Election soapbox: 1080

PALOMA MIGONE - READERS' REPORTER
Last updated 05:00 16/11/2011
Fairfax Media

Wellington's Rob Howey asks the parties for their policies on 1080.

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As part of Stuff's Election Soapbox series readers become the reporter and quiz the politicians with the help of Readers' Reporter Paloma Migone. Today Wellington's Rob Howey asks the parties for their policies on 1080.

Question: When are you going to stop "poisoning" our bush with 1080?

Wellington Rob Howey wants the next government to stop "poisoning" New Zealand's bushes with 1080.

An avid hunter, the 43-year-old says the pesticide is killing deer.

"I enjoy getting out in the bush and hunting. 1080 is not good for the environment," he said.

The pesticide is used by the Department of Conservation (DOC) to control possums, rats and stoats.

It does kill deer, though a deer repellent can be added to the bait. Since its use, 19 species of native birds and 13 species of introduced birds have been found dead after aerial drops.

But the majority of the deaths were associated with four operations 35 years ago that used poor-quality baits.

Both the Maori and United Future parties have opposed the use of 1080, but in a report by Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Jan Wright, it said the pesticide was safe and necessary to protect native birds.

"While I respect the sincerity of those who oppose the use of 1080, without it our ability to protect many of our native plants and animals would be lost," Wright said.

After the report, Wright suffered personal attacks, including someone offering to stir poison in her coffee.

It turned ugly in Waikato, where the local Conservation Board chairman, Arthur Hinds, who supports the drop of 1080, was "brutally assaulted" in July while attending a public meeting.

WHAT THE PARTIES SAY

United Future leader Peter Dunne said the "ultimate objective" was to get rid of 1080, but he admitted it could not happen overnight.

"We don't think it's worked effectively as a pest control. In fact, the problem is bigger now than it was 50 years ago when 1080 started being used."

Dunne said there needed to be a commitment to phase 1080 out, and establish pilot programmes in South Westland and the East Cape.

Wright's report should also be subject to peer review, he said.

"It comes out with the conclusion that we should use more 1080, rather than less of it because it hasn't really focused on the alternatives."

In the report, Wright said 1080 was cost-effective and safe, and if it wasn't used over larger areas, native birds could vanish.

"I was also surprised, when you set it up against these criteria, just how good 1080 was. I really didn't expect it to look so good," she said at the time.

Maori candidate and MP Rahui Katene had a member's bill to ban 1080 ready to go into the ballot.

But Katene said the Maori party had to rethink its position following Wright's report.

"At this stage, we are not calling for a ban of 1080. It's all we have at the moment and it's really good for the things like the rats and the stoats.

"Our position on that is that more research needs to be done into others areas."

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The Labour Party backed Wright's report, saying it provided an evidence base for people to form their views around 1080.

Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson has said the National-led Government had no plans to increase the use of 1080, but would look at ways it could be used more effectively.

Research to develop other pesticides is continuing. There are at least 30 research projects underway industry-wide to find improvements and alternatives, according to DOC.

SNAP SHOT

National

- Supports the use of 1080, as it is the "only poison currently available for aerial pest control", and is not looking into increasing its use.

Labour

- Supports the use of 1080, saying "we cannot afford to give up the battle against introduced pests such as possums and stoats, because to do so would be abandoning our moral responsibility to future generations".

Maori

- Dropped a call to ban 1080 and says more research is needed.

United Future

- Wants to get rid of 1080 completely, but leader Peter Dunne admits it cannot happen overnight.

Greens

- Supports the use of 1080, but as a "last resort that should only be dropped from the air in hard-to-get places, where it is the only practical way to control pests".

Mana

- Wants to ban the use of 1080 and invest in alternative methods to control pest and rodents.

* ACT has no policy on 1080

- © Fairfax NZ News

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