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Allegations of corruption by a would-be documentary maker were ridiculous slander, Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton said today.

British public relations consultant Terry Brownbill has accused public servants in New Zealand of "corruption and bureaucratic indifference" because 1080 is used to eradicate possums from forests in this country.

Mr Sutton said it was internationally recognised that New Zealand had the least corrupt public service on this planet, and for this would-be documentary maker to fling around accusations of corruption was just mischief-making in an attempt to get someone to pay for his film.

"The people Mr Brownbill calls 'indifferent bureaucrats' are public servants dedicated to defeating the plagues of exotic pests and diseases that continually threaten the survival of our unique indigenous species and ecosystems, human and animal health, and our economy.

"The villains of the piece are people who, because they enjoy the thrill of bloodsports, spread false scare stories about the pest control techniques we are obliged to employ. It is significant that these people now have to go overseas to find journalists gullible and superficial enough to give credence to their scaremongering.

"New Zealand's mainstream, responsible environmental non-government organisations have long accepted that 1080 is an essential weapon in the defence of our environment."

Mr Sutton said the reason 1080 was used was because, at the levels used, it was toxic to possums. Unfortunately, it is also toxic to dogs. This is why warnings are posted whenever drops are made to ensure dog owners can keep their animals away from the poison.

"It isn't poisonous to humans at the levels used, and strict precautions are in place to ensure public and user safety is protected during operations. It is safe to handle, breaks down readily in the environment, and does not accumulate in water or the bodies of people and animals."

Mr Sutton said 1080 is identical to a naturally-occurring toxin in many plants. These plants, for example, grow around the water catchment area of Perth, the capital city of Western Australia. "There have been no health scares in Perth associated with their public water supply and people here need not be concerned either, although it is always sensible to take commonsense care."

Mr Sutton said realistic alternatives to 1080 for broader possum control included such things as cyanide ? a chemical poisonous to humans, which could kill people who touched or breathed in the poison while laying traps, which accumulated at toxic levels in water and which did not break down in the environment.

"Clearly, this is not a satisfactory alternative for general use."

Mr Sutton said regional councils and the Animal Health Board, which are responsible for the national Bovine TB strategy under which aerial 1080 drops are made, had made an effort to use ground control where possible, but there were many areas in New Zealand where this was not possible, usually because of the rugged terrain and a lack of contractors willing to take the job on.

"Officials have been responsible in their handling of the National Bovine TB strategy, and it is unwarranted for them to be so unfairly criticised."

Mr Sutton said that MAF has a world-class residue monitoring programme and residues of 1080 have never been picked up in New Zealand livestock meat.

"Mr Brownbill has no basis for making such allegations."


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