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Published: 2010-02-03 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is to encourage the use of a new 'low-sow' method of applying 1080 that cuts the amount of toxin used to control possums.

The move is part of the regional council’s quest to find effective and affordable alternatives to aerially-applied 1080.

At a recent joint meeting of the two sub-committees advising Environment Waikato’s regional pest management committee, members discussed the full spectrum of opinions on 1080, from support for the science backing its use as an effective and affordable pest control method, to doubts about its value as a conservation tool, to outright opposition to its ongoing use in New Zealand.

There was a view put forward that 90 per cent of opposition to 1080 would vanish if deer repellent was used to protect the interests of recreational hunters, while others believed more information and communication with communities would allay concerns about the toxin.

Pest management committee chairman Simon Friar said the council had to take on board community concerns and find new ways of controlling pests at a price that was fair to ratepayers.

"The debate for and against 1080 is going nowhere and is certainly not contributing to finding a better way.   We need to do something different and trialling the low-sow, cluster bait application is at least a move to do something more positive than argue," he said.

"I am encouraged by the Animal Health Board-funded trial work Landcare Research is doing into this method of control which suggests the same results could be achieved by reducing the amount of baits applied to the bush from 2.5 kilogrammes a hectare to as little as 200-300 grammes a hectare – that has to be a step forward."

The advisory subcommittees have recommended that the council works with Landcare Research to try the low-sow cluster method of 1080 application in suitable operational areas scheduled for pest control.

They also endorsed EW’s use of all available legal toxins to carry out cost effective pest control in the region, and agreed that communities wanting a more expensive alternative to the method recommended by the council should pay for it.

The meeting backed EW’s current practice of relying on the agencies responsible for regulating the use of 1080 - the Environment Risk Management Authority (ERMA) and the Ministry of Health.

It also endorsed the requirements and guidelines that ERMA has developed and continues to develop regarding the appropriate use, handling and communication for 1080, and encouraged EW to make every reasonable effort to adhere to these requirements and recommendations.

Finally, the group urged EW to continue to support and facilitate where reasonably practical the ongoing research to find alternatives to 1080, improved methods of using 1080 and improved knowledge about the effects of 1080.

Council biosecurity group manager John Simmons said the council’s policy was to choose pest control methods that were the most appropriate, cost effective and efficient for any particular operation.

"Trapping, cyanide and other toxins are used across about 95 per cent of the Waikato region, with aerially-applied 1080 accounting for only five per cent of the regional pest control work by area," he said.

"As things are at the moment, aerially-applied 1080 is the most efficient and cost-effective way of protecting native bush and birdlife from the ravages of possums, stoats and rats but we encourage contractors to come up with new ways of controlling pests.

"Contractors are actively encouraged to develop new and innovative control methods. The advances have seen over the past 10 years in control effectiveness is huge – the gains made are really showing through in biodiversity and reduced incidence of Tb."

The sub-committees’ recommendations are to go before the regional pest management committee and full council later this month.