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Contractor warned over 1080 incident

The resource use group of Environment Waikato has issued a formal warning to contractor EPRO Ltd as a result of an aerial 1080 drop near Turangi which lead to the deaths of horses in November last year.

At the time of the drop, EPRO was contracted to Environment Waikato’s biosecurity and heritage group. The council’s resource use group, which is responsible for compliance issues relating to the Resource Management Act, subsequently appointed an independent investigator to look into what happened.

The investigation has found a communication breakdown between EPRO staff meant horse owners were not told to shift their animals prior to the drop, and the area of pine forest within which the horses were grazing was aerially treated while horses were still grazing there.

EPRO staff then failed to ensure that the horses were promptly removed once their presence was identified, said Environment Waikato’s resource use group manager Dennis Crequer.

“Although the horse deaths appear to have resulted from a communication breakdown at an individual level, overall responsibility must lie with EPRO as the employer.”

Since the incident, EPRO has reached settlement with the owners of the horses known to have died or become ill, and is reviewing its standard operating procedures to avoid any issues like this in future.

In deciding on a formal warning in EPRO’s case, Environment Waikato’s resource use group took into account the contractor’s excellent past track record, and its willingness to address problems in this case and reach settlement with owners.

“This warning will be borne in mind if there are any further incidents involving the company,” Mr Crequer said.

The announcement of the warning and the results of the investigation had been delayed by the need to get detailed legal advice on the complex issues involved.

Meanwhile, in response to other issues raised in regard to the same aerial operation, the inquiry found there was no contamination by 1080 of Rangipo prison’s water supply or water supplies at Papakai Marae and Papakai Kohanga Reo as had been initially suggested. Nor could EPRO be held responsible for the deaths of a number of sheep in the area, as this was clearly the result of a deliberate act by an unknown party.

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