An Opinion by a “Anti-1080 Nutter”

by Bill Wallace, founder of the Ban 1080 Party

Published in the Greymouth Star, 21 September, 2018

I became seriously opposed to the aerial use of 1080 in 2014.
At the time I was flying DoC staff and contractors into Kahurangi National Park to monitor rat numbers.
Those DoC workers were recording very low rat numbers in the remote valleys that had never been poisoned before, and could not sleep for Kiwi at night, and reported kaka and kakariki in the bush around them, as well as no shortage of blue duck. When I asked the local biodiversity officer why they would poison this central area of the Park with virtually no rats, he responded, “We’ve got that much money for 1080, we don’t know where else to spread it.”
With a B.Sc. in Ecology, I decided to read the DoC science, and ask some official questions of DoC. I asked which bird species were to be monitored, and where the unpoisoned control areas for comparison would be. Three separate DoC officers received the same questions; three different answers were received.
Greg Napp (13/4/2014 DoC) said “it is almost impossible to find comparable “control areas” because of Kahurangi’s unique characteristics’.
Jan Hania (6/6/2014 DoC) said the Haast Range and Lake Roe in Fiordland were the control sites.
Steve Deverell (July 2014 DoC) said that Abbey Rocks and Mt Stanley were the control sites.
But none of the same species were studied at both sites so any comparisons would be meaningless. Perhaps DoC staff should talk to each other before they just “make stuff up”.
DoC went ahead with poisoning the entire Park, in spite of low rat numbers. DoC’s own Compulsory Standards (June 2014) prevents 1080 drops unless rat monitoring is at 20%. The only exception to the Compulsory Standard is expert judgment of benefit to the birds.
Verbal Only?
When I requested the expert judgment that had convinced DoC to proceed, Nelson’s DoC conservator said “The technical advice was given verbally and therefore a copy cannot be made available.” (OIA reply Dec 18th 2014)
In 2014 DoC claimed 95% of rats had been killed, and 85% of stoats. When I requested the rat and stoat data, it was clear there was only a 65% drop in rat numbers averaged over the poisoned valleys, and no stoats had been counted either before or after the drop. Rat numbers dropped also in the unpoisoned valleys as well, which happens every winter anyway. (OIA reply 20/11/15)
Also the 29 rock wren being monitored on Grange Range all disappeared at the time of the 2014 1080 drop. DoC attributed that total loss to a heavy snow fall. Now I can’t prove that these insectivorous birds died from secondary poisoning (1080 was designed as an insecticide), but neither can DoC prove it was snow. And if the snow was responsible for 100% loss of rock wren, then it would also probably account for the 65% drop in rat numbers.(Stuff 17/1/2015)
There is no doubt in my mind that DoC manipulate their figures, they exaggerate their successes, and deny or ignore their failures.
DoC’s latest research paper on 1080 in alpine areas (O’Donnell, Weston, Monks 2017), concludes the evidence for success is anecdotal, but that is enough to justify continuation. Anecdotal means hearsay, and reading that paper, the hearsay comes from DoC’s most pro-1080 staff. Hardly indisputable, independently peer reviewed science.
What about the hearsay from WARO operators in Fiordland, the valleys recently poisoned? Not a single kea at the gut heaps, whereas in the unpoisoned valleys, there were about 20 kea at each gut heap.
Or the 8 resident kea at the Kepler hut, which disappeared immediately after that drop.
When frustrated DoC staff do “out” their department’s cover-ups, and release the horrendous kea deaths, (9 out of 27 Franz, 7 out of 11 Okarito), DoC come up with completely unsubstantiated claims about modification of behavior by humans, and always include photos of beautiful live kea, never the sad dead kea which they recover and photograph. Convert these losses to percentages and you realize the 95% reduction in kea numbers over the 65 years we’ve been using 1080, is largely attributable to 1080.
The recent Zero Invasive Predators (ZIP) double dose, double strength insanity in the Perth River in South Westland, which is as remote as you can get, recorded 8 out of 11 kea had interacted with the pre-feed baits – no human conditioning possible here. DoC’s response was to shoot over 100 tahr, and leave their cut open bodies on prominent ridges to hopefully attract the kea away from the poison baits. (ZIP 11/7/2018)
The supposed careful timing of the drops is also a myth – the idea is ( to do it) just before the birds nest when predator numbers are building. In late spring 2016, the Kaikoura earthquake, followed by the Banks Peninsula fires, tied up virtually all the heavy-lift helicopters, and DoC were still dropping 1080 well into following winter, long after the birds had hatched and fledged, and rodent numbers would have been dropping naturally as they do each winter.
And the science is that the rat numbers always recover quickly after the drops anyway. The only science I can find on rat’s genetic resistance found the dose that killed 74% of rats (about DoC’s success rate), four generations later of survivors getting the same dose, was only killing 17% of rats.( Howard, March et al 1973) Is DoC simply creating Super Rat?
DoC are now planning aerial drops every year on the Heaphy Coast, “each pest control operation will provide a window for native species to breed and thrive that lasts around 3 to 6 months before rat numbers begin to build again” (DoC
In Sept 2016, Civil Aviation released an urgent notice to helicopter operators to check their hooks, as there had been a spate of recent releases of poison buckets ( Continuing Airworthiness Notice – 05-005 Cargo Hook System … 13/9/2016)
My understanding is that 3 buckets were dropped that year, 2 of them not recovered, meaning two x1 tonne heaps of 1080 poison in the bush or a river.
An OIA to then DoC Minister, Maggie Barry, about these incidents, elicited this response “I am informed that the then Minister of Conservation was advised of one incident involving a departmental operation that occurred on 2 November 2013.”
Convenient Logic
The reason DoC don’t consider it an incident, is that the heaps are within an area consented for poison drops. Convenient logic, or just denial of the bad stuff ?
Perhaps the cruelty is the biggest concern for a lot of NZer’s. 1080’s cruelty ranking is 6, but because that is lower than the 8 rating of brodifacoum (which DoC also drops from the air), the claim is that 1080 is “relatively humane”. There is no 10 on the scale, so 9 is the most horrendous, torturous death imaginable.
Our Govt’s scientists fed 1080 to 38 impounded dogs, and then recorded their deaths “continual barking and howling, the dog becomes over-active, and behaves as if terrified, but appears to be unaware of its surroundings. There are tonic convulsions (sustained muscle contractions) followed by running movements. Vomiting is common,…death is typically the result of respiratory paralysis. Death is never cardiac in origin, the hearts slows but continues beating for some time after respiration fails.”
If Jan Wright ( Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment) and successive Ministers can defend this as “humane”, then they are as cold-hearted and callous as the scientists who administer the poison and witness the deaths, pretending this is conservation science.
New Zealand’s much touted Animal Welfare Act, has a special clause 30A which allows DoC and it’s contractors to “wilfully and recklessly ill-treat wild animals or animals in wild state”.
Gareth Hughes for the Green Party was last week attacking chicken meat processors for their animal welfare abuses (Stuff 10/9/2018), but across the hall, his associate Eugenie Sage, is gleefully preparing for the torturous deaths of tens of thousands of mammals and birds in total breach of the Act, if it wasn’t for Section 30A.
The Green Party’s close relative, Forest and Bird’s enthusiasm for 1080 suprises me. I wonder how many of their wealthy donors would revisit their bequests if they realized the level of support for this cruelty. If you’re about to write your will, Women’s Refuge or SPCA would seem much more deserving and caring organisations.
And then there’s the poor old possum, portrayed by DoC as a savage predator, but with the teeth arrangement and gut of a typical herbivore.
OSPRI claim possums spread Tb to cattle, but there is no evidence to support this claim. The Broadcasting Standards Authority found OSPRI guilty of false advertising as they could not produce a shred of evidence to support their claims.
(Herald 28/7/2016)
The actual transfer of Tb around NZ has always been on the back of trucks, and the recent M.bovis debacle has exposed how appallingly inept OSPRI’s management has been of the NAIT tracking system, which helps explains why Tb has never been completely eradicated.
So, while the taxpayer is forking out $1 Billion in a probably doomed attempt to clean up M.Bovis, OSPRI continues to collect 3.8c/Kg milk solids and $17/head cull subsidy from farmers, and wastes this $65M/yr on 1080 poison.
Of 124,000 possums autopsied in the last decade, 54 had Tb. In the same time frame, Landcare infected about 200 possums with Tb and released them into the wild in a bizarre experiment, which showed infected possums didn’t move beyond their home range before dying, further proof there is no possibility of possums transferring Tb between regions.
As for the threats to DoC, who doesn’t know someone who’s had a wheel come loose? All DoC’s claims of threats seem planned to attract attention away from the real arguments about the cruelty and stupidity of their continued drops. An OIA revealed there have been exactly SIX cases of threats reported to NZ Police since March 2016. And the details of these 6 cases – in 2 incidents the perpetrator was apparently identified and received a formal warning from Police. 3 cases were phone calls, 1 was a ‘flyer’ left on a DoC vehicle. None have progressed to prosecution. (OIA Police 27/8/2018).
DoC’s exaggerated escalation of the threat level, simply portrays their staff as pathetic, paranoid poisoners, barricading themselves away in their offices, drawing lines on maps for the next 1080 drop, to justify their share of the budget.
And the repeated claim that the 1080 in the infant milk formulae was an anti-1080 protestor. Jeremy Kerr was a contractor to DoC, producing poison products of his own, so why do media, politicians and DoC keep repeating this blatant lie ?
Genuine, Good Chaps
A police investigator in that operation, Derek Shaw, said “I have to say that 95% of the anti-1080 group were just genuine good New Zealanders that were taking a well thought-out position on an issue and were following their passion. I’ve got a new respect for the anti-1080 community because of their
genuineness and their honesty and their passion. I haven’t got an opinion one way or the other [about 1080] but for them, I can see that on the whole they’re not some kind of terrorist group or anything like that and were good to deal with.”
(Stuff 22/10/2016 Thank you, Derek)
And the 25,000,000 birds eaten a year by introduced predators. That figure comes from the back of an envelope calculation, 5 breeding pairs per hectare, 70% nests fail, 60% of failures because of predators, so 42% nesting failure to predators multiplied up by average clutch size, and hectares gives about 25 million.
I’ve researched DoC’s papers and find that their scientists believe that given their small sample sizes, and their lack of scientific controls, over 20% of birds could be killed in 55% of 1080 drops (Veltman Westbrooke 2010), so that’s 2 birds out
of 10 per hectare, that’s 40% nesting failure (assuming the 2 were from different breeding pairs) so on DoC’s own figures, again multiplied up by average number of eggs laid, that’s potentially 25,000,000 eggs not laid because of 1080.
As for the myth that 1080 is somehow selective, Professor Ian Shaw (NZ’s leading toxicologist) says “if anyone tells you that 1080 can discriminate between pests and native animals they are talking complete and utter rubbish.”(Stuff, March 13, 2015)
Wasted Money
And how much of the DoC budget is wasted on the slick PR propaganda machine, churning out the glossy ‘Battle for the Birds’ brochures for each of the drops ? These brochures always include photos of kea and rock wren as species being “saved”, but DoC’s Graeme Elliot tells us “The 1080 drop in 2014 killed four Keas and led to the death of Rock Wrens” (Fairfax Nov 16, 2015) It wasn’t just 4 kea. It was 4 kea wearing radio transmitters, 10% of the radio-tagged kea. In previous poisoning drops DoC have managed over 30% kill of kea. If 4000 kea were exposed to those massive drops, DoC killed at least 400, possibly a thousand, kea.
And my favorite line, quoted by successive ministers is “it’s the best tool we’ve got in our toolbox”. Well, if I was looking for a builder, and the best tool he had was a 65 year old chisel, with a broken handle, and a blunt rusted edge, I’m not going to give him $500 Million a year, and say “Carry On”.
The anger against 1080 in rural communities is palpable. The majority of farmers I know don’t believe for a minute that 1080 is doing anything to protect them from Tb. Many rural families in our area (as do we personally) live largely on venison and wild pork. There’s no night clubs out here. Apart from rugby, our young men hunt on their weekends, but this recreational pursuit is disappearing, and many of them have witnessed the horrific loss of a dog to this poison.
And we also notice the loss of our native predators after the 1080 drops, no longer the haunting call of the morepork and the searching glide of the falcon around our home, and the shrill cry of the kea that were on Mt Burnett, until the first 1080 drop.
Am I a conspiracy theorist?
I don’t believe so, but an old retired lawyer acquaintance of mine talked about the “collective institutionalized atychiphobia” he encountered when working for regional councils. It’s the fear of being wrong, and at a Departmental level it’s being the first to put your hand up and question what you’re doing, or admitting you’re wrong. The collective job security mentality kicks in, and the Council or Government department will go to Court, or employ the spin doctors, rather than accept liability.
The flood gates on the 1080 myth will open. It will be as big as the leaky home scandal when it breaks, but nobody will ever be held responsible, and as it’s all taxpayers’ billions, apart from the poor old farmers’ levies, no individual will be financially disadvantaged.
So, write us all off as nutters and extremists if you will, but don’t be surprised by the fervour of our hatred for this cruel indiscriminate toxin, and our disdain and lack of respect for DoC.”
Bill Wallace
Founder Ban1080 Party

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8 Responses to An Opinion by a “Anti-1080 Nutter”

  1. Wiremu Rutene says:

    Good on you Bill. Well said. Thank you for your efforts with “Ban 1080”.

  2. Pete says:

    There isnt enough avenues of getting the truth to the people and even if we could the brainwashing is complete. Tell the same lie often enough and even the smartest of the dumb will believe it. DOC have done a great job of convincing the public this evil is nessasary. Unfortunately for all of us anti 1080 advocates nothing will change the path of DOC until ” and I say it with no malice or intention ” a person or persons are tragically accidentally poisoned by a blunder with the systems DOC have in place and we can 100% confirm it which even the mainstream media report

  3. hawidahogolde says:

    Bill Wallace deserves much respect..he certainly has mine. For all of us that have used our brains, instead of swallowing the lies and propaganda spewed by the government and DoC should applaud you for writing this. NZ government should be ashamed of what they have done to their country. I have traveled to NZ numerous times, since the 80’s, but will never go again because of the destruction of Nature. NZ used to be a beautiful country. The brave people that have stood their ground, standing against 1080, for years, have been called every name in the book. They have been trod upon by their own government and peers. They have been called propagandists, nutters, etc. This article just shows how wrong the government is. SHAME on NZ. People like Bill Wallace,Tony Orman, Carol Sawyer,the Graf brothers, just to name a few, are heroes for trying to defend Nature and get the truth out. 1080 has destroyed an ecosystem that once was unique in all the world. All the STERILE streams, the sterile soils, the diminished bird populations have the NZ government to blame. All the slick advertising and propaganda will never recover what has been taken away from the NZ generations that have inherited a poisoned nation.

  4. Tony Orman says:

    When I look at a chap like Bill Wallace who is an ecologist and compare him to NZ government’s immediate past Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment physicist Dr Jan Wright there is a sharp contrast. Jan Wright time and time again stated her belief in 1080 poison and indeed called for greater use of it.
    The likes of Forest and Bird and other poisoners often quote Jan Wright as an expert in 1080 and matters ecological
    Dr Wright qualifications are not a scientist of ecological matters but are of physics and public policy.
    Frankly I’m not sure why she got the PCE job in the first place. However I’m sure she might be a very good at physics and public policy.
    But the truth is ecologist Bill Wallace is far better and ideally qualified to comment on the ecological impact of 1080.

  5. I Love the Outdoors Just as Much as You says:

    As per the logic of “Yes Minister!” – something must be done, this (using an indiscriminate super toxin) is something, therefore it must be done. Ugh.

  6. Samuel Milman says:

    You mean the “Yes Minister” slogan “there’s no reason for it, it’s just our policy.”

  7. Dave+Richardson says:

    You cannot listen to a person who does not know what they are talking about and that is where Jan Wright is. Listen to those who have had the experience and the knowledge like Wallace and Collins, so we can move forward. Why do we have so many idiots out there who want to put policies in place who have had no practical knowledge.

  8. Lewis+Hore says:

    I think the DoC and OSPRI and Forest and Bird have done a great job of brainwashing themselves. Ive heard far more sense from many others as well as Bill than I ever have from any of the experts in these organisations Bill Benfield and Jo Pollard are a couple of people I can think of off hand. Lew

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