Monday, August 13, 2012

New website -

We've launched a new website Please take a look, and consider joining up to stay up to date with the latest on the wild adventures of The Graf Boys, in the outdoors of New Zealand.

Regards, Clyde and Steve Graf.

Taihape farmer speaks out about mass-poisoning of deer

Taihape farmer Allan Westerman was looking for his lost sheep when he chanced upon this disturbing event...

Court Testimony - Dr. Quinn Whiting-Okeefe

The following is a court testimony from Dr QuinnWhiting-Okeefe. Dr Whiting-Okeefe, with his wife Pat, has put a great deal of work into researching the use of 1080 poison in New Zealand. This is his recent court testimony...

Friday, June 1, 2012

1080 poem - delivered to Dr Jan Wright, at Te Papa

The following, powerful poem - was read out to Dr Jan Wright (Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment), by Redwood Reider, at a recent Te Papa meeting...

"Sometimes our public servants need to hear the truth. In rhyme.

Serendipitously I recently was invited to be on a panel alongside Dr Jan Wright, the New Zealand Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, at Te Papa, the NZ national museum. We were asked to speak on our passions and thought leadership regarding Te Whenua - The Land. As PCE, Jan Wright issued a major report in 2011 enthusiastically endorsing the use of 1080 poison in NZ. 1080 is banned in many countries, severely restricted in most others, and classed as "Class 1A - extremely toxic" (the highest possible toxicity rating) by the World Health Organization. The risks to wildlife and to humans are massive. Yet the NZ government tosses it across our country from helicopters as though it were candy. I live in the community of Golden Bay and many of us are sick of this highly toxic substance being dumped throughout the forested mountains that surround our community (as well as in the streams that supply many people's drinking water). So I took this opportunity to present Dr Wright with a special poem I wrote for her to express my feelings on the subject....

This poem is my own (Redwood Reider). Nothing in my speech is to be construed to represent the views of Te Papa or of Fulbright New Zealand (organisers of the event). "

Filmed by Iron Lung Panda

Monday, April 16, 2012

Anger at DOC's Cavalier attitude to Kea Deaths

Anger at DOC's Cavalier attitude to Kea Deaths

An anti-1080 lobby group Te Whare O Kaitiaki Ngahere is angry at the indifference of the Department of Conservation to kea and other native bird deaths from 1080 poisoning.
The comment follows the group's withdrawal from seeking a declaration through the Environment Court against the Minister and the Director General of Conservation. The Environment Court was unable to make the declaration against the Minister and the Department of Conservation made it clear to the Court that it does not view kea killing as a serious matter or one which concerns the New Zealand public said spokesperson Mary Molloy of Harihari, West Coast.
Shona Bradley, representing the Conservation Department in the Environment Court implied there was not “a genuinely held and wide-spread concern for the killing of such birds”.
Mr. Hunt and Mrs. Molloy representing Te Whare O Kaitiaki Ngahere, were surprised and angered by the statement they termed "ridiculous."
"On the other hand, we are not surprised the Department should want our wildlife viewed so casually. It seems government is trying to sweep bird deaths under the carpet since many aerial 1080 drops are carried out over public land by both the Department and the Animal Health Board," said Mary Molloy.
Kea numbers are estimated at between 1,000 to 5,000 and the rate of kill from 1080 has been up to 77% of monitored birds and particularly in open areas or low shrub land – preferred feeding areas she said.
The last kea kill in North Okarito was after the baits had been reformulated to make them less attractive to kea and all roads and tracks were being cleared by Department staff before the rotor blades had stopped moving.
"It is clear that 1080 must not be used in kea habitat. Indeed it poses a risk to not only kea but many birds especially falcons, moreporks, tomtits, robins as well as killing invertebrates such as insects, worms and others."
The fact that a poisoned insect or bird remains toxic and deadly to a bird preying on it in its deah throes, seems to escape DOC who are entrusted by law as guardians of native birds and the public estate."
Mary Molloy said that the Minister and Director General of Conservation can not be held accountable for these unacceptable losses of indigenous bird life was "absolutely scandalous."
Te Whare O Kaitiaki Ngahere intend seeking other remedies to make the killers of these kea responsible she added.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The real cost of aerial 1080 operations

The following letter is written by an experienced possumer - 17/03/2012

Hi Anne and Gerry,

I thought I might drop you a line and catch up with you guys. After all you were going to put some thought into our last email communication and get back to me. Which you never did.

I have been doing some thinking and doing in the meantime.

My thinking is probably not what you are interested in. However, you may be interested in my doing.

You have told me that DOC's full costs for an aerial 1080 operation works out at $12/ha. And you know this figure to be true because you have access to DOC's financial accounts and you have seen it for yourself.

I do not have the same clout you have. However, I do have access to the following the information recorded in the document with the title of "Bovine TB Strategy - Review of Costs" prepared by Outcome Management Services, dated 22 July 2010, In this document it is recorded that AHB spends, on aerial 1080 operations, $17.35/ha annually on the areas that it controls with aerial 1080. AHB averages 1 aerial 1080 operation every 3 years in these areas. This means that the cost of aerial 1080 operations are around $52/ha.

So why is it that, for you, it is so easy to obtain information and feel confident that you can publicly state a $12/ha figure that any one in their right mind, after researching and reading "Bovine TB Strategy - Review of Costs" would know would hardly even cover the cost of the 1080 pre-feed and toxic bait let alone all the other costs that are associated with an aerial 1080 operation.

I told you in an earlier email that I like my hunting close and personal. The very fact that you have told me that you have access to DOC's financial books and that you have written to me and told me this information tells me you are a liar. Me telling you that you are a liar is as close to hunting close and personal that I will ever get to hunting with or beside you. If my opinion of you ever gets onto the airwaves/net and causes you to lose money, I sincerely hope that you will come looking for me through the court system so that I can show NZ and the World what a BULLSHIT artist you and your Forest and Bird mates really are.

Cheers....Marty Foote

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Science vs Rhetoric

The following is an open letter from Dr. Quinn Whiting-Okeefe, to owners of a lodge near Lake Moeraki who unselfconsciously announced their firm support for forest mass poisoning. The letter defending the use of aerial 1080 is enclosed below...

Dear Anne and Gerry,

The ignorance of science evidenced by New Zealand's aerial 1080 program is breathtaking.  Do you seriously imagine that the "observations" that you have cited constitutes evidence that aerial 1080 is of net benefit to native species?

First, I can line up dozens expert environmentalists and woodmen with "experiences" just the  opposite of Doc propaganda's "dawn chorus" that you claim to have experienced.  They all say post-1080 forests are dead lifeless places with decreased bird activity.  Of course neither of you is to be believed.  What one learns from such anecdotes is the prejudices of the teller and nothing more.

Second, where we live we have everyone of the species you cite (except Kea) in abundance and somehow, miraculously I suppose, it has been done without aerial 1080.  Don't you see that we could just as rightly claim that our abundant bird populations are due to the absence of aerial 1080, as you can that yours are a consequence of its presence?

Third, to put it in scientific terms: you have no control, and therefore no validity (in fact virtually all of Doc's "research" has the same problem and in those studies that do have controls, they are badly flawed).  Controls are the essence of the scientific method and the ONLY way of reliably finding the truth about the real world.  What you really have is "20 years" of uncontrolled, unrecorded, unsystematised, un-quantitized, observations made and interpreted under a barrage of unrelenting Doc propaganda.  Doc spends $12M per year convincing people like you that giving them $100M to mass poison is the only way to save native species, and you are living proof the $12M is being effectively spent.

Fourth,  there is not a single scientifically credible study showing a net population benefit from aerial 1080 to any native species--not one, despite 20 years of Doc's trying to scrounge up one. (Please do not cite the Robin study, or the Mapara study or the Wirinaki study or any of the other junk science that gets passed off by Doc and F&B as showing benefit--I did say "scientifically credible").

Fifth, Doc's own evidence shows massive mortality among many native species after each 1080 drop (30% tomtits, 25% robins, 33% Kea, 15% Moreporks, and on and on., and as noted there is no credible evidence of benefit. 

Sixth, 2 years after 1080 drops the rat population doubles.  In three years the rat population triples. After 1080 drops, stoats switch their diet from about 85% mammals to 85% birds.  These are just two of the unintended consequences (all documented by non-Doc scientists) among the thousands that anyone who knows a stitch about ecology would predict to exist in the face from mass indiscriminate poisoning of a whole ecosystem.  Doc does not even look.  As noted, Doc has not documented benefit to a single native species let alone the whole ecosystem or looked for negative secondary and tertiary collateral damage.

Seventh, 1080 kills everything that breath air, in particular 50% of invertebrates die after 1080 drops.

Eigth, Doc's mindless and self-serving aerial 1080 "save-the-birds" program completely ignores the effect of competition from feral birds on native species: myna, magpies, sparrows, etc. all with growing populations that compete with native species.

Ninth, even if there were not all this evidence, your and Doc's premise is prima facia incredible:  who would believe that one could lace high quality food with a universal poison and drop in indiscriminately into an ecosystem and only affect two target feral species … the proposition is laughable everywhere in the world except in New Zealand where the laws of ecology have been suspended by an orgy of propaganda and blind uncritical belief.

Tenth, Doc habitually lies, misrepresents, and hides the truth.  The examples are too complex and numerous to lay out in detail here, but a single well documented example is illustrative: 40% of the Fox glacier Kea population were killed in one 1080 drop.  This tragedy was made public by a whistle blower, not by Doc, which apparently had every intention of not disclose it.  If it has been left up to Doc we would still not know what they did.  How can anyone claim to be an environmentalist and not oppose such outrageous behaviour?  And yet it evidently makes no difference despite all the lack of evidence of benefit, all the evidence of harm, there are legions who, though doubtlessly well meaning, "BELIEVE", and will believe until the last Kea outside of captivity is gone.

Finally, no other country in the world is doing, or ever has done, anything remotely similar to what Doc is doing in New Zealand (despite many other places having very similar situations with invasive native species).   How could a country be so benighted as to believe that this simplistic sledge hammer is a solution to such a complex ecological problem.  Do you imagine that Hawaiians don't care about there native birds or that the scientific juggernaut of the US has somehow missed Doc's brilliant insight: "got a feral mammal problem, poison everything and it will be alright".  Why do you imagine the world is not (and would not even consider) copying New Zealand, if there were real evidence that aerial 1080 were saving New Zealand's native birds.

Like I said the ignorance of science in New Zealand is breathtaking.

Quinn Whiting-Okeefe, MD, MA(Math), BA(Chemistry), FACMI

... In response to the following letter... 

Hi Pat,

What a pity that you will be unable to come and see for yourself the birdlife and the flourishing rata, mistletoe and giant fuchsia in the virgin forest of the Moeraki Valley.

We would love to help show you just what an extraordinary improvement there has been in the birdlife here with regular 1080 operations. This isn’t “bragging” but simply the detailed observations of two enthusiastic naturalists over a 22 year period.

We disagree with your alarmist comments below but we respect your right to free speech.
You need to also respect the fact that we do not agree with your views.

Here are our latest observations about NZ native bird and plant life here based on the last 22 years that we have lived here.
The native birdlife here at Lake Moeraki is now extraordinarily rich compared to years gone by. Bird numbers here, in our view, rival the offshore pest free islands that we have visited. Birdlife here shows a huge increase on the 1990s when we started the Wilderness Lodge in 1989. Our Nature Guide son Michael has worked on Little Barrier and Stewart Island and he confirms the comparatively high bird numbers here.

  • Dawn Chorus: There is an amazing dawn chorus. First just on dawn we always hear the whistle of kaka high on the ridges surrounding us. Then we hear dozens of bellbirds. Then a bit later (say 7am) the tui’s start and the pigeon get active as the sun comes out
  • Colenso’s Mistletoe, Fuchsia and Rata. The mistletoe is in excellent condition on the silver beech around the Lodge and currently in full flower. Because the mistletoe grow in the silver beech tree tops it is sometimes easier to locate the plants from the presence of petals/sepals on the forest floor. Fuchsia is healthy as are all the rata. Just north of us, in the Bruce Bay and Paringa area where there has been very little possum and pest control, rata, fuchsia and mistletoe have almost all disappeared because of possum browsing. 
  • Abundance of small birds: There is a constant noise of all the little birds. There are flocks of silvereye up to 100 strong. Tomtit are everywhere along the paths in close packed territories. Grey warbler, shining cuckoo, song thrush, blackbirds and brown creeper are abundant. We regularly hear parakeet here, a bird that was absent in the 1990s. Ecologists tend to focus with pest control measures on the bigger rare birds and forget about the little birds. Yet these little birds are the main victims of rats so benefit the most from rat control.
  • Kaka – this is now the signature special bird of the Moeraki Valley. In the early 1990s perhaps once every couple of months we would get very excited when we heard a solitary kaka from the ridge above the Lodge. Kaka were then very rare. This summer, we are hearing kaka every day virtually all day from dawn to dusk and sometimes after dark. They fly from the Abbey Rocks/Paringa Hills high across the valley to the Whakapohai-Knights Point country at a height of about 200 metres. The largest flock we have seen was 11 birds. They also fly from the ridge behind the Lodge to the tops of the kahikatea around the Lodge and back again. They rarely come down low around us but we did photograph kaka along the Monro Track. Their calls and whistles are amazing.
  • Kereru-Kukupa pigeon: Last night we counted 27 kereru around our reception area. They are feeding on fuchsia fruits and kowhai leaves. Pigeon numbers are fantastic here. There are no introduced plants or willows that they feed on (some people argue that you need these introduced plants to build up pigeon numbers). The key again seems to be a good food supply and above all predator control.
  • Kea. What Dr Graeme Elliott tells me is that we have a lowland kea population here. They don’t go to the mountains and are constantly all around the Lodge. We don’t feed them so they rarely come down close preferring to spend a lot of their time in the tree tops. At and after dusk, we hear them always from a tall kahikatea towards the Lake Moeraki outlet and we think it likely that they are nesting there. Today at 8.30am, 5 kea came and played on the lawn in front of our restaurant. The restaurant was full of guests at the time who loved it. 4 of the 5 kea were young birds with yellow beak tops and pale coloured heads. We hear kea here almost as frequently as we hear kaka.
  • Tui and Bellbird: These are abundant and clearly love all the food plants around (Fuchsia, mistletoe). Flax is not flowering here this year so the tui are going to the old flower stalks and flying away disappointed.
  • Falcon: A pair of falcon fledged 2 chicks over by our staff house and are now constantly feeding them
  • Morepork: We do a night walk every evening at 10.30pm and always hear up to 3 morepork calling around the Lodge. Morepork numbers are very high  with many birds all around the Lodge at night

Pest Control success: The DOC 1080 operation on 27 October 2011 across the 10,000ha Abbey Rocks block that surrounds us has clearly knocked the high rat, stoat and possum populations here to very  low levels. This is the 5th DOC 1080 operation across this forest since 1998 and every year we are seeing an increasing conservation & native biodiversity benefit from sustained and regularly repeated pest control.

Anne Saunders and Gerry McSweeney

Friday, January 27, 2012

Does aerial-dropped poisoned food benefit New Zealand's birds?

Dr Alexis Pietak has undertaken, and now completed, a review of the "mark-recapture" research used to support the use of 1080 poison-laced food to control introduced mammalian species in New Zealand forests. I have pasted the conclusions of her paper below, the remainder of her paper can be viewed by pressing the link, also below.

(Dr Alexis Pietak is a biomedical research scientist, biophysicist, and author who lived in New Zealand from 2005- May 2011. She specialised in biomaterials and biophysics research after completing a PhD in Physics from Queen's University in 2004, which followed her two university degrees in Engineering Physics (2000) and Biochemistry (2001). )


1080-poisoned food operations in NZ are supported on an extremely large scale of operation largely because of the apparent existence of a solid body of scientific evidence to support their selectivity, safety, and efficacy. Regarding birds, the main hypotheses of 1080-poisoned food advocates are that 1) aerial poisoned food drops are selective to mammals, and that 2) the benefits of mammalian predator removal for avian species outweigh the risks of death in an aerial 1080 operation. In this report support for these hypotheses were explored by first addressing the selectivity issue, and by assessing an existing hard data set composed of all mark-recapture bird surveys performed in New Zealand from 1986 to 2009 from the basis of experimental design and statistical criteria typically to evaluate scientific investigations and data. 

There is no basis to expect 1080-poisoned food operations are selective only to mammals. Birds with normal to high tolerance for 1080 can reach lethal doses by consuming 1080-poisoned food at 0.6 to 12.5 % of their daily food ration. In addition, there is no evidence that the cinnamon scent or colourings used to treat baits deters birds. Furthermore, secondary poisoning of insectivorous species may be possible from invertebrates containing 1080 toxin.  Food poisoned with compound 1080 cannot be assumed to be selective for mammals and hence, non-target deaths of a wide array of bird species remain a distinct possibility.

The exploration of the existing hard data set of 49 mark-recapture bird surveys conducted over 23 years revealed basic flaws in scientific experimental design including the overwhelming lack of a control group, small sample size, and short-term studies of three weeks or less follow-up time. On account of the small sample sizes, no study was able to reliably detect kill rates of 20% or lower, and 16% of studies could not reliably detect kill rates of up to 90%, making them completely ineffectual. A final issue with the existing hard data is the very large number of endemic birds that have not been studied and can easily be identified as being of high mortality risk due to corpses found after 1080-poisoned food operations and their innate feeding tendencies.
 Only one study investigated 1080-exposed and control groups with longer-term follow ups of several months and found no statistically significant difference in the lifespan in treated or non-treated birds. Only three investigations of breeding success were found, and two concluded with no detected difference between treated and untreated areas. Therefore, it can be concluded that there is only very limited evidence that aerial-dropped 1080-poisoned food may improve breeding success in two species (kereru and robin), one to two breeding seasons following a 1080-poisoned food drop.  

In conclusion, insubstantial hard data evidence was found to support the hypotheses of the mammalian selectivity of 1080-poisoned food, its low risk to a wide array of bird species, or to indicate long-term benefits to any bird species. In contrast, the existing data indicate that aerial 1080-operations may decimate certain endemic bird populations. As the risks of toxin persistence and secondary poisoning are higher for alternative toxins such as the anti-coagulants brodifacoum and pindone, an immediate moratorium on all aerial poisoned food operations is warranted. Continuous, controlled bait access methods for mammalian predator control (bait boxes and trapping) are recommended as an alternative to aerial dropped poisoned food.   

To view Dr. Pietak's full report, please click on the link below ...

About Dr. Alexis Pietak ...
Dr Alexis Pietak is a biomedical research scientist, biophysicist, and author who lived in New Zealand from 2005- May 2011. More information about Dr Pietak can be found at or contact Dr Pietak at
In previous years, I specialised in biomaterials and biophysics research after completing a PhD in Physics from Queen's University in 2004, which followed my two university degrees in Engineering Physics (2000) and Biochemistry (2001). Since then, I've worked as a scientific researcher at the University of Canterbury's Mechanical Engineering Department (biomaterials and biophysics), at Queen's University's Human Mobility Centre (tissue engineering), at the University of Canterbury's Chemistry Department (nanofabrication and biophysics), and at the University of Otago's Department of Anatomy and Structural Biology (biomaterials).

As of 2008, my life has transitioned from a role of mainstream researcher to one of an independent scientist. I’m currently exploring applications of complex systems theory to sustainability, as well as participating in a burgeoning scientific movement which seeks to embrace and develop holistic and alternative scientific views of life. I’m the author of the book, Life as Energy: Opening the Mind to a New Science of Life, published by Floris Books, UK, in February 2011. I also work as a scientific editor, helping people communicate technical ideas/results through peer-reviewed manuscripts, grant proposals, and theses. I aim to express my main ideas through conventional scientific avenues, and have successful published a number of peer-reviewed academic papers to date.

I became aware of the massive, large-scale use of aerial-dropped poisoned food in New Zealand while living there from February 2005 to May 2011. As a lover of nature, my common sense alerted me to the high capacity for widespread deaths of a large number of bird species in aerial poisoned food operations. I realized that aerial 1080-poisoned food drops received such governmental and public support because there apparently existed a solid body of scientific evidence to support their selectivity to mammals, and their overall safety and benefits to an ecosystem. In March of 2009 I began to search for this apparent scientific support, and was appalled at the flimsy and cherry-picked ‘evidence’ that I found.  Today I’m proud to join ranks with those fighting to stop the catastrophe of aerial poisoned food drops in New Zealand.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Letter to the New Zealand Ecological Society.

A Letter to the New Zealand Ecological Society.
 - By Bill Benfield - 
The editorial (following at the end of this letter) of the December edition of the NZ Ecological Society’s newsletter is an interesting window into the mind of one of those involved in New Zealand’s conservation science. While the editor may not be the society, it is reasonable to expect that the editor’s views and attitudes would reflect those of the ecological society as a whole.

It chronicles the events of the year, starting with Prime Minister John Key's likening ecologists to lawyers, much to her chagrin. It then recounts the editor’s travels, in the first instance, beset by the sight of posters on the West Coast seeking to ban 1080. She questions the motives, or "just the plain ignorance" of those responsible. Her second event was an encounter that left her feeling frustrated with a fellow passenger "misinformed about 1080" on an airline and who, despite her obvious badgering, failed to accept her views. She reflects that people only take on new information that supports their view. In her blinkered vision, does she not see that it is her, and even possibly the Ecological Society itself, that is equally as guilty of failing to see the legitimacy of other viewpoints?

The editorial outlines coming advocacy strategies of an ecological society that believes its ends can be best achieved by carpet bombing the land with a deadly universal poison; even to the indoctrinating of young children - shades of the Hitler Youth! Of course, if the arguments supporting 1080 were sound, there would be no need for indoctrination as advocated by the editor of the Ecolgical Society's  newsletter - see Editorial below.

It is interesting to consider the pre-disposition displayed in this editorial when looking at the society’s role as the publisher, through its journal, of peer reviewed scientific articles on the impacts and benefits of aerial 1080 operations. 

Typical would be a study to determine the effects of 1080 on kaka and kereru survival and nesting success. It is cited by both DoC and Forest and Bird as a success story for 1080. (Powlesland R.G. Wills D.E. August A.C.L. & August C.K. Effects of a 1080 operation on kaka and kereru survival and nesting success, Whirinaki Forest Park. New Zealand Journal of Ecology. Vol 27 No2. 2003. P 125 to 127.). What is interesting about this study is that there is a poisoned area and an un-poisoned control. The impacts of the poisoning are monitored for the "predators" (possum, rats and stoats) in both areas and the results compared. They show aerial 1080 is a stunning success story for stoats whose numbers have exploded post poisoning; rats have recovered to their former levels in two years. Slow breeding possum have logically not recovered, but it is claimed fur recovery operations in the control area have depressed that population to the same level as in the poisoned area. For the kaka and kereru, the results on survival and breeding success between the poisoned area and the un-poisoned control have been combined, so absolutely no conclusion can be drawn as to the benefits or otherwise arising from 1080 operations. 

It begs the question, would the results have been combined if field observations had shown a clear and conclusive benefit to the birds from 1080 poisoning? The abstract then claims that aerial 1080 "should" benefit these bird populations. There is absolutely no evidence it "should" or "should not" benefit. Although the study is meaningless in terms of what it set out to achieve, it does provide compelling evidence that predators are the real beneficiaries of aerial 1080 and, as the result for the birds has been concealed, we are left to assume that the consequences for them were dire.

Other peer reviewed studies published by the society reveal similar flaws:-Sweetapple P. Fraser K. and Knightbridge P. "Diet and impacts of brushtail possum across an invasion front in South Westland". New Zealand Journal of Ecology28(1) 2004. P19 -33. This study claims in the abstract, the part most people read, that forest bird populations "declined with increasing length of possum occupation". In the body of the report, it changes its tune to "weak support" for the hypothesis that native bird numbers decrease with increased length of possum occupation. From examination of the actual observations a case can be made that there is an increase in bird numbers with increasing length of possum occupation.

Another would be the often cited Powlesland R, Knegtmans J, Styche A. "Mortality of North Island tomtits (Petroica macrocephala toitoi) caused by aerial 1080 possum control operations, 1997-98, Pureora Forest Park". New Zealand Journal of Ecology 24(2): 161-168 (2000). This study is claimed by DoC to show the beneficial effects of aerial 1080 to tomtits, robins and moreporks. To the untrained the study looks sound, but to scientists, Drs. Pat & Quinn Whiting O’Keefe, there is significant and deceptive use of statistical analysis of the raw data. They also found tests of statistical significance were not used to support major conclusions. The only explanation they could offer is deliberate misrepresentation. (Drs. Pat & Quinn Whiting O’Keefe. "Aerial Monoflouroacetate in New Zealand’s Forest". Submission to ERMA. 2007.)

The question has to be asked, is this peer reviewed science, as published by the New Zealand Ecological Society, the result of incompetence or is it a deliberate and ethically questionable manipulation of data to suit an agenda? The December editorial would suggest the latter but, either way, I think many people would call it "junk science". It certainly does nothing for the reputation and integrity of New Zealand science. The real tragedy is that it is the "science" used to justify the continued destruction of New Zealand’s unique beautiful wildlife and forests. It is used by people such as the Parliamentary Commissioner of the Environment in the preparation of her report endorsing the continued use of 1080. It is used by both DoC and the Royal Forest & Bird "Protection" Society to support their venal objectives to the expense of New Zealand’s conservation.

Clearly, to have any credibility, the New Zealand Ecological Society should immediately examine the role of its journal editors. The whole published catalogue should then be properly scrutinised and purged of rubbish such as the examples here. When you think about it, it is lawyers who may feel aggrieved by John Key likening them to ecologists!
Yours Faithfully. W.F. Benfield.
(W.F. Benfield is the author of the book "The Third Wave – Poisoning the Land" published by Tross Publishing. E-mail Address <>

A series of recent events has convinced me of the importance of getting sound ecological knowledge out into the public domain. John Key’s BBC interview in which he likened ecologists to lawyers was a shocker. A West Coast holiday with anti-1080 "Poisoning Paradise" posters lining the otherwise empty roads was hardly surprising. The "Ban 1080" election hoardings placed by vote-hungry (or possibly just plain ignorant) politicians were rather more galling. A random conversation on a flight home from Auckland with a stranger misinformed about 1080 but unprepared to read about the facts (good and bad) left me feeling particularly frustrated. Perhaps it was a manifestation of the phenomenon observed by social scientists that people tend to only take on board new information that supports the viewpoint they already hold.
So what can we do as individual ecologists and as a society? In the short term, it’s policy makers, politicians and other decision makers that we need to influence. Some politicians never let the facts get in the way of a good story, so maybe these ones are a lost cause. But I’m pleased to say that Fleur Maseyk has taken on the role of Submissions Officer for the NZ Ecological Society, so we will now be able to respond much more effectively to important issues. In the long term, we need to dramatically improve the ecological knowledge of the general public. Ultimately, the New Zealand public will decide the future of our country by how they vote and their submissions during public consultation. I’ve always said we need to indoctrinate children when they’re young—I’ll be keeping that in mind when doing my Christmas shopping this year!

Monday, December 19, 2011

An open letter to Sir Paul Callaghan

By Bill Benfield - 
Dear Professor Sir Paul Callaghan.
I was quite amazed to see your "sanctuary vision" in the Dominion Post of 9/12/11 which claims the provision of sanctuaries could avert disaster to our native wildlife. It seems an unusual approach to take, but then, someone with your obvious abilities and with the academic resources available to you, would have at least have had a look around the subject, boned up a bit on the science, and what was happening in the field and what information there was. Still, I was surprised. that you went and leaped in on this one. 

Naturally you would have studied the origins of our fauna and flora, of how the forests co-evolved with giant browsing birds which are now extinct. I suspect you would have caught ecologist Graeme Caughley’s papers where he argues that excluder fences or exclosures, such as you are proposing, which deny any browse, even exotic browse, means that the forest, and in effect the ecosystem, becomes "un-natural". 

I’m sure that when you proposed further aerial poisoning with 1080 for areas outside the sanctuaries, you would have been aware that this poison was originally registered as an insecticide. Your investigations would have shown that studies revealing the disturbing impact of massive 1080 drops on forest floor invertebrates were suppressed within the Department of Conservation.  As a scientist, you must be aware that insects are the base of all forest ecosystems, the creatures that break down forest litter to make forest soils, the base of the food chain for many birds including both kiwi and fantails. When insects are being poisoned on a short cycle, such as in the Tararua Ranges for "Project Kaka" you will soon have a silent forest. No cicadas, no flies, no crickets, and soon no birds! Nothing to do with "pests".

No doubt your investigations revealed that many of the larger birds, such as kea and kaka, are being directly poisoned by aerial 1080 operations such as you propose. Recent kea poisonings include 41% of a radio tagged population in 2008 at Franz, and in September of this year, nearly 80% of a population at North Okarito. Kea are now extinct on much of their former range. Although DoC may claim the culprits are stoats and possum, I don’t think it needs much science to see that there is another very significant factor, ie. poisoning, that is being ignored.

I take it you also read the papers by Ruscoe and others concerning rat plagues which follow a year or so after 1080 operations. This is in part because rats breed so much faster than our native birds, so while everything is knocked back by the poisoning, fast breeding rats are able to recover and occupy the niches of others, and the balance is tipped into the rat's favour to the detriment of the birds. Contrary to claims by DoC and others, stoats food preferences mean that they are often little affected by 1080 operations.

If you were able to get on an Official Information Act request, the minutes of the clandestine steering committee consisting of DoC, Animal Health Board (AHB) and Animal Control Products (ACP, the state owned poisons producer) set up to ensure the successful renewal of consents by ERMA to use aerial 1080, you will find some interesting reading. Amongst the snippets is the information that DoC had been using artificially low costings for aerial 1080 (similar to the figures given by Gerry McSweeny of Forest & Bird on National Radio of 8/6/11). Reading this material, and the statement of corporate intent of the state owned enterprise, ACP, you will probably come to the conclusion that something more is afoot. Here the example of Enron provides an interesting parallel. A large energy conglomerate that is still regarded as a benchmark for corporate malfeasance deliberately created crisis’s to exert leverage on regulators and gain pecuniary advantage. In the case of Enron, they created threats to the electricity supply by deliberately reducing generating capacity during periods of peak usage. The real difference here is that in New Zealand, it is both the state and leading conservation groups that are rogue. 

Starting with DoC, they have an association with the Nga Manu Trust, near Levin. This seems to be an open air photo studio where, in contrived settings, vegetarian possum are induced to be photographed attacking fledgling birds. The photos are then widely used in publicity material making possum out to be a threat to our endangered bird life, and hence, along with a lot of similar material, a false crisis in conservation. So too you will find with the Royal NZ Forest & Bird Protection Society, whose advocate, Nicola Vallence , in an effort to talk up a crisis of a possum plague, claims that marsupial possum are different in New Zealand because, although they can still carry only one joey, "they have more babies here". 

The AHB, by means of poorly policed stock movement controls and ineffective testing regimes, maintains both a created crisis and a body of bovine Tb in the environment to ensure their continued existence. All of these groups make a bogeyman of possum and other "pest" threats to create a sense of crisis which they harvest for leverage and pecuniary advantage in much the same way as did Enron. You’d think that in a normal world, a free press would pick up on this, but when it comes to things like DoC’s and the other players advocacy budgets, media managers will sit mum to avoid de-railing a state sponsored gravy train that they all benefit from. National Radio is just as bad.

No doubt you also had the opportunity to check out many of the bio-diversity restoration and "kiwi recovery" type programmes. These are great vehicles for seeking bequests, engaging corporate sponsors and other such fund raising, but did you get a chance to check out the overall impact on the native species involved? One of them, which has Hubbards breakfast foods as a corporate sponsor, is the Kea Conservation Trust. It is claimed that this trust helped prepare the poison baits which lifted the kea kill rate from 41% of a population in 2008 to nearly 80% this year. Good to know that, while eating your muesli, you are at the same time contributing to the extinction of kea in the wild. 

Your researches will have no doubt led to DoC "rarebits" where that you may have found the kiwi recovery programmes can have an equally catastrophic effect. Kiwi are interesting, in that they are the only ratite to survive the human invasion of this country. Left to themselves, they have both adaptation and enough nous to get on with their lives, despite that fact, they have become caught up in the conservation "crisis". The usual way it effects kiwi is by having their eggs taken before time for their chick to be hatched and raised to a few months in a hatchery before being returned to the wild, encumbered with a harness carrying a tracking device. They soon fall prey to some predator, possibly cats; and the howl will go up that there is a "pest problem"! 

To a kiwi hatched in its parent's burrow, there will be the adult mentoring, social bonding and protection by the older birds. Chicks of some, like the Okarito brown or rowi kiwi, can spend up to two years or more with the parent birds and siblings, and by the time they are ready to leave the nest, they are well equipped with all the skills to face their world. Compare that to the hatchery chick! Turkeys may be a good analogy - a bird which in the wild is known for its skill and wary ability to evade predators, yet farm reared birds are, well, just "turkeys". Same too for hatchery reared kiwi; if they don’t die of starvation tangled by their tracker harness in the undergrowth, they will soon succumb to something in what is to them a strange and hostile world.

Is the course of conservation you seek really an over - managed and poisoned conservation estate, where a few "iconic" species are protected from life in the wild, often encumbered with tracking devices to the point where they are no longer viable outside the expensive sanctuaries such as you suggest? Because the land outside the sactuaries will have been so carpet bombed with deadly poison as you advocate, will we only be left with token populations that would face sure death outside the wire? There is an alternative., It will require some courage and it is outlined in my book"The Third Wave – Poisoning the Land" published by Tross Publishing of Wellington. It should be read by all with an interest in our land, its forests and its creatures. 


Bill Benfield. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

No more 1080 poison for Lake Taupo Forest?

A group of concerned Maori led by Dave Livingston and Australian lawyer and Maori law expert Michael Sharp, have come one step closer to ending aerial 1080 poisoning in the Lake Taupo Forest.

Dave Livingston stated that demonstrating that there was an alternative to aerial poisoning, was the catalyst. After the trial in which trapping was used, Livingston stated "we proved ground control will work. A 2000 hectare trial found only one live possum after monitoring was completed. The AHB was happy and have now given another block above Tokaanu, as a second trial, thanks to Brent Webster".

At the local AGM meeting, land owners unanimously voted against using 1080 poison in future. Great work, team!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Government Guilty of "Reckless" 1080 Deaths

By NORMAN JONES - Peninsula Press.

The government and its agencies can now be prosecuted and fined up to $350,000 for the suffering and death of animals exposed to 1080 poison...

New legislation to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) policy earlier this year made it an offense to kill through the ‘reckless’ use of 1080.

And with a  Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) statement saying that one agency - the Department of Conservation (DOC) - are effectively ‘drift netting’ forests "... causing uncounted deaths of both indigenous and introduced species," legislation has to be put into place to stop this widespread 'illegal' suffering of animals.

Speaking this week, Robyn Kippenberger, National Chief Executive, Royal New Zealand SPCA said “Whilst there is no provision in the AWA 1999 to take action on the poisoning of a ‘pest animal’ ... amendments to the legislation in July of this year provide for the reckless ill-treatment of any animal.  

"Should an operator be reckless in the application of 1080 (i.e. outside of the designated boundary) and a domestic or production animal suffers unnecessary pain and suffering as a result, the SPCA would consider prosecuting under *Section 28A of the AWA 1991.

She said the the SPCA, although recognising the need for possum control, urgently urged the government to seek more human alternatives.

“While it is proven that cyanide is a considerably more humane poison to control possums, the SPCA acknowledges that its application in deeply forested areas is not practical.

“The SPCA is totally opposed to the use of 1080 in the control of wild deer as death in this species has been shown to be agonizing and protracted with significant suffering. It is of deep concern that the Department of Conservation are using this method to control deer numbers as 1080 is not licensed as a poison to control this species.”

She added that, “As 1080 is not species specific, the SPCA is extremely concerned by the ‘by-kill’ resulting from the application of 1080.  It is effectively ‘drift netting' of the forest causing uncounted deaths of both indigenous and introduced species.

“Irrespective of all arguments on both sides of the 1080 debate, scientific evidence proves that most affected animals will die an agonising and likely prolonged death.”

To watch a documentary on the use of 1080 poison in New Zealand, please click here

[Animal Welfare Act:*Section - 28A -  Reckless ill-treatment of animals: (1) A person commits an offence if that person recklessly ill-treats an animal with the result that: (a) the animal is permanently disabled; or (b) the animal dies; or (c) the pain or distress caused to the animal is so great that it is necessary to destroy the animal in order to end its suffering; or (d) the animal is seriously injured or impaired.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1)(d), an animal is seriously injured or impaired if the injury or impairment: (a) involves - (i) prolonged pain and suffering; or (ii) a substantial risk of death; or (iii) loss of a body part; or (iv) permanent or prolonged loss of a bodily function; and (b) requires treatment by or under the supervision of a veterinarian. (3) A person who commits an offence against this section is liable on conviction on indictment - (a) in the case of an individual, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years or to a fine not exceeding $75,000 or to both:

(b) in the case of a body corporate, to a fine not exceeding $350,000.

Section 28A: inserted, on 7 July 2010, by section 5  HYPERLINK "" of the Animal Welfare Amendment Act 2010 (2010 No 93).

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Plea to International Conservationists Visiting Auckland this week.

By Scientist and researcher  Dr Jo Pollard (BSc (Hons), PhD, Zoology) and Graham Sperry (Chairman, NZ Wildlands Biodiversity Management Society Inc.)

This week the 25th annual meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology is being held in Auckland, with the theme “Engaging Society in Conservation”. Over 1300 delegates from around the globe are attending, and our Department of Conservation (DoC) is in the limelight. Not only is it being held up as a world leader in pest eradication and innovative conservation, it is attracting intense sympathy for its scientists who are to be victims of government cutbacks.

This morning on TV we were treated to an interview with conservation scientist Paul Beier, president of the Society. Dr Beier spoke of how New Zealand is considered a world leader in ecological crisis management and how he had visited an impressive offshore island here (Tiritiri Matangi) where pests had been eradicated and birds introduced. Dr Beier stated that introduced mammals were a threat to our indigenous species and their elimination was necessary to preserve biodiversity here, and that in his opinion the loss of “100 DoC scientists” would threaten this outcome.

However conference delegates should also be aware that DoC’s past and on-going heavy handedness with broad-spectrum toxins (brodifacoum and 1080, a respiratory inhibitor) and lack of scientific practice have received harsh criticism. A few brave scientists within government departments have called repeatedly for robust (or even adequate) monitoring of DoC activities, which have been firmly linked with plagues of pests and place native species at severe risk - those that are less capable of recovering from wholesale poisoning of the ecological community (species that are most sensitive to the toxins; or vulnerable to plagues of rats, mice and/or stoats; or rare; or slower than others to breed and disperse into vacant habitat).

The concerns of those scientists, and a handful of independent researchers, are available for scrutiny on the website To date the efforts of those opposing widespread toxin use have fallen on deaf ears. Indeed our own Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) this year advocated even more use of 1080 poison, especially in NZ’s remote areas. These places are no doubt host to a myriad of undiscovered species (given that only about 50, 000 of an estimated 80, 000 multicellular species in New Zealand have been formally described). A good hard look at the PCE’s justification for this revealed no substance whatsoever, in fact it highlighted the deficiencies in DoC’s methodology (the actions of its so-called scientists) and the ineffectiveness of 1080 in saving anything at all, not even the possum’s favourite trees. The Parliamentary Speaker of the House (paymaster of the PCE) has stated since that the PCE’s assessment was rated only as an opinion.

Other risky long-standing DoC practices include introducing new species to communities with the idea of saving the species (never mind the existing community structure, and the likelihood of introducing diseases) and removing eggs for hand-rearing with subsequent release of naive juveniles (high mortality rates occur during this process, wasting precious genetic resources and creating animal welfare issues). The lack of forethought and monitoring and amount of carnage wrought by DoC’s activities can be seen plainly in an investigation of their newsletters, available on the website

In line with the theme of this week’s conference, a paper to be presented by scientists Boedhihartono and Sayer contends that the most successful conservation efforts are those that involve local stakeholders, especially those fostering the aspirations of people in the poorer rural sectors. Here in New Zealand we have vast potential to use our introduced mammals as resources (commercially, recreationally and as a domestic food source). These opportunities are not sufficiently recognised or fostered here; poison is a favoured pest control tool not just for DoC but also our Animal Health Board (under the guise of controlling Tb) and Regional Councils.

Action from competent conservation biologists, of which there must be hundreds currently in Auckland, is urgently required to displace the unscientific, poorly monitored, rough interference and poisoning mentality that prevails here.


To view award winning documentary Poisoning Paradise - Ecocide New Zealand, click here.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Endangered Kea Killed by 1080 - a cartoonist's take

A few weeks ago 7 of 9 radio tagged kea were poisoned in a Department of Conservation (DoC) aerial 1080 poison drop across the North Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary, in South Westland. The drop was targeting rats, but when an attractive food is laced with poison and dropped from helicopters, there will always be unintended by-kill. This was the second time a large percentage of endangered, (estimated to be less than 1000 birds left on earth) radio-tagged kea have been killed in aerial poisoning operations. The overall number of birds killed in aerial operations is estimated to be extensive.

Cartoonist and NZ Fishing Paper editor Darly Crimp, has this take on the travesty ...

To watch the award wining documentary on 1080 poison use in New Zealand, please click on this link

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Endangered Takahe - in danger of secondary poisoning

Takahe - Photo - Denise Burdett
The takahe is one of New Zealand's most endangered birds. For years, authorities believed the birds were primarily herbivorous, but that changed when a group of school children, while on a class trip to Zealandia last week, filmed one of the birds eating a duckling.

This comes as quite a surprise, and given the amount of poison aerially dropped across New Zealand forests, it also comes as a concern. Poisons like 1080 cause secondary poisoning, and can kill not only the direct victim, but also the next feeder up the food chain.

Information supplied by Martin Foote reveals that a research paper conducted in 1959 states that ...
1) Takahe have been known to kill and eat chicks, rats (a target of poisoning campaigns) and guinea pigs.
2) Takahe have learned to eat introduced plants.
3) Takahe chicks are 100% protein eaters during the first stage of their lives.

There are 1000's of organisms living in New Zealand forests that are not yet formally described. How many other endangered species are there being exposed to poisonous food chains?
This takahe incident is another example of how irresponsible and potentially harmful the use of aerially applied 1080 poisonous food, dropped directly into forest ecosystems from aircraft, really is.

To view the video of the Takahe eating the duckling, click here.

To view a documentary on the use of 1080 poison in New Zealand, click here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dunne re-elected to parliament

The Hon Peter Dunne was re-elected into parliament on the weekend.
Mr Dunne is the longest, current serving member of parliament, with this term taking him over the 30 year threshold.

UnitedFuture is the only party in government to have the banning of 1080 poison included as one of it's policies.
Congratulations Peter Dunne, and we hope you will choose to continue to advocate for alternatives to the use of aerially spread 1080 poison.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Press Council rule in favour of newspaper's 1080 poison editorial

The following report is from the Peninsula Press, and developed after a complaint was made to the Press Council following a front page editorial on the use of 1080 poison ...  

Following a complaint to the NZ Press Council that this newspapers’ August 18th front page article ‘Where  are all the birds?’ had incited fear in the 1080 debate,  the council adjudicated in favour of the paper, stating:  “ ... newspapers are entitled to encourage debate on issues of interest and importance to their own community – indeed they have a responsibility to undertake that role.”

 The complaint was made by Thomas Everth, Coromandel. We publish the adjudication in full:


Thomas Everth complained about an editorial published in the Peninsula Press (a Coromandel community newspaper) on August 18, 2011.

He cited those principles of the Press Council that refer to accuracy, fairness and balance and to maintaining a distinction between the reporting of facts and the passing of opinion.

His complaint is not upheld.


Headlined “Where are all the birds?” the piece took a highly critical stance against the use of 1080 poison in NZ forests.

In particular, it stressed the dangers of “sublethal contamination” where even if wildlife is not killed outright, the low-level contaminants may create longer term, harmful effects on animal and insect development and reproduction.

It dominated the front page and continued to feature strongly on page three.

The “editorial article” was published under a by line giving the editor’s name.

A footnote stated that it had been written as a “front page editorial” in an attempt “to get to the known ‘facts’ about the controversial pesticide programme” and said that the newspaper welcomed further debate.

The Complaint:

Mr Everth initially complained to the editor (and author of the piece) by telephone and then via a series of e-mails. He accused the editor of “inciting fear and fanning the flames of an already heated 1080 debate”.

In particular, he took issue with the notion that 1080 interfered with and disrupted the endocrine system of wildlife and instead stressed the need for predator control (via 1080) in NZ forests.

He sent the newspaper a scientific research paper which rebutted the allegations that 1080 was an endocrine disrupter.

He suggested that the newspaper owed readers an apology for the “lies and the exaggeration and the baseless scare-mongering”.

When the editor offered Mr Everth the opportunity to write an article opposing and counter-balancing the arguments raised in the editorial, he declined.

As any apology and/or retraction was not forthcoming, he made a formal complaint to the Press Council.

Here, he stressed that the piece was irresponsible, especially given the possibility of violence by anti-1080 activists in the local community

The complainant reiterated his various claims that the newspaper had published “outright lies and made up conjecture” and that the editor’s prevailing argument was a reversal of “the facts”.

The Newspaper’s Response

The editor readily accepted that 1080 poisoning was a contentious issue but he had tried to foster healthy discussion, and when Mr Everth complained, he had offered him considerable space for a counter argument, a 1,000 word reply.

He suggested that the complainant’s vigorous reaction to the editorial exemplified the intense feeling (on both sides) inherent in the 1080 debate.

He denied that the editorial was written to support the pig-hunting lobby which was opposed to the use of 1080 poison.

He added that his original offer to Mr Everth, of space in the newspaper to air his “facts”, remained open.

Discussion and Decision:

In summary, the complainant argues that the editorial was not based on sound science and thus misled its readers, and further, that its publication was irresponsible, given the entrenched positions held in the local community.

The Press Council acknowledges the research forwarded by Mr Everth but the Council cannot adjudicate on the accuracy of competing claims surrounding the use of 1080 poison. Each “side” attacks the science and research cited by the opposition.

In 2009, the Council noted “Readers wanting to investigate the veracity of the claims and counter-claims about 1080 would be wise to read widely on the issue rather than rely on the content of one article”.

As far as the second part of his argument is concerned, the Press Council takes a different view and stresses that newspapers are entitled to encourage debate on issues of interest and importance to their own community – indeed they have a responsibility to undertake that role.

The Council is of the view that more could have been done to stress that this front page piece was in fact an editorial and thus opinion right from the outset,   though it noted it was termed “editorial” both within the text and at the end.

However, the editor’s claim that he was trying to stimulate discussion about an important local issue was supported by a footnote which clearly signalled that further comment would be welcomed.

Another signpost that the debate would continue was given – readers were told that a Ministry of Agriculture response to the editorial would be published later. That response duly appeared, in the newspaper’s Comment and Opinion page, the following week.

The complainant was given the chance to compose a response countering the editor’s opinions, and at some length, but he declined.

Finally, the Press Council has often upheld the right of an editor to adopt a strong stance and advocate a particular position; in short, to advance their own point of view.

Inevitably, some will disagree with that stance, even be offended by the opinions expressed or by how they were expressed, but that is an inherent aspect of freedom of speech.

Of course, there would be grounds for complaint if the editorial contained grievous errors of fact, or deliberately misled or misinformed readers. But, as noted above, the Council is simply unable to determine the “facts” in this ongoing debate, and it can see no evidence at all of any deliberate or wilful attempt to mislead or misinform.

The complaint is not upheld:

Press Council members considering this complaint were Barry Paterson, Pip Bruce Ferguson, Kate Coughlan, Chris Darlow, Sandy Gill, Keith Lees, Clive Lind, John Roughan, Lynn Scott and Stephen Stewart.