(To read the earlier episodes scroll down to February 14, 15 and 16.)
Nobody seemed to know but DoC
By Stephanie McKee
DoC managers were utterly secretive about the storage of 23,000 kgs of 1080 bags in the centre of Whitianga town. Very few knew about this storage, as far as we know not the local council, not the community board, and certainly not the local fire chief.
Their planning included storing 23,000 kg of bags of 0.15% 1080 baits in their Whitianga warehouse in advance of the signoff for the drops from the Waikato Medical Officer of Health, and without the knowledge of the other tenants in the building, nor of the local residents metres away.
The baits arrived on the 6th June. At this time DoC did not have the go-ahead for the drops from the Waikato Medical Officer of Health.
This was not applied for until August and not received until September 23. Obviously they saw it as a mere formality that would not be refused.
Freedom of Information requests confirmed that the local fire chief had not been informed.
This is a department acting above the law, even above the laws of common sense.
An unacceptable risk with a precedent
This is about risk-management, and in the Whitianga case, DoC managers made decisions that put an unacceptable risk on to the residents and visitors of Whitianga that they had no knowledge about.
According to the MSDS (Manufacturers Safety Data Sheet), the 1080 baits are slow to combust, but in the case of a fire, extremely toxic Hydrogen Fluoride gas would be released requiring evacuation of anyone in the path of the gas.
OIA revealed that 35 litres of petrol were also stored in the the Whitianga warehouse.
This is how the fire started in Murupara in 2006, when the siphoning of petrol ignited and brodifacoum baits went up in flames.
As the local fire chief there also had not been informed about the storage, the firefighters did not know what toxic gases they were dealing with, and 18 people ended up in hospital.
Whitianga fire chief not informed
The MSDS specifically states that As far as practicable, eliminate flammable materials and ignition sources from the storage area.
Under an Official Information Act Request, DoC was asked for their Emergency Response Plan.
In reply they sent the MSDS which outlines requirements in the case of an emergency. One is that firefighters would have to be professionally trained in the use of breathing apparatus as a 1080 bait fire would release toxic Hydrogen Fluoride gas.
But DoC managers did not even inform the fire chief about the storage of bulk 1080 pellets. And neither did they warn businesses using the same building.
DoC managers would probably say that the risk of a fire was extremely low as to be negligible. This is simply unacceptable minimisation of the risk.
The risk exists, and however low the chances of a fire are assessed by the risk-managers, the consequences of such a fire would be catastrophic for Whitianga.
1080 bait could be smelt in nearby houses
This means that the bags of bait were giving off volatile gases.
Was the warehouse too warm on that mid- October day?
Was the storage area lined and did it have a cooling system?
Four unanswered questions
Why did Health and Safety decline to investigate DoC ? ( Documentary evidence for this )
- Why have the police not charged these security guards for driving vehicles without licence number plates?
- Why did DoC not seal off the access road from the public while the baits were being loaded?
- Should the Thames-Coromandel District Council (TCDC), and the Waikato Regional Council, demonstrate a duty of care to their ratepayers, by investigating this secret 1080 storage in a town’s CBD?
This was requested of the TCDC on December 12th 2017, when a petition of over 600 signatures was presented to the Council.
(The final article in the series will feature tomorrow.)