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Published: 2004-09-16 00:00:00

Support for the use of 1080 poison to control possums in the Waikato has risen significantly in the last two years, a research survey has found.

This week’s Environment Waikato Biosecurity Committee meeting heard that more than half of people in the Region now support using 1080 to control the effect of possums on native forest and birds and to control the spread of bovine Tb. Most said it was simple, effective and it worked.

Just over a third are still opposed to 1080 use, compared to 44 percent in 2002. There was no real difference between people living in urban or rural areas, although there was much higher support from farmers or farm workers than other occupational groups.

Those who oppose 1080 are concerned that the poison is non selective and may kill other animals, and urban people are worried about danger to children and animals. The number of people supporting 1080 to control Tb has dropped and now only five percent feel there are no alternatives, compared to 12 percent two years ago.

Another survey showed three quarters of people interviewed want to maintain possum control of 40 percent or more of the Region. Only nine percent want a smaller proportion of the Region controlled for possums.

Two in three of those who want to maintain possum control are willing to pay the average rate quoted. Of those not willing to pay the rate, more than half would be willing to pay less. One in four of those who don’t want to pay anything for possum control think it is the Government’s responsibility and one in five think environmental rates are already too high.

The benefits of possum control are seen as reversing the Loss of native bird species as the most important factor for urban people, followed by reduced native plant and tree damage, damage to forest ecosystems and risk of bovine Tb. Vegetable garden and fruit tree damage and pasture consumption by possums are the least important factors to both urban and rural people.

People living in rural areas are likely to feel they have enough knowledge about the risks and costs of possum damage but 44 percent of urban people would like to learn more. Environment Waikato is the preferred source of information for 40 percent of people in both urban and rural areas. The internet is also a popular source of information.

Urban people want ferrets, stoats, rats, feral cats and rabbits controlled, while rural people are slightly less concerned about them. Hedgehogs and feral deer are of least worry to both groups, while more birdsong and native trees flowering were less importance to rural areas.