1080 rained down on us and river, says fishing guide

Murchison-based fishing Scott Murray with one of the 1080 pellets he found in the Mokihinui River after a helicopter drop.

Murchison-based fishing Scott Murray with one of the 1080 pellets he found in the Mokihinui River after a helicopter drop.

A fishing guide says he and wealthy American clients were hit by 1080 pellets on a West Coast river in an episode that tarnished New Zealand's clean, green reputation.

Co-owner of Murchison's River Haven Lodge Scott Murray said the incident happened on December 2 when he and three other fishing parties were on the Mokihinui River, north of Westport.

Murray was with a 91-year-old Californian client and his nephew, and had just been helicoptered in to the area when they saw other choppers carrying buckets loaded with green pellets containing 1080.

1080 pellets were also found in the south branch of the Mokihinui River on the same day.
ZANE MIRFIN

1080 pellets were also found in the south branch of the Mokihinui River on the same day.

As they began fishing near the junction of the river's north and south branches, Murray said pellets started dropping in the water.

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"Hundreds, all over the place. Plop, plop, plop, plop, plop everywhere we walked," he said.

Murray in the Mokihinui River with 1080 pellets dropped by a helicopter.

Murray in the Mokihinui River with 1080 pellets dropped by a helicopter.

Murray said he and his clients were forced to cover their heads with their hands as some pellets hit them. 

"I was so disgusted and very disheartened.

"[My client] talked about whether it was even worth coming back to NZ. He said he thought this was clean, green NZ. The rest of the world is shocked at the fact we use this bloody crap basically. It makes me quite angry just thinking about it."

Murray said he had been notified that a 1080 drop would take place in the Mokihinui catchment, but were also told that the operators would be careful to avoid the waterways.

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He said the drops continued throughout the day, and with a strong north-westerly wind blowing, there was no way to control the spread of pellets.

During a break for lunch, he fished out about nine pellets from the river, and saw others in deeper water, but gave up because there were too many.

"All I want to do is get the word out there that people think this 1080 thing is carefully placed and dropping it from the air into the bush. They're not. New Zealand really needs to wake up, it's an absolute abomination, it really is."

"Word's getting around that the NZ green image is getting tarnished. It's not good for tourism."

Nelson-based guide Zane Mirfin said he and his party were in the south branch of the Mokihinui on the same day and saw the 1080 pellets being dropped in the river and on the riverbank.

He was with a Californian client who was incredulous when he explained what was happening.

Mirfin said he believed the massive drops were a waste of taxpayer money and ultimately futile.

The Department of Conservation has been approached for comment. 

In 2014, two fishing guides caught up in a 1080 drop on the Mokihinui complained that they had not been notified of the operation despite holding permits requiring them be told.  

A spokesman for primary industries organisation Ospri said he had not been able to contact the manager and contractor for the Mokihinui operation, so could not yet provide a response.

An Ospri fact sheet for the Mokihinui drop, designed to help eradicate the spread of bovine TB from possums, said it would cover 46,070 hectares. Part of the Mokihinui aerial operation included land which formed part of the Department of Conservation's Battle for Our Birds predator control programme.

It said advanced GPS navigational equipment would be used to ensure the pellets were accurately placed and exclusion zones avoided. 

It is not clear what the exclusion zones for the December 2 operation were, but typically drinking water supplies are excluded while other rivers are not. 

 - Sunday Star Times

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