A storm is brewing over 1080 drops on Far North forests.

Whangaroa hapū strongly oppose drops in their area and claim to speak for all Māori in the area, but other hapū say the aerial poison attacks are saving their forests.

A group called Locals for Responsible Conservation claims there is growing resistance to Department of Conservation (DōC) plans for aerial 1080 drops. It described the practice as "unacceptable and unsustainable".

The group held a public meeting in Kaeo recently over the issue.


Aligning himself to the argument, Tai Tokerau District Maori Council chairman Rihari Dargaville said aerial drops were "a travesty of ignorance" and a breach of Treaty of Waitangi protocols in that hapū were not consulted.

Dargaville cited Russell, Totara North, Whangaroa and Puketi forests as examples where "hapū rangatira rights" had been ignored.

But Nicki Wakefield, from Ngāti Hau, said Dargaville's comments did not "accurately depict the Russell State Forest situation".

Wakefield said mana whenua did retain the right to exclude aerial 1080 drops in public conservation lands. She said details of further drops in the Russell forest were still under discussion between DoC and the nine hapū working to save the forest.

Dargaville's statement that drops would be made regardless of tangata whenua's position "undermines our process and is simply incorrect", Wakefield said.

DoC, Forest & Bird and hapū they work with said 1080 hit pests hard and fast. They said the Russell State Forest was now showing signs of recovery after being on the brink of collapse in 2016.

Richard Witeheira, of Ngāti Kuta and Te Patukeha, said the nine local hapū had kaitiaki and rangatira of the forest and were making consensus choices.

Witeheira said those hapū were galvanised into action two years ago after shocking drone footage taken by Forest & Bird showed the dying canopy.

Since then they have worked with DoC and former Conservation Minister Maggie Barry, who supported the hapū to act together and take the lead.


They were now committed to the resulting "20 year health plan for the forest", Witeheira said.

"Without the [1080] drops, we will have 'diversity nil'. When the trees are gone the whole forest dies. A forest is also the birds and other wildlife that live there.

"1080 is one of many tools in the toolbox we can use to bring back the health of our forest. And we will use even the most controversial tool in there. I wouldn't go as far as to say everyone's 100 per cent for its use, but it is endorsed by our kaumatua and kuia."

The 1080 used today is different to and less indiscriminate than the higher dose, longer life pellets of 20 years ago, he said.

It knocked a huge number of pests back in the first few days it was dropped or laid, '"then we surround that area with a ring of steel".

DoC Northern area manager Sue Reed said the department's focus was on restoring the health of Northland's forests and addressing the biodiversity crisis.

"The situation is urgent and controlling pests will start the process of allowing native species to recover and return to local people's lives."

Reed said the forests were in serious decline.

Former politician Dover Samuels said he understood Whangaroa hapū fears that a 1080 drop amounted to "the poisoning of the Whangaroa Harbour".

"People need confidence in the science," Samuels said.