Conservation Week is an opportunity to champion the great work done by DOC and local voluntary groups in protecting nature in our region but also to debunk some of the critics of 1080.
We are so blessed with the beauty and diversity of our conservation areas at Nelson’s doorstep - sheltered bays like those in the Marlborough Sounds, stunning alpine scenery in Nelson Lakes, golden beaches in the Abel Tasman and marble mountains in Kahurangi National Park.
The scenery is stunning but all is not well with our wildlife. Introduced predators like stoats, rats and possums are devastating our native species killing nationally 25 million native birds and chicks each year.
Organisations like DOC, Project Janzoon, Brook Waimarama Sanctuary and over a dozen voluntary groups across the region are leading the fightback. Nobody likes poisons or killing animals but this work is crucial to securing the survival of our native birds.
Trapping is used where it is practical but the bulk of pest control is done with 1080. It is efficient, safe and effective. 1080 naturally breaks down quickly. Thousands of water tests from 1080 operations show it poses no risk to drinking water. The use of 1080 has the strong support of Forest and Bird, Federated Farmers, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and the Environmental Protection Authority.
I as Minister ramped up DOC’s pest control efforts through the “Battle for our Birds” programme that included increased use of 1080. It is delivering stunning results. Kiwi numbers that were in decline for decades are now on the rise. Kaka numbers at Nelson Lakes are increasing. Whio have re-established in the Abel Tasman. Takahe numbers are up over 50% in the last decade and a new population has been established in Nelson in the Gouland Downs. I commend Eugenie Sage, the new Conservation Minister, on further expanding this pest control work in this year’s budget.
The anti poison brigade have become threatening and ugly. I previously had death threats and last year had poison thrown and rubbed on me. Helicopters have been tampered with and road spikes placed near operations. DOC vehicles have had their tyres slashed. The recent protest at the Nelson Market had them chanting that “DOC are terrorists”. They left dead native birds on Parliament’s steps last week claiming they were poisoned. Experts said they were bludgeoned to death. It was disappointing that Greens Co-leader Marama Davidson and NZ First sided with the protestors rather than DOC and the science.
The anti-1080 brigade has not produced any facts to back up their hysterical claims. It is time for them to put up or shup up. We need to back practical, science based conservation so as to ensure our children and their children get to enjoy the native species that make New Zealand so special.