Letter to the editor: Impending 1080 drop at Luggate

What’s Our Health Worth???

It is with great sadness and grave concern we contemplate the months ahead in our township of Luggate.  For the third year running we live with the threat of having 1080 Sodium Monofluoroacetate poison aerially applied, by Ospri/TB Free right behind the village and in some places less than 1km from homes, pets, families and camping ground, and, directly into the Alice Burn and the Luggate Creek.

In the year of the governments “Wellbeing Budget” we never imagined in 2019, in New Zealand, our country, our home that we would have to literally fight for our health and wellbeing.  

TB Free/OSPRI will not, despite promising after the “indefinitely postponed” drop in 2017 honor their promise to “consult well before” “the operation was due to be completed” - reported in the Wanaka Sun 10.8.17.  Information received last week from Ospri stated “wider community consultation is not being undertaken for this aerial”. So what did they mean back in 2017 then? Do they think the consultation they walked out on last year qualifies?

The Southern District Health Board website clearly states “we all deserve to be able to live in healthy environments and environmental conditions”.  Their website also states “PHS is involved in the prevention of injuries from exposures to hazardous substances”. An Aerial 1080 Drop above our village is completely contradictory to the SDHB’s own policy and indeed our own Human Rights. 

At the end of the day (regardless of personal opinion about the use of 1080) 1080 is a highly toxic hazardous substance with proven and irreversible consequences to both animals and humans. If our community face mass health issues in the aftermath of an aerial application of this toxin, who will assume responsibility and liability for that?

The threat to human reproductive systems alone is dire.  Classified as a Teratogen, “an agent or factor which causes malformation of an embryo”. It is an “Endocrine Hormone disruptor in parts per trillion” – Dr Sean Weaver (Victoria University).

An article published in the Wanaka Sun last year quotes Professor Ian Shaw a Canterbury Toxicologist. “If a human gets exposed to 1080 it will kill those cells – there is no question.  So if you are a woman and you are pregnant and you’re exposed to a reasonably high does of 1080, that 1080 will circulate in your body and would get into the baby via the placenta and would have an affect on the development of the cells of the baby at the time of the exposure.” We have at least 6 pregnant women living in the village that we know about.  The threat to them alone is alarming.

The threat and risk of toxic 1080 dust drift is also extremely high given the geographical nature of this drop. Government data states “bait dust can drift outside the boundaries of a treated area up to and possibly more than 1000 m.”

Testimony from an accredited, former HeliAg pilot , with 6000 hours flying time and a profound knowledge of the local area states 'the Pisa range to the Southwest of Luggate is known to generate Katabatic winds (downhill or drainage winds).” “Luggate has four main valley systems that line these winds up for the township, including the Alice Burn and Luggate Creek”. These valleys and the katabatic wind systems converge on the township.”

John Sarginson goes on to say, “ I would consider dispensing 1080 in the hills to the south of Luggate during these times of the year to be a very high risk to all. The baits may fall in no wind, but when the wind increases, maybe days later, some baits will fall further in scrub and others are blown across exposed areas causing toxic dust to become airborne again. Sublethal amounts of a harmful poison would be distributed and no one can guarantee such drift of 1080 dust will not cause future health risks to our generation, or to generations of the future. No one can guarantee that people won’t suffer increased illnesses or deficiencies or that people's lives will not be shortened.  Worse still, no one can claim to detect acute 1080 poisoning in all instances, and sublethal poisoning is almost impossible to detect.”

Ospri states the area is “remote and inaccessible” and yet men who have worked the land for generations tell us that it certainly is not.  If Ospri can conduct possum monitoring (although none has been done since last year), at ground level, then why is it necessary to conduct an aerial operation, putting a community at risk when a ground operation would not?  Why is more importance placed on the health of stock units than on the health of this community?

This is the third year we have had to battle, battle to be heard, to be considered, to be respected, to have a right to our basic human rights.  The community demands, that due to a complete lack of justification for an Aerial Application of Toxic 1080 Sodium Monofluoroacetate Poison, that this operation be cancelled and therefore a legacy of human and animal health issues in our village be avoided.

Tracey Morrow

Luggate resident on behalf of concerned Luggate residents and the Luggate 1080 action Ggroup.


Forest and Bird responds

Many of the issues raised in this letter from the Luggate 1080 Action Group should be addressed by OSPRI as this is an operation for animal health.  Forest and Bird strongly supports the right of every community to understand what is happening in its local environment and be informed and consulted. We would like to comment on this letter because 1080 is an important tool for conservation, and it is important that decisions about the use of 1080 are informed by science and not by beliefs alone, regardless of how strongly those beliefs are held.

In recent years there has been much research on the use of 1080 and how it accumulates in the environment, its presence in waterways and its threat to humans and non-target species. The overwhelming consensus of that science is the risks to humans of 1080 as it is currently used are negligible and acceptable within any current public health or safety criteria.

The writer cites supposed risks from dust and in drinking water. Both these potential risks have been studied. For example, a published study collected dust from three aerial 1080 operations, and the peak dust concentration within the drop area was 400 times below the OSH approved level and only 200m outside the drop zone was 50,000 times below. The writer states 1080 was detected 1km away from the drop zone, which is correct, but at a level 170,000 times below the acceptable level, or put another way, 0.0006% of the OSH approved level (Journal of Agricultural Research 45:57-65).

In terms of water, a published study placed 10 times the sowing rate of 1080 baits directly into streams and found “no demonstrable biological impacts” and 1080 concentrations in the streams were 1000 times below the Ministry of Health guidelines for drinking water. After 12 hours no 1080 was detected at all (NZ Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 40:531-46). Min. of Health guidelines are 3.5 parts per billion and that level would pose no significant risk to a person over a lifetime of drinking water contaminated at that level.

The most comprehensive analysis of the use of 1080 was a report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment that concluded “based on careful analysis of the evidence not only should the use of 1080 continue (including in aerial operations) to protect our forests, but that we should use more of it“. The independent commissioner was so convinced by the evidence she stated, “It is seldom that I come to such a strong conclusion at the end of an investigation.”

We strongly urge people to read this report which can be found at https://www.pce.parliament.nz/media/1294/evaluating-the-use-of-1080.pdf

Our native plants and animals are continuing to decline across the country, with over 80 percent of our land-based birds, bats, reptiles and frogs in trouble. Forest and Bird wants our forests to be full of bird song with all our species flourishing and to do this we have to use all the tools we can to control deadly rats, stoats and possums.  This year is one of the biggest beech masts for more than 40 years and if we don’t use large-scale predator control methods like aerial 1080 we will loose populations of birds like the icon Mohua that occur in places like Makarora. It is just not possible to trap the over one million hectares needed to save these natural treasures, and trapping cannot control rats and stoats that reach plague proportions in beech masting years. And if we use all the tools at our disposal we can save species—thanks to aerial 1080 the Landsborough population of Mohua has increased from just 14 birds to more than 400.  

As counterintuitive as it may seem that spreading poison from the air across the landscape is safe to humans, decisions on the use of 1080 should not be based on intuition but should be based on science, and the science is very clear: 1080 is not a risk to humans as it is currently used and is incredibly effective for conservation.

Forest and Bird

Central Otago Lakes Branch



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