Plan to poison airport birds appals worker

'I feel sick. I'm losing sleep over it'

HELEN HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 28/11/2013
Peter McCormack
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ

NOT HAPPY: Peter McCormack wants New Plymouth airport to use a different method to lower the risk of bird strike.

Peter McCormack
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ
NOT HAPPY: Peter McCormack wants New Plymouth airport to use a different method to lower the risk of bird strike.

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A cull is under way to lower the risk of "bird strike" at New Plymouth's airport but a worker there is unhappy with how they are being killed.

Peter McCormack, who washes cars at the airport, says laying out poison bait to kill the birds is "morally reprehensible".

But airport manager Kevin Hill said the programme was being carried out because the facility had been assessed as a medium risk of bird strike and Civil Aviation Authority had told them to lower that risk.

There were 6.8 bird strikes per 10,000 aircraft movements at the airport in the second quarter of this year.

Mr McCormack said birds were first being enticed by bait, then killed with poison after a couple of weeks.

"I feel sick. I'm losing sleep over it," he said.

The first of the bait, corn chips, was laid last Monday, he said.

They put out the bait for two weeks to attract the birds, then, when the birds got used to finding the food, they put poison in the chips. He was told only introduced species were being targeted and not native birds.

"It seems strange that it is only the introduced species that constitute a threat to aircraft," he said.

Mr McCormack wrote a letter to Budget Car Rentals which was doing the cull in conjunction with the New Plymouth District Council and gave a copy to Mr Hill.

"I know it is probably not against the law but it is morally reprehensible, and while you are sitting in your office in town, I have to witness the systematic luring of these gullible, trusting little birds every day until E-Day [extermination day]," he wrote in the letter.

There were better ways to reduce the risk of bird strike, such as electrical devices that scare the birds away, he said.

But Mr Hill said airports and birds simply don't mix.

"We certainly don't want a plane going into a flock of sparrows and bringing the plane down with 50 people on board."

All airports took control measures, Mr Hill said.

"I like a nice green airport, so we have lots of trees, and trees attract birds. Do you get rid of all the trees and have a big concrete jungle just to reduce the birds? Or do you try and have a combination of both, which I try to do."

The number of sparrows was getting out of hand, he said.

"We do a bit of a purge every two or three years.

"It's a humane way of doing it. It's not nesting season and they die instantly. It is one way of keeping populations down."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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