More 1080 drops in 'battle for birds'

BILL MOORE
Last updated 08:07 30/01/2014
Bird battle 1080

BATTLE GROUNDS: A graphic depicting DOC's planned pest control across New Zealand.

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Conservation Minister Nick Smith has announced a "battle for our birds" that will hit an extra half million hectares with 1080 drops this year and add another 50,000ha a year until 2019.

The Department of Conservation's largest-ever species protection programme, it is essential if the kiwi is to exist in the wild for future generations, he said in his annual speech to the Rotary Club of Nelson last night.

He said rats, stoats and possums must be controlled to stop them killing 25 million native birds a year.

He was aware that some people would oppose the use of poisons "regardless of the science", but "reason must trump prejudice".

"The comprehensive conclusions of the independent parliamentary commissioner for the environment and the Environment Protection Authority make plain that 1080 is safe and the only practical tool that will work."

Smith said the one in 10-15 year beech mast this year would drop about a million tonnes of seed in autumn, triggering a plague of an additional 30 million rats and tens of thousands of stoats. When the seed germinated in spring, "these starved predators will annihilate populations of our endangered species".

The "battle for the birds" would increase pest control in 35 forests to protect 12 native species.

This year's extra 500,000ha across 35 forests would increase pest coverage from 5 to 12 per cent of the public conservation land.

The 12 species targeted for protection were the great spotted, brown and tokoeka kiwi, kaka, kea, whio (blue duck), mohua (yellowhead), kakaraki (orange- orange-fronted parakeet), rock wren, long and short-tailed bats, and giant snails.

"It will save millions of other native birds like fantails, robins, tui, kereru, riflemen, bellbirds, tomtits and warblers, reptiles like geckos, insects like weta, trees like rata, and plants like mistletoe."

The bulk of this year's work will be in South Island beech forests in the Kahurangi, Abel Tasman, Arthur's Pass, Westland, Mt Aspiring and Fiordland national parks. The other targeted reserves in the South Island were the Catlins and Waikaia in Otago, Mt Dobson and Upper Hurunui in Canterbury, Haast, Maruia and Mokihinui on the West Coast, and Pelorus and Isolated Hill in Marlborough.

The five forests in the North Island were Pouiatoa in Taranaki, the Whanganui and Tongariro national parks, and at Pirongia and Awaroa in western Waikato.

Smith said the programme did not mean a record level of 1080 use. Pre-feeding, improved bait quality to avoid crumbs attractive to birds, the use of helicopters and GPS and development of repellents for non-target species had cut bait application from 30kg to 1kg a hectare. The programme would cost about $21 million over five years.

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- Fairfax Media

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