The time has come for an alternative to blanket 1080 poisoning as helicopters prepare to scatter tonnes of the neuro-toxin on bushland east of Levin.
That's according to local hunters and trampers who are against an impending 1080 drop in the Tararua Ranges by Department of Conservation (DoC).
The 1080 drop over the Tararua Ranges directly east of Levin was part of DoC's Tararua Livestock and Taonga Species Protection Operation, working with OSPRI to primarily kill possums and rats, but also deer, goats, pigs, ferrets and stoats.
Levin man Graham Rowlands has trekked the Tararua Ranges since he was a young boy, inheriting a love of the bush from his grandfather, and knows the bush well.
He said the blanket approach of an aerial poison drop wasn't working, and killed the very native animals and bush equilibrium it was supposed to protect.
"The problem with 1080 is it wipes out everything. Everything. I've seen it time and again. The bush just goes quiet," he said.
"It's no good."
Rowlands said the poison killed native birdlife, got into waterways and killed species like eel and spawning whitebait.
He questioned the effectiveness of 1080 and said other options should be explored, like trapping and designated bait stations.
Rowlands suggested the block of ranges to the east of Levin could be used as a controlled experiment for a period of time to see if alternative methods of animal control were more effective.
He said the budget for 1080 drops could be used to fund traps and bait stations and employ hunters and trappers, who would be employed and led by DoC in a controlled operation.
That model would have huge social and wellbeing benefits as it would employ people, as opposed to the "dead money" that went with the blanket poison approach.
Rowlands had support from Manakau farmer Michael Kay, who said the way forward was the "holistic management" of each unwanted specie rather than blanket poisoning.
"After a drop there is silence ... we're the only country in the world that uses 1080 in an aerial drop," he said.
"Are there lots of possum up there? What I have seen is there is not the same biodiversity that there is in other environments where there is no 1080," he said.
Kay said, immediately following a 1080 drop, he had noticed a scarcity of all life, including worms and gecko, and the species to rejuvenate quickest were rats and stoats.
"You create the perfect storm for rats and stoats," he said.
Kay said he had seen animals die of 1080 and it was inhumane.
"It's animal cruelty. It's a neuro-toxin that basically kills by convulsion," he said.
"It is poisoning the very thing it is supposed to protect. It's killing the biodiversity of New Zealand bush. DoC itself should be concerned by this."
Kay was at pains to point out that any concerns were not anti-DoC. It was about working together to find a workable solution.
He also wanted to see a coordinated approach involving a combination of trapping, hunting and controlled bait stations. Technology meant state of the art traps were evolving all the time.
"It's not about banning 1080. It's about closing the door on this dark past. It's about opening the door on a new solution," he said.
Despite the drop taking place upstream of the Levin Water Treatment plant on Gladstone Rd, DoC has said there is no risk to consumers.
"Biodegradable 1080 is highly soluble and does not persist in water or soil."
Meanwhile, people were warned not to bring dogs into the area until warning signs had been removed, as "dogs are particularly susceptible to 1080".
Warning signs were being placed at all main access points to bush. People were being warned not to handle any bait or allow children to wander unsupervised. Cereal baits containing 1080 were dyed green.
Hunters were warned not to hunt or take game for human or animal consumption from within a 2km radius of the designated drop zone, and warning signs indicate that pesticide residues could still be present in the baits of carcasses or poisoned animals.
Hunting could resume four months following the 1080 drop when warning signs were removed.