Only one uptake on bait option

MEAN GREEN: Only a  handful of landowners have shown interest in ground use of 1080.
MEAN GREEN: Only a handful of landowners have shown interest in ground use of 1080.

Three years after anti-1080 advocates pushed for the option of ground baiting for those worried about 1080 airdrops, only one landowner in the Waikato has taken it up.

Anti-poison advocates say the cost for landowners to use alternative possum control methods is being kept artificially high, meaning there is effectively no choice for them.

In 2009 Waikato Regional Council introduced a policy in which landowners, opposed to aerial 1080 drops on their land, could pay extra costs to use alternative pest control measures.

Council spokesman Stephen Ward said hundreds of landowners had enquired about paying for alternatives to aerial 1080.

"The vast majority don't take things further than this stage as they accept aerial 1080 when they understand not only the costs of alternatives but also the coverage and benefits that 1080 provides in terms of possum control."

About a dozen landowners had had detailed discussions with the council over paying for other measures.

To date only one landowner has agreed to pay for alternative toxin and trap use, at an extra cost of about $3500.

Mr Ward said the cost of ground control for possums was about $55 to $75 a hectare more than aerial 1080 control, depending on the area treated and the performance target of the operation.

Aerial 1080 was used for between 5 and 7 per cent of the region's pest control operations. There were about 15 to 20 operations a year. But anti-1080 advocate Mary Molloy said the fact only one landowner had opted to pay for alternative possum control measures showed the pricing of these methods was being kept artificially high.

Mrs Molloy said many landowners also felt intimidated into consenting to aerial 1080 operations on their land.

"When people tell you the Biosecurity Act may be used against you to enforce a 1080 operation not too many people will stand up against that," she said.

"If you live next to the bush or spend any time in the bush off the main tracks you'll know 1080 isn't safe and you'll find native birds that have been killed. Aerial 1080 operations are a rather indiscriminate use of a poison that can affect every part of our environment."

Mr Ward said "generally speaking" aerial 1080 operations were an efficient, cost-effective and safe way to do pest control on large areas of land, particularly more difficult terrain.

"We appreciate some people have concerns about aerial 1080 but we work closely with landowners and others to address any concerns they have. Our contractors have a very good track record of carrying safe and effective operations. If people continue to have concerns we remain very happy to discuss alternatives options with them."