Image for Arrest in Kiwi 1080 Baby Food Scare Clears Public

The New Zealand government aerially drops 1080 poison each year over large areas of public lands and farmland either to kill possums said to spread bovine tuberculosis or rats said to prey on native birds. Growing public opposition to the poison policy came to a head when an anonymous threat was made to contaminate infant baby food with raw 1080 poison. An envelope containing the raw 1080 was sent to dairy company Fonterra.In a knee jerk reaction, the finger of suspicion fell on the anti-1080 public and in particular hunters.

Prime Minister John Key went on television condemning the economic sabotage and the police swung into action, interviewing over 2500 individuals who were known to be opposed to the destructive poison.

The 1080 baby food scare came to a conclusion October 13 with the arrest of a 60 year old Auckland businessman charged with “blackmail.” He was alleged “to have sought financial gain.”  The accused had been involved with a range of companies including one that dealt in pest control, said a newspaper report.

Reaction to the arrest from the public opposing government 1080 drops was of no surprise. Many of the thousands interviewed had told police the culprit was very probably someone within the industry because of the use of “raw” 1080.

Laurie Collins convenor of the “Sporting Hunters Outdoor Trust”, (SHOT) said police were to be complimented on their persistence and success. But he felt government had deliberately used the case as a vehicle to smear the thousands of New Zealanders opposed to government’s policy of dowsing public lands with an ecosystem poison.

“As far as I’m aware much effort went into targeting and blaming the public opposed to poisons,” he said. “At least the outcome exonerates the public.”

He said many law abiding citizens interviewed by police pointed out that since the 1080 used in the threat was raw powder only a person within the industry could have accessed the 1080 used.

Chairman of the “Ban 1080” Party, Bill Wallace from Golden Bay, welcomed the news of the arrest. But 1080 was still being spread with the ecosystem suffering as a consequence.

“The reality is there’s a couple of eco-terrorist groups, both publicly funded, spreading 1080 over an area the size of Taranaki each year.”

He said during drops, tracks were not always closed, consents were for 10 years and the 1080 scene was a potential recipe for disaster as well as giving New Zealand a “growing bad, dirty image.”

“1080 is cruel, it’s not working and birds are suffering,” he added.

Co-chairman of the Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations of NZ (CORANZ) Bill Benfield of the Wairarapa, said because pure 1080 was used, it almost certainly was an “inside job.”

“As it turned out, it was an inside job, i.e. someone within the poison pest control business.”

Bill Benfield who has written two conservation-based books exposing the 1080 fraud, was interviewed by National Radio at the time the blackmail threat was made to Fonterra. His view of an “inside job” was broadcast in the 7 a.m news bulletin. The same day it was quickly removed and absent in subsequent bulletins.

“That makes you wonder at government covering its backside by controlling national radio,” he added.

Tony Orman author of hunting and fishing books and conservationist, said when interviewed by police, he told the officer the offender could have come from the areas of angry hunters, a grieving pet owner who had lost a dog to 1080, the pro-1080 lobby trying to “frame” the anti-1080 public or economic sabotage by another country.

“I told the police officer because it was in raw powder form, it was very likely someone close to or inside, government’s poisoning programme,” he said.

So it has allegedly been proved.

He said there was another angle to the “health scare” surrounding the baby infant food blackmail threat.

‘We’ve had from time to time, vociferous pro-1080 zealots saying 1080 is harmless, akin to a cup of tea or salt and vinegar chips. Surely the credibility of such fanatics is in tatters?”

Wanaka’s Carol Sawyer who has publicly opposed a DOC 1080 drop near Lake Wanaka said “financial gain seemed the motive.”

“Reports are that allegedly a businessman involved in pest control did it, as he had an alternative poison to promote”, she said.

West Coast dairy farmer Mary Molloy of the lobby group Farmers Against 1080, said she was pleased an arrest had be made.

But it did not allay her deep concerns and opposition to 1080.

“1080 is a dangerous poison. FATE wouldn’t support any action to put 1080 into the food chain.”

In essence that was what the government through DOC and TbFreeNZ was doing.

Laurie Collins of SHOT said in the light of the recent arrest of the alleged offender, it was time New Zealand political parties stated their policies on 1080.

“Only NZ First has had the guts to stand up on behalf of the increasing numbers of Kiwis opposed to the destruction 1080 causes the ecosystem. You can’t run expenditure of vast sums of public money on an imagined, supposed pest threat,” he said.

The reality was that 1080 was disrupting the ecosystem food chain and stimulating massive upsurges in rat numbers and blindly causing ecological problems.

“1080 is an ecosystem poison killing everything. If anyone doesn’t understand this, read Bill Benfield’s two well researched and documented excellent books,” he said. “All politicians and DOC should read them.”

Footnote. Bill Benfield’s two books are available through Tross Publishing, Wellington, New Zealand.

• David Obendorf in Comments: The amounts of Sodium monofluoroacetate [Compound 1080] used annually in New Zealand is truly staggering. We thought Tasmania had a 1080- dependency problem when we were using 50 kgm of pure 1080 annually to kill native marsupials that competed with livestock or damaged regeneration forests. New Zealand currently uses between 2.5 and 5 tonnes a year [2,500-5,000 kgm] at 11 times the concentration used in Tasmanian carrot baits. New Zealand made its 1080 baits contain 1.5 gm per kilogram of cereal pellets.  New Zealand broadcasts these baits aerially over vast areas of forested land ar rates between 2 and 5 kgm of 1080 baits per hectare. In the last financial year, on their own data, the Department of Conservation (DoC) and the Ministry for Primary Industry (MPI) aerially baited 750,000 hectares; that’s 7,500 sq kilometres of New Zealand’s forests.

• Carol Sawyer in Comments: … There were always really strange aspects: 1) The letters contained pure 1080 poison. Pure 1080 poison comes into the country in its breathtakingly lethal, pure form, to a government-owned factory in Whanganui ( Animal Control Products ) where it is dyed green and made into baits mixed with cereal, sugar and cinnamon. Only someone with access to that factory could have obtained the pure poison, or with access to the factory in Alabama from whence NZ imports 90% of the world’s supply of pure 1080 poison. 2) The two blackmail letters were sent to the dairy giant, Fonterra , and to the Federated Farmers Assn. If any anti-1080 activist were so extraordinarily misguided as to make such a threat, he or she would be ten times more likely to send letters to the actual poisoners. That is, to the Dept of Conservation, TBfree, or the Government. 3) Babies were the target of the threat. Anti-1080 activists seem in the main to be people who loathe animal cruelty, and I include hunters in this. The hunters are the ones who have mostly seen the suffering in the forest - deer taking more than two days to die after a drop; contorted corpses, bleeding from every orifice. People who care about their fellow creatures are rather unlikely to threaten human babies …