Molesworth 1080 Drop: Wasteful & Costly

“Although possums are the main source of wildlife infection, it is difficult and costly to directly detect TB in the possum population itself, because the disease often only occurs in small population clusters.” OSPRI

A cheaper more effective way to deal with possums

By Marty Foote

There has been work done, by contract possum trappers, that has proved able to identify the small TB possum clusters (TB hot-spots), by autopsying all the possums caught during the initial control work.

Consequently, the trappers can then target future possum control in those small areas where TB possum clusters have been found.

This means that there is no by-kill of any other animals, TB is eradicated from possums quicker and less money is spent on TB targeted possum control. 

However, OSPRI (Operational Solutions for Primary Industries),  is following a TB eradication programme that only considers the more expensive, guaranteed to provide work for the aerial 1080 industry for 10-20 years, as the only option for the possum control work.

OSPRI is being paid to do this through money forcibly collected from taxpayers, ratepayers and farmers.

OSPRI’s Molesworth disaster 

Molesworth: an unnecessary and costly poisoning operation

(Scroll down to: What’s Up DoC? 3: Deer Kill (December 12) to get more background on the recent Molesworth 1080 drop.)

10% of the area where 1080 was dropped was surveyed, and 345 dead deer were spotted. This would put the total of dead deer left to rot at about 3,450.

This year’s operation is a third of the total area to be targeted with 1080. By the time the whole zone has been treated with 1080 there will be an estimated 10,350 deer killed and left to rot.

This is only the first phase as the whole area will be treated, with 1080, twice more, thus bringing the likely final tally of dead deer to about 31,050.

If there are still cattle TB reactors being recorded, after the full 9 year 1080 poisoning programme, then aerial 1080 poisoning will continue for an indefinite period of time.

What a waste!

With venison returning around $8/kg, to the producer, and if the average weight of the deer left to rot on Molesworth is 60kg, the total financial cost of the wasted venison resource would be $14,904,000.

This amounts to $82.80/ha, over the whole 9 years, or $27.60/ha per aerial 1080 operation. $27.60 is 10 cents more than Nick Smith quoted to me in answer to my OIA question about the cost of the 2014 Battle for Our Birds 1080 operations, with OSPRI and DOC recently quoting aerial 1080 costs as low as $16.50/ha.

This means that OSPRI is spending less money on aerial 1080 than the natural, harvestable resource, described as by-kill, that OSPRI is destroying, with this equation only taking into account the basic value of the venison.

It doesn’t attempt to quantify

  • the lost income from the destruction of trophy stags that hunters, from all over the world, come to Molesworth to hunt
  • the value of the work lost that could have been generated by wild venison harvesting, processing and exporting
  • the value lost through the destruction of the possum fur during the initial knock-down operations which would add millions to the total lost opportunity cost.

The only real beneficiaries, of the OSPRI aerial 1080 operations on Molesworth, are the small group of people that are profiting from OSPRI’s policy of large scale aerial 1080 operations.

Comparing costs: 1080 v contract trappers

Aerial 1080 cost: $16.50 (lowest current aerial 1080 quote) x $60,000ha = $990,000 x 3 areas = $2,970,000 x 3 drops = $8,910,000 + $14,904,000 (wasted venison value) = $23,804,000 + $2,700,000 (wasted possum fur at 3 possums/ha) = $26,504,000

(If the  figure of $57/ha, which OSPRI quoted in 2010 is used, the total cost would be over $48,000,000!)

And that doesn’t include the unknown value of trophy stags.

Furthermore, aerial 1080 is not guaranteed to rid the possum population of TB within 9 years.

OSPRI’s history is that large areas are under OSPRI possum control regimes for a lot longer than 9 years.

Contract trappers cost: $10 x 180,000ha = $1,800,000 x 9 years = $16,200,000.

Contract trappers are highly likely to rid the possum population of TB with 9 years.

In other words, OSPRI is destroying a much greater value of natural resources than OSPRI is spending and OSPRI is spending far more money that it needs to, to achieve its stated objective of eradicating TB from the Molesworth possum population.

A waste of the country’s money

Is OSPRI’s total reliance on aerial 1080 the best way to use the financial resources it has access to?

Moleworth is a favourite area for hunting, mountain biking, tramping, running and walking. Remote and inaccessible?

This question should be asked while taking into consideration that Molesworth is a working station that is farming and harvesting animals and cannot be considered as “remote and inaccessible” which is the term OSPRI normally trots out to justify the use of aerial 1080.

I have asked OSPRI for its written definition of the terms “remote” and “inaccessible”.

OSPRI replied that they have not defined these terms and it has no intention of defining “remote” and “inaccessible”, in the context that OSPRI is using them, to justify the use of aerial 1080 over large areas of NZ’s forested and, now, farmed land.