1080 (2011)

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Aerial application of 1080 pellets in action.



Brushtail possum and rat predating native bird nest (Figgins, 2011)

New Zealand has been geographically isolated for over 80 million years (Cooper and Millener, 1993), its species have evolved without any terrestrial mammals, apart from two species of bat. This makes New Zealand home to many unique and ancient wildlife (Department of Conservation (B), 2011). Many of these species are now under threat as the arrival of humans have introduced what is now 32 exotic mammals (Wodzicki and Wright, 1984).

One introduced mammal that has had a huge environmental and conservational impact is the Australian Brushtail possum, Trichosurus vulpecula (Coleman, 2008). It was first introduced in 1858 to establish a fur trade (Clout, 1999). Through a series of liberations between 1885 and 1900 the Brushtail possum rapidly colonised New Zealand (Veblen and Stewart, 1982). The possum thrives in the environment as New Zealand provides a range of habitats, lacks competitors, predators and parasites and has a relative abundance of nutritious and palatable vegetation (Clout, 1999). Now the Brushtail possum is found from coast to treeline and is causing huge environmental costs (Clout, 2006).
Escalation of possum populations from 1870-2000 (Figgins, 2011)

Possums cause tree mortality especially in natives species as they are selective browsers and will strip the more palatable species leading to decreasing biodiversity amongst forests. They severely impact native birds both indirectly and directly. Possums feed on a range of leaves, fruit and flowers which reducing the food supply of native birds leading to competition. They also predate on nest and the birds themselves (Clout, 2006 and Clout, 1999).

Not only are possums endangering native species but they are also a threat to the nations’ trade in dairy, beef and venison (Coleman and Cooke, 2001). They have been identified as a key reservoir and vector of bovine tuberculosis (BTb) (Ryan et al. 2006). Those tasked with protecting New Zealand's native flora and fauna, notably the Department of Conservation and the Animal Health Board, have concluded that 1080 use is vital to combat predator threats.

1080 poison is therefore used to control these mammalian pests in New Zealand. It is the most effective poison available present, although research is being undertaken looking into alternatives and improvements. It is of an appropriate level of toxicity and can be easily distributed in both easily accessible and the more difficult areas of terrain. 1080 is a cost-effective poison due to it's high kill-rate and wide distribution. It breaks down in soil and water in the environment, leaving no permanent trace of application.

Environmental assessment of the 1080 operation can be considered as direct and indirect effects. The 1080 poison's direct effets on environment is the quality of water and soil. The non-targeted species is the indirect effects of 1080 poison. 1080 does have an impact on non-target species. It has been considered that this impact is a worth while trade off for the improvement for these species, their natural habitat and their reproductive capabilities.

It is necessary to consider the stakeholders involved in the 1080 decision making process as they are responsible for determining where the poison is applied and in what quantities. There is an apparent divide between public perception of 1080’s by-kill, and DoC’s use of it as the ultimate conservation tool.

There will be an assessment of how aerial drops of 1080 comply with the RMA and the requirements of resource consent, but mainly how the public are notified. There will also be an assessment of a 52 page report called “Community consultation Processes for aerial 1080 applications”, which outlines the entire process of 1080 in public notification.


The poison 1080 (sodium monofluoroacetate) is considered to be the most effective tool to control invasive species populations in New Zealand.

In New Zealand there are six poisons registered for possum control- 1080, cyanide, cholecalciferol, phosphorus, pindone and brodifacoum. There are a number of advantages and disadvantages for each of these forms of poisons. Taking these into account, the Department of Conservation has decided that 1080 is the most effective poison to use as pest control.

Other forms of pest control include trapping and hunting.http://vimeo.com/11096434


1080 is readily absorbed through the gut, respiratory tract, mucous membranes, open wounds and abrasions but is less readily absorbed through intact skin. Once absorbed 1080 stops the energy cycle of living cells, causing mammals to die of heart failure while they are semi-comatose (Horizons Regional Council (n.d) online). There have been no recorded human deaths in New Zealand from 1080 poisoning. 1080 is much less hazardous to humans than some other poisons, like cyanide. Research shows 1080 does not cause cancer or birth defects, but those working with 1080 should follow strict safety precautions, as with all poisons. Birds are less susceptible to 1080 poisoning than mammals and the bait is made less attractive to them by dying the pellets green and lacing them with a lure for possums. Where 1080 has been used, the drop in predator numbers means bird life can flourish, outweighing the small risk it presents to birds. Research shows significant increases in native bird numbers in areas where 1080 has been used. Dogs are ten times more vulnerable to 1080 than possums and will die if they consume 1080 pellets, or possums killed by 1080. If there is a 1080 operation nearby, keep your dog away from the area and or on a leash and muzzled. Poisoned possum carcasses can take several months to decompose so take precautions in previously poisoned areas. 1080 is also highly toxic to livestock so they too must be kept out of treated areas (Horizons Regional Council (n.d) online).

1080 is a fast acting poison and the amount of time it takes to kill varies between animals for example it takes possums between 6-18 hours to die of cardiac failure. Carnivores such as dogs or stoats ingest the poison through eating carcasses that have been killed by 1080, they experience problems with their central nervous systems and may suffer convulsions before dying. There is no known cure or antidote to treat any animal or human which has been poisoned by 1080 therefore its use is strictly controlled in an attempt to prevent accidental poisoning (Department of Conservation (E), 2011).


1080 can be applied in a number of ways, including as a cereal pellet, a paste, carrot baits, gels and fish-based pellets. These different methods of 1080 application are used in different areas and are targeted at different species. The target species of the cereal pellets and carrot baits are possums, rabbits and rodents, while the 1080 pastes are targeted at possums, rabbits, wallabies, goats and wasps. Gels are used to target deer, wallabies and feral goats, while fish-based pellets are aimed to eliminate feral cats. 1080 is the only poison that has been registered for aerial dropping. This increases its effectiveness, as it is able to reach a wide spatial range. However anti 1080 groups are vehemently oppose method of distribution claiming that a number of non target species affected and they also claim that it causes 1080 to pollute waterways and soils. The Department of Conservation distributes 1080 over 150,000 ha of challenging terrain, which constitutes 2% of public conservation land at present. In these areas the aerial distribution of 1080 are more cost effective than ground-based distribution methods. Average sowing rates of 1080 cereal baits have steadily fallen from over 30 kg of bait per hectare in the 1950s to under 2 kg of bait per hectare today – equivalent to about four baits in an area the size of a tennis court (Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, 2011). Baits are now dyed green or blue to make them less attractive to birds, and deer repellent can also be added. In an effort to appease recreational hunters deer repellent is used when 1080 is used in New Zealand's eight Recreational Hunting Areas, however due to an increase of 25% in the production it is not used elsewhere (Department of Conservation (E), 2011).
Areas where 1080 has been aerially dropped in blue from 7/2008-6/2009 (Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, 2011)
Areas where 1080 has been aerially dropped in blue from 7/2008-6/2009 (Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, 2011)


There is and always will be a limited budget for pest control in New Zealand. 1080, through a combination of both aerial application and ground control, is a cost-effective method of pest control. For a pest-control method to be cost-effective, it must cost as little as possible while gaining the best possible kill-rate for this amount of money.

Due to the range of terrains in New Zealand, various methods of 1080 application are used to be most cost-effective in different situations. For difficult terrain, such as rugged or inaccessible areas, an aerial application if 1080 poison is the most cost-effective method. The factors to be taken into account with aerial 1080 application include helicopter flight time, 1080 poison and pellet cost, sowing rate and labour time (Warburton and Cullen, 1995). It also includes the pre-dropping of non-poisonous baits to encourage acceptance of the pellet. These result in aerial 1080 distribution costing between $12 and $16 per hectare, with $1 per hectare monitoring after the operation (Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, 2011).

When pests are an issue on more easily accessible land methods of ground control can be used. Depending on the terrain, the cost of ground control ranges from $4 per hectare to over $80 per hectare. If on accessible farmland, 1080 baiting can cost as little as $4 per hectare, but on the bush-pasture edge can cost up to $40 per hectare. The cost of ground baiting will rise considerably if any tracks, bridges and huts are needed and can cost over $80 per hectare in some cases (Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, 2011).

The cost of 1080 application also ranges due to the type of pellet or distributory method used. The carrot bait pellet costs significantly less ($90 per tonne) than the cereal pellet ($1690 per tonne). Although carrot bait is cheaper, it is not necessarily cost-effective. It depends what the target species of the operation is, and their response to the different bait types. (Warburton and Cullen, 1995).

The type of aircraft used to distribute the 1080 pellets can also range quite highly in price. Helicopters are more expensive than airplanes, costing on between $5 and $11 per hectare. Fixed wing airplanes cost on average $1.90 per hectare, making them 50-80% cheaper to run (Warburton and Cullen, 1995).

The sowing rate (number of 1080 pellets dropped per hectare) also influences the cost of an operation. In a study by Warburton and Cullen (1995) it was found that the sowing rate ranged between 4kg per hectare (costing $5.80) and 11kg per hectare (costing $21.30). It was found in this investigation that there was no significant relationship between the sowing rate and the kill rate. For 1080 to therefore be as cost-effective as possible, research such as this is important in finding optimal sowing rates.

To make the pest contol worthwhile and cost-effective, it is important to assign part of the budget to continued monitoring of the area after the 1080 application. Between 10-12% of the pest management budget in a study of by Warburton and Cullen (1995) was found to be assigned to the monitoring aspect of the pest control operation.

Earlier this year the Department of Conservation lost over 100 jobs and will be having a budget cut of $54 million dollars in the next four years (Environment and Conservation Organisations of Aotearoa New Zealand online, 2011). The need for cost-effective pest-management is therefore at the forefront, and the use of 1080 poison can achieve this.

While 1080 is considered to be a cost effective tool for pest management in New Zealand, alternatives are constantly being researched. At present there are at over 30 projects being undertaken in the industry to find improvements in the way that 1080 is being used and any alternatives to the use of 1080. Annually this research is costing at least $8 million per year.

Assessment of Environmental Effects

The use of Sodium monofluoroacetate (1080) restricts the population growth of possums and rabbits, helping to achieve the core purpose of Resource Management Act 1991; sustainable development. Periodically dropping 1080 into ecosystems is the current long-term intervention method. It is widely known that it can cause adverse effects on a wide range of species. There is no single study which could conclude the environmental assessment of 1080 poisoning, and so this area is currely still being researched. Because the 1080 is widely operated on native forest, private land and river areas and it is hard to do a simulating experiment (Quinn 2007). In addition, the definitive study may cause many issues, such as economic pressure and the long time it takes to conduct studies, which could make the collection of evidence infeasible. As a result, it is difficult to eliminate public concerns from the application of 1080.

Furthermore, the application of 1080 is defined as a 'discretionary' activity, which means a resource consent required. The assessment of its environmental effects is considered about both direct and indirect effects.

Effects on water and soil quality

Ideally a pest control method would leave no trace on the environment. 1080 leaves temporary residue in the environment, but no permanent residue.

Water quality is a direct effect and the primary trigger, because 1080 poison is an odorless, white, non-volatile powder that is highly water soluble. Typically, poisons that reach freshwaters are a major public health concern. Because of this, much research has been taken to determine the effects of 1080 should they reach freshwaters.

Unlike some other poisons, 1080 breaks down in water and in soil. In water, 1080 is biodegraded into non-toxic by-products. This process occurs within two to six days, although may take longer in cold conditions. 1080 is also diluted to a low concentration soon after entering the water.

There was no Sodium monofluoroacetate detected in any of the water samples in Waipoua forest after an aerial drop. Therefore, there was no evidence of short or long-term contamination of streams after the operation of 1080 possum baits. Even measurable quantities of 1080 could not permeate through the water table on Rangitoto, though rainfall over the sampling period. For instance, the quantity of 1080 is estimated at 4-11.0 g per ha and the month's precipitation was 110 mm. That resulted a level of contaminant that was less than minimum detected level, which is 0.001 ppm, so there was no 1080 detected during the month. In addition, the measurable level polluted water is harmless for non-target animals (Eason 1992). Therefore, the leaching and entering of 1080 poison into water would not reach a level threatening to public health.

In soil, 1080 is also biodegraded into non-toxic by products by micro-organisms living in the soil. It is also diluted through leaching of the bait pellet by rain. The speed of degradation in soil depends on temperature, bacteria and micro-organisms present in the soil and rainfall. It will usually take between one and two weeks in favourable conditions (Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, 2011). A study by the National Institute for Water and Atmosphere (NIWA) found that 50% of the poison in a 1080 bait remained in the affected water after five hours, 10% remained after 24 hours and the bait started to break down after 72 hours (Department of Conservation online, n.d).
By-kill and New Zealand native species. (Cook, 2008).

Effects on non-target species

1080 poison does not bioaccumulate in animals and plants either. Animals that have eaten a non-lethal dosage of 1080 retain it in their body tissue and blood. The concentrations of the poison will drop over hours or days as it is broken down and excreted. Weta and native ants have been found to excrete 1080 within two weeks (Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, 2011). 1080 poison does not accumulate in food webs (Department of Conservation (E) online, 2011). After aerial 1080 poison application there has been no significant decrease in the population sizes of invertebrates, and no significant effect on freshwater animals such as eels and crayfish (Department of Conservation online, n.d).

1080 poison in the soil uptaken by plants has been found in very low concentrations. It does not stay in the plant and is undetectable within between one and two months (Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, 2011).

By-kill of non-target species is one of the biggest concerns associated with the use of toxins for conservation. However, with the use of any pest controls, by-kill is inevitable. Although methods such as 1080 have been known to accidently kill species it aims to protect, it is essential we continue to use pest control methods to protect our native flora and fauna. (Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, 2011).

Within New Zealand the use of 1080 has lead to by-kills and large concern has been placed on the risk 1080 poses to non-target species, especially native birds. Studies have shown that the use of 1080 has led to the by-kill of, but is not limited to, birds, reptiles, frogs, fish, invertebrates and deer. (Notman, 1989 and Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, 2011). Bird species, such as the morepork, robin, pukeko and kea have been recorded dead as a result of 1080 poisoning (Spurr and Powlesland, 1997). But it is very important to point out that although individuals from 19 species of native birds and 13 species of introduced birds have been found dead after aerial 1080 drops, most of the deaths were associated with only four operations that occurred 35 years ago. (Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, 2011) Furthermore, concern has arisen about secondary poisoning and prey-switching. The brown kiwi’s main food source is invertebrates living in the soil. (Spurr and Powlesland, 1997). However at least 9 orders of invertebrates are prone to 1080 poison, putting any insectivores at high risk of secondary poisoning. (Notman, 1989). Secondary poisoning is another aspect of by-kill that is a contentious topic. It has a positive impact when a pest (i.e. a stoat) feeds on an organism killed by 1080 but negative impact when a native species (i.e. morepork) feeds on an organism killed by 1080. Blue ducks are not known to eat the 1080 poison and have a very low risk of being affected by secondary poisoning. However predictions have been made that the blue duck, and other species, may eventually be at risk of prey switching. Prey switching occurs when a predator’s food source is low causing the predator to target new species for food. Spurr and Powlesland (1997) predict with drastic reduction of rodent numbers due to 1080 the stoat will prey switch, targeting species like the blue duck. This prediction is yet to explored or proved.

The impact of by-kill has lead to positive improvements in the use and distribution of 1080 in New Zealand. Average sowing rates of 1080 cereal baits have steadily fallen from over 30 kg of bait per hectare in the 1950s to under 2 kg of bait per hectare today, limiting the amount of by-kill and secondary poisoning of non-target species. (Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, 2011). Additionally the baits are now dyed a green colour, small pieces have been screened out, and cinnamon oil is added, making them less desirable to non- target species, especially birds. (Spurr and Powlesland, 1997). Since the four main aerial drops of 1080, almost 35 years ago, the improvements made to the 1080 bait has drastically decreased by-kill of non-target species. (Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, 2011).

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Jan Wright, released a report on the use of 1080 on the 8th of June 2011. Within this report focus was given to the issue of by- kill. Although it is an issue associated with the use of 1080 in New Zealand Dr. Wright stated that without our ability to protect many of our native plants and animals would be lost, bovine tuberculosis would be uncontrollable and young flora and plantations forests would suffer at a huge cost environmentally and economically. Dr. Wright’s conclusions drawn on the need to continue to use 1080 in New Zealand is supported by Innes and Barker (1999) who think the ecological cost of using toxins are much less than the damage costs if they are not used.

Several case studies showed the benefits of 1080 poison on indigenous species, especially native birds. The high nesting success in the treatment area contributed a 28.6% increase before the start of the next nesting season (Miller 1992). Miller (1992) also claimed that robins lay and hatch multiple clutches of eggs in a season, which shows aerial 1080 use reducing pest populations. To compare with the non- treatment areas, fewer robins survived to grow up and more adults were killed on the nest.

Bird populations are not affected in the immediate aftermath of the 1080 dropping. In the following years, four species enlarged the size of their population.

Deer is a game animal in New Zealand, and its exploits contribute to the national economy. Its importance enhances the economic sustainable development. However, there are many negative feedback on deer population, such as those seen in the New Zealand Deer Stalkers Associations efforts to limit quantities of poison in aerial drops.

Dr Eason (1992) claims that since 1080 operations deer mortality has increased. For example, more than a 93 per cent mortality was recorded in red deer in Pureora, and 66-75 per cent of fallow deer was killed in the Blue Mountains. Perhaps the high mortality of deer is depended on its relatively high density.

The good news, in DoC's opinion, is that aerial application of 1080 poison will cause the decrease of deer population, which is considered as a threat to native plant species. However, their population can be recovered in 3–5 years if an environmental acceptable deer density, which is about 50%, is left in these regions (Animal Health Board 2002).


Department of Conservation

The Department of Conservation (DoC), or Te Papa Atawhai, are tasked with managing New Zealand’s historical and natural heritage through hands on work with native species within the wide array of national parks, forest reserves and offshore islands. Its Maori name translates to the act of caring for and preserving a container of treasures; the country’s remaining flora and fauna, which are under significant threat from the legacy of poor decisions made by colonial settlers (Department of Conservation (C)[online], 2011). DoC has estimated that 25 million native birds are predated each year, with some species, such as the North Island brown kiwi, experiencing a one out of ten chance of survival during their first year after hatching (Department of Conservation (A)[online), 2011]. Their use of aerial 1080 demonstrates the methodological and systematic approach they are taking to eradicate immediate threats from introduced vertebrate pests. It is currently the cheapest option in combating possums in particular, and through secondary poisoning stoats can also be affected if they eat infected carcasses. Ground control methods, such as trapping, shooting and baiting, have been the traditional favoured techniques but at present aerial application has been deemed the most cost-effective alternative available for targeting remote wildernesses. At approximately $16 per hectare over expanses some 30,000 hectares, some $900,000 can be saved by applying aerial 1080, rather than the $48 per hectare ground control option (Department of Conservation (A)[online], 2011). DoC’s efforts with pest control have also enhanced the sustainability of the country’s $20 billion tourism industry as the significant reduction of the selective-browsing possum has protected native forestry and bush. DoC is closely associated with Textiles New Zealand to nurture efforts from within the public to trap and skin for furs in areas where poison use can be problematic. They have also allowed ground control advocates to simultaneously gather furs as part of their job to support the growing demand for possum products in textile industries.

DoC officials loading up aircraft ready for aerial drop, (Department of Conservation (C) [online], 2011)

Animal Heath Board

DoC is also closely involved with the Animal Health Board (AHB), who is largely concerned with mitigating the adverse affects of the spread of bovine tuberculosis (BTB) from wildlife populations to commercial deer and cattle farming. Possums are one of the key pests that spread the disease across the country and through into commercial farming populations. In recent years the AHB have altered their efforts towards combating the possum problem by targeting the spread of BTB in the wild rather than in enclosed farms (Animal Health Board (online), 2011). This is because their research demonstrates that 80% of affected herds were infected from wildlife. Use of 1080 as a ‘potent, broad-spectrum toxin’ has helped to target the wildlife BTB problem before it can reach commercial farming areas. Along with DoC, the AHB have stated that while non-target species can be fatally exposed to the toxin, the successes that have been seen in depopulated possum numbers have outweighed the risks. The AHB’s role in mitigating the spread of BTB is crucial for the sustainability of the country’s dairying and meat exports as secondary contamination of BTB in humans can be fatal, and puts the entire commercial farming industry at risk.

Skin testing for BTB in cattle, (Animal Health Board [online], 2011)

Federated Farmers and Forest and Bird

The Federated Farmers is an independent rural advocacy organisation that represents the concerns of the farming community, and whose pro-1080 stance is generally representative of their members. They give voice at both the provincial and national level and seek to encourage ‘sustainability through best practice’ (Federated Farmers of New Zealand [online], 2011). One of their key concerns, similar to the AHB, is to eradicate BTB from commercial farming, and they recognise 1080 as the most efficient and cost effective poison available. They state that it is imperative to use 1080 as it enhances national conservation and biodiversity. A coalition between the Federated Farmers and Forest and Bird has been effective in gaining recognition for the efforts from independent organisations. They seek to better inform the public of the country’s current mammalian menace, and of the realities that would become apparent should wide-spread anti-1080 activism lead to reconsideration of its use.

New Zealand Deer Stalkers Association

The New Zealand Deer Stalkers Association (NZDSA) speaks for and represents the interests of hunters. This organisation has been incredibly ambivalent towards the use of 1080, as while they recognize efforts to mitigate BTB in wild deer populations as crucial, there is a 90% morality rate amongst deer who ingest bait pellets from aerial drops (New Zealand Deer Stalkers' Association [online], 2011). For the latter reason NZDSA have in the past made regular submissions against most 1080 drops. It appears that a key cause of the rise of tensions between DoC 1080 advocates and NZDSA members is that they value the bush for different and conflicting reasons. While deer are a non-target species, DoC states that they are a pest themselves and so by-kill statistics are acceptable. In 2005 both agencies were able to reach a compromise where DoC would incorporate deer repellents into 1080 pellets over the aerial drops where recreational hunting was allowed. NZDSA state that while deer repellent can prove effective, albeit at an intermittent rate, efforts to control BTB should be focused towards improving skin tests in commercial farming, rather than targeting wildlife populations which can be expensive and indiscriminative to non-target species (New Zealand Deer Stalkers Association [online], 2011). Currently, skin tests are 80% correct for testing BTB in deer, and 90% for cattle, leaving a one in ten to one in five chance of infected animals being unidentified.

Environmental Protection Authority

The Environmental Protection Authority is tasked with overseeing and processing matters of national importance in relation to the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA). In 2007 they reassessed aerial use of 1080 and after weighing up the polarising concerns of New Zealanders, and concluded that they were in support for its continued use (Environmental Protection Authority [online], 2011). They also concluded that 1080 advocates needed to improve the communicative networks and consultation with local communities, Maori interests and the wider New Zealand public. Since then, there have been stronger efforts to set up a watch list to monitor aerial drops and establish DoC offices close to local areas to provide the public with more information and notification of 1080 benefits and future drops.
Determining locations for 1080 aerial drops through GPS (Environmental Protection Authority [online], 2011)

Local Maori

Under section eight of RMA 1991, it states that government entities, such as DoC, must consult local iwi and “take into account” their wishes if local Maori are considered affected parties (New Zealand Legislation Acts, 2011). Over the years Te Runanga o Makaawhio have been opposed to 1080 use over their West Coast tribal lands. It has recently been announced that Te Runanga o Makaawhio are now refusing to give consent for 1080 drops over the area, however the call has been made too late to halt the largest planned drop of the year that will span from Hokatika to Whataroa (Mills, 2011). Until then local iwi have traditionally signed off consent for aerial 1080 when they were notified, and the full ramifications of this recent develop in the arising tensions between stakeholders is still unclear.

Public Notification Process

Resource consent and compliance with the Resource Management Act 1991

After looking at the application of 1080 in Westland, those who distribute aerial 1080 have to apply for a consent to the local district council. As placing bait on public and private land will require a permit to do so, there are time blocks noted in a consent grant from the local council for how long aerial drops may continue to occur for. The example of a 1080 drop consent being granted in the Hari Hari/Whataroa area in November 2005 is a consent that lasts for 10 years, and the area is strictly within a mapping cell names a “proposed discharge area” which would have been submitted at time of application. On average there is not to be over 5kg of bait dropped per hectare which contains 0.15% of sodium monofluoroacetate. The and amounts of monofluoroacetate contained in the pellets, and area, time and dates surrounding 1080 poison drops are allocated, discussed and set by the council and the applicant for a fair consent.

Like any consent, public notification must be given, and public can make submissions against the consent. Pest control is a serious issue, and many times submissions are emotive, and do not take into account the science behind the issue. All data of drop area and details (amounts dropped) are to be made public up to six months after the drop, and if any inaccuracies occur at all, they are to be immediately notified to the consent authority. It is stated that two newspapers shall be noted fourteen days prior to the drop, but no more than six weeks prior. Also, there are many local hospitals, districts and authorities who are to be noted, this will be in case there are any incidents of 1080 poison in animals or humans for these agencies (such as Vet societies) to be able to deal to the situation. Warning notices must be erected, main water source points are to be signed, and buffer zones are created by GPS systems to keep discharge away from roads, housing and waterways. It is a requirement within the consent that the dead carcasses are to be removed from areas (where accessible) within seven days. 1080 drops do comply with the Resource Management Act of 1991.
Typical notification of 1080 use (Department of Conservation (A) [online], 2011)

There are booklets, public hearings and certainly a lot of public debate when it comes to 1080 drops in areas. Many groups have formed (i.e. ‘KAKA 1080’ a group formed for the Waitutu forest in Fiordland) where these people tried to stop a drop going forward. However the public anger, debate and outrage do not void the fact that the Resource consent is compliant to the Resource Management Act of 1991, this is why drops go ahead. These community groups have meetings and send leaflets out, as well as the Department of Conservation (DoC) to raise public awareness that the drops will go ahead.

Community consultation process for aerial 1080 application

There is a 52 page report printed by DOC and comprised by Carla Wilson and Justine Cannon which outlines case studies, submissions, approaches, science, social methodology, planning, publicising, information sharing, and submissions and follow ups to 1080 drops has been released by DoC to those in areas where drops occur. However, it is to be noted how bias this document may be. It has been admitted before that the science and the full extent of damage that 1080 does have on the environment has been admitted by members of DoC previously.

This document is a well written and easy to read, and outlines many good and bad aspects of how 1080 is used and how the public is notified. In section 3 of the document it outlines four case studies of how 1080 has been applied to four different areas in New Zealand. There is a break-down of how each case study went, and how successful and non-successful it was. The example of Tongariro forest is outlined where the public were initially notified, with fact sheets and that was sent to local iwi and the community members. There was a ranger who was sent around each house in the community with a database to ask questions and answer any queries regarding 1080 and the process in the area. There was, however, a lack of communication in this area and there were community members who formed an official group called “Concerned Citizens of Owhango” (CCO). This group had a public meeting and elected some representatives to outline to DoC their concerns. After numerous meetings it was discussed between all concerned stakeholders that it would be best to use 1080 poison in the area for possum control. This is a common theme between all four of the case studies, that the community felt they were inadequately informed; but DoC and contractors complied with the resource consent and the 1080 aerial application commenced.

This document is a well written and coherent document which is commissioned by DoC but is written in a sense that it is pro-1080 poison, suggesting a bias opinion. The other key sections (4 and 5) of the document hold little scrutiny for the process, where this document should assess some negative aspects of 1080 public consultation process. There is no project that goes 100% without hiccups, and this document only outlines some of the public notification errors. It is quite possible that the author works for DoC since they commissioned the report. There are valid and reasonable points in this document, but it is not convincing enough on its assessment of two points of views.

Case Studies

Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

The use of 1080 poison is controversial in the public arena. The Department of Conservation (DOC) have to work hard to ensure that the public understand why they are using 1080, and how important it is to ensure the survival of New Zealand’s native species and flora. There are some documented case studies of interactions between DOC and communities and the process that DOC follows in its’ business model.

Animal pest control on Stewart Island has been infrequent in previous years. DOC has placed some ground 1080 cat baits in some areas, and in the 1970s 1080 carrot bait drops were undertook along the coast (Wilson and Cannon, 2004).

In 2001 a draft pest management plan for Stewart Island was constructed. Consultation with the public began to take place. Due to the previous use of 1080 on the Island, tensions were generally high due to various reasons for not wanting 1080. The main problem was the possibility of 1080 aerial drops taking place. The Stewart Island community, mainly the Deer Stalkers Association, strongly opposed the idea of this. After the initial first meeting in which the draft pest management plan for the island was discussed, but not the 1080 specifics, heated debate was expected in the second meeting, focusing on 1080. DOC however, turned up and surprised by saying they would not use 1080 for a year or until the public consultation process was complete. After this a community liaison group was begun. With the task of providing feedback on the draft pest management plan. Main groups represented were iwi/hapu, Forest and Bird, Deer Stalkers Association, Game and Forest, and some community members (Wilson and Cannon, 2004).

The liaison group met once a month for 6 months to sort through the draft pest management plan. The first meetings were marred by furious discussion of the possibility of a 1080 aerial drop rather than working through the plan issue by issue. After a time they were able to get back on track once they realized that a 1080 aerial drop was not a forgone conclusion. DOC staff made it clear that they would make the penultimate decision on how to best enact effective poisonous baiting. At the time that this research was published there was no intention of using aerial 1080 (Wilson and Cannon, 2004).

In this case study effective public consultation has taken place. The Stewart Island community won a personal battle. It was practical to not do an aerial drop on Stewart Island because the flat terrain is suited to baiting by hand also. Both DOC and the Stewart Island community came away content with the process.

Karangarua and Copland Valleys, South Westland

As we have seen 1080 is the choice of poison for possums and various other pests. In 1986 an aerial drop of 1080 bait took place in the Karangarua and Copland valleys, South Westland (Morgan, 1987). A study was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness and kill rate of possums in the area.

The rata-kamahi forests of Westland had been severely struck by possums and extensive damage to flora existed. Pekelharing and Reynolds (1978) had conducted a study of the area and discovered that the dispersion of the possums was varied. Around the lower reaches of the Copland and Karangarua possums were numerous and extensive damage to the forest canopy existed. As there study moved towards the upper parts of the Park they discovered medium to no damage to the forest canopy. The possums had not fully encumbered that area of the park with themselves as of yet. Interestingly, the condition of the possums was found to be much worse for the possums co-habituating on the lower reaches of the Copland and Karangarua. While in the higher reaches the possums were in a significantly better condition (Pekelharing and Reynolds, 1978). This shows the extensive damage that possums do to vegetation; they consume it to the point there is none left and they are struggling to survive themselves.

The population changes before and after the drop were calculated by counting feces pellets. The method Morgan used was to count the pellets twice a day for a 14-day period before and after the poisoning. The pellets were again counted twice over a 14-day period 5 months after poisoning. The expected natural mortality rate of the possums was taken into consideration in all calculations (Morgan, 1987). The overall kill rate for the poisoned areas was calculated to be 62%. When tested again 5 months later possum levels had reduced a further 8% taking overall kill rate 70% (Morgan, 1987).

The overall kill rate was quite good and certainly effective against possums. 70% equates to a 10-year recovery time and possums will be at 90% of their original level. This fits with DOC’s plan of poisoning problem areas approximately every 10 years.


1080 is the most effective poison available at present in New Zealand, although over $8 million is being spent on research into alternatives and improvements annually. The toxicity of 1080 is at a good level- being highly toxic to the targeted pest species, while having to be consumed in large quantities to poison a human. Unfortunately, some other species such as dogs are highly susceptible to the poison. 1080 is able to be distributed though ground control and aerial application. It is easily dispersed and can reach remote and inaccessible areas, unlike other forms of pest control such as trapping and hunting. The poison is cost-effective. The effectiveness of control methods depends on the terrain. Ground control on an easily accessible area can cost from just $4 per hectare, and give a substantial kill-rate. Aerial application on difficult terrain is more effective and can cost between $12 and $16 per hectare. 1080 poison breaks down into non-toxic chemical compounds in soil and water.

By-kill is an unavoidable negative impact associated with the use of 1080 as pest control. Over the last 30-40 years improvements have been made to the use, distribution and quality of 1080 and how it is used, to decrease the impact of by-kill. These methods have been successful, as we have seen a decline in the number of non-target individuals and species dying after 1080 drops. As much as the issue surrounding the death of non-target species is a large one, which needs to be faced, research, studies and parliamentary representatives all agree that the good is outweighing the bad in this situation and the cost of not using 1080 as a pest control will severely damage the ecology of New Zealand forever.

1080 operation could not degrade environmental quality and provide threats to the public health. In addition, there is no obvious result to show non-target species could be extinguished by 1080. The population of various native species and biodiversity in New Zealand is promoted by the pest control programme.

After assessing documents that have been given to communities for official notification, it is apparent that most operations do comply with most requirements within the consent. The only requirement outlined in the consent that looks like it is unable to be followed is the amount of pellets dropped per acre. There are sections in case study areas where the amounts of 1080 pellets in an area exceed what resource consents allow for. In future, there is certainly room for improvement in cases where consent documents do not comply with their objectives.

What must be resolved are the communication networks between the main stakeholders and the other various actors involved in the debate, so that the information can be received where it needs to be. On either side compromises will have to be considered so that the wishes of all those involved in the debate are appreciated. While these networks are conducting such communications, it will be necessary for more research to continue surfacing, including developments with stronger deer-repellent pellets and stronger precautionary measures surrounding farms and native bird sanctuaries. New Zealand's biodiversity conservation is completely dependant on pest control efforts, and so until a different method that incorporates all parties' wishes is found, 1080 will remain the most effective poison in controlling the damage inflicted by invasive pests.

While we acknowledge that 1080 poison has its faults, without a significant increase in the conservation budget for the meantime it remains the most cost-effective, practical and successful method for combatting New Zealand's biodiversity crisis.


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