Sunday, October 30, 2011

A simple message from UnitedFuture - the party for outdoors people

UnitedFuture has released it's video message for the 2011 election. It's short, informative, and good.

UnitedFuture has some great policies, and your party vote is what we're asking for. Click here to view the short video clip.

Authorised by Hon Peter Dunne MP, Parliament Buildings, Wellington

Introduced Animal Phobia - alive and well in New Zealand

Notes for an illustrated talk for the Ruahine Action Group at Palmerston North given by W. F. Benfield. 29/10/11.

Today, I want to talk about deer. Not about hunting deer, but about the deer’s role in the landscape.
This is really only an issue, because the people who control the deer, the Department of Conservation, want to get rid of them, and they don’t really care how it is done, be it by helicopter meat recovery (WARO) or by poisoning them.

The question we have to ask is; why are we in this position, what is wrong with deer, or for that matter, chamois, and tahr?

It all goes back to several things, but a lot of it can be laid at the door of the famous colonial era botanist, Leonard Cockayne, and his failure to properly read the evidence of the land before him. It was Cockayne who believed that moa were few in number, lived only on grass lands and as a result, the forests were never browsed. He believed that because of this, they just could not cope with any browse at all.
It was because of this, he claimed deer browse would; firstly lead to the extinction of tree species (funnily enough, he considered possum browse was not significant). Secondly, he believed that animal browse would impair the forests ability to stop erosion, and so erosion material would be swept out onto the plains, carried by floods made worse by damaged forest and so destroy farms and towns. It was the sort of alarmist stuff that would make the good townsfolk fear for their towns and generate a lot of very anti deer sentiment.

When Professor William Graf spent time in New Zealand in the 1950’s, he was amazed at the virulent anti exotic animal phobia. Little has changed since, and as it suits the bureaucratic agenda of DoC and the fund raising hysteria of organisations like Forest & Bird. It will continue to do so until we do something about it.
As Cockayne was the consulting botanist to the Forest Service, his beliefs became departmental policy, and because they were on the authority of Cockayne, they were never questioned or tested. Even to this day the same stories get trotted out by DoC and the advocates of forest destruction, such as Forest & Bird.

In fact, if we look at the evidence, firstly on browse, archaeological evidence clearly shows the land was largely covered with forest, and moa were many in number and forest browsers; the claim that the forests were never browsed is a complete falsehood. What is more, the pre-human browse by moa and other birds was massive; it held in check the growth of the forest, it was a system in balance, maintained by the browse of the big birds.

Even possum browse is insignificant compared to the production abilities of the forest or the pre-human browse of birds. The often cited examples of possum damage are more usually the result of disease or climatic factors and have nothing to do with possum.

Cockayne’s belief that deer browse would lead to the extinction of some forest trees is so wildly misplaced in light of the fact that it is lack of browse that is leading to the slow extinction of forest types. Forests, such as ancient rimu forests are being replaced by forests of trees that in the pre-human forest would have been suppressed by the browse of moa, trees such as tawa, rata and kamahi. Deer will to some extent replace that browse, and as Thane Riney was able to show at Lake Monk, the older browse resistant types, such as rimu will once more come to dominate. Deer do have a place and are a part of a healthy forest.

Cockayne’s second belief that animal browse would cause erosion was studied in the Ruahine Ranges by the hydrologist, Patrick Grant. He found erosion follows patterns of severe weather and has nothing at all to do with animal browse. He wrote that claims by the Forest Service that forests prevent flood were "demonstrably false".

Estimates for the number of moa in pre-human New Zealand vary between 6 and 12 million. The last estimate for deer numbers was a 1993 "off the cuff calculation" of 240,000 by Landcare Research. As most are on private land, the actual numbers and impact of deer on the conservation estate is slight, and well below the level that would make any beneficial difference to the native forests and grasslands. What you really have is bush and grasslands where the problem is not deer, but a lack a lack of deer to maintain a browse.
To undertake any significant reduction in deer numbers by WARO or whatever other means would be counterproductive to the health of the conservation estate, despite that, unless we put up a strong case against it, it will go ahead, mainly because the drivers of our nations insane conservation policies are now wider than just DoC.

There is at the back of all this a growing movement, in the beginning it was just Cockayne’s irrational beliefs which became the bureaucratic agenda for forest service. It has now spread to the wider society and has morphed into a rising green religion, of a "pristine Aotearoa" a mythical land that never was. It is something that DoC can use to its advantage in levering its budgets, and in it, they are joined by conservation organisations such as Forest & Bird.

It is trying to create an indigenous ecological purity by killing off all alien exotic plants and creatures, and then put a bell jar over the land to preserve it in this pure form, free from any alien life. It is a complete fallacy, but an incredibly powerful myth amongst a largely urbanised population.

It is also an incredibly rich field for using threats to this mythical land as a driver for fund raising. The "we need your money to save our forest and birds" is used to harvest bequests and corporate sponsors. Like all of these sorts of things, the threats don’t have to be "real", its like Iraq’s "weapons of mass destruction" or the Jewish "threat" in pre-war Germany; it is creating an irrational fear.
In New Zealand, possum, stoats, rats and deer fill the role of bogeymen, and it is here that the real damage to our fauna and flora come. So irrational is the hate generated, that in a frenzy to eliminate the "pests" everything is being killed, in time, even the forests.

The winners of this deeply flawed programme will not be our beautiful birds and forests, but fast breeding rats and stoats which will be living in de-graded forests. That is why we have to break this senseless cycle of destruction.

I see our future land management as being "range management". A management whereby the whole system of the browsers and the lands and forests are allowed to as much as possible self regulate and come to their own balance, which they will in time within a "stable limit cycle". No browsers would be pests. Harvest of game animals such as deer, chamois, and tahr would have to be controlled to ensure numbers are conserved at reasonable level as is necessary for the health of the forests.

A start can be made right now by removing the "pest" status from forest browsing animals. The Minister of Conservation can do this at the stroke of a pen.

Bill's Blog.      

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Message from a pest-control operator

The following is a letter from an experienced pest control operator, and refers to his experience with managing bovine tb without using aerially applied 1080 poison ...

My name is Martin Foote. I was Vice President of the New Zealand
Oppossum Fur Producers Association (NZOFPA) for a number of years.

Before my time and during that time possum trappers took on the 1080
industry...And we made life tough for them.

Myself and a number of possum trappers knew that if we set traplines
and kept them going (not lifting 1 trap until a line of at least 100
caught nothing for 3 nights in row) we could achieve a RTC of 0% or
very, very close to it. I and others have done this numerous times
(and were paid for it in the early contracting days). Sure, compared
to an initial 1080 knockdown, it costs more. However, when you take
the lower costs of keeping the possums below 1% for however long they
need to be controlled it is cheaper in the long term.

When I approached the powers that be (DOC, Wellington Regional Council
(WRC) and AHB) and said that I would lower possum populations to below
1% and keep them there for 10 years for the same price as they were
planning to spend on 1080 over that time (with no guarantees on their
1080) they turned me down. They told me that 1080 was more cost
effective. I've never been able to work out how a guaranteed job with
the same price tag as a hopeful job, can be inferior.

I also spent some time talking to Professor Roger Morris (Massey
University) about TB in possums and TB in the environment. Roger
believed in a theory of hot-spots whereby the TB bug stays active in
the environment waiting for a new possum to come along and be
infected. These hot-spots were geographically stable and were probably
related to den sites. I asked Roger how long he thought the TB bug
could stay infectious if a TB possum died in cool, dry, dark
den....His answer was 20 YEARS.

I then asked Roger if he was interested in supervising an operation to
eradicate TB using his hot-spot theory and my trapping skills. He said

The operation was paid for by myself (with the exception that the farm
paid for my fuel). I selected Glenburn Station. Glenburn was one of
the places in the Wairarapa where TB was first recorded. The coastal
side of Glenburn had never had TB while the inland side always did. I
spent some time with Roger's staff working out an autopsy technique
that would find TB possums without slowing my skinning too much. The
agreed method took me about twice as long to skin a possum and Roger
thought I would pick up 95% of TB infections.

I caught 18 TB possums (confirmed by Massey University) from 3 areas
on the boundary of the block I eventually worked. When I was sure that
I had achieved the result I needed to show that hunters could target
TB I asked Glenburn to bring some young cattle from the coast to graze
on my block. Glenburn did so and rigorous TB testing was done....NO

I then took my results to AHB and WRC. Who did their nana as I asked
for long term contracts and I wanted to only be paid if there were
clear herd tests. I remember one of the senior staff telling me that he couldn't
allow me to take a risk like that!!!!!!

After that things went down hill fast. Glenburn's manager was forced
(by politics) to let the test herd into a paddock that I had isolated
as having the largest number of TB possums coming from it. The next TB
test had reactors. 3 senior staff members started rubbishing my work at public meetings until I told them that if they continued to do so they would end up in court. 

They stopped talking about me, however, they weren't prepared to offer me any contracts and I had run out of money. This block is now planted in
pine trees with no cattle grazing and Glenburn is TB free. They put a
pine tree band aid over the problem and those infectious den sites are
still there." 

The Mapara operation...

The initial control was done by trappers. It was one of the first
trial contracts and was run by NZOPFA. The first trappers that went in
did enough work to get the first payment and then walked off. A second
group, of which I was one, went in and finished the job to the agreed
standard for the remaining money. We wanted the contract to continue
with the maintenance, however, Doc decided to follow up with aerial
1080. No good reason was ever given and we suspected that they never
expected us to succeed and DOC never had any intention of letting
hunters prove how good they were.

In the DOC ground control work, after the aerial 1080, a lot of
Brodificum was used and it was discovered that the native Falcon was
laying eggs but no chicks were hatching. Upon investigation it was
found that the eggs were contaminated with Brodificum and it was
suspected that the Falcons were catching sick and dying rats for their
prey causing sublethal poisioning that made their eggs infertile.

Malcolm Moore (Rotorua) managed the contract for NZOFPA, Ray Scimgeour
was the DOC Field Centre Manager for Te Kuiti (good bloke) and Phil
Brady was the scientist living on the job.

I've also noted that neither DOC, AHB or Regional Councils are giving
out post operation possum population figures. A few years ago we
always knew the poor 1080 operations as they didn't release the
monitoring results and they always released the results for successful
operations. I've visited ERMA's website and they have a watchlist
section for DOC and AHB to post their operations and results on. There
are very few operations there. Last years 3 Tararua blocks, including
"Project Kaka", are there, however, there are no post operation
monitoring results posted. What's the point of having a watchlist if
there is nothing to watch or evaluate? My guess is they didn't get the
possum kill they wanted. There have been a number of aerial 1080
failures in the Tararua's.

Martin Foote


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

1080 poison scare in New Zealand meat

The following story appeared in The New Zealand Farmers Weekly, this week...

Stock link with 1080 checked   24/10/2011  Page eight.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry confirmed on Friday it is investigating an incident in the King Country where stock that may have come into contact with 1080 poison had been slaughtered and processed.

As a precautionary measure, the product in question has been retained. MAF is now continuing its investigations and working with pest control agencies to identify when 1080 was applied and whether the animals sent to slaughter were, in fact, at risk.

This is a standard response where there is a suspicion that there may be a problem with meat and/or meat products. The goods are being held to enable the investigation to determine their status.

Due to the fact that there is an investigation in train, MAF officials said they could not make any further comment about the incident.

The risk of 1080 poison terminating in NZ meat products is covered in the documentary Poisoning Paradise.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Standing for Parliament

The use of 1080 poison in New Zealand is something that needs to be stopped and replaced with humane, species specific, pest management methodology, urgently.

My brother Steve and I first began highlighting the use of 1080 poison in New Zealand, 5 years ago, releasing our first documentary - A Shadow of Doubt - in 2007.

We've since released Poisoning Paradise, and are now working on a 3rd, and final documentary that highlights the alternatives to the use of 1080 in New Zealand forests.

To continue our campaign against the use of aerially distributed 1080 poison, I was recently accepted to run as a candidate for the UnitedFuture Party in the West Coast - Tasman electorate. The election takes place on the 26th of November.

I am advocating for an International, scientific investigation be undertaken to analyse the research used to support 1080 operations, to investigate the long-term impact to ecosystems, and to analyse current methodology of aerially spreading 1080 poison across New Zealand ecosystems.

The following story appeared in the New Zealand Herald... Former bank robber seeks to be MP

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

2000 birds die as feral cull backfires - Macquarie Island

The following news release is about the aerial poisoning operation on Macquarie Island, which lies between Tasmania and Antarctica in the Southern Ocean. To read more, click here 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Department of Conservation respond to 89 dead kiwi post

The Department of Conservation have swiftly responded to the previous blog post, saying my claims were "extremely misleading". 

Their story can be viewed here 1080 kiwi claims extremely misleading

Here is the counter argument...

RE - In response to DoC's "1080 kiwi claims extremely misleading".

Firstly, I'd like to thank The Department of Conservation for the opportunity to raise further issues relating to the poor life expectancy for kiwi in the heavily 1080 poisoned Tongariro Forest.

DoC claim in their response..."we have never lost a single bird (kiwi) to 1080". That's an astounding statement! If DoC had have tested every kiwi that died within the poisoned area, they could make that claim. The fact is, from the information supplied, they haven't tested a single bird for 1080 poison residues from within the Tongariro Forest. Therefore, the claim is redundant. 
Given the absence of randomisation, replication, and controls in much of DoC research, it is difficult to come to any sound conclusion when referring to what the likely outcome would be if 1080 were not used. But taking into account the persistence of the department in defending it's use of 1080, the data would likely be biased - hence the need for blinding.

In their response, DoC also claim ... "Mr Graf fails to point out that chick survival in this forest more than doubled in each of the two years after the last 1080 operation in 2006 when stoat numbers were very low, compared with years without 1080". 

Once again, an astounding statement. Chick survival in the Tongariro Forest doesn't look good, going by the information supplied by the DoC.

The following Information is contained in the DoC OIA ...

Between September 2007 and March 2011 (about 4.5 years) 88 kiwi chicks were fitted with radio transmitters. Of these, only 5 are known to be alive - and of these, 3 were tagged within the last year. 

So, only 2 kiwi chicks, from 85 (88, less the 3 fitted in the last 11 months) fitted with radio tags for a period of between 1 year and 4.5 years, are known to be still alive. That's just over 2%. 

If the 3 chicks that have been fitted in the last year are included, the percentage of known survivors  from the original 88 is just over 5%. But this doesn't mean these 5 birds are going to make it to adulthood. Chances are, they won't. 

Many birds are killed in the sub-adult age group. Of the 38 birds tagged between April 2006 and May 2010, 8 are known to be alive. 

From July 2010, to July 2011, 25 sub-adult birds have been tagged. There has been a 1080 free period in the forest, since 2006 (up until a couple of weeks ago). Of these more recent 25 tagged birds, 22 were still alive as of the 31st of July 2011. 

Of the 67 adult birds radio tagged, 24 are stated as being alive, as of July 2011.
19 are assumed to have been predated on, and 7 classed as "unknown" and "misadventure". (Why were these birds not tested, to eliminate poison as a cause of death?). The remainder dropped their tracking equipment. 

Kiwi can live for over 60 years. If so few kiwi chicks make it to adulthood in the Tongariro, and the tiny percentage that do are likely to be predated on, kiwi look like being extinct in the Tongariro forest within a generation. 

It would seem the data is being selectively analysed by the DoC, and the public are being mis-informed. DoC are focusing on claiming they get a certain percentage of fledgling survival from many species of native birds, including kiwi. Fledgling success has nothing to do with population success. What good is it if a chick lives for a few months and dies, or is killed before reproducing? 

If the data was analysed correctly, and looked at life-span, and not "fledgling success", it would be determined that the use of 1080 for pest control, isn't working. Not only is 1080 poisoning the entire ecosystem, it's endangering the welfare of our native wildlife.

The information being fed to the public is that 1080 is helping kiwi survive, when in fact, there's absolutely no evidence of that. New methodology is needed urgently - not more poison.

Conversely, we are informed that 5% of kiwi in untreated areas make it to adulthood. With targeted pest control, using trapping and non-persistent poisons, (not 1080) that figure could be raised substantially - if the use of 1080 was abandoned. Victor McClean, a kiwi recovery contractor on the Coromandel Peninsula, claims to get over 50% chick survival - without 1080 poison.

As a representative for UnitedFuture, I can say that I will be working hard to ensure that the UnitedFuture policy of banning 1080, is realised - and more responsible, sustainable pest control methods are employed.

Some facts on 1080 poison  - 

1080 is not only a primary (kills victim after ingesting the bait) killer, but also causes secondary poisoning. For example, if a kea eats a poisonous bait, as was the case 3 weeks ago, it will die. If a kea, the only carrion (dead flesh) eating parrot in the world, were to eat a 1080 poisoned possum carcass, it may also die from secondary poisoning. 
Poisoned carcasses can kill for months, even years after primary poisoning occurs.

1080 is persistent, especially in winter. Baits can last for months in dry and cold areas - and in regard to how 1080 breaks down in soil - research is still being undertaken. 

1080 is a broad spectrum insecticide, and many of our native birds are killed by eating poisoned insects. Kiwi are omnivores -  meaning they eat insects, and other types of foods. The Tongariro food supply of many native species has been repeatedly poisoned over the last 35 years. It's hardly any wonder kiwi aren't doing well. We could safely assume many other native species are in the same boat.

We are yet to see the full impact that the poisoning of New Zealand forests is going to have on our ecosystems. 


Monday, October 3, 2011

89 Dead Kiwi - 1080 Clearly Not Working

It has been revealed through an OIA request that tagged kiwi have been dying in large numbers in one of our most heavily 1080 treated forests.

Aerial 1080 drops first began in the Tongariro Forest in 1976 and have been followed with subsequent drops in parts of the forest in 1988, 1989, 1991, and over much of the forest in 1995, 1996, 1997, 2001, and 2006. Another drop was carried out last week covering around 15,000 hectares.

It would be reasonable to assume, after so much 1080 poison has been spread across the forest, there could be no sign of a ferret or stoat for miles - surely? 

Not so. In the last 5 years, revealed through the DoC OIA request, 89 tagged kiwi, of all ages, have died in the Tongariro forest. Keeping in mind that the tagged kiwi only represent a fraction of the wild population, the actual numbers, from a population perspective, may be enormous.

More concerning is what's killing the birds. The assumed cause of death, in most cases ... is predation by ferret. We are told by DoC kiwi can defend themselves from mustelid attacks, once they reach 1.5kg in weight. Yet, many of these birds are adults.

When discussing the use of 1080, the DoC use sentences like "overwhelmingly successful", "very effective", "rapid knockdown" to justify their poisoning campaigns.
"It's the best tool we have for managing pests, and keeping predators at bay." At least that's what we're lead to believe by The Department of Conservation, the PCE, and Forest and Bird. 

But what's really killing the birds? Surely not predators, going by what we're told about the effectiveness of 1080 at eliminating them. If it is predators, it would also be reasonable to say that the use of 1080 poison clearly isn't working. Surprisingly, given so much poison has been dropped across the forest, not a single kiwi from the 89 deaths has been tested for 1080 poison residues. 

DoC say that the time-frames for the poison drops don't line up with the likelihood that 1080 could be a cause of death. Given the amount of poison dropped in the forest over the last 35 years, all endemic species found dead within the poisoned boundaries should be tested for poison residues, simply to eliminate toxins as a cause of death. Surely?

More concerning is the fact that in the last 15 years, with tens of millions of hectares of habitat being poisoned, only 5 kiwi across all of New Zealand have been tested for 1080 poison residues. It should be noted that kiwi are known to eat 1080 cereal bait, and 1080 residues have been detected in kiwi droppings. 

On top of the 7 poisoned kea three weeks ago, the 3 poisoned kaka earlier in the year, the loss of 11 kiwi at Mt Bruce, 21 ruru in the Waitutu, the poisoned fernbirds, robins, tomtits and others, it is becoming more clear that the experiments with 1080 poison across our forests, aren't working. 

After 35 years of poisoning campaigns, and desperately trying, there still isn't a single, credible scientific research paper that demonstrates a net population benefit to any native species through the use of aerially applied 1080 poison. Not one! And yet the drops continue.

Responsible, ground control methods do work. 50,000 hectares of the northern Te Urewera National Park is managed by DoC, trappers and volunteers. No aerial 1080 poison is used. We need to encourage, and replicate these methods, and eliminate the future use of aerially applied poisons.

The Election is less than two months away. If you'd like to see an end to 1080 poison, and more responsible, sensible methods of pest control implemented, please consider giving your party vote to UnitedFuture - the only party in government to make the banning of 1080, policy. 

Click here to view Poisoning Paradise