The Death of New Zealand’s Bio-Diversity

The late Bill Benfield, former Council of Outdoor Recreation Association’s chairman, wrote this opinion piece four years ago. It is more relevant than ever as the Department of Conservation and OSPRI carry out more and more 1080 drops and in the public’s National Parks like Fiordland and Nelson Lakes. Hence our re-publishing Bill’s thoughts.


New Zealand markets itself as “clean and green” and “100% pure”. Food from farming and other primary industries makes up about 70% of New Zealand’s exports. The “clean and green” brand is a marketing strategy to convince export markets that exported New Zealand food is “100% pure.”
The branding is marketed to attract tourism dollars to New Zealand on the promise of pristine, pure wilderness. Farming and tourism are two major components of the country’s economy.
But the bragging is looking shaky. A couple of years ago it was revealed a survey said 60% of New Zealand’s rivers were unfit for swimming. On the UK’s BBC “Hard Talk”  New Zealand Prime minister John Key was given a torrid time over the state of rivers relative to the “clean, green”  claims.  Key looked distinctly uncomfortable.
Key could not shrug it off as he usually did.
But rivers are only part of the fragility of New Zealand’s “clean and green” branding. 
Mass spreading of poisons is undermining the marketing of 100% pure.
A major threat to the country’s biodiversity and ecology is the widespread use of poisons to combat portrayed invasions by so-called “introduced” wild animals that have been in the country now for 150 years.


Bill Benfield wrote two fine books on the poison ‘industry’

Toxin Topdressings
Government agencies funded by public money spread toxins on a broad landscape basis by air. One such toxin 1080 (sodium monofluoroacetate), was first developed as an insecticide but in reality it’s a “wide spectrum” poison.  
1080 is spread primarily to combat possum, alleged to be a pest devouring native vegetation and accused of spreading bovine tuberculosis (Tb). The toxin is also used to kill rats said to be preying on and annihilating native birds.
But as the story unfolds, undistorted by bureaucratic spin, it is not the rats or possums that are the threat to ecosystems but New Zealand’s very own poison “industry” which has become a “gravy train” for well-paid bureaucrats and empires.
The manner of spreading 1080 especially from the air, is indiscriminate and with the potential to cause long term ecological damage, which is becoming more evident now. 1080 was first developed as an insecticide but was found to kill animals also. So it became a  poison for pests. It still kills insects, animals and birds – in short anything which comes in contact with it.  
It is an eco-system poison.
TB-Free Flawed
New Zealand’s bovine tuberculosis (TB-Free) policy is similarly flawed with authorities using an error-prone skin test to detect TB in farm animals. As a result undetected stock can be sold and transported thus spreading TB. Stock trucks, not possums, are the culprit. besides NZ’s bovine TB rates are so low, well under WHO requirements.
Bureaucracies roll on, avoiding admitting past policies are wrong and inventing problems to occupy their time. Instead “spin doctors” feed irresponsible propaganda to fib and say policies are right.
Underlying New Zealand’s poison programmes is an inherent hatred of “introduced” creatures. But it’s very selective and hypo-critical. Humans are introduced, so are cows and sheep and other farm animals. But wild animals seem fair game!
In 1958, Dr William Graf, a Californian Professor of Zoology, visited New Zealand to study the wild deer situation. Following  Dr Graf coined the phrase “anti-exotic animal phobia”  in describing government attitude.
Ninety Percent!
New Zealand, just the size of the state of Colorado, uses over 90 percent of the world’s manufactured 1080 poison. 
But 1080  disrupts the natural food chain. Research shows within three years after 1080, numbers of fast and prolific breeding rats soar as Nature kicks back.  Stoats preying on rats thrive and similarly explode. The whole food chain is put out of balance.
Birds, directly or indirectly, die from 1080 either through ingesting toxic baits, preying or scavenging on poisoned prey (the latter termed “secondary poisoning”). The morepork (native owl) and native falcon have both suffered high losses due to 1080. The native mountain parrot, the kea, a curious jester by nature, has had populations severely cut by 1080.
The poison, acting as an insecticide, kills insects vital to the ecosystem such as native bees so essential to pollination, and other insects vital food source to insectivorous bird species. 
Again a bizarre aspect is the 1080 factory-depot at Whanganui in the North Island, is government owned. Animal Control Products is a State Owned Enterprise charged with returning a profit.
Meanwhile New Zealand is killing its bio-diversity which by international agreement it is charged with protecting.
Footnote: Bill Benfield was the author of two excellent books on the subject, “At War with Nature” and “The Third Wave”, published by Tross Publishing. 



Poison notices testify to the poison drops








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2 Responses to The Death of New Zealand’s Bio-Diversity

  1. Dave says:

    How many warnings do we need from our overseas customers? They have for a long time now told our agriculture sectors and DOC to clean up our act but have we listened. No, and now Japan is complaining about the Glysophate in our honey we send to them that is above their standards. There should be none at all and now 1080 is showing up. According to the agriculture spokesperson on the radio this morning they don’t know where or how it is getting into the honey. The solution is to stop them both. Where has the common sense gone now? Why are other counties telling us this which leads to the question; what are our scientists doing about it? Nothing it seems.

  2. Jim Hilton says:

    This opinion piece is as relevant today as it was four years ago when it was written by the late Bill Benfield. A remarkable man, I was lucky to meet with him twice.
    Since Bill’s last book was published in 2015 there have been another eight books published about why 1080 and the use of similar poisons should STOP. They are:
    Save Our Wild Pigs” by Reihana Robinson published 2016 125 pages    
    “Don’t Fence Us In” by Reihana Robinson published 2016 117 pages
    “Voices of the Coromandel – Poison Peninsula” by Reihana Robinson published 2016 285 pages
    “The Quiet Forest – The case against aerial 1080.” by Fiona M F McQueen published 2017 231 pages.
    “The Killing Nation – New Zealand’s State-Sponsored Addiction To Poison 1080” by Reihana Robinson 2017 193 pages
    “New Zealand’s Changing Biodiversity – Nature Under Pressure” by Jim Hilton and Roger Childs 2018 95 pages
    “Rural Revolt In Defence of Coromandel’s Wild Kingdom, First They Came for the Goats, Don’t Fence Us In, Save Our Wild Pigs, Voices of the Coromandel.” by Reihana Robinson published 2019 363 pages
    “Duped! The true story behind predator free New Zealand” by Les Kelly published 2020 277 pages
    Do the people who promote and have the power to STOP these poisons read these books? Do their advisers keep up to date with public critique? That’s part of their job. If they have they have never acknowledged so publicly.
    That’s an absolute disgrace and the longer they remain silent and do nothing a bigger hole they dig for themselves.

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