1080 protest fueled by misinformation, says DoC

By Katee Shanks

Photo/File
Photo/File

The Department of Conservation has denied claims made by those protesting a planned 1080 drop near Rotorua.

Department of Conservation (DoC) senior communications advisor Herb Christophers says misinformation about 1080 often leads to passionate opposition when use of the poison is discussed.

"There is a lot of misinformation people tend to base their argument against 1080 on," Mr Christophers said. "While we do not disregard the point of view of others, DoC is doing the best it can, for the best possible outcome, using the best tools we have available.

"And that is using 1080 to win the Battle for Our Birds."

As part of DoC's Battle for Our Birds operation, cereal baits will be dropped on to 2549 hectares of the Rotoehu Forest by helicopter in September, in an effort to reduce rat, possum and stoat numbers.

This plan has upset some, including Whakatane woman Jacqui Armstrong who featured in an article in Saturday's Rotorua Daily Post.

She says she hates 1080 and the harm it causes.

But according to Mr Christophers, 1080 or sodium fluoroacetate, is naturally-occurring in some plants, especially in Western Australia, where it is thought to have evolved as a deterrent to browsing animals.

"It can also be found at extremely low levels in tea."

He said in the early 2000s a review of the use of 1080 in New Zealand had been undertaken by an independent body because of the "bad rap" the poison had garnered.

A reassessment of those findings has been done since and, both reviews culminated in DoC being instructed to continue with its use.

The biodegradable 1080 used by DoC to protect native species from possums, rats and stoats, is particularly suited for use in New Zealand as there are no native ground-dwelling mammals effected by its use.

"All tests and reviews show the benefits to native species of using 1080 aerially greatly outweigh perceived risks and many studies support this point," Mr Christophers said.

"Biodegradable 1080 naturally breaks down in the environment and does not leave residues in water, soil, plants or animals or build up in the food chain."

In response to whether 1080 kills the very birds it aims to protect, Mr Christophers said even if five out of 1000 birds were killed, it meant 995 were able to breed and give birth to, on average, 200 birds. "We're still up by 195 birds that wouldn't have had a chance if rats, possums and stoats were prolific in the area."

He said toxicologists used a simple assessment when determining the use of poison. That is risk equals hazard plus exposure. "The exposure to people is minimal, we are reducing the threat to our native species.

"People need to go to the Battle for Our Birds website and look at the results to see the benefits of 1080.

"We are governed in what we do, we listen to the Medical Officer of Health, if we make a stuff-up, we tell on ourselves and we are continuing looking for improvement on what we do. We know the net benefit of the use of 1080 and that is why it is used."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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