A region-wide application to drop 1080 and pindone poison on private land has been granted in the face of widespread opposition.
Independent commissioners Barry Loe and Robin Delamore have granted Environment Canterbury's application for a 15-year consent period allowing landowners and accredited contractors to apply bait for pest animals, such as rabbits and wallabies. Hearings were held in October and November last year, but the commissioners had delayed the decision due to the Canterbury earthquakes.
The application received widespread opposition from hunters, conservationists and others. ECan received 76 submissions on the application, with all but 15 in opposition.
However, the commissioners said there were valid reasons for both the 15-year term sought and the global nature of the consent.
"On the basis of the evidence, there do not appear to be viable alternatives to 1080 and pindone that will be available in the short-to-medium term for control of rabbits and wallabies in situations where there are high populations of these species,"they said.
The commissioners imposed a number of conditions for consent-holders, which included frequent monitoring, ensuring that pesticides did not enter groundwater, and that no aerial discharge would be within 200m of any well used for a community drinking water supply.
All consent-holders have to inform the public at least 10 days before carrying out any activity, while exclusion zones should be considered, they said.
Several submitters were concerned about adverse effects of discharges of 1080 on water bodies, and on human health.
"On the basis of the evidence provided, there is limited toxicological data on both the effects of pindone on aquatic ecosystems and on human health. Because there is a degree of uncertainty ... we consider that a more precautionary approach should be adopted," the commissioners said.
The New Zealand Deerstalkers' Association was one of the application's most vocal opponents. South Canterbury association president Tim McCarthy said the national organisation opposed any new 1080 applications.
"However, on a personal level, I find the commissioners' decision rather astonishing," he said.
"To allow the blanket spreading of poison into our environment for the next 15 years is just dreadful. Several native bird and animal species could be affected. Look at how many submitted against it. When the tyranny of the minority overrules the majority, it is a real cause for concern."
However, some organisations were in favour, due to the increase in rabbit and wallaby numbers. According to the latest ECan trend counts, rabbit numbers in the Mackenzie district alone average about 5.1 per km, more than twice what they were in 2003.
Federated Farmers Mackenzie chairman John Murray said he was pleased the consent had been granted: "It would have been nice if we had had it two years ago. Many of the farmers around here have already applied for their own," he said.
The decision is still subject to appeal.
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