Monday, October 5, 2009
What is The Alternative to aerial 1080 poison operations in New Zealand?
When people ask this question, they are really asking, innocently perhaps ... what's the alternative to mass scale animal cruelty, contaminating pristine water supplies, blanket poisoning of plants, lethally and sub-lethally poisoning un-targeted wildlife and endangering native wildlife?
How do we stop producing poor quality advocacy science to support the poison industry, mis-leading the world with regard to NZ's Clean Green image, risking damage to international export markets, risking the health of people, ignoring international health warnings, and breaching civil rights?
Is it really that bad? Well that's what's happening at the moment.
To suggest an alternative is needed, would suggest there is a problem. This is debated by the people in power.
It would be better to stop - and do nothing - than to use aerial 1080 poison in New Zealand!
However, few are suggesting that we do nothing.
Perhaps we don't have a possum problem in New Zealand at all. Perhaps we have a bureaucracy problem - a bureaucracy that feeds fear of the "possum", into the minds of the public.
Or perhaps we have a possum opportunity.
The most community-friendly "alternative" for this small country, New Zealand, is ground control of pests. That is - people on the ground, using responsible, targeted humane poisons, and good trapping techniques.
It can be achieved, with a well orchestrated, national management plan that starts by targeting key areas of importance - such as bird sanctuaries, and areas in need of tuberculosis (TB) management - and then extends to other areas, in order of importance. There is scientific evidence to suggest that rugged terrain doesn't even need to be controlled. Targeting the more manageable country is enough. The Animal Health Board has also proved that ground control is successful in managing TB.
Why is ground control the best way? Because it is specific with its target. Poisons are NOT cast all over the countryside, and across waterways, for non-targeted animals to consume. Poisonous carcasses, and baits, are NOT left to decompose and to poison other non-target animals. Ground control is the responsible management method.
The problem we currently have to deal with is people in positions of power trumpeting that ground control isn't an option. This is nonsense. They are defeating the true clean, green NZ method of control before it is given a chance to work. We need to re-program this thinking pattern, to re-educate these advocates of toxins, or have them replaced with people that encourage a different type of talk - the type that says "we must stop poisoning this country, and use people on the ground, with non-secondary, humane poisons, good trapping techniques, and that encourages employment and industry."
History is full of people that said Man couldn't fly, Man couldn't build a harbour bridge, Man couldn't drill a 10-kilometre tunnel from Manapouri to Deep Cove, that Man couldn't put a train tunnel through a mountain, that Man couldn't conquer Everest, that Man can't control a few possums in our forests ... and so it goes on.
Enough of what can't be done. It's time to concentrate on what must be done!
New Zealand needs to spend 200 million dollars per year if necessary (not just the 100 million + that it is currently spent on poisoning operations) on encouraging, supporting and developing sound ground control methods. We need to pay to get this country back to its clean, green status. If some screeech 'We can't afford it', I am sure the tourism industry, the export industries, and even the rest of the world will help out. There is always a way, when a positive direction is set.
Besides, after income from export products are taken into account, that 200 million is reduced to 100 million - so the investment is the same as the poisonous option anyway. It's a no-brainer!
Authorities suggest that if ground operators are making money from the possums, they should not receive payment for doing the work. They are happy to spend over 100 million dollars contaminating this country, for no return, but they are not willing to cough up to support the man trying to make a living from responsible management. This is also nonsense. We must pay our workers well, encourage them, increase the number of warm huts in the back country, increase the track networks, utilise helicopters, and build the New Zealand bushman into an icon - a brave, tough, committed mountain man or woman - that young people, and people with interests in the outdoors, will want to emulate.
Employment in Rural Areas
New Zealand has plenty of rural areas where Maori live, for example. Many of them are unemployed. Here is a perfect opportunity to encourage rural Maori into forest management, long-term employment, and a positive future.
We can then build a strong industry from our wild animal management, and create a win-win situation, where we are earning export dollars, using responsible management methods, and keeping our country healthy, happy and employed.
We suggest using a bounty system, to keep track of possum numbers and encourage interest in the community. To simply spout that a bounty doesn't work, stems viable solutions, before they get traction. A bounty has worked in the past, and it can work again. Ironically, it was a bounty that helped extinct one of our endemic birds, the Huia.
Trapping is also effective in rat and mustelid (Stoat, Weasel, Ferret) capture. There should be monetary incentives for the capture of these species. We know that aerial 1080 poison operations increase rat numbers x 3, compared to areas with no control (Ruscoe study 2008), and that this causes stoats to switch their diet to birds. The Murphy study (1998) shows the bird component of their diet at 6% pre 1080-drop, compared with 56% post-1080 drop.
The possum has one offspring per year, so they cannot out-breed good management. It's unlikely that there are 70 million possums in this country. This is another propaganda line tossed around by the proponents of poisons. The possum population is below 30 million, based on national observation by experts with whom we converse.
We don't have a possum problem in this country, we have a bureaucracy problem.
We don't have a possum problem, we have a possum opportunity.
Until we have people with positive goals for New Zealand's environment, its image, its wellbeing and its future at the helm, the common-sense alternative will never be realised.