Ban 1080 party in push for election

The founder of a new political party about to apply for registration says if only a fraction of New Zealanders who oppose 1080 give it their votes, it could be in Parliament this year.

Ban 1080 party leader and Golden Bay mussel farmer Bill Wallace has gathered more than 750 signed-up members since he began looking for support less than two months ago.

The party will focus on the single issue of stopping aerial 1080 drops on the grounds that it kills indiscriminately and that there is insufficient science to know what effects it has on many native bird populations.

Wallace said yesterday he was confident that it would have vetted the 550 members required for the Electoral Commission application by Friday's deadline. The party secretary and a lawyer were working on that.

Although he acknowledges that electoral success via party votes or by winning the West Coast-Tasman seat - its best electorate chance - is a tall order, he isn't ruling it out.

The Department of Conservation's own surveys had shown that 43 per cent of New Zealanders opposed the use of 1080, dropped to poison possums, mice, rats and stoats, but also known to kill native birds at varying rates.

"If we got one in 10 of those people, we're already at 4.3 per cent." The right candidate in West-Coast Tasman or potentially in Coromandel could be the other way into Parliament.

Wallace, 63, who lives at Pakawau, was one of the pioneers of mussel farming in Golden Bay and is chairman of the Golden Bay Marine Farmers Consortium.

Until he decided to form his party in April he was also a helicopter pilot, frequently flying DOC workers, trout fishermen and sometimes hunters into the Kahurangi National Park.

He said he'd always stayed out of the 1080 debate, comforted by the belief that the Tasman Wilderness Area in the park and the Fiordland wilderness were safe from poison drops.

But he "clicked" when he saw that DOC staff were taking rat monitoring gear into the Tasman wilderness, a sign that they were checking numbers ahead of the department's planned "Battle for the Birds", the biggest 1080 drop ever carried out, covering 700,000 hectares.

Announced by Conservation Minister and Nelson MP Nick Smith, it is going ahead this spring to counter the effects of a beech mast that is expected to provide a huge supply of seed and cause a mouse, rat and stoat population boom.

Wallace sold his helicopter in April and has committed to working fulltime for the party until the September 20 election.

With no desire to stand for election he is talking to several potential West Coast-Tasman candidates and will be visiting the North Island next week to make further connections there.

A science graduate and former teacher, Wallace had a long association with the venison industry and is a former hunter.

Wallace said hunters were free to join the party, just as non-hunting conservationists were, but that it wouldn't be a mouthpiece for the hunting lobby.

"The main reason I've got fired up about this is because I was the pilot that flew the rat counters into the wilderness.

"You pick them up from areas

that have been poisoned many times and it's normal conversation on the way out. You pick them up from the Tasman wilderness and all they can talk about is getting home for a night's sleep - kiwi going off around their tent all night.

"Not only have they got kaka, they've got kakariki following them around in that bush while they're getting the blotting paper out of the rat tunnels."

He said DOC should have to provide a scientific population baseline before any 1080 use, and have a proper control plan for each area.

"Just suddenly dumping all that 1080 over 700,000 hectares of New Zealand, that isn't conservation."

He was amazed by the broad range of support he was getting from people on all sides of the political spectrum. There should be more research on bird numbers and a proper examination of alternatives to 1080, he said.

"There's time to pause and do it right. Let's have an Environment Court inquiry into 1080, a judicial process that allows cross-examination and completely blows the chaff off the wheat."

The Nelson Mail