New Zealand trout fishing guide Scott Murray was fishing the South Island West Coast’s Mohikinui River with guests in early December when it started hailing 1080 poison pellets.
“It was like big hail drops hitting the water around us,” said Scott who is a co-owner of River Haven Lodge near Murchison.
Scott Murray and a 91-year-old Californian client and nephew had just landed from their helicopter in the Mohikinui valley when they saw other choppers carrying buckets loaded with 1080 green pellets. Soon after, the toxic hail storm happened.
The 1080 drop was carried out jointly by OSPRI who are charged with possum control work for combating bovine tuberculosis (Tb) and the Department of Conservation who aim to kill rats as part of its “Battle for Our Birds” predator control programme.
The upper reaches of the Mohikinui split into the north and south branches both being wilderness in character. By chance in the Mohikinui on the same day as Scott Murray was Zane Mirfin, a Nelson guide, and two guests. Zane Mirfin’s Californian client was incredulous when Zane explained what the aerial top-dressing with 1080 pellets was about.
Scott and Zane were incensed while both their international fishing guests were startled and almost speechless. Later Scott Murray said his elderly guest was so shocked he was debating whether or not to return to New Zealand in the future. The clients saw New Zealand’s much vaunted “clean and green” branding for exports and tourism as in tatters due to a lack of credibility.
“It’s a bad, bad advertisement for New Zealand. Overseas New Zealand’s 1080 madness is becoming increasingly known and a growing number are shocked at New Zealand dangerous obsession and use of 1080 and poisons generally. It makes me quite angry just thinking about it,” said Scott.
Despite windy conditions the contracted helicopters continued to spray poison pellets around the valley and into the river..
Both Zane Mirfin and Scott Murray highlighted the lack of justification for the haphazard spreading of the poison pellets.
Zane Mirfin described the 1080 bombardment as “a waste of taxpayer money and ecologically damaging”.
“It’s a sheer waste of taxpayer funds on a largely futile exercise, plus irreparable damage is done to New Zealand clean-and-green, 100% pure marketing brand.”
He described the “Battle for the Birds” programme as “a bureaucratic exercise in state-funded rodent enhancement.”
After 1080 drops, within a few years, fast breeding, multi-litter bearing rats explode in numbers with the impetus carrying numbers to over three times pre-poisoning levels. As for bovine Tb, last year The Minister of Primary Industries admitted in Parliament that over 9800 possums autopsied revealed nil Tb infection. New Zealand has low Tb infection rates in cattle, well below international classification percentage for declaring a Tb-free status.
Footnotes: (a) 1080 was first developed as an insecticide about 1927 but was found to kill birds and animals. Critics label it as an “ecosystem poison”.
(b) For detailed reading, Wairarapa conservationist Bill Benfield’s book “The Third Wave” and ”War Against Nature” are both available through Tross Publishing, Wellington. Email: email@example.com
Scott Murray in the Mohikinui River with 1080 pellets that fell from the sky on his American guests and him and into the river.