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Regional Council Concludes Inquiry Into Pest Control Op

A Waikato Regional Council inquiry has been carried out into a recent aerial pest control operation over forestry in south Waikato following suggestions a bulldozer may have been working within the operational area.

The aerial 1080 wallaby operation – delayed by one day due to high winds – was carried out on Monday, 2 November at Horohoro. The council inquiry has found that a bulldozer was working in the area during the operation and had bait land around the machine from an overhead helicopter.

Waikato Regional Council integrated catchment management acting director Greg Ryan said this occurred despite all landowners in the area being notified ahead of the operation and signage being erected as legally required.

“We have robust processes in place to ensure we comply with legislation, and while I believe this is an isolated incident during a compliant operation, I am disappointed it has occurred and will be ensuring that any learnings are incorporated into future operations,” Mr Ryan said.

“We’ve spoken with the bulldozer driver, who was in a fully enclosed cab at the time and has been unaffected by the incident,” Mr Ryan said.

Waikato District Health Board’s Public Health Unit was made aware of the incident, as required.

However, the incident has not been reported to the Environmental Protection Authority because although the bait fell on or near the bulldozer, there was no harm to the driver, the incident did not impact on public health and signs were in place prior to the operation, and the forestry contractor had been notified as required.

“It’s clear to us from our inquiries that the biosecurity contractor and helicopter operator showed poor judgment after becoming aware of the bulldozer working in the area and continuing with the operation.

“We have a ground control operation which this biosecurity operator is contracted to undertake elsewhere next year, but the contractor has been told we will be factoring last month’s incident into any further procurement decisions for future aerial operations,” Mr Ryan said.

Waikato Regional Council chair Russ Rimmington said he had been briefed by staff. “This council has very high standards and we have been utterly let down by a contractor’s lack of judgment.”

Two weeks following the operation Waikato Regional Council also received information about two dogs from one property who fell ill after apparently entering the control area. One hunting dog died while the second recovered after receiving veterinary treatment.

Mr Ryan said, “We can understand this has been distressing for the owners, but in accordance with our protocols they had been made aware the operation was being undertaken and that warnings were still in place. They had also been provided with the appropriate advice along with muzzles and medication.”

The Environmental Protection Authority was informed of the incident involving the dogs, as legally required.

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