Phasing out 1080 with smarter trapping
Aorangi Restoration Trust spokesman David Lawrence said many forest users had noticed a resurgence in birds but rat populations could bounce back in a matter of months after 1080 drops.
‘‘You hear people say that the birdlife has never been so marvellous and I think the 1080 is timed to be strategic for the hatching of birds.
‘‘1080 is really fire-fighting. It’s not necessarily making progress in the long term, but it certainly holds things where they are, but how many years can we go on using it?’’
Martinborough fisherman and author Bill Benfield is vehemently opposed to the use of 1080, the reasons for which are outlined in his book At War With Nature calling the use of aerial poisoning a ’’rort’’ promoted by the pest eradication industry.
He argues that the use of 1080 is based on the false premise that possums are a threat to native birds.
‘‘1080 kills every living thing on a non-discriminatory basis - possums, rats, birds (native and non-native), insects, worms, bees, fish, butterflies.’’
This contrasted to Dave Hansford’s widely-circulated book Protecting Paradise which examines anti-1080 arguments and ‘‘finds conclusively that the many claims made by 1080 opponents are plain wrong’’.
‘‘After more than 60 years of research into 1080, there remains no evidence that it persists in the human food chain, or causes cancer, or harms our waterways,’’
$1.34m spent on Project Kaka 1080 drops since 2010. 95 tonnes of bait dropped in Project Kaka over 29,000 hectares $70m spent in total every year across NZ on pest control $28m pledged in 2017 from Government on Battle For Our Birds over four years 900,000 hectares covered in Battle For Our Birds Hansford said.
Victoria University researcher Stephen Hartley has been monitoring pest and bird population numbers in Aorangi Forest Park which shows clear evidence that pest numbers plummet immediately after a 1080 drop but bird populations remain relatively unaffected.
Although 1080 would kill any animal that consumed enough of it, the type of cereal bait now used meant it was usually eaten by target animals such as rats, possums and stoats.
The university monitoring showed birds such as the bellbird, the tomtit, rifleman and whitehead made a comeback while pests were suppressed.
Hartley admitted that rat populations were quick to recover and could be back to pre-bait drop levels within 6-18 months, depending on conditions.
The use of 1080 is also supported by organisations such as Greater Wellington Regional Council, Federated Farmers and Forest & Bird.
Although 1080 is the pest control tool of choice in larger forests, smaller blocks are leaning more heavily on sophisticated trapping systems and strategic planning.
Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre forest restoration project began in April 2001 with the aim of restoring the area of remnant indigenous forest just south of Eketahuna.
Pukaha chairman Bob Francis said with the implementation of new strategies and the installation of hundreds of auto-resetting Good Nature traps they were moving away from 1080. From a sustainability and credibility point of view, they would prefer to be able to keep their forest pest free without 1080.
Pukaha gets 35,000 visitors a year and the unfenced forest is now home to 80 kokako and more than 300 kaka. It is hoped the kaka populations at Pukaha and on Kapiti Island will help grow fragile populations in the Tararua Ranges.
The Department of Conservation’s involvement at Pukaha has reduced, but the Government still provides $200,000 a year towards the centre’s captive breeding programmes.
The Pukaha Mt Bruce Trust spends $150,000-200,000 a year on trapping and poisoning in the 942ha forest. The Greater Wellington Regional Council provides pest control for a 2500ha buffer zone around the reserve.