Call for an Investigation into Environmental Catastrophe
Press Release - Flora and Fauna of Aoteaora and Clean Green New Zealand Trust Friday 15th November
Call for an
Independent Investigation into the New Zealand Environmental
Flora and Fauna of Aotearoa and Clean Green New Zealand Trust are calling for an immediate halt to all aerial 1080 poison operations and an independent investigation into the environmental catastrophe that has led to hundreds of dead wildlife washing-up on a Westport beach, South Island, New Zealand.
Independent tests of samples collected by volunteers from the area confirm the presence of substances that indicate the deaths were almost certainly caused by 1080 poison. The incident comes a week after an aerial 1080 poison operation almost 140kms away in the Buller/Maruia catchment by the Department of Conservation (DoC). Numerous other poison pest control operations in the surrounding area have been completed, and even more are planned.
On Saturday November 9, after torrential rain, photographic evidence confirmed how hundreds of dead rats, many marine species, birds and other animals were washed down the flooded Buller River, onto the beach and into the ocean. Tourists camped on the beach were shocked to see the apocalyptic scene. According to locals, “they gathered up a trailer load of over 600 rats, plus dead crabs, crayfish, monkfish, barracuda, skates, sole, starfish, seabirds, octopuses, a goat, and more.” At that time, it was unclear what had caused the deaths and no action was taken other than DoC erected a sign that warned dog-owners of the risks. The contaminated carcasses were buried in a shallow hole on the beach. These will now need to be re-located to an appropriate hazardous waste facility, in line with the poison manufacturer’s instructions.
Flora and Fauna Aotearoa and Clean Green New Zealand Trust believe a precautionary approach should have been adopted whilst testing was underway. The beach should immediately have been closed to the public as there is – and continues to be – a high risk of contamination, which is not only a risk to dogs but also a serious risk to public health. Fishing vessels in the area should be notified and additional tests to food and water supplies should be undertaken.
The Department of Conservation West Coast operations manager Mark Davies has suggested that “it is unlikely the rats were poisoned by 1080 in a recent drop, then washed out of the hills by heavy rain. I just can’t imagine that the two are connected,” he said. However, this kind of event has been documented before, both in the Coromandel and near Dunedin, South Island. Newshub also reported, “Davies doesn’t think 1080, a controversial poison used in pest control, is the cause, because reports of dead fish and birds - along with the rats - are not consistent with the way 1080 is understood to work.”
However, Davies’ statement and similar frequently touted claims that 1080 poison is biodegradable and doesn't affect aquatic life or birds is inconsistent with the scientific data, the manufacturer’s safety data and with hundreds of eyewitness accounts. In Russell State Forest last year, two days after a highly controversial aerial 1080 poison operation, dead eels, fish and birds were found floating in the river by local residents. There were also reports of eels dying in last year’s Hunua Ranges aerial poison drop, which included the poisoning of waterways feeding Auckland’s drinking-water supply. Reports in the Greymouth Star warn the public not to eat trout from the Buller River.
1080 poison is well-known for causing a cruel and prolonged death through direct and secondary poisoning. 1080 is not species-specific and can harm all lifeforms that require oxygen to live. Professor of toxicology at the University of Canterbury, Ian Shaw, has this to say about the toxicological effects of 1080 poison. “1080 could spell death to any cell it enters. It does not discriminate between cells or target animal. Providing the cell has the citric acid cycle it is doomed. The only way to target the effect is to use baits that a particular pest prefers (e.g. carrots for possums), but even then if another animal eats the 1080-laced bait it will die, as might animals that eat poisoned carcasses.” Many bird and aquatic species were scavenging poisoned carcasses from the Westport beach area. The fate of that wildlife is unknown. Secondary poisoning presents a very serious problem and will result in more collateral damage down through the food-web. Flora and Fauna of Aotearoa co-ordinator Asha Andersen says, “It’s likely we will see further deaths as the carcasses and bones of the poisoned animals remain toxic for years. Seabirds, other wildlife and aquatic life have already been seen feeding off the carcasses and carrying them away, some likely to nests where they have young. Because 1080 poison is a hormone-disruptor, those creatures that don’t die could suffer from reproductive harm or DNA damage. There is also very real danger to humans who come in contact with the toxic carcasses or fish that have had sublethal exposure.”
It is high time all those in authority listen to concerned New Zealanders, who, for decades, have been publicly questioning the extremely harmful policies that promote the repeated indiscriminate poisoning of our natural spaces and wildlife, often with no rationale. We need to be vigorously questioning the integrity of the Environmental Protection Agency when they allow the use of such toxic chemicals in our environment with such dire consequences. Asha says, “When those charged with protecting our natural spaces are the ones wilfully destroying them and then covering it up or justifying the harm - there is something seriously wrong - and that needs to change now.”
To the people of New Zealand and our trading partners, we are in an environmental crisis. Our voices matter. There is a serious lack of confidence in the Department of Conservation, Environmental Protection Agency, Ministry of Primary Industries, and Ministry of Health for this negligence of their duty of care. Due to the unintended consequences of aerial poisoning we are calling on our Government to immediately halt all aerial poison operations and to establish an independent investigation into this harmful practice, including initiating public health studies.
Flora & Fauna of Aotearoa, Incorporated Society 2735472
Clean Green New Zealand Trust Registered Charity CC54185