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Open Letter to Dr. Jan Wright, Commissioner for Environment

An Open Letter to Dr. Jan Wright, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment

02/02/2014 - Janice Schofield Eaton

Because Dr. Wright has no email available to the people of New Zealand, I am releasing this to the public in the hopes it will reach her.

Dear Dr. Wright,

In your role as Parliamentary Commissioner of the Environment, you carry immense responsibility. You will be remembered, long after tenure, as the saviour of New Zealand birds (if you are correct in your 1080 stance) or as the person responsible for the greatest ecological holocaust of the century.

I have read your report on the Environment and believe you believe it will be the former. But what if, IF, it is the other way around? Thus I ask you to please contemplate this letter.

I am an immigrant to this country because I fell in love with its nature, the kiwi people, and yes, a kiwi man. My husband Barry Eaton is a daring man who was involved in all phases of the deer recovery from culling to the live capture phases (everything from jumping on the backs of wild deer from helicopters and bulldogging them to the more progressive netting). He was a possum fur trapper as well as involved in poisoning possums with cyanide. He has been involved in 1080 carrot bait operations in Southland for rabbit control. He has been a wilderness guide and knows the delights of tourists when they finally encounter a deer in the bush. My point being that he has seen first hand the challenges of the bush, the difficulties (and benefits) of the introduced species (from the wild venison market to exquisite possum fur products). He knows the habits of animals, what they eat, where they travel. And he has participated in 1080 operations and witnessed its multi-faceted effects.

We're now retired, living on the edge of the lovely Pearse Valley near Motueka, an area scheduled for a 1080 drop in June. We've read your report and the science and yet, we aren't sleeping well. Our stomachs are in knots over the future of our lifestyle, our recreation, our hunting, our water, our dog. The science, as convincing as it is (and it is convincing) isn't aligning with the firsthand experience of our neighbours and the quality of life before and after 1080 drops.

And that makes me curious, Dr. Wright. I am an author and my first book (Discovering Wild Plants, now in 9th printing) took 7 years of research (pre-computer days). What was so challenging was when data would hit opposing data, for example, sources claiming a plant poisonous while others touted its edibility. Something is obviously wrong! Is it dose? method of use? time of year? the part of the plant being used?

And so too with 1080 research. Some sources claim profound benefits and others such devastation. What's up?

The Micheal Mead study is one case that grabbed my attention. His peer-reviewed study indicated that the insecticide sodium fluoroacetate (also a rodenticide and vertebrate poison) had significant affect on invertebrates- which is a highly important consideration for soil health of the forest (and breakdown of carcasses and forest litter) as well as the health of insectivorous and omnivorous birds.

And yet this peer-reviewed study was never published and instead another non-peer reviewed study based on 35 of 400 traps set concluding little effect on invertebrates was released. A very helpful conclusion if one wishes to advance the use of 1080 but good science?

But then, I'm not a scientist by training, and I could be wrong in my analysis, so as with the plants, I do interviews with people who have firsthand experience. With plants it was questions like- Do you eat this plant? Did your grandparents? How and when do you gather? How do you prepare it? And if, after evaluating all the written and oral data, provided I feel confident, I then test the plant myself, documenting all failures and successes. And sometimes, even decades later, I need to do revisions on what I once believed true.

And so with 1080 I asked 1080-veterans of drops about bird populations before and after. Here at the Pearse I learn of the loss of 5 whio on the river and demise of the kaka (within a fortnight of 1080) and loss of weka, and kea, and the sudden silence from the morepork (not to be heard again for years.) I listen to the quiet farmer next door as he nearly goes apoplectic at the dramatic post-drop loss of the insectivorous fantails and bush robins in his native bush, the death of his lambs, the 1080 in his pastures, the 1080 (and 1080 carcasses) in his personal and stock water source.

And I listen to my bush-savvy husband, his experience garnered from his thousands of hours in the bush hunting/trapping/culling/poisoning telling me of the herbivorous nature of the possum, the rat that is well-an opportunistic rat- and the stoat (how it is a carnivore, non-cereal eater, non rotting-animal eater who may have an occasional 1080 death from eating a warm 1080 kill critter or an impacted still-live animal). And how when there is a 1080 rat die off, the less-impacted stoat is forced to increase its predation on surviving birds.

Who you believe, Dr. Wright, what you believe, is up to you. I ask you to truly feel in your heart, and question. And question again. Yes, ask your scientists.. And also ask zoologists like Dr. Jo Pollard. Ask the bushmen. Ask those living on the edge of 1080. Please consider What IF. What if the dramatic decline in bird species is not because of lack of 1080 frequency but because of broad scale aerial 1080?

My life experience, Dr. Wright, includes living in Alaska during Exxon Valdez. During the oil spill crisis, I worked for Exxon (coordinating information exchange between bird and otter centres and the federal agencies with Exxon central). I know the pressure to present facts-that-agree-with-company-policy over less favourable truth - and (like Mead) I was made redundant (only to be then funded by the Borough for the public service we were doing).

So I question science funded exclusively by government with a thriving State-Owned-Enterprise (S.O.E.) profiting on poison products. In my research, I also turned to outside sources and learned the USA EPA bans 1080 because 1. extreme toxicity 2. no antidote 3. AVIAN poison. Canada also classes it as an avian poison.

I question when 1080 is presented as humane, when I've seen footage of dogs, horses, cows suffering 1080 death. And this includes dogs and other animals well beyond 1080 zones. The effects do not end at the posted sign.

I question when after nearly 50 years of 1080 use, the situation with extinction of bird species is WORSENING. What if it's not lack of 1080, but BECAUSE of 1080. Everything done to the environment has intended and unintended effects. What if the unintentended effect is continued weakening of the sustainability of species?

I wonder, Dr. Wright, how you will you be remembered by future generations?

I wonder about alternatives to widespread aerial poison?

What if you the Parliamentary Commissioner were to sponsor a think tank, gathering all the brilliant minds to truly seek solutions. Gather the bushmen. Gather the scientists. Gather both sides of the 1080 debate. These people are not enemies but allies.

We all want the same thing - healthy bird populations, and TB free NZ.

it is just the methodology that is argued.

Solutions would be multifaceted. The money flow might diversify.

Some solutions might include:
• Thriving possum industries for omega-rich pet food.
• Exquisite NZ brush tail products (worth 10x the value of merino)- these profitable businesses returning tax levies to the government.
• Clever ecological solutions. Spirfire trats for the bird-gobbling stoats.
• Fertility vaccines for possums (if the industry isn't capturing enough).
• Bounties paid to NZers to hunt-trap-ground poison possums, rats and stoats (and taxes paid back to government on the earnings.

How many more solutions might unfold?

You could indeed become the most famous Parliamentary Commissioner of New Zealand in the history of the world.

Or the most infamous.

with deep thanks for your consideration,

Janice Schofield Eaton

To view recent video clips on the subject visit www.tvwild.co.nz

ENDS

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