Date: 11 September 2009
Communication has been a key part of the planning for the upcoming aerial 1080 possum control operation in Egmont National Park, says Department of Conservation’s Taranaki Area Manager Phil Mohi.
“We realise 1080 can be a controversial topic,” says Mr Mohi. “So over the past nine months we have been talking directly with key groups within the community to discuss our proposal. We’ve had some healthy discussions and as a direct result of these have made some changes to our plans.”
Operation Egmont has now been approved by local councils, the Medical Officer of Health and DOC. It is planned for a suitable fine weather period over the next three months. The possum control operation will give the forest of Egmont National Park a respite and the chance to recover from increasing possum browse damage. It is expected that other pests such as stoats and rats will also be controlled and this will deliver significant benefit for kiwi, whio/blue duck and other species threatened by these predators.
Local area DOC staff have visited neighbouring farmers around the park to discuss the possum control. “Most farmers have been happy to talk to us as possums eat grass and pose a potential TB threat to their livelihood,” says Mr Mohi.
Many farmers have seen the positive effects the previous 1080 aerial drops had on the flora and fauna of the park - with increased bird numbers and a healthier forest.
After feedback from farmers the aerial drop has been postponed until after calving, and DOC is working with farmers to minimise risk to stock and offer alternative water supplies and muzzles for their dogs if they wish.
Regular meetings have been held with local iwi chairpersons, Federated Farmers, local councils and the local Medical Officer of Health says Mr Mohi.
DOC has advertised and held hui in both North and South Taranaki regarding the possum control operation. “A request from local iwi will see us monitoring local käkahi (freshwater mussels), and marae bores, both during and after the 1080 drop.”
Letters and information on the 1080 drop have been sent out to key park users, schools and local media. A supplement regarding the drop was released in community newspapers in July. Further supplements and information on 1080 and the ERMA review are being distributed at libraries around the district.
“While we have done our best to talk to a good number of groups and people there will always be those who we have missed. We have an open door policy and are happy to discuss the operation with anyone.”
“Safety is our key concern in this operation,” says Mr Mohi. “DOC follows strict procedures approved by the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) and ensures that any potential risks of the operation are managed.”
Anyone wishing to learn more about Operation Egmont can do so by visiting Operation Egmont or call the Taranaki DOC Office on + 64 6 759 0350.
In response to the points raised by the Opunake Press Editor in the last edition:
- 1080 and human health. 1080 is not a cumulative toxin meaning it does not build up in the body. It is water soluble and is naturally eliminated when consumed in sub lethal amounts. No health effects have been shown for 1080 even at very low dose levels. Testing and studies strongly suggest that 1080 is not a carcinogenic substance and does not mimic any hormonal activity that could pose a risk to the body’s endocrine system.
Fluroacetate, the active ingredient in 1080 is found in a number of natural products including tea. No detrimental effects of exposure to fluroacetate via consumption of tea has been described or suggested.
However 1080 is a toxin, and as is the case with most mammals people are susceptible to it. For this reason DOC provides information and signs to ensure that people do not expose themselves to the toxin when it is being used.
When ERMA reassessed the use of 1080 in 2007 the issue of human health effects was reviewed. Much of the recent research was commissioned for this purpose. The ERMA committee had no concerns regarding human exposure with any of the evidence presented. To date no public health issues can be attributed to the regulated use of 1080 in New Zealand.
- New Zealand uses 80 percent of the world’s production of 1080. 1080 is registered for use in Australia, Canada, the United States and Israel. It is restricted in many countries because of its potential risk to their native mammals and predators. Australia uses it for fox and feral pig control.We use it in New Zealand because we have only two native mammals (bats) and a huge need for large scale pest control to reduce the impacts of possums which have no predators.
- The poison kills creatures it is not aimed at. In the past there have been native bird deaths from consumption of 1080. These risks have now been minimised by colouring the baits green and adding cinnamon oil which has been found to be unattractive to birds. High standards of bait manufacture ensure it doesn’t break into smaller pieces as it is dropped from a helicopter. There are many studies available that show that the impact of 1080 on bird populations is not high and in fact has a positive long term effect because of the control of possums, rats and stoats.
- Dogs are at risk. Dogs are highly susceptible to 1080, however dogs are not allowed in Egmont National Park. The risk to local dogs is from scavenging possum carcasses washed downstream from the park during floods.
- If other countries can find more humane methods of pest control why cant we? New Zealand is considered a world leader in pest control. 1080 is never used in isolation. Ground control methods are used where feasible. This will include traps and other toxins. The steep rugged terrain on Mt Taranaki is a challenge to many people and for this reason alone, the use of aerial application reduced the risk to human life and increases the efficient control of possums in less accessible areas. DOC continues to undertake research to find other effective methods of pest control including refining the use of 1080.
- In other parts of New Zealand there have been reports of 1080 in water supplies. During the previous two possum control operations in Egmont National Park water supplies (including bores) were tested for 1080 contamination. No measureable amounts of 1080 were found despite detection being possible at 0.3 parts 1080 per billion parts of water (ppb) in 1993/94 and improved testing capabilities to 0.1 ppb in 2003. The local Medical Officer Of Health usually sets a safe limit of 2ppb before water supplies are considered safe. At this level a 60kg person would have to drink 2300 litres of contaminated water in one sitting to be at risk.
As an added precaution DOC is working with local councils to disconnect their public water supply intakes from the mountain during the 1080 operation.