Oct. 29, 2018, 2:48 p.m.
The Department of Conservation have completed a 1080 drop over parts of the Russell forest but the controversial pest controller still has the community on edge.
Possums alone are estimated to be in the tens of millions and consume tons of vegetation each night. Canopy species such as rātā, pōhutukawa and tōtara are being stripped and researchers have confirmed possums are also the main predator of eggs, nestlings and even adult native birds.
It was alarming facts like these which saw nine hapῡ surrounding the Russell forest come together to implement a 20-year ngahere plan to save our forests which includes a range of tools to eradicate pests.
Hapῡ Environmental Advisor Nicki Wakefield (Ngāti Hau/Te Parawhau) flew over the Russell forest with other hapῡ delegates and has been closely involved in consultations, hui, planning and execution.
“I’ve come to spend a lot of time in the Russell forest and to see it from the tracks is one thing but then to fly over was just mind-blowing,” she said.
From the air, it was evident the amount of damage pigs had done to the whenua as well as dead trees destroyed by possums and Wakefield said the experience was extremely emotional.
“I was so proud when I first went up, our beautiful maunga, all the valleys and gulley’s but then I looked down and there’s just dead trees everywhere, it was very sad to see.
“There are people around that remember the bush before possums. Where there were flocks of kῡkupa that would break the trees. I just can’t imagine that now, you would be lucky to see one.”
Wakefield studied ecology and biology at the University of Waikato and off the back of her own 1080 experience in 1990 she wanted to learn about the role of 1080 in conservation management.
“My folks brought this piece of land in Ngaiotonga when I was 12. The 1080 drop...I remember the anxiety of my parents, there were lots of local concerns, but I also really remember the smell of the bush. It smelt like death and as a young person, it doesn’t seem right.”
Through her research, Wakefield learnt of the irresponsible use and poor consultation of 1080 with drops occurring via fixed-wing aircraft, no GPS systems available and at a rate of 40kg per hectare. Water testing was also non-existent having only started in the 2000’s.
“A lot of our whānau remember that, poor consultation where whānau weren’t told at all that drops were occurring and that was frightening having a drop happen right on your home.”
As science and technology has evolved, drops now occur via helicopter, with thorough GPS tracking systems, water testing and at a lower rate of 4kg per hectare with a much smaller tolerance for error at around five metres.
Wakefield is passionate about revitalising our forests especially our tuakana species and said the toxin is much more regulated but knows it will come at a cost to some whᾱnau.
“It requires a stand-down of six to nine months so the sacrifice is on our hunters. Our sacrifice is for the ngahere so the birds have a chance for their babies to survive and the trees have a chance to grow.”
Tairāwhiti Environmental Researcher Tina Ngata says its imperative that people do their own research and warns those voicing a ban on 1080 are essentially stripping kaitiaki of their mana whenua.
“When people call for a national ban that’s not very different from what the crown have been doing to us for 170 years which is taking the decision out of mana whenua hands…. for some of us we need that tool in our toolkit.
“When you’re doing your research always make sure you go upstream from the research your searching and that the information you’re getting is quality,” Ngata said.
“For us, we are here to look after “he taonga toku iho o Tāne” …. which are our native rᾱkau, our native manu and our native ngahere not these introduced species.”