15 Sep 2015

Coromandel 1080 drop unsafe - protesters

7:06 am on 15 September 2015

A bait drop on the Coromandel Peninsula at the weekend was unsafe because the public was not warned and there were no track closures, opponents of 1080 poison say.

On Sunday the Department of Conservation (DoC) dropped bait by helicopter over 25,000 hectares in the Coromandel Forest Park, which stretches from Waihi up to the tip of the peninsula.

Demonstrators who were at the bait drop say there was no signage to indicate the poisoning was happening, and people were still going for walks during the operation.

Protesters at the Coromandel 1080 drop.

Protesters at the Coromandel 1080 drop. Photo: Supplied

Jeff Wright said visitors to the area did not know what was going on.

"Everyone driving up that road had no idea that poison was raining from the sky, and we're witnessing families up there with infants, to me that just seems so wrong."

Mr Wright said seeing the amount of 1080 being used first hand was an eye-opening experience.

He watched at least five trucks filling up helicopter buckets and saw one helicopter fly over the Kauaeranga River and says he was worried the 1080 pellets were dropped too close together.

"It was quite hard to believe because the helicopter was at the height spreading that we were finding bait in such a confined area, like metres apart from each other.

"Some were actually probably about 100mm apart in a 50 metre stretch, there were baits in the river in excess of 10 or 15 baits from that one pass over."

1080 pellets photographed by protestors in the Kauaeranga River.

1080 pellets photographed by protestors in the Kauaeranga River. Photo: Supplied

DoC stands by decision not to close areas for 1080 drop.

Its northern communication advisor, Des Williams, said they decided not to close public areas because they did not see the bait as a safety risk.

"It expresses our confidence in the safety of the whole operation. You know there are people who may say that there's terror raining from the skies, but that's not the way we see it.

"Clearly it was one of the things we considered very seriously in the whole operation, but the fact that it wasn't done demonstrates that people were happy with it."

Mr Williams said 1080 was the most effective option for that area.

"We like dropping poison around the place no more than anyone else does, but for the moment we say that in that sort of rugged terrain where it's not possible to do it manually through ground baiting systems, or that sort of thing, then the aerial operation is our only alternative."

He said there would be crews on the ground checking and removing bait from tracks and roads this week.

Meanwhile the final stage of the operation to drop poison into Auckland's Hunua Range forest finished yesterday.

The Hunua Ranges

The Hunua Ranges Photo: Supplied

The 1080 bait drop is already claiming its targeted victims, with Auckland Council reporting a number of dead possums.

Officials say it was the first drop of this scale in the ranges for at least 20 years.

Auckland Council biodiversity manager Rachel Kelleher said staff clearing bait from the tracks had noticed results.

"The staff involved in doing that work did encounter a number of dead possums.

"The monitoring results that we are doing at the moment are showing that we've had a particularly good effect from the work that we are doing in reducing those possum numbers."

Ms Kelleher said the Hunua Ranges, Waharau and Whakatiwai regional parks were closed until at least the end of the week so tracks could be cleared of bait.

Ali Meade and Mark Mitchell preparing for the 1080 drop in the Hunua Ranges

Ali Meade and Mark Mitchell preparing for the 1080 drop in the Hunua Ranges Photo: Supplied

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs