Department Of Conservation is to hold hui with local iwi before dropping 1080 on the Tararua Ranges near Levin.
DoC's Wairarapa operations manager Robbie Shaw said the planned operation has been split into two parts, one on the east of the Tararua Ranges (the eastern block) and one on the west, ahead of the planned hui.
"The main reason for the split at this time is that DoC still has to complete engagement with iwi on the western side of the ranges. We have been working to reschedule an in-person hui with local iwi, following the pause on face-to-face meetings during lockdown, and have a hui arranged in the next few weeks," he said.
"The outcomes of our engagement with iwi on the western side will, as always, strongly inform any decision we make about this half of the operation, but won't be the only factor in deciding on when an operation might go ahead.
"Any decision about the operation will be clearly communicated with the local community as well as iwi."
The joint OSPRI and DoC operation on the eastern block has been given consent to go ahead by the Ministry of Health.
The first part – prefeeding, or applying non-toxic baits to make pest animals aware of the bait as a food source – will take place in the next suitable weather window, with application of the baits containing 0.15 per cent of 1080 taking place ideally within 10-30 days following that.
Signage will be put out around the area when the prefeeding is occurring, and signage and a public notice will be issued before the toxic drops take place.
"This operation 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," he said.
"The Tararua Forest Park is home to a range of unique native plant and species – including tree fuchsia, pōpokotea/whitehead and the iconic kākā. These species are at risk from introduced predators in the area, including rats. Predator control is integral to protecting these native species.
"In 2019, the heavy beech seeding, or mast, provided extra food for rats, which can lead rodent populations to grow. Once the seed has run out, rats turn to native species as a source of food. In the past, we have seen how this has led to a decline in the numbers of vulnerable native birds in the Tararua ranges.
"This means we need to do extra predator control at a large scale. The best tool we have to cover large, remote areas is an aerial operation using cereal baits containing 1080. It is the only tool for large rugged areas.
"Monitoring has shown significant drops in predator numbers after previous operations in the area and increasing populations of native bird species.
"OSPRI's TBfree work will also support conservation in the area by targeting possums. This not only helps protect livestock from TB, but protects our native flora and fauna.
"By knocking the predator population down and keeping numbers low, the native species in the area are able to regenerate."