Over the weekend the Conservation Minister Maggie Barry announced the largest ever 1080 drop in response to yet another looming rat plague. This is great news although it is only a one off – the Greens have called for an ongoing funding boost to DOC, given that climate change is making these rat plagues more common. We certainly need to up our game if we are to stem the loss of our native species.
This urgent need to save our native birds puts greater focus on the crazy double regulation of toxins such as 1080. To his credit Environment Minister Nick Smith is trying to change this – there is no point wasting money on senseless bureaucracy and paper pushing. You can have your say on the consultation at the end of this blog.
We urgently need to stem the loss of native species
First some context – New Zealand’s native species are in a war. We have the highest rate of threatened species in the world. That means of all our native creatures, a greater proportion are endangered than anywhere else. On one hand it isn’t surprising when you think our native species comprised a lot of flightless birds. However, it isn’t a good look for a nation that considers itself ‘clean and green’.
We have 985 threatened species, plus another 2772 at risk – and those are just the ones we know about. When you boil it down to the animals we know a lot about the results are pretty shocking – 80% of our birds, 88% of our lizards, 72% of our freshwater fish and 100% of our frogs are threatened.
The scary thing is that we are still losing the war. In the 1970s brown kiwi occupied 26% of forest area, this was down to 12% in early 2000s. In the wild we are losing 2% of kiwi per year. Over a similar time period North Island kokako have gone from 9% down to a measly 2% – they really are in dire straits now. The situation is similar for the South Island Blue duck which has dropped from 18% to 4% of the South Island forest area.
There are many more examples like these – we urgently need to stem the loss of native species. The major threats are introduced mammalian predators – rats, stoats, possums and cats.
What is the answer?
In the long term we all agree that a Predator Free New Zealand is the answer, however progress is slow. New technology to support the concept is coming, but it takes time and in the mean time we have to protect the native species we have left.
The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has already made the case that current trapping technologies can’t possibly do the job – in the short term the only real tool we have is 1080. It isn’t perfect, but right now it is the only way to stem the loss of our native species while we move towards the Predator Free vision.
As we have discussed in the past, 1080 is such a useful toxin in the New Zealand context because it targets introduced mammal predators. In contrast it is relatively harmless on our native species (which mostly aren’t mammals) and breaks down relatively quickly. One of the major concerns about the use of 1080 is the impact on freshwater, yet in the video below one of New Zealand’s top freshwater ecologists Mike Joy (who is hugely critical of Government policy on freshwater generally) shows that this is a non-issue.
In the short term our native critters need more 1080, not less.
Pointless Paper Pushing
One major barrier to the use of 1080 is the paperwork required. This applies for all toxins that are used to control pest species, but by far the main one is 1080. The problem is not regulation, it is the fact that it is double regulated.
Under the Health and Safety Act there are clear rules for how these toxins can be used. The landowner must grant permission and there are clear restrictions on how and where the toxins can be used. Of course, any drops must be notified to the surrounding public.
However, these safeguards are currently duplicated under the Resource Management Act. This is implemented by Regional Councils, so New Zealand has 16 slightly different sets of rules on how toxins can be delivered. This double regulation has in the past significantly increased the cost of organising toxin drops – the Minister estimates we can save $10.5m from removing this pointless bureaucracy.
The change will also make it easier for any organisation – such as DOC – operating across Regional Council boundaries. Sometimes a 1080 drop has to be done in two different ways if it crosses Regional Council boundaries – increasing the costs and reducing the effectiveness of the operation. For example, an operation in Kahurangi National Park had to be split into two areas, with a buffer zone through the middle where pests were not controlled.
This proposal won’t impact on the environment, nor cause safety problems for the use of toxins. It appears to have approval from right across the political spectrum – National, Labour and the Greens. In short, it is a no brainer. But it needs you to lend your support for it to go ahead.