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Dissent at Iris Burn 1080 drop

The aerial 1080 pest control operation in the Iris Burn Valley was completed on Monday, the third of 22 confirmed South Island drops to be carried out.

The Department of Conservation applied poison-laced cereal baits over 11,200 hectares of the valley just over a week after it was covered with non-toxic pre-feed bait.

The 1080 operation over the Waitutu was also completed at the weekend, covering 30,000 hectares from the south coast north to the Princess Mountains and between Big River and the Wairaurahiri River.

Te Anau hunting contractor Dave Wilson and Manapouri’s Bruce Parsons vocally protested the Iris Burn drop from the edge of the supply site, where police and DOC staff were standing by.

Ali Wilson and Faye Parsons were also protesting, parked on the Te Anau-Manapouri Highway at the turnoff to the loading site.

“We’re not here to break laws, but we’re here to voice our strong opinion that we’re against this indiscriminate cruelty,” Mr Wilson said.

Mr Wilson said the poisoning could all be done by ground, but there was a dearth of skilled ground operators in the current department.

“If you look around here, the only skill seems to be leaning on a car with their hands in their pockets,” Mr Wilson said.

The SPCA was dead against the use of 1080, which killed everything that ingested it including the birds it sought to protect, and was often a slow and agonising death, Mr Wilson said.

“Is it ethical? No. Is it humane? No,” he said. “It’s cheap and it’s quick to poison our country.”

DOC science adviser James Reardon said there was simply no viable alternative, and he was happy to wear the controversy.

“From a moral and ethical standpoint, I absolutely acknowledge it’s not humane,” he said. “But I have a professional responsibility to prevent extinctions.”

The sites targeted in the Battle for our Birds poisoning operation amounted to less than 10 percent of the National Park, Mr Reardon said.

The focus was on those places where the last remnants of the most critically endangered species were.

Combating the pest plague with trap lines would require a trap every 50 metres, and they would likely need resetting daily, Mr Reardon said.

“Plus it’s mostly forest on slopes steeper than 60 degrees.”

DOC’s historical policy of not officially responding to protesters had allowed hearsay and misinformation to spread unabated, Mr Reardon said.

DOC has in the past put a moratorium on certain methods of trapping, such as glueboards, but a 2011 report from the Parliamentary commissioner for the Environment concludes that there should be no such moratorium placed on the use of aerial 1080.

“High influxes of rats are impossible to keep at bay with traps,” the report says. “Ground control methods, no matter how sophisticated, simply cannot cover large areas of rugged terrain or prevent the devastation of mast years.”

“1080 is the only poison currently available for aerial pest control on the mainland that can do this job.”

Warning signs advising the public about the dangers of the pesticide are in place at the main entrance points to the Kepler Track and boundary of the operation area.

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