Golden Bay residents concerned about the upcoming 1080 drop in Kahurangi National Park in July have joined forces with residents opposed to chemical spraying by Tasman District Council contractors.
More than 80 people met at the Wholemeal Cafe on Wednesday night to share concerns about health risks from pesticide and herbicides and look for common ground.
"Some people have just come to accept that this poison will just inevitably be rained down on our country and our community for ever and ever," said Rebecca Reider who helped co-ordinate the event.
"A lot are not happy about that. There have not been any forums for concerns to be heard. The Animal Health Board refused to turn the sessions into a public forum."
The Onekaka "information day" on March 1 organised by the Animal Health Board descended into chaos and ended early when protesters grew impatient with the "one-sided" explanations of the 1080 proponents. Sue Brown from Federated Farmers has defended the Animal Health Board and the use of 1080.
"The Animal Health Board held a community information meeting; sadly only a few chose to listen," said Ms Brown.
"To control TB we must control the carrier animal, the possum. New Zealand's ability to use 1080 is unique, because we have no native mammals, thus its use does not threaten our native fauna and flora."
Critics of Ms Reider have accused her of being too "emotional" about the 1080 issue, a charge that she does not deny.
"A lot of people do get emotional when they contemplate animals being killed, water being poisoned, forest ecosystems being drastically altered," said Ms Reider. "But I am here to facilitate a calm discussion."
Opponents of 1080 shared the spotlight with residents campaigning to raise awareness about the health risks of chemical spraying by council contractors. The council undertakes regular chemical spraying of roadsides in the region, and has begun actively spraying sections of Golden Bay rivers with Roundup, Escort and Grazon to control vegetation on the gravel banks.
"1080 is just one of dozens of chemicals that our council allows into our environment," said Iona Jelf. "We're also deeply concerned about the use of herbicides sprayed onto roadsides and onto river banks. No-one can protect themselves from these chemicals because they don't know when it will be."
The council is spraying the river banks as part of its flood control efforts. The resource consent states that the spraying will be undertaken between November 2011 and May 2012. According to council contractors, the disruption of the December floods has delayed the work until now.
The council has a policy allowing individual properties to be exempted from roadside spraying, provided that they maintain the frontage themselves. Their policy recognises the potential health impact on some individuals of spraying.
"In the case of organic farming where the grower wishes to maintain a spray free environment or, where someone has a medical condition in the household whom could be affected, then council will inform its road network maintenance contractor not to spray these frontages."
Ms Jelf claims to be one of "thousands" of "chemically sensitive" residents in New Zealand. She feels that her concerns are not taken seriously by the council when it comes to river spraying and aerial application of herbicides.
- © Fairfax NZ News