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ERMA formally asked to reassess the use of 1080

24 October 2006

ERMA formally asked to reassess the use of 1080 poison in pest control

The Department of Conservation and the Animal Health Board have jointly lodged their application to the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) for its Reassessment of the risks, costs and benefits of the use of Compound 1080 poison in animal pest control.

ERMA is expected to release the application, made under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996, for public comment as part of its assessment process.

In preparing the application, ERMA required the agencies to address risks, costs and benefits in relation to:

- Market economy effects – especially Tb reduction in livestock
- Social and community effects – people’s enjoyment of the outdoors, enjoyment of enhanced native flora and fauna
- Human health and safety effects – safety in water supplies, worker exposure
- Environmental effects – benefits for conservation of native flora and fauna
- Risks, costs and benefits to Maori – specific concerns that Maori may have.

In compiling its application, DOC and the AHB carried out extensive public consultation, including with iwi nationwide.

DOC research, development and improvement general manager John Ombler said that 1080 is the most cost-effective possum control tool available and is the only tool that can be applied from the air.

“We would like to be able to use 1080, knowing that if and when it is approved by ERMA that this will be an official endorsement, based on a thorough and professional scientific and public process.”

For DOC, 1080 has been a vital tool in restoring populations of endangered species on the mainland, Mr Ombler said.

At Mapara in the Waikato, over an eight-year period, the numbers of kokako increased from four breeding pairs to 49 breeding pairs, by using 1080 to keep down possums which predate the eggs and chicks. The number of kokako has subsequently increased to more than 90 breeding pairs.

“There are now so many kokako at this site that we are catching some of them for release into areas from where they have disappeared. This is just one example of the benefits of 1080 for conservation. There are many areas of the mainland where the dawn chorus has been restored thanks to the careful and targeted use of this poison.”

A poison bait formulation using 1080 is being developed for cheap and effective rat control over large areas. Also, 1080 may act as an important form of stoat control from stoats scavenging poisoned possum and rat carcases. Together, these effects would greatly benefit the conservation of species such as kiwi.

AHB spokesman Nick Hancox said that 1080 is the cheapest and more effective method for controlling possums over large areas, in particular, over rough and inaccessible terrain where ground control would be all but impossible.

“After possum control spending was cut in the late 1970s, bovine Tb rates soared to the point where several thousand farms were affected each year. As a result of a decade of intensive possum control often using 1080, Tb rates have fallen by over 90% and are still falling. That’s got to be seen as a spectacular success.”

“The next challenge is for New Zealand to gain Tb-free status to keep open our high value markets for beef, dairy and venison exports. To achieve that, we’ll need to keep up current levels of possum control effort.”

“It would help the cause a lot if we are no longer having to act as judge and jury over the use of 1080 and that’s what we are looking for in this Reassessment process.”

ENDS

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