1080 video raises ire

CATTLE KILLED: Chris Barker with one of two cattle that died following a 1080 drop near his King Country farm.
CATTLE KILLED: Chris Barker with one of two cattle that died following a 1080 drop near his King Country farm.

A Waikato regional councillor has been called in to his bosses' office to explain himself over a YouTube video he posted that criticises his own council's 1080 poison scheme.

Thames-Coromandel councillor Clyde Graf filmed farmer Chris Barker, who had two cattle from his herd die after a 1080 drop near his King Country farm.

In the video, Barker said the Waikato Regional Council had been "dictatorial" in the past about dropping the poison.

When he spoke to the Waikato Times, Barker stressed he did not blame the council for the deaths, but would like a closer spotlight trained on the 1080 industry.

The two dead cattle were among 38 that broke through a wire gate and crossed a river into privately owned and Department of Conservation bushland, which had just been subject to an aerial 1080 drop.

The 1080 operation was being carried out under contract by the council's biosecurity group, Eco FX.

The council launched a formal investigation into the incident on Barker's property. The investigation was to include talks with Graf, council chairwoman Paula Southgate said.

"I felt it was important to highlight to him some areas to consider around code of conduct and conflicts of interest," Southgate said.

It is the second time in two months Southgate has asked a councillor to explain himself. Last month Peter Buckley was called to her office after he failed to declare a local government consultancy business he had established on the council's register of interests.

Graf denied there was any potential clash with his role on the council.

"I strongly object to the suggestion I have a conflict of interest. It's not a conflict. I don't make money out of documenting these drops, I am merely reporting the results."

Graf and a brother were sentenced in February 1986 to 10 years jail for bank robberies in Brisbane, Australia. Steve Graf, another brother, was not involved in the crime.

Clyde Graf has told media he was "young and foolish" when he committed those robberies.

Clyde and Steve Graf have been making anti-1080 videos for several years.

Clyde said Barker first made contact with him about a poisoned deer that died on his land after the May 17 1080 drop that bordered his property.

"I was later informed that two of 38 cattle that had accessed the 1080 drop zone, died two days after exposure. The question was presented by the farmer, what is going to happen to the other 36 animals, what is their fate?

"The farmer wanted to document what had happened on his property, and that's what we do: present the side of the story that the public are being sheltered from."

An autopsy is yet to show whether the cattle died from 1080 poisoning.

Waitomo Mayor Brian Hanna said Graf's video presented a one-sided argument. "Until proven this is just an allegation of 1080 poisoning."

Hanna said 95 per cent of farmers in the area had been "very supportive" of 1080. "There's a play on a lot of emotion and scaremongering by the likes of Cr Graf, so I'm speaking up on behalf of our district."

Southgate confirmed the regional council was approached for comment in Graf's video, but felt it would be inappropriate to get involved when an investigation was under way.

"We were trying not to compromise an independent investigation."

Southgate said Graf had never made a secret of his stance against 1080.

"I have seen similar clips by him and he's usually quite forward in sending information."

Southgate said potential alternatives to 1080 were being looked into, with discussions happening in August.

"There's the possibility of a trial area where 1080 might not be used. It is still very much in the conversation stage, but it has been diaried."

She said small-scale trials using other methods like trapping had been carried out, but she was yet to see the outcome.

Barker said he would pay for trapping himself if need be.

"This last incident has really hardened me and I would like to look at possum trapping."

Barker said he had been told 1080 would pass through the systems of the other 36 cattle, but "we don't know if it's done internal damage".

Southgate said she would attend a meeting today with Graf and other councillors to discuss the "appropriate processes" for pursuing personal interests.

Waikato Times