Editorial: 1080 - it's the best we've got

Last updated 05:00 22/07/2013

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OPINION: When the parliamentary commissioner for the environment is calling for the Department of Conservation to be more diligent poisoners, and Environment Minister Nick Smith is essentially backing her, then one of two things has happened.

Things have gone to hell in a hat.

Or they're right and 1080 is the most useful protection for our bush that we have available.

We don't have to be thrilled about that. Poison is unlovely stuff. It just is.

But 1080 works on possums, stoats and rats far more effectively than any alternative anywhere in sight and, even when applied aerially, it presents scant risk to people or the environment.

This is in sharp contrast to the damage those critters can inflict.

Dr Wright's landmark 2011 report was not just startling, it was also slightly startled.

She disarmingly acknowledged her own surprise that she had reached a pro-1080 conclusion. Supporting 1080s use had initially seemed counter-intuitive.

But upon study she had found that not only had the problems opponents had associated with it been overstated, but that it wasn't even an especially finely-judged call.

She even found herself uncomfortable with the idea of concluding it was a necessary evil. The reality was, she now-famously said, that we were very lucky to have it.

It's not just the commissioner, DOC and the Animal Health Board that are at peace with 1080.

The Greens, Forest & Bird and most of the main political parties agree. The chief exception, in the latter case, has been Peter Dunne's UnitedFuture party which takes the view that we have been using it since the 1950s and it's time to bail on it and commit much more resourcing to a superior alternative.

Come the day that there clearly is one, then yes. But none has yet been found.

Meantime, tick-tock. Dr Wright is now publicly drumming her fingers because DOC was spending more on research into its use, and investigating alternatives, than it was on using it.

Only one-eighth of the conservation estate gets the treatment.

Dr Smith has acknowledged that in the prioritisation of its resources and responsibilities the department was "probably guilty of trying too hard to satisfy opponents". It is not hard to understand why. They can, at times, be vociferous.

Theirs is far from solely an emotive argument, either. Certainly within Southland there are those who bridle not only at the use of 1080 not simply on the basis of revulsion, but also practicality, such as what they see as inadequate effort being put into other measures like ground control work.

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Although the minister stressed the importance of research into tools like automatically resetting traps, which were important for use in fringe areas, he backed the commissioner's call to increase the 1080 programme itself.

Given the nature of so much of the terrain, that means more aerial spraying.

So be it.

- The Southland Times

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