The Chief Judge of the Maori Land Court hopes to rule before Christmas on a bid to block 1080 poisoning to eradicate possums on trust-owned blocks between Napier and Taupo.
The decision was reserved by Justice Wilson Isaac after a one-day hearing in the court in Hastings on Monday, relating to tuberculosis control plans for Tataraakina, a 14,000ha block north and east of State Highway 5 between Te Haroto and Tarawera.
Plaintiff Nigel Baker, who lives in the area, and is a beneficiary of the trust and has been raising concerns over use of 1080 on the land for many years, told the court there are better ways of controlling possums, such as trapping.
Radio New Zealand reported he told the court: "We have an alternative, environmentally friendly method we should be using.
"We can't go on poisoning our whenua like we have for another 40 years, and it's killing our wildlife," he said. "There are fish stacked up on the beach after every drop. You can't sustain it any further. It's a very fragile situation, very fragile country."
But respondent counsel Leo Watson said Baker was denying science.
"1080 effectively leads to [an increase] in the health and number of birds on the land," the lawyer said in cross-examination. "Do you accept that science?"
Baker said he did not, he had seen fewer birds on the land than before, and said: "I'm talking about living on the land, noticing that from everyday life, the birdlife is not there that it used to be."
Baker said all of his concerns were "reality", when many witnesses throughout the day asked him to provide evidence.
Watson said there was "no serious case to be tried."
"Not to disparage Mr Baker's application," Watson said in closing submissions, "I don't think it meets the threshold of a serious issue".
"Not everyone has to agree with 1080," he continued. "1080 is demonstrably more efficient than ground-based tracking or cyanide. In my submission, there have been regular requests for this type of information to come to the floor. Mr Baker's concerns are legitimate but they have to be backed up by facts."
Nick Hancox, from TB Free, said if possum control could not be carried out there would be ongoing infection and risks for the farming community.
"Failure to complete effective control will undermine control, significant wasted costs, likely further to address ongoing problems. I have stated in my evidence the very significant effects of Bovine TB infection for farmers - reduced sale opportunities, anxiety and stress for farmers, costly impact on farmers and collocal farming communities.
He said hand-setting of traps could get "very difficult" on steep terrain, but Baker said Māori had used all parts of the terrain when they settled in the area.
"There's an injustice done to us here and a bad one," Baker said.
Baker said earlier this year that claims TB found in pigs originated from Tataraakina were not substantiated. The beneficial owners had sought to explore alternative methods to protect the area.