The fact 1080 bait has been dropped on to the Old Ghost Road (OGR) is no surprise, says Mokihinui-Lyell Backcountry Trust chairman Phil Rossiter.
Multiple aerial 1080 drops have taken place in the northern Buller area over recent weeks. OSPRI, which runs the TBfree NZ programme, is responsible for overseeing operations in the New Creek-Mokihinui block.
Some of the tracks within the operational areas, like the Charming Creek Walkway, were given 80-metre buffers so the poisonous bait was not dropped directly on to the tracks.
The OGR did not have a buffer and was not excluded from the drop.
Rossiter confirmed the OGR did have 1080 dropped on it.
"We've checked in with the contractor that's been doing the work and people that have been through the track in the last week or two and there are some pellets on the track."
However, that was not unexpected, as the OGR ran through two of OSPRI's operational areas, he said.
He was satisfied appropriate safety measures had been put in place. Immediately after the drop, OSPRI's contractor, Taupo-based EPRO Ltd, had committed to doing a "sweep" of the tracks. They were also required to do another one seven days later, Rossiter said.
Even with those safety measures, small amounts of bait still managed to get on to the tracks.
Some of it could have been up in trees when EPRO did its sweeps, and fallen down afterwards, he said.
"You can't find everything."
Rossiter was satisfied remaining pellets didn't pose an immediate health risk to OGR users.
Both OGR entrances had warning signs alerting people to the presence of 1080. People did not go in there unaware, he said.
He had not received any complaints about the presence of 1080 from OGR users.
An OSPRI spokeswoman confirmed the OGR was not excluded from the 1080 operation.
"Contractor staff were stationed at track entrances and huts nearest to entrances to inform track users of the operation."
Warning signs were also erected at all public access points and huts prior to the toxic application beginning, she said.
"It is important that the public adhere to the instructions on these warning signs which will remain in place until carcass monitoring shows that bait and carcass breakdown has been achieved which may take up to six months."
She confirmed the New Creek section of TBfree's operation in the New Creek-Mokihinui area was completed on September 21 and 22.
The non-toxic pre-feed had been carried out in the Mokihinui section, and the dropping of 1080 pellets would be completed in the next suitable weather window after the school holidays, she said.
Holidays drops 'have to stop'
Local anti-1080 activist Pete Lusk said he'd heard there were "hundreds" of green 1080 pellets scattered on the OGR between Lyell and Goat Creek Hut.
He was outraged the drop took place just before the school holidays began. That meant 1080 pellets would be lying around in the bush, and on some of the tracks, right throughout the holidays, Lusk said.
He understood the poison wouldn't dissolve until at least 100mm of rain fell in the area.
"Baits that land in dry places such as under logs and rock overhangs will, of course, remain dangerous for much, much longer."
He called upon the Department of Conservation and OSPRI to stop doing drops near school holidays.
"They have to stop."
- Westport News