Gull cull upsets residents

A southern black backed gull
A southern black backed gull

A Nelson resident is surprised the city council is paying for native birds to be killed in one spot while at Brook Sanctuary money is being spent to save other native species.

Dr Iain Wilson and his wife were walking in Grampian Reserve at 9.30am one morning last week when they heard gunshots and saw men in high-vis gear shooting karoro, the black-backed gulls.

"I looked up and saw where the shooters had been shooting the black-backed gull and I yelled out. Then I called the police and I also called the council. The police rang back an hour later and said they were surprised themselves, but it was a lawful activity because the black-backed gulls are not protected in that situation and the council regards them as pest," Dr Wilson said.

The council considered the birds a nuisance that "flock to the landfill in their hundreds and create a public health issue scavenging rubbish and carrying diseases like salmonella and campylobacter".

"I find it bizarre that the council is spending millions of dollars of ratepayers' money on fencing the Brook bird sanctuary when literally on the other side of the hill council workers are firing shotguns into native black gulls ," Mr Wilson said.

"With the regular dumping of fish waste at this site the council has created a natural shooting gallery in a residential area. A resident who approached me on the track said he was sick of the shooting, which frightened his daughter."

Nelson City Council's Angela Ricker said birds at the landfill were managed in a number of ways including by making sure only the smallest area possible in the landfill was exposed and any open area was covered with sawdust at the end of each day. Contractors used a short-range shotgun to create loud noise to scare the gulls away. The gulls were culled at an approximate rate of one bird a fortnight.

"Fish or food scraps are discouraged at the dump as much as possible. When approached to dispose of this type of material, arrangements are made to ensure the material is deposited and covered as quickly as possible. This helps to avoid foul odours as well as seagulls," she said.

"This programme has been in place since the York Valley Landfill opened in 1987. Programmes to manage seagull nuisance are common practice at landfills around New Zealand."

Mr Wilson said he was told by the council about shooting into the air to scare the birds, but what he saw was something different.

"They looked to be shooting into the gulls to me and there looked to be dead gulls in the pine trees adjacent to the tip. The noise that was coming out of the gulls was consistent with being impacted with projectiles," he said.

He was told by the council that residents had complained about the birds causing havoc at their properties.

Forest and Bird's Karen Baird said while there were times when native species needed to be culled if they threatened another species, landfills should be managed appropriately so they did not attract the birds rather than killing them because they were a "nuisance".