DOC seeks bigger 1080 drop

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 21/12/2013

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The Department of Conservation is applying for resource consent to make further 1080 drops in Southland and wants to drop it in a larger area.

DOC southern region conservation services director Allan Munn said $1.2 million of funding would be used for 1080 drops in the Waitutu area in autumn.

An aerial assault on rodents would form the major part of the 1080 poisoning but where it was cheaper and practical, ground baiting or trapping would be considered, he said.

The department would be seeking a multi-year consent from the regional council for a period of up to 10 years, he said.

DOC Fiordland conservation services manager for biodiversity Lindsay Wilson said the department was hoping to expand the area it dropped the 1080 to 30,000ha.

"The department will be applying for a new resource consent for the Waitutu Forest because it wanted to extend the boundaries to the west to protect a significant mistletoe population and north to expand the protected area," he said.

In 2010, DOC did an aerial 1080 possum control operation over 25,000 hectares of the Waitutu Forest largely funded by the Nature Heritage Fund.

DOC 1080 programme leader Colin Bishop reported after the operation there was a 99.5 per cent reduction in possum numbers with no bird deaths attributable to 1080.

Stoats and rodents were also reduced to very low levels and had remained that way for two-and-a-half years. As a result bird numbers had increased, the department said.

However, Mr Wilson admitted yesterday there were some bird casualties as a result of 1080 poisoning.

"We do kill some species but at a population level, there is a positive outcome," Mr Wilson said.

A major beech mast event - the biggest seeding in more than a decade - is expected to drive rodent and stoat numbers to high levels this winter and DOC would seek consent to drop 1080 on other vulnerable areas, he said.

Earlier this week, parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright said the impending plague of rats and stoats would devastate native wildlife unless 1080 was stepped up.

"These mast events happen periodically, and take a huge toll on our native birds, insects and lizards," Mrs Wright said.

"1080 is the only tool we have to control the plagues of rats and stoats that follow."

Southland Conservation Board chairwoman Viv Shaw said the use of 1080 was an emotive issue but the board supported DOC's application for the consents.

Anti-1080 campaigner and member of the Southern Earth Environmental Coalition Tamsin Scott said dropping broad spectrum poison from a helicopter to target just one species was not only arrogant, ineffective and dangerous, but also short-sighted.

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"Possum numbers have increased but they are here to stay despite never-ending poison drops, so surely we can figure out a more sustainable way to make better use of this resource," Ms Scott said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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