Our Position on 1080

"Bay Bush Action ONLY uses trapping in its operation in the Opua Forest."


Taking out just one or two pests is not an option if you want healthy native forests.

For example, targeting only possums means there's more plant growth, which means more seeds, buds, seedlings and bugs for rats to eat. Rat populations explode with all the extra food. And taking out just rats, means wild cats, stoats and weasels turn their attention to our native wildlife.

Although on the surface, the possum fur industry seems like the "economic" answer to the pest problem, it's not. If possums numbers are high enough for harvesting, our forests are already in serious trouble. When possums are cleaned out of an area, trappers will move on until their numbers build up again. In the meantime, rat numbers can skyrocket.

This is why, if we want our forests to truly thrive, we need to target all the pests.

Bay Bush Action traps rats, possums, stoats, cats, weasels, ferrets and mice. We target all the offenders at the same time. It's called best practice, multi-species pest control. Trapping is not a one-off thing. The reinvasion is constant.

Where Bay Bush Action is trapping, the increase in birdlife and plant growth has been staggering. You know all the hard work is worth it because you can see the results. But, it's also scary. It suddenly makes you realise, that in the areas where there is no multi-species pest control, our forests are dying. And what's really worrying, is around 90% of DOC land gets little or no pest control...at all. Many of New Zealand's once thriving native forests are in free-fall collapse.

So why don't we do multi-species trapping everywhere then? Well trapping definitely works well, but it is expensive and involves a staggering amount of time and effort. Getting people to trap their own backyards is one thing, but finding people to walk for hours through the bush clearing rat, after maggoty rat from traps is another.

For a large scale trapping programme you would need to cut tracks in grids 150 metres apart all through the bush. You would need to have hundreds of thousands of traps carried in, installed, maintained and set regularly. You need a forest that's close by and terrain that's easy so there are no gaps in pest control. You need to carry about 3kg of lure per kilometer of trapline. This means we can only realistically do multi-species trapping in a tiny area of a huge forest. And, even after all that, you would still not get rat numbers low enough to reintroduce species like kōkako without using toxin. This is the case with all trapping programs throughout Aotearoa.

To date, there is no group in our country that protects more than a 1000 hectares using best practice, multi-species pest control using only traps. To put that in perspective DOC manages 116,000 hectares of forest in Northland and Forest & Bird say nationally we need to bring 5,000,000 hectares under multi-species pest control.

Bay Bush Action trustees have put a huge effort into researching 1080. This included reviewing the science and also travelling the country to visit forests that have been using 1080 and forests that have not.

New Zealand has no land mammals (other than bats). It makes us one of the few countries in the world where targeting introduced predators with 1080 can be done without any risk to a native mammal population. This is why New Zealand uses more 1080 than any other country.

It's fair to say 1080 has not always been used sensibly or responsibly. Mistakes have been made and some people have been very against its use for a variety of reasons, and rightly so. There were times when many native birds were being killed and aerial dropping of the toxin wasn't accurate and stock or dogs got poisoned.

However, year after year, important changes have been made.

Simple changes, like making baits from cereals instead of carrots, dying them green, and optimising sowing rates means the majority of native birds aren't interested in the baits but they are still hugely attractive to possums and rats.

These days they use GPS guided helicopters, not airplanes with a few scribbles on a map. Very, very few native birds are now killed by 1080 and the year after its use, native bird populations can skyrocket.

Bay Bush Action already knew, that despite its chemically sounding name, the active ingredient in 1080, fluoroacetate, was a naturally occurring plant-based toxin found in many plants around the world. In Western Australia, sheep and cattle of early settlers died because they were eating plants that produced fluoroacetate in their leaves.

We learned that it did not bio-accumulate in the body. This means if you don't eat enough to kill you, it just passes through you and it does not accumulate in your organs. The tea plant and pūhā have fluoroacetate naturally within them. This means when you have a cup of tea, you have a tiny amount of fluoroacetate but it does not affect you and does not bio-accumulate inside you.

Because the fluoroacetate in 1080 is a naturally occurring plant-based toxin, it breaks down just like any other plant toxin in the water or soil. For example, kowhai seeds, karaka seeds, tutu, many ferns and toadstools are all highly toxic. But these plant toxins break down and do not build up in the soil or waterways and neither does 1080.

Over 2000 water samples have been taken immediately after 1080 has been used. Over 96% of these samples had no traces of 1080. The other 4% had around the level you may find naturally in a cup of tea.

This information made it really exciting to us. It was unlike other nasty poisons that can stay around for a long time.

The sowing rate of 1080 is on average only 3-4 baits over the area the size of a tennis court. And the important thing about 1080 is it kills all the pests that are destroying our forests.

When a rat or possum eats 1080, they will usually return to their nest or den, go unconscious and die there. It is around this time that feral cats, stoats, weasels and ferrets are likely to attack and eat the dying or freshly dead rats and possums. All the very worst offenders can be hit at once.

1080 works by interrupting the body’s energy production systems: an animal’s cells are starved of energy and subsequently vital functions in the body stop. A recent report commissioned by the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) rated the relative humaneness of 1080 as moderately humane.

Aerial dropping of 1080 is far more effective than ground control in bait stations as it gets the baits into the canopy of the forest as well as on the ground. It also gets the baits into the very inaccessible places people don't or can't get to. In just three days and nights you can get pest populations down to near zero allowing native bird populations to nest safely.

Most of the work occurs setting up the first 1080 operation and subsequent operations become quite straight forward. Your local DOC office or Kiwis for Kiwi can provide advice on this.

1080 is generally only around $20/ha. This means you can treat very large areas cost effectively. As a comparison, the annual cost of maintaining fenced forest was calculated at $3365 per hectare. Trapping setup costs alone are around $378 per ha.

Our Conclusion

For large scale pest control 1080 is by far the best option.

The forests that are being treated with 1080 are pumping compared to forests without pest control.

We think Aotearoa needs to use far more 1080 because it works well.

The Commissioner for the Environment's report on 1080 says the same thing. So does the Department of Conservation. And Forest & Bird have been saying this for years.

The Green party also accept we need to use 1080. As does the Environment and Conservation Organisation, WWF and Birds NZ.  Greenpeace, have never and will never campaign against 1080.

The Environmental Risk Management Authority also found it to be biodegradable and safe with the positives far outweighing the negatives.

Landcare Research has done countless studies all finding the same thing: it works well.

Basically, all the people that are involved with looking after our forests and native wildlife say the same thing:  we need to be using far more of it if we are serious about getting the pest problem under control.

For further information and references please take the time and read The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment's report on 1080.

Kia ora
Bay Bush Action

© Bay Bush Action Trust - NZ Registered Charity
PO Box 533, Paihia 0247