Source: Environmental Protection Authority
The report published by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) shows there were 31 operations covering 558,000 hectares of land in 2020. This is down more than a quarter on the 44 operations across 918,000 hectares in 2019.
The decrease is largely due to the Department of Conservation (DOC) carrying out fewer aerial 1080 operations during 2020 compared with 2019, when DOC operations were higher in response to a mega mast event in New Zealand’s forests. Heavy seed fall seasons (known as masts) drive up rat populations, threatening native species.
Sixteen of the aerial operations were commissioned by DOC to protect threatened native plants and wildlife from possums, rats, and other introduced pests. Six operations were undertaken as part of the TBfree programme to target possums, which can pass on bovine tuberculosis to farmed cattle and deer.
The average application rate was about three grams of 1080 per hectare, which equates to roughly one teaspoonful of 1080 on a rugby field. This remains well below the maximum allowable rate of 30 grams per hectare.
Among the reported research are examples of nesting success and survival rates for whio, titipounamu, toutouwai, ruru, pīwauwau, and kiwi in areas treated by aerial 1080.
Other research deployed drones for precision aerial bait drops in hard-to-reach areas. This involves a purpose-built bait spreader, with very high accuracy from altitudes of up to 60 metres. The operator will introduce drones as part of its work programme in 2022.
“Due to a lack of other effective options, and the destruction pests inflict on our environment and native wildlife, 1080 remains the most viable management tool at this point in time. However, it is essential to ensure that risks to non-target species in particular are managed and mitigated effectively,” says the EPA’s General Manager of Compliance, Monitoring and Enforcement, Gayle Holmes.
“Steps should continue to be taken to avoid any incidents of non-target impacts. There are encouraging advances in technology and operational planning that we are seeing reported, that should enable better risk management.”
The EPA has the legal authority to grant permission to use 1080 and other animal poisons (called vertebrate toxic agents) under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act. We have delegated this power to DOC and the Ministry of Health via its public health units.