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DOC Rejects ‘Neighbour from Hell’ Claim

PRESS RELEASE FROM DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION
WAIKATO CONSERVANCY

15 November 2006

(For immediate release)


DOC Rejects ‘Neighbour from Hell’ Claim

Department of Conservation Waikato Conservator, Greg Martin of Hamilton, says a claim by Coromandel farmer Arthur Attfield that DOC adopted a ‘neighbour from hell’ approach to recent aerial 1080 pest control operations on the Coromandel Peninsula is totally unjustified.

Greg Martin says comments attributed to Mr Attfield, and other statements published in the New Zealand Herald on 13 November, tell only a very small part of the story in what was a complex and thorough operation within the Whenuakite block of Coromandel Forest Park.

“The statement that ‘400 farmers and residents’ had asked the department by petition to continue ground-based pest control at Whenuakite is also misleading to the point of being vexatious. Most of the petition signatories live far beyond the affected catchment and some were from overseas, having signed without knowing the full facts.

“All three farm properties located immediately adjacent to the operational area were included in the pest control programme. We consulted with 37 individual property owners, including Mr Attfield, even though he is not an adjoining owner,” Greg Martin said. “Only 15 of those properties directly adjoin the operational area, two of which were included in the aerial operation, including 529 hectares of very significant private forest protected by covenant.

“Those owners specifically sought the application of aerially applied 1080 on their properties as the method with lowest physical impact and highest environmental benefit. Two further privately owned native forest areas were included in the ground-based boundary operation.”

Greg Martin said the Whenuakite Kiwi Care Group actually grew from the Department’s original possum control operation at Whenuakite, in 2000, with a DOC survey having earlier identified Whenuakite as one of three kiwi ‘hot spots’ on the peninsula. “Department staff actually started the initiative that saw local community interest in kiwi protection grow to the extent that it now plays a significant part in our kiwi recovery programmes.”

Whenuakite Kiwi Care Group member and local farmer, Arthur Hinds, also rejects Mr Attfield’s ‘neighbour from hell’ claim. “The Whenuakite Kiwi Care Group now spends about $70,000 a year, and a similar value in volunteer effort, protecting 3800 hectares of coastal forest that now contains at least 68 kiwi. In my view this level of funding is unsustainable and if a 1080 drop every three years is environmentally sustainable and can keep possums, mustelids and rats in check at a much lower cost, then that’s the way we have to go,” Mr Hinds said.

ENDS

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