Around 50 people attended a meeting in Manakau advertised on social media as an information evening about the planned 1080 aerial drop in the Tararua Range, some coming from as far away as Whanganui and Hokitika.

The event was organised by Otaki Attica Project candidate Michael Kay and Rana Jensen.

The views expressed at the meeting were exclusively anti-1080. 1080 is the commercial name for sodium fluoroacetate, a naturally occurring toxin found in several poisonous plants around the world.

Michael Kay
Michael Kay

Michael Kay opened the meeting and introduced the speakers.

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"You are going to hear from some of the people that have been pushed into the background by censorship and by a government that does not want the public to know what [1080] is doing in our conservation," he said.

"It is about time the people take this place back and manage itself from a local level."

Attendees were encouraged to sign a cease and desist order.

Co-leader of the New Zealand Outdoors Party Sue Grey joined the meeting via video link. She urged people to protest about the proposed drop and for iwi to refuse their consent for the drop citing their rights under the Treaty of Waitangi to do this.

Waikanae local Aaron Kerr has lived in the area all his life and trapped and hunted in the Tararua ranges for 30 years, including time spent living in the bush. He said trapping is a far better solution to eradicating possums than poison.

He showed the audience different types of humane traps and also said shooting possums with air rifles was effective. He offered to get a group together and teach people how to trap and humanely kill possums.

Possum eating native bird egg.
Possum eating native bird egg.

When asked why the information evening did not have any representation from the Department of Conservation (DoC) or OSPRI, Michael said he had made over 40 attempts to engage with them but got no response. DoC Wairarapa operations manager Kathy Houkamau said neither DoC or OSPRI were aware of the meeting and were also not aware of any attempts made by Michael Kay to contact them. They said Michael should get in touch with the Wairarapa office.

When contacted by the Horowhenua Chronicle, Kathy Houkamau detailed the planned aerial operation in the Tararua ranges planned for later this year. It is being organised as part of DoC's Tiakina Ngā Manu and OSPRI's TBfree programmes to protect native species, such as kākā, pōpokotea/whitehead and tree fuchsia, and livestock.

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"Tiakina Ngā Manu is aimed at protecting our taonga native species and forests through predator control. Native species are fighting for survival due to introduced predators such as rats, stoats and possums.

Sue Grey Co-leader NZ Outdoors Party
Sue Grey Co-leader NZ Outdoors Party

"Without active protection, we risk losing our unique natural heritage and taonga. DoC's target species in this operation is rats. The focus is on areas in the Tararua where rat numbers are most likely to have been boosted by the high beech tree seed fall last year.

"Intensive monitoring by DoC, OSPRI, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research and Greater Wellington Regional Council has shown significant drops in pest numbers after previous operations in the area and increasing populations of native bird species.

"OSPRI is targeting possums. The large-scale possum control of the TBfree programme interrupts the cycle of TB infection in wildlife, and keeps possum numbers low enough for the disease to die out.

"OSPRI is focusing its TB control on the areas where infected wildlife may be located, such as the densely bush-covered areas of the Tararua Forest Park, to eliminate any residual bovine TB in the wildlife and to ensure final eradication of the disease from this area."

A rat eating a fantail.
A rat eating a fantail.

Responding to statements made at the meeting about lack of consultation with the community and specifically iwi on the planned 1080 aerial drop, Kathy Houkamau said both DoC and OSPRI have started engagement with the communities, landowners and iwi in the area the operation covers and this will continue.

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They are also rescheduling an in-person hui with the Muaūpoko Tribal Authority following the pause on face-to-face meetings during Covid-19 lockdown. No final decision will be made about the operation until all the iwi groups in the area are consulted.

Feilding resident Bettina Mayer said "We all have the right to clean water. Dropping 1080 will affect our water. WHO warns that any level of 1080 in drinking water is extremely dangerous to human and reproductive health. We need to protect our babies and our babies' babies."

She pointed out that the safety data sheet from the manufacturer Orillion on 1080 states that it is toxic to terrestrial vertebrates and is harmful to aquatic organisms.

"1080 does not discriminate, it can and does kill everything."

Bell bird
Bell bird

1080: The Facts – a joint Federated Farmers and Forest and Bird initiative research shows that 1080 is highly soluble in water and dilutes quickly. Laboratory analysis can detect 1080 in water at concentrations as low as 0.1 parts per billion (ppb). Research by Niwa showed that 1080 deliberately placed in small streams for testing was undetectable after eight hours.

The maximum amount of 1080 residue allowed in drinking water by the Ministry of Health is 2ppb. This has never been breached. As an indication of how stringent this regulation is, at 2ppb, a 60kg person would need to drink 60,000 litres of water for a lethal dose of 1080. Of 2442 samples tested by Landcare Research between 1990 and 2010, 96.5 per cent had no detectable 1080.

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Of all of these samples taken over 20 years, only six were equal or above Ministry of Health level of 2ppb for drinking water, and none of these came from drinking water supplies. Landcare research also showed no detectable effect on aquatic life in streams, confirming other studies in New Zealand and the United States.

In 2011, Dr Jan Wright, then independent Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, investigated the use of 1080 to eradicate pests. She concluded it was a safe and effective way of reducing the population of possums, rats and stoats. She said we should not use less but more 1080 to protect our native birds and forests.

For more information on DOC's Tiakina Ngā Manu programme
https://www.doc.govt.nz/our-work/tiakina-nga-manu/predator-control-programme/
2011 Report https://www.pce.parliament.nz/media/1294/evaluating-the-use-of-1080.pdf