By Lou Sanson, Director General
This spring the Department of Conservation is defending large areas of native forest and wildlife from rats, stoats and possums.
‘Do nothing’ is not an option while these predators threaten the survival of our vulnerable birds and bats. It’s literally a ‘Battle for our Birds’.
So far we have carried out more than a third of our planned pest control over 820,000 hectares using aerial 1080 and 70,000 hectares largely by traps alone. Several long-term study sites show the cumulative benefits of regular, carefully-timed, 1080 treatment. Our monitoring shows that kiwi, kākā, kea and whio, among others, have better breeding success and produce more young after aerial 1080 pest control.
New Zealand’s independent environmental watchdog, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, has backed the use of 1080 for pest control. In her 2011 report she concluded:
‘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’.
Concerns about contamination of waterways have also proven unfounded. Landcare Research has collected results of over 2000 water samples and there is no evidence drinking water has ever been contaminated and is highly improbable.
Of course DOC is not alone in its use of biodegradable 1080. OSPRI works to reduce the potential impact of bovine tuberculosis on New Zealand exports by reducing possum numbers which carry the disease. The combined DOC and OSPRI pest control operations over 1.2 million hectares this year will have great biodiversity benefits.
I respect that not everyone supports the use of 1080. New Zealanders have the right to lawfully express their views and protest. But sadly, there is a small number of vocal anti-1080 protestors who have taken their beliefs a step too far. In recent weeks there have been threats of violence to my staff and contractors on social media and staff have been subject to personal abuse. There has been vandalism of DOC equipment and signs and attempts to interfere with pest control operations. These incidents have been reported to the Police. It’s deplorable that my staff are being subject to abuse and threats for doing their jobs to protect our precious wildlife and forests.
But while this is disappointing behaviour from a few, there are many other New Zealanders helping to protect our iconic native species. I thank you for your efforts and support for my staff.