A long-time campaigner against the pesticide 1080 has persuaded a council to add more cautionary details to warning signs used during aerial bait drops.
Waikato Regional Councillor Clyde Graf got a motion passed that adds a line to warning signs which states: "Poison baits or carcasses may be present in waterways".
Signs are required by law when contractors lay the controversial pest poison. During aerial operations, the signs often are erected near walking tracks or access routes to backcountry areas.
The signs, which follow a set template, record the identity of the contractor carrying out the poison operation, and note the date it started. It warns that sodium fluoroacetate - the chemical name for 1080 - will be present on the ground from a certain date, and cautions people not to touch bait pellets and to watch children at all times.
Graf says the change in the signs may not seem a big deal, but he considers it a significant victory. People had the right to know that baits could be in streams and rivers, and the signs were a way of communicating the information, he said.
Though the Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright, has reported that
1080 breaks down quickly in water, Graf maintains that rural communities in particular should not be exposed to water coming from areas where poison drops had occurred.
Waikato Regional Council chief executive Vaughan Payne said signs with the additional
message would only be used in operations on private land where the council had consents to use 1080.
However its staff would advise other 1080 users such as the Department of Conservation and Ospri, which uses bait for anti-TB operations, of the sign change.
The council's territory starts in the north at the Hunua Ranges, runs east to the Mamakus and includes Coromandel Peninsula, and extends south to Waitomo and Turangi.
Graf and his brother Steve have made a series of social media videos which show dead animals such as deer, opossum and rats killed as a result of 1080 operations. In one recent video filmed on a Taupo property, beef farmer Lance Aldridge takes Graf into bush beside his land and points out the carcasses of 10 red deer.
Graf says the presence of the dead animals, which he maintains occurs frequently in 1080 operations, poses a secondary poisoning threat to native species, including kiwi.
However Dr Wright's report found there was very little 'by-kill' of non-target species by current 1080 operations. compared with poison campaigns in the past. She concluded that 1080 was important for New Zealand's biodiversity.
Graf says his next campaign target is the Ministry of Health. The ministry issues permits - known as 'permissions' - when poison operations involve catchments for water supplies.
Under these rules operators have to ensure people living within 3km of operational areas get alternative supplies, known as 'mitigation' measures.
Graf says he knows of operations where mitigation was not provided and bait dropped in streams used for water supplies.