By Emma Jolliff
Advocates of 1080 poisoning have a new weapon in their arsenal, a report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Jan Wright.
She warns that without 1080, Kiwi could vanish from New Zealand's unprotected areas within a generation. While she respects the sincerity of people who oppose 1080, without it we would lose our ability to protect many of our native plants and animals.
She also says it would be much more difficult and expensive to keep bovine tuberculosis, or TB, out of our dairy herds. Aerial 1080 is used on one-eighth of the conservation estate, but opponents of the poison say its deadly effects spread much further
“It's a deadly toxin and poisonous to all species of life, and we're dropping so much into our environment each year that the uptake of non-target species is huge,” says 1080 documentary maker Clyde Graf.
He’s calling for it to be banned, but a new report by the independent commissioner for the environment assessed the pesticide for its effectiveness and safety and found more 1080 should be used, not less.
“What we did in this report was look at it, and the alternatives against what an ideal method would do and I was really surprised at how well 1080 did because I did not expect to find that, given the controversy,” says Mrs Wright.
She says without 1080, possum, rat and stoat populations will expand as far as food sources will allow.
“Kiwi on the mainland for example will be basically gone in a generation,” she says. Mrs Wright also says some native birds like the kokako have flourished because of 1080. The bird's numbers have increased eight-fold. Minister for Conservation Kate Wilkinson says the report vindicates its use.
“We don't necessarily see the need to expand the use of it but it is encouraging that the use has been applauded, if you like, by the Independent Commissioner for the Environment,” she says.
But Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne describes the report as a kick in the guts for communities.
“I don't accept the premise of this report that because we've been using it for 50 years and it hasn't worked we should use more of it,” he says, adding that he believes the government needs to invest in researching alternatives to 1080.
“I think we can develop a trapping industry in New Zealand to a greater extent than we have, I think there's the capacity of using hunters to gain the fur product,” he says.
The commissioner goes so far as to say banning 1080 would be a disaster. She says alternatives may complement its use, but not replace it.