Deerstalkers Association vice president Bill O'Leary says 1080 use should stop around Nelson. Photo: Sinead Ogilvie.

Locals upset about 1080 drop around Nelson

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A 1080 aerial drop and ground operation around Nelson and Tasman hills has locals up in arms over their access to local forestry for hunting and walking.

While sodium fluoroacetate – known in pesticide form as 1080 – is always a controversial issue, a current operation involving aerial application of bait across 22,600 hectares of Kahurangi National Park and adjacent forestry blocks has some local landowners and users of affected areas upset.

The TBfree New Zealand programme, managed by the Animal Health Board, is doing aerial possum control operations in a bid to stop the spread of bovine tuberculosis (TB), a highly-infectious disease affecting farmed cattle and deer. TB has been found in possums, cattle and wild pigs in various areas bordering Kahurangi National Park, which is known as a major reservoir for the disease. Adjacent forestry blocks and areas from Upper Takaka and the Barron area across to the lower Flora Steam, Mt Campbell and upper Riwaka will all be affected.

The operation will see cereal baits dropped out of a helicopter at a rate of two kilograms per hectare. While the bait is toxic to possums, it is also poisonous to other species such as predators to native birdlife like rats and stoats but also deer, wild pigs, dogs and goats – and it’s these that have locals put out.

Due to the toxic nature of 1080, local deer and pig hunters, horse riders and dog walkers will be unable to access areas being baited under the operation.
Claudia Manderson, a Brooklyn Valley resident and landowner, says she will be significantly put out by a dropping zone less than a kilometre away from her home and wishes it wasn’t going ahead.

She says she believes the operation near her home is completely unnecessary. “I don’t see any point in going ahead with this operation. There are hardly any possums found here. The area could have been managed by increased ground control for this season, which would have spared us from the aerial drop. “

She believes the operation, being conducted ahead of the tourist season is a mistake. “How does it look when tourists pass signs with skeleton and crossbones while looking for a relaxing healthy holiday?”

Nelson resident and Deerstalkers Association vice-president Bill O’Leary says he opposes the use of 1080 because it is an “indiscriminate killer” and he believes the current operation will take out a number of other species. “It takes out game animals such as deer and from a hunters point of view that is my principal concern. We hunt all year round and we’ve got some real issues as far as deer goes. They are very susceptible and die a horrible death, in agony. “
He says another concern is the withholding period because dogs, when used for pig hunting, are extremely susceptible to 1080.

“People who are pig hunters will find they cannot use the area for a long period of time.”
Local pig hunter Gray Parkinson says he has more questions than answers when it comes to the dangers of 1080, but says he doesn’t see why they need to aerially bait areas. “There are other ways of controlling possums. You can’t take your dogs in because if they kill a pig or eat a possum that’s been poisoned it will kill them.”

He adds that there is no doubt other animals will suffer from the drop. “If it doesn’t kill other animals then it wouldn’t be working. All I know is I have been in places that have been 1080’d and it’s just quiet. There is no birdlife, no sound.”
In contrast, one local organisation is pleased the drop is going ahead.

Forest and Bird supports the use of the poison as the only way of protecting native birdlife from predators such as stoats and rats, says Nelson Tasman branch secretary Gillian Pollock.
“Bird, lizard and insect life does come back in abundance after 1080 is used, it is noticeable after the following breeding season. Although some kea have eaten 1080 and died, overall their population also benefits because their eggs and chicks are ravaged by stoats, possums and rats. Where kea numbers are low it is because of these pests. All ground nesting birds are particularly vulnerable to pests.”

Pre-baiting for the operation was completed at the start of the month and the remainder of the project will go ahead from last week to December 5.  Recreational users of forestry will be alerted to 1080 drop zones and baited areas via signs at each entry way and in some cases, people will be stationed to inform the public.