A Golden Bay anti-1080 group says the public are being silenced in the leadup to a 1080 drop in Kahurangi National Park this spring.
Beyond 1080 Golden Bay says the Department of Conservation is trying to keep the public from commenting on the controversial drop, which has ignited strong feelings in the area.
The planned drop is part of the "Battle for our Birds" pest control operation to combat a plague of rats and stoats fuelled by a beech mast.
One operation has been advertised as starting from August 23, over 20,500 hectares west of the Arthur Range.
Beyond 1080 Golden Bay says DOC has applied to the Tasman District Council for a non-notified resource consent covering more than 145,000ha.
However, the department says it spoke with neighbouring landowners while finalising plans for the operation, and has applied to "the relevant regional councils" for resource consents.
"It is incorrect to state that the department applied for a non-notified consent," a DOC statement said.
"The decision on whether an application should be notified is made by the regional council, based on matters specified in the Resource Management Act."
An aerial 1080 drop is planned for northern and eastern areas of Kahurangi National Park.
Beyond 1080 Golden Bay spokeswoman Rebecca Reider said that under the RMA, a resource consent had to be open to public consultation if the proposed activity was likely to have adverse environmental effects that were "more than minor".
She said the planned Kahurangi 1080 drop included 80,000ha of land "never poisoned in the past, rich in wildlife".
"The area includes species (such as weka and kea) which are especially vulnerable to 1080 poisoning.
"Of particular concern is the rock wren, an endangered bird which DOC scientists last year indicated should not be exposed to aerial 1080 until further research had been done."
Reider said DOC's consent application acknowledged that the department had no comprehensive survey data showing the abundance and distribution of animal and bird species across most of the zone proposed for poisoning.
Fellow Beyond 1080 Golden Bay member David Benson applauded the Golden Bay Community Board for recommending that the council should publicly notify the drop.
Council spokesman Chris Choat said that under the RMA, DOC had to show it had consulted with property owners about the drop, and it had met this requirement.
DOC said the pest control programme was needed to protect at-risk native species including whio, rock wrens, kea, kaka, great spotted kiwi, Powelliphanta snails, long-tailed bats and other vulnerable native species from rat and stoat surges.
It said an exceptionally heavy beech seeding and seed fall, known as a mast, in many forests this year provided plentiful food to fuel rapid rises in rodent numbers.
This led to rising stoat numbers due to the abundance of rodents for stoats to feed on.
DOC Takaka conservation services manager John Mason said monitoring in various parts of Kahurangi National Park showed rat numbers at levels that could reach plague proportions by late spring if not stopped.
"Aerial pest control this spring
will help protect native birds from predator attacks during their critical breeding season.
This will enable greater nesting success, with more chicks and nesting females surviving to build populations," Mason said.
Although trapping networks are in place in some parts of Kahurangi National Park, DOC said research had shown that beech mast predator surges could overwhelm trap networks.
It said ground control on its own could not protect threatened native bird, bat and snail populations from beech mast predator plagues.
In contrast, it said aerial application of 1080 had been shown to suppress rodent plagues to near zero density levels for up to five months.
Project Janszoon director Devon McLean said it was continually evaluating new methods for predator control, and had helped with trials of new trapping methods in Abel Tasman National Park.
"However, this new technology is not suitable for large-scale predator control at the moment, and if we just sit and wait for better tools, Abel Tasman's native birdlife will continue to be devastated.
"Like the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Project Janszoon believes 1080 is the most effective control of predators in response to a large-scale beech mast."
Cash bait to stop drop
A Golden Bay butcher aims to stop 1080 operations by offering a $1080 cash reward to anyone who can "stop the drop".
Motupipi butcher Geoffrey Winter has posted up a sign on the front of his Motupipi corner building saying he'll pay a $1080 reward to anyone who can stop one of the 1080 drops planned for both the Kahurangi and the Abel Tasman national parks this spring.
"The Animal Health Board and DOC are not prepared to listen to any reasonable alternative ideas," he said.
Winter advocated possum and rat trapping rather than 1080, saying both would bring numbers down and constant trapping would at least help with maintaining low numbers of possums.
Winter has been writing stop 1080 messages on his butcher processing window for the past five years.
- The Nelson Mail
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