Today we begin a story about disgraceful happenings in October 2017 involving a government department in the Coromandel. It is tale about the storage of dangerous chemicals near houses and shops, secretive loading of trucks, assault on civilians, unregistered security guards, a flawed police investigation, not to mention poisoning the land.
DoC is in trouble
By Stephanie McKee
2017 was initially a good year for the Department of Conservation (DoC), on the Coromandel Peninsula.
They simply ignored all public calls for alternatives to aerial 1080, and just planned to go ahead with the drops as directed.
Consultation has been abandoned by DoC, even though DoC rangers are currently required to declare they have complied with the Communications Guidelines for Aerial 1080 Operations.
No longer are locals being offered “options for control” as required by the Communications Guidelines for Aerial 1080 Operations (1)
A clandestine operation
DoC’s raruraru (troubles), began on the night of October 17, 2017, when three elders came across a clandestine loading of 1080 baits in an open car park in the Whitianga CBD.
Up till then, DoC staff had succeeded in storing 23,000 tons of 1080 bait ( 0.15%) right in the heart of the commercial area of Whitianga.
The DoC managers informed no-one about this. Not the local Thames-Coromandel District Council ( TCDC), not the local community board, not even the other tenants in the building.
Freedom of Information requests confirmed that even the local fire chief had not been informed.
This is a department acting above the law, even above the laws of common sense. (2). They did not have a proper emergency response plan. When asked for this under OIA, they sent the Manufacturer’s Safety Data Sheet, whose emergency advice they were not even following.
DoC managers were utterly secretive about the bulk storage of the 1080 in the centre of Whitianga town. From 8th June to 23rd September, the DoC 1080 baiting operation did not even have the required sign off from the Waikato Medical Officer of Health. ( 3)
Smelling a rat and more
Then on the afternoon of October 17th, a resident who lived adjacent from the DoC warehouse, smelt a strange smell. A citrusy smell that is used as a lure in the baits. He then filmed on his mobile a group of trucks loading sacks in the car park behind the Liquor King store at 20 Joan Gaskell Drive, Whitianga.
He made a phone call to Graeme Sturgeon to let him know what he was seeing.
Graeme Sturgeon is a Vietnam Veteran whose health was impacted by Agent Orange when he was a young soldier in Vietnam. (He is the author of three books: “Dustoff for Willie Peters”,”Beneath the Southern Cross” and “Hunters and The Hunted”.)
So upon receiving the phone call, Graeme drove back to the bait loading site to see if he could photograph this event.
(To be continued.)