Sue Boyde responds to Bruce Dickens' opinion article Waxing lyrical on 1080 isn't credible

Bruce Dickens is a farmer and orchardist. The Country has published his thoughts on 1080. He has been a hunter for years – I have been a tramper for some 30 years, and my experiences are different to his.

Bruce says "Do you want to drink from a stream or river that may have 1080 in it?" I live near an area that gets 1080 every three years. I always go out, a few days after the drop, and search there for a day or two. I have not found any dead birds, and I hear normal healthy bird life. The last time I found one dead rat, and smelled several dead possums. I always make a point of drinking from the streams, because I know that there is no fluoroacetate from 1080 in them. If I were there in the first eight hours after the drop, I might possibly get a tiny trace – half the level of fluoroacetate that is present in my morning cup of tea.

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says that 1080 poison is currently the only efficient method of wiping out possums in New Zealand. Source: NZ Newswire

Poisoning pigs with phosphorus? Now that's a seriously cruel poison. And so is the anticoagulant rat-bait that most of us have used. 1080 by comparison is classed as moderately humane. Hunters who claim that 1080 is a terribly cruel poison should watch out, because hunting itself is seriously inhumane. Dogs attacking a pig, brutal. Deer hunters think they always hit their mark and kill the deer instantly, but the bush around the major road-ends has enough injured deer dying slowly to enrage PETA and SAFE.


Bruce has "taken top working farm dogs that have eaten 1080 to the vet and watched them die". Dog owners can, and should, protect their dogs from 1080 by ensuring that they don't eat 1080 baits or poisoned carcasses.

Bruce complains that 1080 does not give a permanent solution. No one claims that it does. 1080 is used for pest control. It kills rats and possums down to less than 5 per cent residual trap catch, and stoats and weasels are killed down to similar levels by secondary poisoning. Yes, the introduced predators do reinvade, but in the meantime the native species have had one or two breeding seasons free of them. This makes the difference between vanishing and flourishing.

Bruce wonders if 1080 could be the reason why kea numbers are declining. The Kea Conservation Trust, the organisation which specialises in protecting kea, says the top threat to kea is nest predation, mainly by stoats and possums. Without pest control, kea in Kahurangi National Park from 2009-2014 only managed to raise 2 per cent of their chicks. A species that can't breed won't survive. A survey of kea reports throughout the South Island by Paul van Klink in 2016 revealed that in areas that didn't get 1080, kea were disappearing. In 1080 areas, keas were still being seen.

Bruce thinks that the Raukumara Ranges could be an area that still has rich bird life, because it has not seen much 1080. Well, on December 1 the Gisborne Herald published a report on a survey by DOC in the Raukumara Range. Hundreds of dead totara, the forest understory completely eaten out, and no bird life. The Raukumaras last got 1080 in 1996. Such a shame, such a waste.

The problem is that people's mistaken views of 1080 lead to the destruction of areas like the Raukumara Range, because 1080 is not used to protect them. Jan Wright, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, said her review revealed that it is such a good tool that not only should we keep using it, but we should use more of it. It amounts to a crime against our taonga, our native species, if we sit back and let them die.

Sue Boyde is a retired business analyst, long-time tramper and conservation volunteer who lives on the Kapiti Coast.