Mackenzie 1080 drop plan

BY DAVID WILLIAMS
Last updated 05:00 26/05/2009

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The war against rabbits in the Mackenzie Basin and Upper Waitaki Valley has resumed, with 1080 drops planned.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) wants a 10-year consent to drop 1080 poison and Pindone bait by air on 51,000 hectares of conservation land in Mt Cook-Aoraki National Park, the Mackenzie Basin and Upper Waitaki Valley.

However, opponents fear the proposed poison drops will be "a licence to kill" animals in the area.

The introduction of the rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) in the 1990s helped wipe out rabbits in the region. However, rabbits have since developed immunity to the disease.

"Rabbit numbers have trended upwards most years since 2002, and are now at pre-RHD levels in many areas," contract shooter Philip Stenton said.

The DOC proposal attracted 15 submissions, with 12 in opposition.

One opponent said the reintroduction of aerial poison drops, after a hiatus of about 15 years, would be "mass biocide".

At a consent hearing in Christchurch yesterday, Philippa Rutledge, counsel for Director-General of Conservation Al Morrison, said aerial drops were a backup to other control methods, but in some areas, like rugged hillsides, they were the only practical method.

There were risks from using any poison, she said, but if they were managed properly they posed little risk to the public.

There was a "foreseeable need" to use 1080 and Pindone for the next 10 years, she said.

DOC plant ecologist Nicholas Head said controlling rabbits was necessary to protect the disproportionately high number of threatened plant species in the Mackenzie area.

However, Christchurch man Lindsay Eagle, who will speak at the hearing on Thursday, said in his submission that bombing a region with poison bait was indiscriminate. Every animal that consumed sufficient poison would die.

"The overall application must therefore be considered as a licence to kill or contaminate every animal, bird and crustacea around and downstream of the drop zone; mass biocide."

He said DOC had done nothing to develop efficient rabbit control in the area in the intervening 11 years.

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- The Press

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