1080 Poison Drop at Makarora Not Justified?

KIN ran two stories earlier in the month related to a 1080 poison dump near Wanaka. (Scroll down to March 2 and March 6.) Anti-1080 activist, Carol Sawyer, has now found out from the Otago Regional Council that DoC did not follow its own rules.

Poisoners in breach of the consents

By Roger Childs

The Department of Conservation’s (DoC) 1080 drop in the Makarora area, did not meet their own criteria for reducing rat numbers, and was carried out after the preferred timing.

The DoC application to the Otago Regional Council, justified poisoning the land in the area, to reduce rat numbers to below 5% in rat tracking tunnels. In answer to an Official Information Act (OIA) request, DoC findings revealed that only 1.9% of 2,280 tracking tunnels had evidence of rats.

As regards timing, the Discharge Permit Application stated: The preferred timing of aerial operations is between 1 August and 30 December. In other words during the spring. When did it happen?  23 February.

Hunting for a few rats

Helicopters dropping poison instead of saving lives

Rescue helicopters help in bid to kill 43 rats. Only 1.9% rats found over two years of tracking tunnels. OIA request discovers!! Carol Sawyer

Carol’s figures come from the rat tracking surveys carried out by DoC from January 2015 to  December 2016. But coming up well short, wasn’t going to stop DoC poisoning this beautiful land. They went ahead over two days in February this year using Seven HeliOtago helicopters, two of which were from HeliOtago’s air ambulance fleet.

Last month’s 1080 poison operation at Makarora covered 38,500 ha of the beautiful Makarora, Young and Wilkin Valleys .Carol Sawyer

However, it was supposed to happened in spring of 2016. After all, as Minister of Conservation, Maggie Barry, said in her Battle for the Birds campaign last year:

 As rats increase due to the readily-available food source, so will the number of stoats which feed on rats. Once the seeds germinate and the food source disappears in early spring, the plague of millions of starving rats and tens of thousands of hungry stoats will turn on native wildlife, bringing disaster if we do nothing.

A waste of time and money

Mt Aspiring National Park: one of the most beautiful places on Earth

The evidence from Otago District Council Principal Consents Officer, Peter Chistophers and DoC’s research, showed that the Makarora drop was not justified. As Carol observes it was also based on faulty logic.

1080 is ineffective against mice and it is likely to cause plagues of them, as well as kill native birds. How were they going to kill the stoats if there weren’t any poisoned rats?

Given that mice tend to avoid 1080 pellets, and that stoats don’t eat pellets either, and need to eat poisoned prey to be killed by 1080, there was apparently no evidence to justify the aerial drop – unless stoats were intended to be killed by eating poisoned birds!

The 1080 madness needs to stop

DoC has been poisoning the land with 1080 for over 50 years and there is no peer reviewed evidence that it has done any good.

On the contrary, there is plenty of research and anecdotal evidence to suggest that sodium fluoroacetate, which was developed as an insecticide, has killed large numbers of birds and a major item of their diet: insects. A number of dogs and deer have died from 1080, and it is probably only a matter of time before a child or some trampers are killed.

The interference of people in the ecosystem throws natural interactions out of balance. Just as in north Sydney, where a campaign to kill foxes led to the proliferation of rabbits and bandicoots.

And is it going to get easier for the poisoners in New Zealand? The government’s plans to amend the Resource Management Act could mean less regulation and wider time frames.



I contacted DOC at Wanaka and received the following information about their decision to use aerial 1080 at Makarora in late February.

At Makarora, DOC are protecting mohua, long tailed bat, rock wren and kea populations. They based their decision on monitoring of all the predators at the site. Monitoring in September showed that rat numbers were low, mouse numbers were moderate and climbing, and possums had never been controlled at Makarora.

They decided to run the 1080 drop for two reasons 1) It was justified purely for possum control 2) They expected that stoat numbers would be high from December 2016, due to the rising mouse numbers that had been recorded through spring.

Because rat numbers were low, this work was less urgent than BFOB operations that had to be done. They planned to do the drop in December or Jan but weather and holidays delayed it until late February

They are gathering tracking tunnel data at present to assess the results for rodents and stoats.

I wonder, did Carol know the full picture before she wrote her article? And if so, why didn’t she share with us?

Ray Thompson asked DOC on 17 November 2016, on the subject of their decision at that point to cancel the drop because of insufficient rat numbers, “How were the rodent population numbers determined?” (plus 3 other questions). And DOC replied “Rodent numbers are assessed using a standardised Small Mammal Index monitoring protocol” – with details of how tracking tunnels work.

No mention of residual trap catch figures.

This seems to be the latest OIA request re Makarora. I’d be interested to hear what Carol might say on this subject.

Who created the OIA request, please? I’m searching on fyi.org.nz and I can’t see anything created by Carol Sawyer or Roger Childs.

Ideally the request number would be helpful.

Isn’t it about time that one of our elected representatives took note and and asked some serious questions in parliament concerning the millions of dollars being wasted so frivolously by the department of conservation?
It seems that a lid is being kept on the state owned poison industry and I can’t understand why.
The Makarora fiasco has cost the taxpayers of this country and it would appear that it was unjustified.
Someone needs to be accountable!

Well put together piece by Roger Childs and Carol Sawyer and Kapiti Independent .
It is well known that 1080 Poison does not kill either mice or Stoats. Stoats food of choice is rats (shown to be in very small numbers), mice or rabbits. Remove the few remaining rats and the rabbits out of the area and of course the Stoats will prey switch to Native Birds. Why does the Minister of Conservation and those in her department not know this?
What are the real reasons this drop went ahead?
What a gross waste of tax payer money.