Image for Maori Trusts Allow 1080 Poison to be Dropped Directly into Water




Information provided by the Department of Conservation and TBFree states that over 470,000 hectares of New Zealand forests are planned to be aerially spread with 1080 poison in the year to June 2016. This quantum excludes most of DoC’s Battle for the Birds program, and council operations.

For aerial operations to be undertaken, and as part of resource consent conditions, local Maori must be consulted and approval obtained for the operation to proceed. In the consultation process the contractor, agency (DoC, TBFree, OSPRI) or council is required to disclose the impacts and possible negative effects that may occur as a result of the aerial operations. However, information supplied by the Department of Conservation of what Maori are provided with by the agency as part of their consultation process, shows that Maori are being misled, and being provided with inaccurate, and biased information.

The flight charts provided by Waikato Regional Council and the Department of Conservation for the recent aerial 1080 poison drops across 12,000 hectares of Mt Pirongia - (near Hamilton) and 22,000 hectares across the Coromandel Peninsula - both show that 1080 poison bait was dropped directly into all streams within the operational boundaries. Hundreds of flowing watercourses were included.

The flight chart provided by Auckland Council for the recent Hunua Forest Park aerial operation also shows that poison baits were dropped directly into all streams feeding the four Auckland water-supply dams -

Local Maori were consulted for the Hunua aerial operation and Iwi spokesperson Tipa Compain stated in a news report - “If I was to do a scale of one to ten and ten was the worst in terms of rat population and possum population, we are down to a two’ … The local iwi say they agreed to the operation as an immediate means to eradicate and control the pests causing devastation to the forest.”

When justifying the aerial poisoning operation, Auckland Council’s Regional Strategy and Policy Committee Chairman George Wood stated in a news report that “… a little over a year ago we had a huge problem: the Hunuas were teeming with rats and possums …“.

However, the Hunua Kokako Recovery Project’s (Auckland Council initiative) Facebook page stated in December 2014 that it had a rat problem, but as for possums it says “… The good news is that recent possum monitoring didn’t detect any possums within the management area.”

The Kokako Recovery group also states that it has realized an increase in the kokako population from 25 pairs in 2010 to 55 pairs in 2014 (without aerial poisoning).

Waikato Regional Council issues resource consents that permit the aerial discharge of 1080 poison bait to “Land and Water” across the Waikato Region. When the poison bait is aerially spread across forests it is also dropped directly into the streams flowing within the forests. Fresh water crayfish and other aquatic wildlife consume and uptake the poison. Trout, eels, kiwi and other native birds are known to eat freshwater crayfish and other aquatic life as part of their diet.

Anecdotal reports of aquatic life dying following poisoning operations is not uncommon. After the January 2016 aerial 1080 drop near Turangi (the second in the area in twelve months), locals reported numerous cases of dead trout found in streams and around the shoreline of Lake Taupo itself. The “Toxic Flightlines Map” for the area shows that 1080 poison bait was dropped directly into streams feeding the famous trout fishing rivers, Tauranga-Taupo, Waimarino, and Wiaotaka. The Department of Conservation issued a statement saying the dead fish were normal for the time of year. However, Rhys Barrier (Nelson/Marlborough manager) said “rainbows are more likely than browns to actually eat baits, so if it ever happens again get the locals to grab a couple of fish and freeze them for analysis.  Fish do die in hot periods or after spawning, but this is pretty rare to observe in my experience.”

In 2014 the Department of Conservation issued a news alert to trout fishermen warning them not to eat trout after aerial operations - Research was undertaken by the - Cawthron Institute, which was reported to be investigating the possible impact on fishermen that eat trout that have consumed poisoned mice - However, in the experiment trout were not fed poisoned mice. The Institute did not investigate the most likely pathways for trout to be poisoned, either. Instead they were force-fed doses of 1080 poison.

The research raised more questions than it answered. It demonstrated how persistent 1080 poison is in trout flesh when the researchers claimed that the project was “unsuccessful” (their conclusion) due to the “considerable amount remaining in the flesh at the end of the experiment”- which meant that neither the half-life nor the rate of elimination in fish could be measured. The study shows how dangerous 1080 poison is - because it behaves unpredictably and may be far more persistent than previously claimed. These facts conflicted with what the Minister of Conservation Maggie Barry stated the Cawthron research showed, during Parliamentary questioning -

Fiona McQueen - Professor of Rheumatology at the University of Auckland and a consultant rheumatologist at the Southern District Health Board – recently stated succinctly in an opinion piece - that “... ecosystems are complex and simple knock-down of rats may have far-reaching effects. … There are many other concerns about 1080; its persistence when dropped into cold environments, its proven toxicity to aquatic life and its mutagenicity in mammals.”

When the Environmental Risk Management Authority (now call the Environmental Protection Authority) conducted its review on 1080 poison in 2007, it cited an experiment (one of very few studies available on the effects of 1080 on fish) - Appendix C page 360 ) on rainbow trout exposed to 54mg/l 1080, in which half of the fish were dead after 96 hours and the survivors had “sub-lethal effects”. ERMA went on to say … “In the absence of high quality data, the Agency has classified 1080 as 9.1A highly toxic to the aquatic environment due to the toxicity to aquatic plants at

<1 mg/L.” Further research on the impact of 1080 poison on aquatic life has been undertaken and is often referenced by authorities and agencies. However, significant gaps have also been identified in this research -

Pure 1080 poison is imported and manufactured into bait by Animal Control Products (ACP), which is owned by the New Zealand Government. The manufacturer’s warning label - states “Take measures to minimize the chance of baits accidentally entering any body of water” … “Harmful to aquatic organisms” … “1080 wastes are ecotoxic”… “Repeated oral exposure may cause reproductive or developmental damage” … “Where practicable, the exposed bodies of all poisoned animals should be collected and destroyed by complete burning or deep burial at a landfill approved for hazardous wastes. Dehydrated carcasses may remain dangerous to dogs or cats for an indefinite period. A single mouse poisoned by 1080 may contain enough poison to kill an adult dog.”

Poisoned deer, pig, possum and rat carcasses are left in the forests to decompose after the aerial poison drops. No attempt is made to retrieve them. They often die in or near streams and can contaminate water supplies as they decompose.  E Coli levels in streams can spike for the months following the aerial discharge of the poison. Eels and other aquatic life consume the poisoned carcasses, as do other terrestrial wildlife. 1080 causes secondary poisoning and is also a broad-spectrum insecticide. It has no antidote, and causes birth defects, reproductive abnormalities and damage to organs including the heart and brain -

In the 2015 aerial poisoning operation on the Coromandel Peninsula many locals were drawing water from streams without knowing that 1080 poison bait had been aerially dropped into them the same day and a few hundred metres upstream. The Department of Conservation gave the communities notice by printing in fliers and newspapers that the aerial drop would occur at some stage within a three month window.

Households immediately adjacent to operational boundaries are given 24 hours’ notice of when a poison drop will take place. Households outside of the immediate boundaries, and drawing water downstream, are not provided with the same notification, or that they are entitled to an alternative water supply, if they request it, and if they live within three kilometres of the operational boundary (Condition 25 – MoH consent). Dairy farmer Bevan Fox says he was offered no alternative water supply for his cows or family after poison bait was dropped directly into the stream he draws water from - “we had to suck it and see, basically” - he stated on camera -

So why do Maori trust boards approve the aerial poison drops when water is considered so precious? Are they being misinformed by the agencies distributing the poison? If so, are Maori being treated with disdain and disrespect when being consulted? I say yes, without hesitation - Transparency and accurate consultation is lacking in the 1080 poison industry.

As a result of the inadequate community notifications when aerial drops are undertaken, in February 2016 a recommendation was presented to Waikato Regional Council for approval. The recommendation would require the Council, and the other agencies, to be more transparent and candid, and declare in writing in all printed consultation documents and public notices that – “As a result of aerial operations 1080 poison bait will be dropped directly into waterways within the operational area, and households within 3km of the drop boundaries are entitled to mitigation if they request it“. The motion was lost – 4 votes to 7. Councillors White, Stark, Hennebry and Graf voted for the recommendation. (Crs Bramley, Kneebone, and Husband were absent).

The Department of Conservation has just released another notification it intends to drop more 1080 poison across New Zealand’s forests and streams - . The operations are often justified by an event called Beech Masting (when beech trees drop seeds), meaning more food for rats. However, it is also a well-documented fact that 1080 poison drops cause rat populations to rapidly increase following application - In other words 1080 drops cause rat plagues. It’s not just rat populations that will increase in the future, we can expect reported beech mast events to also increase, as the use of 1080 becomes more widespread.

The writing is clearly on the wall that aerially distributed 1080 poison is here to stay. Waikato Regional Council is currently processing a three-way joint application submitted by the Department of Conservation, TBFree, and Waikato Regional Council to continue spreading the pesticide across forests and streams for another 35 years. The applicants have clearly indicated they want the consent granted without public notification. 

*Disclaimer: All commentary is my own opinion, and not necessarily the opinion of Waikato Regional Council.