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Published: 2007-01-15 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is strongly supporting the continued use of 1080 in a submission to New Zealand’s Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA).

ERMA is currently conducting a reassessment to look at the risks, costs and benefits associated with the use of the pesticide.

Occurring in nature as the plant toxin fluoroacetate, 1080 is found in South America, South Africa some 40 species of plants in Australia. Thought to have evolved as a deterrent to browsing animals, it is biodegradable and does not accumulate in the environment.

Environment Waikato has considerable involvement with animal pest management through its Regional Pest Management Strategy and its vector management contract with the Animal Health Board.

Environment Waikato biosecurity group manager John Simmons said the ongoing availability of 1080 was critical to New Zealand’s future biosecurity and biodiversity targets.

“As a toxin available for aerial use, 1080 is without peer. With the sophistication of application technology employed by the leading exponents of aerial control in New Zealand, it is a superb toxin able to be used in a variety of formulations and bait types to deliver specialised results.

“When it comes to aerial application in steep, rugged bush country there are no alternatives and this is the primary reason the continued use of 1080 is so vital to the pest management industry. Within the Waikato it is estimated some 400,000 hectares would not receive adequate pest control if 1080 was not available. It would be impossible to achieve low possum numbers in the Hauhungaroa, Kaimanawa, Rangitoto, Hakarimata and Herangi Ranges, or on Mt Pihanga and Mt Tauhara without it.”

Mr Simmons said1080 use offered “tremendous benefits to the rural community and to the New Zealand public generally in terms of ecological enhancement”.

“The future of many threatened New Zealand native birds like the kiwi, kokako, kereru and kaka rests with our ability to provide them with protection from introduced predators. Currently 1080 is the most cost effective toxin to provide that protection.”

While communities had often raised concerns over 1080 contamination of water supplies, Mr Simmons said research and water sampling over the past 15 years had shown the risk of long term, low level exposure to 1080 through water supply contamination was “not in the realms of possibility”.

The impact of 1080 on feral deer populations had been mitigated to some extent by the development and use of deer repellent baits, which had satisfied some opposition to the use of 1080 from recreational hunters.

Mr Simmons said 1080 would be essential in achieving the targets set out in Environment Waikato’s Regional Pest Management Strategy, a five-year plan due to be released in March.