A 20-year long forest health plan led by nine hapū will involve 1080 poison drops on the fragile Russell State Forest and Cape Brett.

The cloak of poison will be backed up by a ring of steel straps in the battle against the possums, rats, stoats, ferrets, weasels and feral cats destroying native plant and wildlife.

The rōpū of nine hapū has worked with Department of Conservation (DoC) to create the first long-term plan of its kind aimed knocking back a devastating pest population, and taking other forest restoration measures, a DoC spokeswoman said.

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''All Northland aerial pest operations have worked jointly with iwi on the operations so this isn't new, but having a 20-year forest health plan lead by the rōpū is, and this is the key.''

Around 8800ha of conservation, private and iwi owned forests will be showered with 1080-infused baits in the operation due to start in the next week or two.

Targeted will be Russell Forest roughly between Waikare, Tapuhi, Punaruku and Karetu, and the Cape Brett peninsula from Whangamumu to the lighthouse, excluding the Tangatapu catchment.

The Russell State Forest has been considered on the brink of collapse for several years with DoC, hapu and groups such as Forest and Bird calling for urgent measures to save it.

Poison drops on Far North forests aim to kill off scenes like this possom eating a native bird, with a rat nearby.
Poison drops on Far North forests aim to kill off scenes like this possom eating a native bird, with a rat nearby.

A turnaround in attitudes to 1080 drops in recent years, since the application has been refined and the poison's life reduced to three days or less, has seen conservationists and hapū advocate for the aerial drops because they hit pests hard and fast.

There is still strong opposition from some quarters.

In November last year, Forest & Bird Northland advocate Dean Baigent-Mercer said the state of the 11,500ha Russell Forest was a tragedy. He supports the use of 1080, and said initial hits against pests showed signs the eco-system could recover fairly quickly but a greater strike was needed.

DoC has posted public notices in media about where the drops will take place and warning people not to touch the baits, let children or animals near it and not to eat or let their dogs eat contaminated carcasses.


The pre-feed drop, to offer pests a taste of what will later arrive laced with poison, is likely to take one day. The drop of the 2cm long, 1080 laced pellets is expected to be done over two days by two helicopters after September 10.