The biggest ever single 1080 operation in Wairarapa's Aorangi Forest Park is about to go ahead thanks to the collaboration of groups that have traditionally been at loggerheads.
TB Free New Zealand is carrying out the 30,000ha operation in south eastern Wairarapa and even hunters are on board, which is a mark of how far the 1080 debate has progressed.
The hunting fraternity has traditionally been vehemently anti-1080.
Project Aorangi poison drop targets possums and rats with toxic bait coated with a deer repellent substance to limit deer by-kill, which is why many of the region's hunters support the drop.
The forest park is a popular red deer hunting ground and this concession to deerstalkers has been a key compromise that has helped this operation go ahead.
The landowners surrounding the park also support the operation and they have achieved some concessions of their own.
The drop will go ahead in late June-early July depending on weather, which is a couple of months earlier than ideal for maximum effect on pests in order to let the farmers set their stock out for winter without risk of consuming the poison.
Landowner and Aorangi Recreational Hunters spokesman Paul Cutfield says this project is a demonstration of what hunters can do by collaborating with these other groups to protect their herd.
"What we have got is an outstanding result for hunters and for ecological improvement."
Project Aorangi is a 10-year programme designed to inflict a triple hit on pests in the forest.
It is being funded primarily by TB New Zealand which targets possum in its programme to eradicate tuberculosis in cattle herds.
This year's operation will cost about $750,000 and is designed to boost conservation values.
Aorangi Restoration Trust's Clive Paton says the project has huge implications for biodiversity conservation in the area for the next 10 years and lets them progress their goals more quickly.
"It will be huge. Because it is happening more regularly we will get a much better kill of ferrets, stoats, cats and rats and their numbers won't build up quite as high as they are now. The place is totally dominated by those animals and really makes it impossible for the birdlife, including the penguins," Paton says.
The initiative has only evolved because all the agencies have combined their efforts toward similar objectives, Paton says.
Hunters must get credit for going along with the plan which has traditionally polarised them, he says.
Paton says all the agencies involved recognise that large-scale poisoning is an environmental concern but the best option available to them right now and without it more native species would become extinct in the area.
In the period between drops scientific monitoring will continue to assess the impact of the operation on pest and bird numbers. Bioworks is the principal contractor for Project Aorangi.
- Wairarapa News
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