Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Planned 1080 Aerial Drop in Wellington’s Back Yard 2012

There’s a lovely little forest loop walk near my house called the Gum Loop Walk, about 40 minutes long if you ramble, that is enormously popular with dog walkers, runners, families, young kids learning to ride their bikes and the like. I probably walk it 3-4 times a week, and I can’t remember the last time I walked it and didn’t see others doing the same. Yesterday this sign appeared at the start of the walk.

It says that the Greater Wellington Regional Council have targetted this area “to be treated with 1080 poison to control possums” sometime mid-May, and warning dog owners to keep their pets out of the area for up to six months. If you look at the map, and read the fine print, you can see that this is to be an aerial drop, and the drop area includes not only this track and others like it, a five-minute walk from the nearby Wainui suburb of Homedale, but also over one of Wellington’s primary watershed areas! (That's the bluish coloured area on the map; the drop area is the area encircled by the blue line.) You’ve got to be kidding!

I have written several posts about 1080 before[i] but in brief: 1080 was originally developed as an insecticide. It is such a toxic poison that it is banned in all but half a dozen countries. New Zealand uses about 85% of the total world production on its forests. 1080 is toxic to all living things that depend upon oxygen for survival, although some, such as dogs[ii], are more susceptible than others. There is no antidote. In their agony—death by 1080 is neither quick nor kind—some observers suggest that animals seek water in a vain attempt to ease their anguish, dying in or near that water. Possums and rats may be primary targets, but wild deer and pigs are common by-kill. Secondary poisoning—caused when another creature eats the carcass of a poisoned  animal—is common and affects morepork, hawks, and weka, (and dogs) as well as the myriad of insects and worms that would normally hasten the decay process. Those poisoned insects and worms, in turn, may be consumed by other animals and birds—breaking the forest ecological life cycle. “Vegetarian” birds such as tui (nectar-feeders) and wood pigeon (foliage browsers) are generally unaffected.

The documentary Poisoning Paradise: Ecocide New Zealand is an excellent documentary  available--if you live in New Zealand--from your local video store or library. Below is a 6-minute you-tube compilation from the documentary (don’t click out during the first minute just because it starts like a cheesy ad for NZ), or you can go to you tube and download the whole thing for free.

The Department of Conservation defends the use of 1080, saying it is essential to reduce predation on native birds.  They claim 25 million native birds a year are killed by predators[iii]. Where do they get this astounding number? And given the possum is almost exclusively vegetarian, how does this add up to a need to use 1080 to kill possums? It doesn’t even make sense! They also make 1080 sound harmless by noting it is biodegradable (but very slowly in cold weather) and a natural form of it can be found in some toxic plants. DOC says “waterways must be closely monitored”[iv] but the Wellington City Council is planning to drop this stuff in Wellington city’s watershed. Unbelieveable! And the public hasn’t been consulted. It’s just fait accompli.

I’ll end this blog with a couple of photos I took on the Gum Loop walk this morning.

You can see why this is such a popular walk--it's pretty! The tarmac road in the second-to-last photo leads to the water treatment plant and the watershed, both in the drop zone.

POSTSCRIPT FEBRUARY 2013:  I've posted a couple of other articles regarding this since this blog post was written, linked here:

1080 Drop Near Wellington August 2012 Update
1080 Update (25 February, 2013)

[i] See http://susan-thrasher.blogspot.co.nz/2011/10/1080.html for information about 1080, http://susan-thrasher.blogspot.co.nz/2011/10/possums-in-new-zealand.html for information about possums and the threat they pose in New Zealand, http://susan-thrasher.blogspot.co.nz/2011/10/oh-deer.html for my thoughts about by-kill and water contamination from 1080, and my very first blog post inspired by hearing a possum at http://susan-thrasher.blogspot.co.nz/2011/10/of-possums-and-serendipitous.html


  1. The DomPost and Stuff picked up the story. See DomPost 9 May, 2012, p. A7, and a variant of that story on Stuff, see http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/hutt-valley/6881776/1080-drop-planned-for-Wainuiomata although it's not just Wainuiomata!

  2. This drop is being funded by the Animal Health Board. There was a good article in this morning's DomPost (17 May) on the Animal Health Board saying they spend $53.5m annually on possum poisoning in their fight against bovine TB. "Our epidemiologist say it may take 35-40 years under current funding but we can eliminate TB from NZ." That says a lot. They acknowledge that there are no TB-infected livestock herds in the Wellington and Wairarapa regions, but emphasize that complacency isn't an option. Now Australia has possums, and they eliminated bovine TB in 1997, having culled their herds of infected animals... Makes you think.

  3. When I walked the Gum Loop a couple of months ago I heard more than one bellbird. Thats a good sign when they still aren't found in most places around Wellington. I would much rather hear their sound and have people walk their dog on a lead for a few months through there. A pet is the owners responsibility and if they're unwilling to control them because an area is a danger to their animal then there is noone else to blame. If 1080 doesn't work why has the tui population wood pigeon populations dramatically increased over the last 10 years?

    1. Thanks for your comment, Anonymous. The sign specifically says "you are strongly advised to keep your dog out of this area...the warning signage will be in place until it is safe to take your dog back into this area. This could be up to six months." It doesn't say anything to suggest that its safe to walk your dog here on a lead after a drop, although I suspect some people will continue to do so. Yes, we are blessed with many bellbirds, tuis and wood pigeons in the area, the latter two in profusion in spring. Tui and wood pigeon are bird species unlikely to be attracted by poisoned bait or carrion, since they favour nectar, foliage, and fruit, so should be relatively unaffected by a 1080 drop. Bell birds feed on nectar and fruit too, but also eat insects. Since 1080 is an insecticide, use of it could have some effect on bell birds, although hopefully not a significant one. Also frequently seen along this walk: parakeets, silvereyes, fantails, tomtits, and quail, and signs say there are kiwi in the park but I haven't seen or heard one. Insect-eating birds such as tomtits are sometimes found dead after 1080 poison operations.

  4. Hello Susan I wish to draw you and other readers to the fact that 1080 poison is not toxic to dogs it is LETHAL. I refer readers to http://ww1080science.co.nz/pressreleasedogpoisoned.html were in you will read Dr J C Pollard (PhD Zoology)research and tabled information that the LD50mg/kg for Dogs as 0.07mg. That is a 10 kilo dog 50% kill risk factor is 0.7mgs. Rats and possums require a dose 17.14 times per kilo to achieve a 50% risk factor. Thus the Regional Council recomendation to keep dogs out of areas spread with 1080 neither tells the truth of its lethal effect nor informs dog owners what to do if a dog or indeed a child mouths an attractive looking 1080 bait.
    The use of Self Setting traps to rid the 1080 targeted pests is a wonderful alternative the dubious diversionary spin statement that 1080 is biodegradable is a nonsense when the self setting traps operate so effectively. John Henton, Island Bay

  5. Thanks for your feedback, John. It seems to me that the use of traps in ANY park area that is easily accessible and very popular with dog walkers, kids, families and the like, is an absolute no-brainer. But I'm not the Wellington Regional Council or the Animal Health Board.

  6. I just attended the Kiwi adversion traing in this area. The guy taking the course stated that the Kiwi's were doing really well in this area as 1080 is not used that much, he went on to say that areas that use more 1080 have a way worse survial/ breading sucess.

  7. Catch my latest update (as of August 13) on the drop in the area here http://susan-thrasher.blogspot.co.nz/2012/08/1080-drop-near-wellington-august-update_15.html


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