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Playing Politics With Poison Policy

First published July 1 Hamilton News:
Kia ora na
Reihana Robinson

Playing Politics With Poison Policy

By Geoffrey and Reihana Robinson

In true Orwellian fashion, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has manufactured a faith-based pitch for saving New Zealand wildlife by expanded poisoning of our fragile bush ecosystems.

Billed as an “independent investigation”, the report by Jan Wright is an unapologetically political document designed to head off potential legislative controls or a parliamentary moratorium on use of supertoxin 1080. With a $100m pest control industry under fire, Wright produced a lightweight document that is stunning for its lack of factual substance, its booster tone, and dismissive attitude toward those who disagree.

And it’s easy to see why the current PCE belched up the government line on 1080 policy. Wright, a career policy analyst and consultant, is the consummate Wellington political insider, with past board positions at Transit NZ, ACC, and Land Transport NZ. As for her advertised “independence” on the issue of 1080, one of Wright’s former clients was none other than the pro-1080 Environmental Risk Management Authority.

The report lacks any new information but is most notable for what it fails to consider. Wright refused to consider Maori cultural impacts, views of local communities, accidents and specifics of operations.

The report makes numerous unsubstantiated claims giving the misleading impression her conclusions are fact-based. After carefully referencing a single study on kiwi populations, for example, she makes a highly emotional warning that six vastly different species of native birds “will almost certainly disappear”. In actual fact, there is nothing cited in the scientific literature to back up her assertion.

Even worse, Wright’s “Forests Under Attack” scare section features major factual error. She highlights tui and bellbirds (korimako) as examples of native species certain to “decline further”. However, a close reading of the 2010 Journal of Ecology predation study Wright uses to buttress her 1080 sales pitch reveals both tui and bellbirds are actually expanding their range across New Zealand and are not classified as threatened to any degree whatsoever. She warns of “loss or decline” of these seed-dispersing species and “cascading ecological changes in native forests”, but the hard published data shows the exact opposite trend for these species. It appears Wright has not read her own sources.

Furthermore, much of the so-called “science” and “research” upon which the PCE bases her opinions has been produced by individuals with direct or indirect financial and career relationships to DOC, tainting their findings with the potential for bias.

Readers searching the report for any new evidence to support her wacky conclusions find it’s simply not there. Despite growing scientific opinion opposed to current 1080 policy, Wright ducks the issue, stating there simply are no good arguments against. She makes an absurd claim that 1080 “scores surprisingly well” on humaneness. She ignores well-documented, disastrous explosions in rat populations after 1080 drops. She fails to seriously address rural community concerns.

The report is astounding in its failure to acknowledge well-established dangers of 1080. Even the 2007 ERMA report concluded that the effect on non-target animals exposed to 1080 is significantly adverse. A 2007 Landcare Research summary of 1080 possum and rat control warns of “negative long-terms consequences for robins and ground invertebrates.” Wright’s report flies in the face of recommendations by the Nature Conservation Council and distinguished former PCE Helen Hughes.

As seen from popular destinations like the Coromandel, Wright is a one-woman wrecking crew for the multi-billion dollar tourism industry, as disillusioned tourists increasingly attack New Zealand’s fraudulent green branding. Export industries from shellfish to timber to fur to meat face potential catastrophic losses as well. But the PCE report fails to figure that in.

Opposition to 1080 continues to mount. Regional councils and DOC are under increasing pressure from an informed public. Despite a born-again pitch from PCE Jan Wright, the tide of public opinion can’t be stemmed. Decades of 1080 drops with no net ecosystem benefit have simply poisoned the well.


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