No, Minister not more 1080

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Farmer Veint says DoC plan’s a crock.

A Glenorchy farmer is urging the Conservation Minister to can this month’s aerial 1080 drop in the Dart Valley.

Jim Veint, who’s farmed at the head of Lake Wakatipu for 55 years, is convinced the poison drop won’t achieve its objective and will even be counter-productive.

The Department of Conservation poisoning pro­gramme is to save native yellowhead birds by killing rats.

But Veint believes the 1080 will also kill other species which would otherwise feed on those rats – as happened after the last drop in 2006, he claims.

He says the most effective way to cull rats is to stop trapping their natural predator, the stoat.

“Don’t drop 1080 poison and [instead] let the stoats eradicate all the rats in these back-country valleys,” he’s written to Conservation Minister Tim Groser.

Veint tells Mountain Scene: “Where DoC has eliminated stoats, rats have taken over and killed all the yellowheads.”

He says there’s scientific evidence suggesting rat numbers come back even stronger after aerial 1080 drops.

Veint also doubts the seriousness of the so-called rat explosion: “We’ve had possum hunters on some of the [6500ha] they’re going to do and they haven’t seen a sign of a rat.”

Geoffrey Thomson, another nearby farmer, is concerned DoC “uses a heavy hammer to deal with something that’s certainly a problem at the time but is it sustainable long-term?”

Thomson is going “fully organic” on his farm.

“We see this as something DoC’s got to look at too, using natural ways to the maximum.”

Local DoC biodiversity boss Barry Lawrence agrees stoats keep rats down but controlling stoats is “absolutely necessary” to save blue ducks and other birds like kaka and parakeets.

Lawrence says 1080 is needed to get rid of the rat population that explodes every few years when beech trees flower and drop seed.

“If we do nothing, we’ll watch the [endangered native] birds go out the back door over a period of time.”

The Dart Valley is one of the last yellowhead habitats, Lawrence notes.

There’s always a risk of poisoning non-targeted species but he says DoC is putting down one-third less bait than in 2006.

“Over a 10-year period we’ve effectively dealt with the stoat issue. Now we have a rat issue which can be even bigger.”