Last year, 9838 possums were killed throughout New Zealand and then checked for tuberculosis. None had the disease.

These and other figures, New Zealand First MP Richard Prosser says, raise questions over the need for TBfree New Zealand's aerial possum control programmes.

The latest round of possum poisoning - using aerial drops of 1080 - is due to be carried in the mountains around Wanaka as soon as the weather is suitable.

An opponent of the aerial use of 1080, Mr Prosser asked Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy for the figures on Tb detection over the past 10 years.


"It would appear...the prevalence of bovine tuberculosis in possums is very much less - many orders of magnitude less, in fact - than the public, and even the farming sector, have come to believe," Mr Prosser told the Otago Daily Times yesterday.

"I would contend that this misinformed perception has been allowed to proliferate both through the repetition of misinformation, and the failure of the relevant authorities to alert either the media or the public as to the truth of the matter," Mr Prosser said.

Mr Prosser said 54 possums testing positive for Tb from 124,213 autopsies over nine years suggested possums were not a significant vector "let alone the single-most important vector as official channels are fond of repeating".

Mr Prosser repeated New Zealand First's call for a moratorium on the use of aerial 1080 programmes, with a commitment to finding alternative methods of pest control "such as trapping and bait stations".

"The revelation that the Tb problem in possums may be nowhere near as serious as has been the public and official perception for many years is a new one, and only adds weight to that call."

He was concerned 1080 killed insects, native birds, bats, lizards and trout, and considered there was also "absolutely" no justification for aerial drops, Mr Prosser said.

TbFree New Zealand was unable to respond to Mr Prosser's comments yesterday.