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Environment

Today’s danger – Issue Three, Environment Matters

When DoC first began dropping 1080 poison over Coromandel, the DoC staff were involved. They told us ‘1080’ was ‘safe’ and they had to make it look safe. Stringent safety precautions were already in place.
 |  John Veysey  | 

The precautions taken for those involved with a 1080 drop are considerable – clearly exposure to 1080 is harmful to humans.

Past practice

Poisoned baits land in a stream, the poison leaches out and the waterways downstream will flow with 1080. Landowners rely on that water which they drink, which their animals drink, and with which they water their veggie gardens.

They would get a visit prior to the drop from DoC to warn them there would be a flow of poison through their land following the drop. All the water up-take taps were turned off prior and water samples were taken after the drop until the water showed clear of 1080. The taps were then opened. During a 1080 drop, the downstream waterways will be contaminated with measurable quantities of 1080.

To ensure no humans got poisoned, DoC provided alternative water supplies to residents downstream until the water was deemed drinkable again. If you lived within a short distance of the poison zone, a tank was put in place and kept full of potable water for weeks after the drop. Local residents living further downstream were visited to make sure their taps were turned off before the drop and to take water samples afterwards until the water was once again drinkable.

Prior to the drop they counted the number of possums and rats to demonstrate that there was a need for some animal control and afterwards they cleared the toxic carcasses of possums and birds off any public walkways through the poison zone.

All safety measures would be in place before a drop could go ahead. That was then.

Today

Today they take none of these safety precautions. In fact DoC staff are hardly involved at all. In 2024. they have contracted Ian Cutler and Lance Pucket from ECOFX to carry out the up-coming 1080 operation for them. The drop will cover an area called Papakai which is on a four-yearly drop list. The ECOFX team could not tell me why it is now only 3 years since the last drop.

Prior to the last two 1080 drops over Papakai, hardly any possums could be found. Their numbers remain low because the native forest is inhospitable and offers very little food to possums. There is no longer any pretence that the possums are a danger. They are poisoning for the sake of poisoning; to keep the business going.

This time the baits will land in the Mahakirau river which supplies Whitanga town’s water.

Small amounts of 1080 will be drunk by Whitianga residents after this drop. (How this poisoning will affect humans, whether 1080 will accrue in the body like other rat poisons and what effect 1080 is having has so far, been completely ignored.)

Have any of those dwellings beside the Mahakirau been offered alternative water to drink while their river is poisoned?

Will the town’s water up-take be turned off at the right time?

The months following a 1080 drop are a nightmare for those who live and farm alongside the poisoned waterways. While precautions used to be taken to avoid human poisoning from the first flush of poison in the water, DoC has never cared about future poisonings as rain leaches out more 1080 from the baits which are left lying around on the ground. A dead rat or possum or bird could wash up in the paddock and still be deadly to a dog as much as a year later.

This year of anxiety would be avoided if only the pests were controlled by trappers at a fraction of the cost; but then the enormous numbers of those involved in this particular form of poisoning would be out of a job!!

Before DoC arrived the public land on the Coromandel was not in any danger from possums. Stoats were rarely seen. Myrtle rust was unheard of as was Kauri die-back. The public tracks were all open, the camping grounds were free and the kiwi ran wild like all the other birds and there was no poison anywhere in our forests –  everything was safe to eat or drink; not just for humans but for all the creatures who lived there.

Today we have more possums and rats, stoats and weasels, wild cats and ferrets and less birds than ever we had before DoC arrived. The kiwi has become a very expensive zoo creature and the campsites cost.

I’d say DoC’s job is done here.