DOC: 1080 drop last chance to save mohua

The Department of Conservation has confirmed it will dump 1080 on almost 7000 hectares of Waikaia Forest in Northern Southland because of high rat counts.

An aerial drop of 1080 is the only way to ensure the survival of the endangered mohua (yellowhead) and other threatened species during a heavy beech mast, DOC says.

Catlins services ranger Cheryl Pullar said pest control might be the last chance for Waikaia mohua, which was thought to be lost during the beech mast in 2000.

Environment Southland had granted DOC consent for the drop and it would go ahead in August or September, she said.

However, opponents of the operation say the rat count is misleading and are refusing to give up the fight to stop the aerial drop.

Piano Flat crib owner and anti-1080 campaigner Morris Smith said there was no real knowledge of what the rat numbers had been over the years because there were no counts up until April this year.

"They are dropping this insidious poison on this part of the world using pure speculation," he said.

At a meeting two weeks ago, Smith said he was relieved the drop would be determined by rat numbers but yesterday said he always believed DOC was going to go ahead with the drop regardless.

"They are bullied by a hierarchy in Wellington who wouldn't know how to spell Waikaia let alone know where it is."

Smith would continue to circulate his petition for a total 1080 ban in the Waikaia Valley before sending it to Conservation Minister Nick Smith.

DOC scientist Graeme Elliott said that if pest control was not carried out in the Waikaia Forest, mohua would disappear from the area forever. "This may be the last opportunity to protect them and recover this population," Elliott said.

Mohua were once common in Southland but now lived only in fragmented populations.

"They've already gone from patches of bush around Southland and this year's beech mast will finish them off in Waikaia if we don't control the rats, mice and stoats," he said.

The 1080 is biodegradable and disperses quickly in water to nontoxic levels. The pellets will contain deer repellent to control bykill.

The Southland Times