Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Over 110 million dollars wasted killing possums, every year!

Every year New Zealand spends over 110 million dollars poisoning, and killing possums to waste.
The possum-fur industry is currently worth over 100 million $ in revenue.
We need to use this wasted 110 million  AgResearch estimate to encourage the possum industry, using humane and targeted pest control methods, and stop poisoning our forests - the entire ecosystem.

There is a good argument that the fur industry simply encourages cruelty to animals. However, In New Zealand, it is widely accepted that introduced pest species need to be managed - namely - stoats, possums and rats. It is important to ensure that this pest management is done in the most humane way possible, and most of those who oppose the use of 1080, would agree with this.

The following story Major threat to forests is in big demand  was printed in the Wanganui Chronicle, today, and Possum Fur Ripe for Export Growth in the Bay of Plenty Times.

For those opposing the use of 1080 poison in New Zealand, the answer has always been obvious.
With fur prices for the feral possums now exceeding $130 per kilo, when sheep wool is less than $2 per kilo, it's a no brainer!

The alternative is the same now, as it was years ago. I posted The Alternative over one and a half years ago. It's as relevant now, if not more so, given the news reports above.

Target the pest, and NOT the entire ecosystem!

For a short time, view the multi-award winning documentary Poisoning Paradise - click link below

International 1080 poison review the first step

On Friday I attended meetings arranged by United Future, in Turangi and Taupo.

There were 5 of us on the panel, addressing the crowds - Hon Peter Dunne, Doug Stevens, Taupo Mayor Rick Cooper, Alan Simmons, and Myself.

At the Taupo meeting Peter Dunne stated that an international review into the use of 1080 poison in New Zealand would be a likely first step in the process of having the practice banned in New Zealand - when United Future is reelected in November.

This would give the public of New Zealand, for the first time, a fair and balanced, scientific investigation.

You've got my vote, United Future!

The news item,  can be viewed here....International 1080 Poison Review Likely

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Crown Research Institute accused of poor research

The following headlines appeared in the Dominion Post on Thursday ...
 AgResearch stalls damaging report 

The story tells of a professor who was requested by GE Free New Zealand  to investigate AgResearch's monitoring of the risk of horizontal gene transfers at its Ruakura facility, in Hamilton.

The following findings were printed in AgResearch stalls damaging report ...

What Prof Heinemann found was:
  • "Fundamental flaws" in the monitoring of horizontal gene transfer from genetically modified animals disposed of in offal pits.
  • AgResearch monitored soil that was irrelevant because it was at the top of the offal pits, not where the animals where buried.
  • Gene transfer risks were not rigorously pursued.
What AgResearch says:
  • Monitoring programme is effective and there is no measurable transfer of genetic material in eight years.
  • Monitoring programme is appropriate and meets all the conditions.
But, perhaps more interesting, was the length staff reportedly went to to suppress the findings of Prof Heinemann.

And then there's the story Scientist warns of mass extinction  published today in the Dominion Post. Scientist, Mike Joy states "All of New Zealand's terrestrial mammals and frogs were now at risk of extinction, as were 60 per cent of reptile and native fish species, half our birds, one third of the freshwater invertebrate species and a quarter of marine fish species." Taking into account that frogs, lizards, insects, and birds species are aerially poisoned, on a repeated basis in New Zealand, and that our endemic freshwater crayfish love to eat the 1080 baits that are dropped into their habitats, this story comes as no surprise.

To view documentary Poisoning Paradise, and the evidence against 1080, click this link...

Why is this story relevant to this blog? 
Because this type of concern is repeatedly raised by scientists critical of research conducted into the use of 1080 in New Zealand. 

These scientists criticise the selective methodology of researchers, the use of strong statements that are unreferenced, the quality of the studies, and the fact that species that are likely to show undesirable results from the use of 1080 poison, are avoided for research.

Predetermined outcomes and advocacy research is nothing new, but it appears to be alive and well in New Zealand.

Friday, June 24, 2011

United Future to ban 1080

The following comments were recently posted at The Green Unplugged Film Festival....

16. Posted on 22.JUN.11  From : Guest
Less than a year after the creation of the EPA in the US, 1080 was banned from its only intended use as a bait collar to control aggressive coyote populations in the western states and rodent control because it was so cheap to produce.. If New Zealand has a representative government, public outrage should be able to achieve a ban of this product especially since the only party that benefits from its purchase is the government itself. Only four countries allow its use today and in those countries it is primarily used as a rodent poison. The solution seems rather easy via elections or legislative action to have it banned. The harm is obvious to any one and the benefit is unproven at any level. Demonstrations are not the answer but information, such as this video, and informing elected officials from the affected areas that depend on votes would solve the problems quickly. The international community will only help if their own food supply is contaiminated by imported New Zealand products.

17. Posted on 22.JUN.11  From : 
My comment number 16 was posted as a guest. I live in South America but worked in the environmental business in the US for over 20 years. I based my comments from experience. Surely you can show this film in high schools and universities to educate voters. This tactic has worked in many areas in the US and any change will have to come from the educated youth. I know the US is no paradise but it does have many restrictive environmental laws that are enforced and most legislation was pushed by youth, house wives, and the elderly who vote in great numbers. The only countries now using this product are third world or blatantly corrupt governments. New Zealand is better than this and has enough scientific information to have this product banned. I am ashamed that the only place it is manufactured is one of the poorest states in the US. I wonder what the employees tox screens look like after years of working with this poison.  Ends
This is an election year.  It is now United Future policy to Completely ban the use of 1080  when they are elected. The advice above is pertinent. It's worth making your party vote United Future, if you would like to see New Zealand true to its image.

Poisoning Paradise, and further comments, can be viewed by pushing this link ...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Animal welfare overlooked in PCE report

Carrots being prepared for aerial poisoning
drop.  Kahurangi National Park.
Last week the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment released her report on the use of 1080 poison in New Zealand.

Many believed this was just another smoke screen orchestrated by the 1080 industry to try to allay growing concern and outrage in opposition to their poison operations. It appears these people were right.

When dropped from the air, the poison lands in the canopies of trees, all across the forest floor, and directly into mountain streams.

Dust from the drops has been reported ( to spread at least 1km from the drop zone. 1080 is deadly to all air breathing organisms - 1080 is also a broad spectrum insecticide.

The users of 1080 avoid the animal welfare issue associated with its use, at all costs.

Scientists state that about 50% of deer populations are poisoned in aerial operations.

We have filmed many dead deer after 1080 operations. In most cases it is clear they die in horrific circumstances. The extent of this wildlife atrocity is enormous.

Scientists estimate the annual kill of deer through aerial poison drops is over 20,000. When carrots baits are used, the figure is higher.

In late 2010 we were filming a posion drop that covered 90,000 hectares across the pristine Westland National Park area.

We conducted a necropsy on a dead hind we found, clearly killed by the poisoning operation. The necropsy was filmed, edited and delivered to the PCE in the belief that it may be taken into account, and that the welfare of animals would be an important consideration, to go with the other, overwhelming evidence against 1080.

Once again, we were wrong. The power of bureaucracy is profound, and profoundly ruthless.

It should be noted that it is illegal to poison deer, pigs, goats, horses, cows, sheep, birds, dogs, cats, aquatic life, insects, bats, people, etc. etc... Yet, all these species have been killed, some in high numbers, in aerial poison operations.

Animals that are killed, and there's lots of them, are left to decompose where they die - be that a rat in a stream, or a deer on a river bed. 

Animals that die, contain the poison in their carcass. This picture of an endemic Weka feeding on a possum carcass, possibly poisoned, demonstrates how the poison travels up the food chain.
All this was ignored by the PCE report.

Decomposition of carcasses can take months, to years, in dry conditions. This deer was photographed 4 months after the photo of the same deer, above. The poison that killed it is retained in its carcass, poisoning anything that consumes it - sublethally, or lethally.

And if all these images don't spell out the story, plain and simple, there's also the issue of misleading our tourists. Come to New Zealand, we're clean and green, our advertisements claim! 
The following photo is of a poison sign stapled to a camp-ground sign, in a popular north island tourist spot. 

Are we a joke New Zealand? I think so!
To get the full story, click the link below to watch Poisoning Paradise ...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Poisoning Paradise leading at festival

Poisoning Paradise was recently selected for the Green Unplugged Film Festival.

The film has won the following awards ...

Nominated - Swansea Bay - Environment & Ecology 2010
Winner - Heart of England International Film Festival - Environment & Ecology 2010
Winner - International Film Festival Ireland - Environment & Ecology 2010
Nominated at this year's Japan Wildlife Film Festival (runs in August) 2011

The 98 minute version of Poisoning Paradise is currently leading the Film Maker's Choice award category at the festival. View the documentary by clicking the link below...

Monday, June 13, 2011

New research paper reinforces PCE report as incompetent

This recent research paper (below) on the use of 1080 in New Zeland is consistent with the findings of other credible scientists - Dr Pat Whiting Okeefe, Dr Quinn Whiting Okeefe - Dr Jo Pollard - Annie Potts - Dr Meriel Watts - and the evidence contained in the documentary  Poisoning Paradise - Ecocide New Zealand

The Author indicates in her paper that about 400,000 hectares of forests were planned to be aerially poisoned in 2009, and based some of her findings on this figure. The actual area was over 500,000 hectares, and is expected to be higher in following years. (ERMA - report)  

Click here to view Alexis Mari Pietak's (PhD) report A Critical Look at Aerial Dropped Poison Laced Food in New Zealand's Forest Ecosystems

Here's the summary to the paper ...


Each year, New Zealand aerially distributes massive quantities of acutely lethal, poison-laced foodstuffs into its forest ecosystems. The toxin most commonly used is sodium monofluoroacetate (compound 1080), an acutely toxic, oxygen metabolism disrupting agent with very high toxicity to most air-breathing organisms. New Zealand ecological conservation officials claim that aerial poison operations are an essential strategy to protect vulnerable indigenous flora and fauna from exotic mammalian pests, and that the benefits of aerial poison operations outweigh their risks.

This manuscript presents a critical review of the existing scientific literature on the non-target effects of aerial poison operations in New Zealand. This review reveals that in this complex, multifactor situation, the relevant science has been selectively interpreted, selectively studied, and moreover, left grossly incomplete in its scope, possibly in favour of non-environmental, economic interests.

Using the existing scientific information on non-target effects of aerial poison operations, a cost-benefit analysis employing a numerical scoring system was performed. This cost-benefit analysis, which compared the costs and benefits to native species for aerial poison operations versus unchecked possum populations at their peak density, indicated that aerial poison operations have twice as many costs to native species as benefits, and that aerial poison operations were twice as costly to native species as unmanaged possum populations at their peak density.

The potential for widespread poisoning of New Zealand’s large number of endemic and threatened/endangered omnivorous, insectivorous, and carnivorous bird species by the uncontrolled distribution of poison-laced food throughout an entire ecosystem is a serious issue worthy of international concern and immediate action.

A Critical Look at Aerial Dropped Poison Laced Food in New Zealand's Forest Ecosystems

Investigation into the effects of 1080

An introduction to the Index to the Environmental Risk Management Authority 1080 Documents ... 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

"78 sheep dying after grazing an airstrip ... 20 weeks after the operation"

The launch of is a valuable addition to the abundant evidence mounting against the use of 1080 poison in New Zealand. If you had any doubt about the humaneness of 1080, click on the animal welfare link on the site.

For example, the scientific evidence presented to the ERMA review on 1080 states that the time to death, from ingestion, for one of the target species - the Brushtail Possum - pictured here - (native to Australia) - is from 5, to 97 hours! 

How about  - 14.4 to 522.5 hours (that's 21 days) - for the Blue Tongued Lizard! 

If that doesn't get you, how about ... "cases included ... 150 sheep dying 10 weeks after toxic carrot had been laid in paddocks ...78 sheep dying after grazing an airstrip used to load toxic carrot bait ... 20 weeks after the operation."

And our own PCE (Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment) wants us to drop MORE 1080 poison, and inflict more of this outrageous animal cruelty! I rest my case.

Good on Dr. Jo Pollard for highlighting these issues, a great New Zealander!

The following is the introduction to the site ...

This Index demonstrates:
1. The appalling quality of the data used by ERMA in making its decision and setting controls.
2. The risks to biodiversity and human health caused by 1080.
3. The paucity of valid data supporting the use of 1080 by the Department of Conservation (DoC) or the Animal Health Board (AHB).
The Index was designed to make access to the information used by ERMA easy and fast. It is arranged into 48 subject sections (e.g. bats, invertebrates, Tb). Each section contains quotes from the following documents, in turn:
1. Agency’s Appendices A-T (the information gathered for ERMA’s Committee by ERMA’s Agency)
2. Applicants’ References (scientific references supplied by DoC and the AHB)
3. Submitters
4. Committee Decision
For each subject, the quotes from the Committee Decision come last, so you can examine how the Committee has responded to the information given to it.

It is intended that the quotes in this index are not used in isolation but as a means of accessing the information used by ERMA. For each quote in the Index the name of the original document and the page number are provided so you can find it in the original document (available on the ERMA website .

Thursday, June 9, 2011

PCE 1080 Report - Concerning

Yesterday the PCE (Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment) released her report on the use of 1080 poison in New Zealand.   TV3 news report    TVOne news report    (Overview printed below)

New Zealand distributes over 3 tons of pure 1080 poison across it's forests, every year. That's 85% of the world supply!
The PCE stated in her report that New Zealand drops 300 kilo's of pure 1080, annually - That was an error, it's actually over 3000 kilo's (NZ Herald - 1080 use in NZ) (enough to kill over 2 billion endemic robins, or over 20 million people, annually).

That 3000 kilos of poison is used to make over 2,000,000 kgs of 1080 bait, annually.

The PCE stated that we are dropping less poison into our forests now, compared with years ago - that may be correct, but only by a narrow margin.
We are dropping less bait - about 2 - 3kg's per hectare (2.2 acres/hectare), however, the amount of poison in the bait, now, compared with 20 years ago, is allot higher. We are also dropping across greater areas of virgin rain forest.

When reading through the overview of the report it reads like something straight out of a DoC (Department of Conservation) brochure. 
It's provocative, alarmist, and inaccurate. It seems to indicate a pre-mindset bias (most people in NZ have a bias toward the use of 1080, before even taking on a project like this - us included), or political interference, or perhaps, incompetence - but whatever the cause, the report is of profound concern.

There is ample evidence, on this blog alone, that the use of 1080 poison may be doing irreversible damage. And to add to that, there's still not a competent scientific study that demonstrates a net population benefit to any native species, through the use of 1080 poison in New Zealand. 

New Zealand has been using this poison for over 30 years, and it shows. From our observations - we film and observe wildlife right across New Zealand - there is not a single area that we can name, that has had repeated drops of poison, that shows an obvious benefit to the native wildlife. Not one!
You would think after 30 years of poisoning, the benefits would be obvious, going by what the PCE says about 1080.

However, we can name several areas that have never had 1080 applied, that far exceed the poisoned areas we have visited. Hearsay? Yes. Anecdotal? Yes. Provable? Yes!

We are not against managing pest populations in our national parks. We have personally trapped 1000's of possums, at no cost to the government.

We are not paid for our work to help end aerial 1080 poisoning operations, unlike the majority of people supporting its continued use.

We are vowing to continue to support the campaign to help end the use of 1080 poison in New Zealand, before it's too late - and for some areas, it seems we are too late ...

PCE Overview, conclusions and recommendations


Commissioner's overview

As I write this overview it is business as usual in the bush. This might conjure up
images of tui popping open mistletoe flowers, fantails flitting from tree to tree
behind trampers and the calm of a grove of tree ferns. But in much of our great
forests, the reality is far less halcyon. Sadly business as usual is more likely to
mean stoats patrolling kiwi nests waiting for chicks to hatch, rats hunting down
frogs, geckos and insects, and possums stripping mistletoe, fuchsia and rata.
Last summer while on holiday I mentioned to a friend that I was investigating
the use of the pesticide known in New Zealand as 1080. She responded "That
will be very difficult; there are such good arguments on both sides." What I
have discovered through this investigation is that this is not so. While I respect
the sincerity of those who oppose the use of 1080, without it our ability to
protect many of our native plants and animals would be lost. And without 1080,
keeping bovine tuberculosis at bay to protect dairy herds, and protecting young
trees in plantation forests would be much more difficult and expensive.

In New Zealand, 3,500,000 kilograms of pesticide is used every year, and the
amount of 1080 used is less than one-thousandth of this - about 300 kilograms.
Yet despite this, despite years of research, exhaustive reviews and the setting of
many controls governing its use, 1080 remains controversial, and the call for a
moratorium on 1080 from some Members of Parliament was a major impetus for
this investigation.

Along with a number of other poisons, 1080 is used in bait stations on the
ground, but it is the dropping of it from helicopters that elicits the greatest
concerns. And this is understandable; scattering poison from the skies just feels
like a really bad thing to do. So why is it done?
The great majority of our native plants and animals occur naturally nowhere
else in the world. This makes them especially vulnerable to invaders from other
countries, since there was no need to evolve defences against them. Birds did not
need to fly if there were no ground predators to hunt them down.

This investigation is focused on three pests that do immense damage to our great
native forests, as well as to other ecosystems and to the economy more generally
- possums, rats and stoats. Most of us still think of possums as the major
enemy, but over the last 15 years or so, scientists have developed a much deeper
understanding of the destruction caused by rats and stoats. Increasingly, stoats,
not possums, are spoken of by conservationists as 'enemy number one'.
The interaction between rats and stoats is particularly important. When there
is plenty of food, rodent populations boom, providing meat for the carnivorous
stoats. So-called 'mast events' are particularly tragic. In the very years when
certain tree species flower profusely, when millions of seeds drop to the ground
to enable birds to lay more eggs than usual, the rat and stoat populations irrupt
and the chicks are doomed.

It was a surprise in this investigation to discover that possums, rats and stoats
are only controlled on one eighth of Department of Conservation land. We may
well be looking at a future where many of our special plants and animals can be
found only on offshore islands with extremely limited access to the public and in
sanctuaries behind big fences. Without active pest management, kiwi chicks have
a one-in-twenty chance of making it to adulthood.

1080 is a substance that occurs naturally in many plants in Western Australia
and other countries. That it exists naturally is no argument in its favour - so does
hemlock. Plants that contain 1080 evolved it as a defence against browsing
animals. Consequently, possums and other native animals in Western Australia
have become immune over eons of evolutionary time. This has made it possible
for 1080 to be aerially dropped over millions of hectares in Western Australia to
kill foxes, feral cats and wild dogs.

An ideal method for controlling possums, rats and stoats would kill them
effectively and enable native trees and animals to flourish, it could be used
tactically to rapidly knock down irrupting populations of rats and stoats during
mast events, and it could be used cost-effectively over large remote rugged areas
as well as on small accessible reserves.

Such an ideal method would also have no unwanted effects. It would not kill
or harm native birds, fish, lizards and insects, and it would not kill introduced
animals that are not pests. It would not leave long-lasting residues in water
and soil or endanger public safety. And it would kill possums, rats and stoats
humanely as well as effectively.

In this investigation, 1080 and its alternatives (to the extent possible) are
compared with this imaginary ideal, and 1080 scored surprisingly well. It is
not perfect, but given how controversial it remains, I for one expected that it
would not be as effective and safe as it is. In large part this is due to the many
improvements in practice and controls that have been put on its use over the

In order to fully understand the concerns about 1080, my staff and I have had
lengthy discussions with a variety of people at the forefront of the opposition to
its use. We have striven to understand the nature of their concerns and studied
the written material they have produced. Certainly some operations have not
been well done; there is always room for improvement and there is always the
possibility of human error, intentional or otherwise.

It must be extremely upsetting to lose a cherished dog to 1080, but only eight
dogs have died this way in the last four years. The sad reality is that many many
more will die on roads each year and no one is proposing a moratorium on
traffic. It is important to keep risks in perspective.

The Department of Conservation often refers to 1080 as "one of the tools in
the toolbox". This may give the impression there are alternatives that can do the
same job, but this is not the case.

Indisputably trapping has a role to play, particularly in bush margins and reserves,
along with a number of other poisons besides 1080. But ground operations
can never be as effective or as cost-effective as aerial operations in large rugged
remote areas.

One commonly used poison is cyanide. It has the advantages of killing humanely
and breaking down quickly in the environment, including in the carcasses of
poisoned animals. But because of this it cannot kill stoats; because stoats are
carnivores, the only way to kill them in large numbers is secondary poisoning,
that is, feeding on poisoned possums and rodents.

Another commonly used poison is brodificoum, but brodificoum has a higher risk
of by-kill than 1080 because it persists in the environment for a long time, and it
is particularly inhumane.

There are other alternative poisons to 1080 under development, but while they
have some advantages over 1080, they cannot replace it. Biological control
options held promise for a time, but research funding has stopped due to lack
of progress, and probably also because most of the options involved genetic

The Prime Minister's Chief Science Adviser Sir Peter Gluckman frequently calls for
policy decisions to be based on evidence. A solid body of evidence supporting
the continued use of 1080 has been built up over the years; the large number of
notes and references at the back of this report are testament to this.

It is my view based on careful analysis of the evidence that not only should the
use of 1080 continue (including in aerial operations) to protect our forests,
but that we should use more of it. And it is not as if much is being used now.
Currently there is more Crown funding given to the Animal Health Board to kill
carriers of bovine TB than the Department of Conservation spends on controlling
possums, rats and stoats over the entire conservation estate.

It is seldom that I come to such a strong conclusion at the end of an
investigation. But the possums, rats and stoats that have invaded our country will
not leave of their own accord. Much of our identity as New Zealanders, along
with the clean green brand with which we market our country to the world, is
based on the ecosystems these pests are bent on destroying. We cannot allow
our forests to die.

Dr Jan Wright
Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment


8.1 No moratorium on 1080

The native plants and animals in New Zealand are unique because they have
evolved in almost total isolation from the rest of the world. This makes them
particularly vulnerable to predators because they have not developed defences
against them. In particular, because there were virtually no native land mammals,
the invasion of small mammals that followed the arrival of Europeans requires
constant vigilance and effort. Possums, rats and stoats are increasingly damaging
our national parks and other conservation land, and possums, rabbits and hares
lower the productivity of our agriculture and forestry.

Traps and bait stations play a crucial role. But it is a limited role. In our great forests
on the conservation estate, possums, rats and stoats breed virtually unhindered,
and ground control methods, no matter how sophisticated, simply cannot cover
large areas of rugged terrain or prevent the devastation of mast years. The only
option for controlling possums, rats and stoats on almost all of the conservation
estate is to drop poison from aircraft. And 1080 is the only poison currently
available for aerial pest control on the mainland that can do this job.

Dropping a poison from the sky will always be contentious and understandably
so, even if a poison were to be developed that was perfectly effective, safe and
humane. In this report, 1080 has been systematically assessed for its effectiveness,
safety and humaneness. While it is not perfect, it scores surprisingly well, due in
large part to the increase in scientific understanding, the establishment of a strong
body of evidence, and the addition of many controls over the years.

Research to develop better poisons (and possibly biocontrol options) should
absolutely continue. Alternatives, whether currently available or on the horizon, can
complement the use of 1080, but cannot replace it. The huge effort, expenditure
and achievements to date in bringing back many species and ecosystems from the
brink would be wasted if the ability to carry out aerial applications of 1080 was

I recommend that:
1. Parliament does not support a moratorium on 1080.

8.2 Simplify regulations

The labyrinth of laws, rules and regulations that govern 1080 and the other poisons
used to control introduced pests creates unnecessary complexity and confusion.
Under the RMA, the use of poisons for controlling pest mammals is treated
differently by different councils. Some councils treat the use of poisons as a
permitted activity with only a few conditions, while other councils treat exactly
the same use as a discretionary activity requiring a resource consent. In one case
the number of aerial 1080 operations that can take place under the consent is
specified, making it very difficult to respond to mast events. Many of the rules also
replicate controls already in place under other legislation.

There is considerable scope to simplify and standardise the management of
these poisons. There is a strong case for the use of 1080 and other poisons to be
permitted activities under the RMA, with local control reserved to those activities
that are not covered by already existing controls under other legislation. One
way to achieve this standardisation and simplification could be with a National
Environmental Standard.

There may also be other opportunities for simplifying various practices associated
with the use of 1080, some required under regulations and some not. For instance,
over 2,500 water samples have been taken for more than 20 years from drinking
water supplies, streams and lakes after aerial 1080 operations. In all this time 1080
residues have never been detected in drinking water supplies, and only found in
vanishingly small and harmless levels in 3 percent of the remaining samples. We do
not need more water samples to tell us that the way 1080 is used poses no real risk
to water.

I recommend that:

2. The Minister for the Environment investigate ways to simplify and
standardise the way 1080 and other poisons for pest mammal control
are managed under the Resource Management Act and other relevant

8.3 The Game Animal Council

The Government has committed to establishing a Game Animal Council to advise
on and manage hunting interests on the conservation estate. The Council will
report to the Minister of Conservation and work with her department.

While greater collaboration between different interest groups on the conservation
estate should be encouraged, the proposal has the potential to conflict with the
Department of Conservation's ability to carry out pest control.

The discussion paper on the Game Animal Council suggested that DOC and the
Council work together to identify priority areas 'where animals need to be actively
controlled for conservation purposes'. Outside these areas the paper suggests the
Council should have responsibility managing game animals.

While the Council would not be tasked with responsibility for managing possums,
rats and stoats, it could under the suggested management structure effectively
halt 1080 operations for these pests if it thought game animals may be at risk. This
would place an unacceptable constraint on DOC's ability to carry out pest control
effectively and efficiently.

I recommend that:

3. The Minister of Conservation establishes the Game Animal Council as
an advisory body that works collaboratively with the Department of
Conservation, but ensures that responsibility for all pest control remains
with the department.

8.4 The Animal Health Board & the Official Information Act

The goal of the Animal Health Board (AHB) is to eliminate bovine TB from New
Zealand. Most of its effort goes into killing possums and other carriers of the
disease. The AHB is a major user of 1080, mostly in ground control operations
along with trapping and other poisons such as cyanide.

The Department of Conservation and regional councils are subject to the Official
Information Act and the Ombudsmen Act, but the AHB is not. Moreover, New
Zealand's principal manufacturer of 1080 baits, Animal Control Products Ltd, is
subject to both Acts.

The AHB receives about $30 million of central government funding and about
$6 million of regional council funding every year. As a recipient of government
funding, it would be consistent with sound public policy to increase the
transparency and accountability of the AHB by making it subject to the Official
Information Act and the Ombudsmen Act.

Currently the Biosecurity Law Reform Bill 256-1 (2010) before Parliament would
see this occur at least in part. The relevant proposed amendment (clause 79) is
not specific to the AHB, but rather is directed to any agency "if they are corporate
bodies, in their role under pest management plans or pathway management

However the question arises as to whether the coverage proposed in the
amendment is as comprehensive as is desirable. If the intent is to ensure the AHB
is fully transparent in a manner consistent with other public agencies, then AHB
should be specifically named in the Ombudsmen Act.

Including the AHB in the Ombudsmen Act would also automatically subject the
AHB to the Official Information Act. The Official Information Act provides for
requests to be made for information and sets time limits for responses. If the AHB
were made subject to the Official Information Act, then an individual or group
would have much greater access to information. For instance, someone concerned
about whether buffer zones were actually adhered to in an aerial 1080 drop might
request a copy of a map of the actual flight tracks recorded on the GPS system in
the helicopter.

I recommend that:

4. The Minister of Justice introduces an amendment to the Ombudsmen
Act 1975 to add the Animal Health Board to Part 2 of Schedule 1 of
the Act, and thereby make the Animal Health Board also subject to the
Official Information Act 1982.

Chapter 8 - Conclusions and recommendations

8.5 Economic value from pests without undermining

During this investigation the economic potential of the possum fur industry has
been raised. Some have argued that large scale possum fur harvesting would be
an effective pest control method. Others have suggested that reducing possum
numbers could actually make things worse, by leading to higher populations of
rodents because there would be more food for them, and then stoats would
multiply because there would be more rodents for them to eat.

While "a good possum is a dead possum", commercial fur harvesting is unlikely to
benefit the conservation estate. Unless possum fur becomes much more valuable
than it is now, commercial harvesters would probably stop catching possums long
before their numbers have been reduced to levels that are low enough to benefit
native animals and plants. Nevertheless there is every reason to encourage possum
fur harvesting on the conservation estate, provided it does no damage.

Currently agreements between pest control agencies and fur harvesters appear
to be ad hoc. Where possums are being controlled entirely by ground methods
commercial trappers are sometimes allowed in to have "first crack". But there
could be considerable potential in large areas of back country where there is no
pest control at all taking place.

It is not cost-effective to control pests using ground operations in large areas of
back country. However, well-organised large scale fur harvesting, like the wild
venison hunting of the seventies, may be economically viable.

A working group involving the Department of Conservation, the Animal Health
Board, regional councils, and industry representatives has been established to
consider developing policies and procedures for testing the economic potential of
fur harvesting, but it is not at all clear that it is a priority.

I recommend that:

5. The Minister of Conservation asks the Department of Conservation
to prioritise the development of national policy and operational
procedures on possum fur harvesting.

8.6 Department of Conservation: improve transparency

In the course of this investigation it has become clear that the quality of
communication about 1080 operations and the relationships between pest control
agencies and communities varies across agencies and regions.

A key communication tool is the Department of Conservation website. Currently
it contains four-monthly updates on pest control operations and conservancy
plans for pest control, including maps. The provision of such information makes
an extremely valuable contribution and should be encouraged. However, the
information given in conservancy plans is not consistent; for example, only some
conservancies state the size of the area that is to be treated. And no conservancies
provide information on why a particular operation is being carried out, such as the
need to knock down rodents to protect kokako nestlings.

Providing relevant information on 1080 operations on the website in a consistent,
readily accessible format is essential.

Reports on completed operations should also contain the results to demonstrate
what worked, what did not work and why. Open communication of success and
failures is critical for building good relationships between pest control agencies and
the public.

I recommend that:

6. The Minister of Conservation improve information about pest control
on the conservation estate by providing consistent and accessible
information on the Department of Conservation website, including the
purposes and results of different pest control operations.