Parting Shot: A poisonous battle for our hearts and minds


It’s pretty difficult these days to find the line between reaching for the tinfoil and being a sheeple.

Take 1080.

I mean don’t actually take it. Don’t bloody touch it. Don’t let your children near it, or your dogs near it, don’t eat anything that’s come into contact with it.

That’s all fact. Both sides agree on that. So, just don’t go near it.

But, take 1080.

About 19,500kgs of pellets containing the poison were dropped across 19,500 hectares of 100% pure environment in the upper Wakatipu last Friday (four elephants in kgs, if you must know).

Specifically, public conservation land encompassing Dart Valley, Beans Burn, Rock Burn, Routeburn, Caples Valley and elsewhere.

That’s basically where Queenstowners who are adventurous – or just too old to deal with a hangover any more – spend their weekends. It’s where tourists go for a free helicopter ride to hospital.

The valleys are among 19 sites chosen by the Department of Conservation for its next phase of Battle For Our Birds – DoC’s programme to eradicate predators.

Stoats, rats and possums are better at life than native birds. They all go at it like an AB in a disabled toilet, and eat rare birds’ eggs like they’re chocolate.

So they must be killed. All of them. By 2050 for some reason.

And the only way to do it is the wonder poison 1080 (well, other than funding a massive national programme of trappers).

1080’s great at killing, especially predators, but also unfortunately deer and it seems sometimes the birds themselves and also dogs.

Now, there are some people in this country who think that is a really bad idea.

Take Tony Barrell. On 1080 Facebook group, 1080 eyewitness, he goes full Godwin’s Law.

“DoC are deranged scum bags that would have enjoyed killing Jews.”

Ok, so I’ll admit when I started thinking about writing this Parting Shot I thought Tony was your average 1080 campaigner.

But now, after reading the Facebook group, I’m either too persuaded or too scared to have that opinion.

I’m not sure which it is. There’s a lot of passion there. Lots of country people who know the land. And I was in court the day Glenorchy anti-1080 campaigner James Veint got banned from owning firearms for a while, so I know I’m safe there.

Maybe I’m a little persuaded. They have photos of dead deer in streams and all that. Lots of anecdotal stuff about silent forests. And, you know, the fact that DoC’s dropping four elephants’ worth of poison around the place.

The antidote to this is the likes of Dave Hansford, who’s written a new book Protecting Paradise: 1080 and the fight to save New Zealand’s Wildlife.

Mr Veint must find that title Alanis Morissette-level ironic.

So, anyway, there’s a video of Dave, put out by his publisher Potton & Burton – white hair, tight black T-shirt, speaking incredibly patiently.

He comes across like an Auckland architect trying to explain the plot of Memento to a toddler.

Dave’s done science or at least read science and concludes: “It’s not getting into the food chain, it’s not killing native birds by the thousands, it’s not poisoning our (water.”

And, he ominously says we’re the last generation able to do it.

The Endangered Species Foundation tells us so, he says, with 400 species at some kind of risk.

Most of me believes Dave. Be like Dave; trust the science, trust the government.

And some of the arguments in his book are a proper blow to the anti-1080ist rhetoric, such as the reason NZ uses 90 per cent of the 1080 is because we’ve got a unique environment; other places can’t use it because of all the large mammals.

And, surely Maggie Barry and the rest of them, including all the hardy DoC rangers, aren’t part of some shadowy conspiracy to line the pockets of the 1080 manufacturers?

They seem like good eggs who care about nature. They’ve devoted their lives to it.

But I don’t know. There’s always a sliver of doubt.

We’ve been lied to by governments and corporations so many times, or they’ve just been incompetent.

CFCs, Thalidomide, smoking, WMDs and the rest.

On the other hand, there are people, in Queenstown, who believe the earth is flat and John Key is a lizard.

Few people are going to read scientific studies with enough knowledge to properly understand the findings.

It’s a big call to trust this is the right thing to do.

But it’s done now, so I suppose we’ll see – or hear the results with a proper dawn chorus.