080 will make Tb eradication in New Zealand that much harder," he said.

At the time of the Taupo decision, the Animal Health Board said use of 1080 poison was the most effective way to protect the $750 million generated annually from pastoral farming in the Taupo district.


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