WHILE THAMES RESIDENTS PROTEST against the Department of Conservation's 1080 aerial drop in the Coromandel Ranges, dropping the toxic poison over 13,000 hectares from Jeanette Fitzsimons bit of “green heaven" in the Kauaeranga Valley all the way up to Te Puru, the clean, Green Party Leader pleads in today's Hauraki Herald for “tolerance.” “She did not know anyone who was comfortable with poison being dropped from the air," the local paper reports, "However, 1080 was necessary to ‘hold the line’ until a more effective pest control method was developed."
If recent polls can be trusted, Fitzsimon's party will experience a rather effective pest control method come November. But it does seem strange to see the Green leader plead for tolerance for toxins, when opposition to toxins and the like was once the Greens' raison d'être.
Perhaps when the toxins are delivered by Nanny it's okay?
But why should hunters and land-owners have to be tolerant of a poor decision made by government without any reference to those directly affected?
Fact is, DoC's use of 1080 has been intensely destructive to everything but possums, on which it has only just held the line. After many years and over a billion of tax payers dollars spent on possum control we still have the same 70 million possums we had at the start. Not successful and of very little, if any, benefit.
No wonder DoC staff joke that the best way to protect the kiwi is to give it them to exterminate.
The so called possum problem is largely a manufactured one by the Government agencies who stand to gain from perpetrating it. DoC claims that the 70 million possums in New Zealand eat about 300 grams each of foliage each day, resulting in a whopping 21,000 tonnes of vegetation being consumed daily.
What they do not tell us though is the forests of this country produce about 300,000 tonnes of new vegetation daily.
The economics do not make any sense either. The New Zealand Conservancy Authority states that the economic costs attributable to possums is estimated to be between $40 million and $60 million per year. Yet over $130 million is spent each year by State, private individuals and businesses on control. Not much benefit in something that uneconomic, or in the costs to game hunters and food gatherers who face a stand-down time of 6 months or more, and the considerable risk of contaminated meat, and the considerable costs to farmers directly and indirectly of aerial spreading of such a toxic poison on and near their properties --including in some cases whole farms -- with no compensation for their loss.
There are three main limits to possum populations in any given area; in decreasing order these are dry nest sites, food supply and (to a much lesser extent) play areas. Possum populations cannot go beyond these natural barriers, so despite DoC claims to the contrary, they simply cannot explode without control. In fact, many areas of New Zealand do not have any possum control, without any of the adverse effects that DoC claims they should experience.
Further, concern about damage done to endangered species by possums is more than offset by the damage done by 1080 itself.
THE ARGUMENT OVER THE use of 1080 shows once again the problem of a lack of private ownership. To control a pest on government land, the government tramples on the rights of everyone - no matter how ineffective the control, or how toxic the chosen pesticide. But governments always favour blunt instruments, in complete disregard of the damage they cause.
The use of 1080 itself should not be banned. What should be stopped is the widespread use of 1080 whether a landowner consents to it or not.
1080 use should be controlled because of the downstream effects on almost everything, including invertebrates, birds and fish -- and all those good things that hunters like to shoot. There's no need for a ban, however, because widespread private ownership and rigorous common law would effectively do this anyway, as a responsible property owner would have trouble guaranteeing no harmful effects to other property owners.
What needs to be emphasised is that in free countries free people own the land, not the Government. It's the government's ownership of land that causes the conflict, not the possums.