Rescue helicopter used in 1080 aerial drop prompts threats

A helicopter used by Otago Rescue Helicopter Trust has been used for aerial 1080 drops in Fiordland.
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A helicopter used by Otago Rescue Helicopter Trust has been used for aerial 1080 drops in Fiordland.

The Otago Rescue Helicopter Trust says it has received threats after anti-1080 protesters raised concerns about a rescue helicopter being used to drop 1080 poison. 

A helicopter used by the trust has been used for aerial drops of 1080 in Fiordland. 

Trust manager Ken Franklin said the trust had two dedicated rescue helicopters which were used only for rescue missions. 

Two back-up helicopters owned by Helicopter Otago, which the trust used when its main two were busy, were being used to drop 1080. 

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Franklin said he did not share the protesters' concerns about 1080 contamination. 

"There are strict independently-audited protocols and standards that commercial operators have to comply with. The helicopters are used to pick up people with communicable diseases like meningitis and we have to make sure that the next person picked up is protected and safe from contamination." 

Anti-1080 activists had posted photos of the red Helicopter Otago chopper online, prompting outrage, he said.

"I received threatening responses saying it was going on Facebook and I would have thousands of people dealing to me basically.

"They are undermining a service dedicated to protecting the community. It's not good," he said. 

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Conservation Minister Maggie Barry condemned the actions of some 1080 protesters. 

She visited the West Coast on Friday and spoke to Department of Conservation staff who had been the alleged victims of threats and vandalism. 

"On my visit to the Westport office I talked to the DOC staff who had been subjected to nasty threats, asked them to stay strong and offered them my full support as their Minister," she said. 

She said 1080 was the most effective tool available for predator control work and urged protesters to "come up to speed with the proven science" behind it. 

"We won't back down in the face of bullying or be stopped from doing what is necessary to protect vulnerable native species. I believe the violent and aggressive threats of some anti-1080 protesters targeted at DOC staff and their families are deplorable," she said. 

"I've given DOC Director-General Lou Sanson my total backing to put measures in place to ensure staff, contractors and their families are kept safe.

"DOC also has the full support of the NZ police and any incident of threatening or abusive behaviour will not be tolerated and will be reported immediately."

 - Stuff

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