A Programme To Poison A Nation 2

Readers will be familiar with the grand mid-year launch of Predator Free NZ by 2050. Our Wairarapa-based ecology expert traces the background on its forerunner: Predator Free New Zealand (pfnz). (To read the first article, scroll down to December 13.)

A distinguished cast

By Bill Benfield

pdnz“pfnz” is now well entrenched as a concept and structure complete with a trust comprising notable figures from both the public and private conservation industry.

Among them are Rob Fenwick, the chairman of the government science provider, Landcare Research, Kevin O’Connor of DoC, economist/businessman Gareth Morgan, William McCook of OSPRI, the former Animal Health Board,  Fran Wilde, chair of Greater Wellington Regional Council,  Charles Daugherty of the Ecology Department of Victoria University and several others.

Until recently it was still being low keyed in its public profile and certainly evasive on eradication methods with airy claims of “blue sky” technology and self re-setting traps.

Never mention poison!

1080-dropWhat is missing in the new trust are the originators of pfnz. We know that Jansen has had a job as a special adviser to the Minister of Conservation, but Kelly seems to have dropped out of the picture.

As pfnz is potentially one of the world’s greatest gravy trains, it invites the question why. One clue to Kelly’s  fate is on a website he set up, http://www.predatorfreenz.com/ ; where he states his opposition to aerial 1080.

As aerial 1080 is the honey pot in New Zealand’s conservation, his presence would probably not have rested easily with the rest of the trust.

Projects in progress

Stewart Island: the first big challenge
Stewart Island: the first big challenge

There are currently several projects in progress with all the hallmarks of pfnz involvement; they include trust member Gareth Morgan’s “million dollar mouse” project to aerially spread tonnes of mouse sized baits of brodifacoum rat poison on the sub-Antarctic Antipodes Island.

Another is a public-private partnership with wealthy philanthropists, Neil and Annette Plowman, titled “project Janszoon”, for a 30 year programme of aerial poisoning with 1080 and aerial weed spraying to supposedly return the Abel Tasman National Park to the state it was in when Tasman called in 1642.

Stewart Island will be the first mainland site to have total eradication. For Stewart Island, the methods proposed are vague, but on the information available it seems it will have will have aerial drops of the environmentally persistent brodifacoum rat poison, the same as was done on the nearby Muttonbird (Titi) Islands.

Cleansing protected islands

All information to date on the conduct of the pfnz campaign is couched in military terms, with operations starting from the south and spreading north in sweeps over the nation. It seems reminiscent of Captain Yerex’s futile campaigns against deer in the 1930s.

Yerex’s campaign failed because he could not stop animals going back through the lines and into the freshly “cleared’ areas. In a radio interview on the morning programme of Radio New Zealand shortly before his death Paul Callaghan expounded his “vision” of how pfnz would work.

pdnz-1The plan, he claimed, would be to set up fenced protected islands, almost arks which had been cleansed of “pests”. Here collections of “iconic” native birds would then be kept, without the flighted ones flying out – hopefully.

At this point, the pfnz juggernaut would proceed from the bottom of the South Island to the top of the North over the period of some years, destroying every non-native creature not held behind wire for the purposes of agriculture.

At this point there seems to be a tacit admission that every native species not protected in a fenced sanctuary will also have been destroyed. At the end of the campaign the doors of the sanctuaries will be opened and New Zealand’s “iconic” native birds can re-populate, albeit with a reduced gene pool; a poisoned land devoid of ecosystems.

To be continued.

(This series of Article was first published in the “Tasmanian Times” mid 2015.)