Minister announces 1080 drops across the country
Poison will be dropped on more than 720,000 hectares of forest across New Zealand this year to try to prevent a "catastrophic explosion" of rats and stoats.
Conservation Minister Maggie Barry announced this year's Battle for our Birds programme at Bob's Cove near Queenstown on Thursday.
A heavy seed-fall was anticipated this year due to unusually warm weather and it was hoped the 1080 drops in 19 sites across the country would provide protection for native birds including kea, mohua, rock wren and whio (blue ducks).
"Doing nothing to prevent these vermin from decimating native birdlife is not an option," Barry said.
"The Government has committed . . . to ensuring we safeguard our natural heritage."
The first drop was expected as early as next week in Kahurangi National Park and would continue throughout winter.
Other major drops were set for Fiordland and the Queenstown-Lakes area.
All drops were expected to be completed by December.
Following the 2014 programme, survival rates and reproduction improved across several bird species and there were "ongoing benefits", Barry said.
"If we didn't use 1080 to knock down predator populations many precious taonga native species would be extinct by now. It really is that simple. We will not back away from using 1080 at this stage," she said.
Department of Conservation (DOC) scientist Dr Graeme Elliott said site drop dates would be determined in line with pest population growth.
"We know there's been a big beech fall, which usually leads to a rat and stoat plague."
Elliott said there would be opposition to the programme.
"Some people are claiming that we are killing a lot of the forests' birds and that's wrong.
"We've done a hell of a lot of work on this . . . and we kill fewer birds than the rats do.
"They [1080 opponents] have got to get with it," he said.
Ban 1080 Party leader Bill Wallace said the programme should not go ahead and DOC "can't see past 1080".
Mass poisoning of whole areas was more detrimental to native birds, he said.
"Whatever DOC tell us . . . we think 'oh they're the good guys'."