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September 2011 Issue
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Pigeon Post, September 2011

We meant well, but realise experienced female trampers may have found the advice a bit simplistic. As penance, we’re offering Ruth a pair of Leki Softlite poles ($99.95) courtesy of Marvelox Adventure (

Letter of the month

Condescending advice

Loved your 30 huts in 30 nights article (August 2011). It’s amazing what a man can do – and woman it seems from the inspirational articles about our elite outdoors women.

However, Tramping Wisdom for Woman by Woman was, at least, condescending. For example, in the section ‘That time-of-the-month’, the advice was to ‘try not to go tramping when you’re having your period’. In ‘Sharing huts with men’ females were advised to ‘politely ask if the women can have one room and the men another’.

Get out of the dark ages! I’ve spent years hunting and tramping all over New Zealand, mostly in Te Urewera, and am often on my own in the bush. You share a hut with whoever is there or whoever turns up and if you don’t like company you sleep in the bush.

I haven’t met an axe murderer yet (granted there’s always a chance!). I have, however, met heaps of decent Kiwi blokes, (and a few tourists) who love hunting and tramping, the bush and the mountains, as much as I do and most can tell a few yarns. Real Kiwi chicks take a few risks in life and get-out-and do it!

I’m eagerly waiting for your article ‘Tramping wisdom for men by men.’

– Ruth McIntosh, email

Prize winner wrong

Your prize-winning correspondent Phil Cawley (p7, August 2011) is wrong when he claims the ‘FMC executive did little to condemn’ a tramper who took his dog into national parks.

When we stated in the Federated Mountain Clubs Bulletin that ‘FMC was heartened by successful prosecutions of a couple who took a dog into Mt Aspiring National Park’, one of the offenders wrote to defend his actions.

His defence was, in my opinion, self-serving and really a case of saying that he felt entitled to thumb his nose at the rules because he and his dog enjoyed the experience. My published response highlighted cases of dog owners who thought they and their dogs were responsible, when what they were responsible for was avian mass murder.

I stated that our correspondent’s actions were ‘a clear and blatant breach of the National Parks Act’. I’m not sure how Phil Cawley thinks we could do more to condemn this irresponsible practice.

– David Barnes, FMC Executive

Swipe to enter
While scanning the July edition my eyes zoomed in on the user pays ‘Park entry’ photo of Freycinet National Park (p70).

It caught my attention as I had only been there four weeks earlier. It was the second of two Tasmanian National Parks I had visited. Both had gate entry fees.

What New Zealand has to offer, both in terms of the stunning vista’s of its native trees and other flora and the free entry into its national parks, leaves Tasmania a distant second in my view.

On the theme of user pays, no Kiwi wants to be charged for walking their own ground and nor should they. I’m comfortable with the same rule applying to tourists.

However, when it comes to DOC accommodation I support the status quo of user pays, but tourists should be charged a premium, especially when you take the New Zealand exchange rate into consideration.

I tire of seeing tourists and indeed some Kiwis doing a ‘runner’ from many DOC huts, but at least Kiwis have the lame excuse of paying their taxes, some of which goes to DOC.

In this era of solar power, computers, wireless connections, telemetry and swipe cards, surely we can create a robust prepay card or other such system that can be purchased from DOC, sports or tourist outlets.

No swipe card when you arrive at the hut, no waltzing through the door to free accommodation and no DOC staff needed to police it.

– Geoff Cameron, Nelson

More on 1080
Both your correspondents regarding the 1080 debate (P13, July 2011), fail to address the real issues.

Putting aside the Parliamentary Commissioner of the Environment’s report, we must look at what 1080 does.

Nicola Vallance of Forest and Bird continues her organisation’s extraordinary promotion of the destruction of the very forest and birds they claim to protect. She claims 1080 controls the three major pests: possums, rats and stoats. She fails to mention the poison kills any creature that requires oxygen to metabolise its food; not only that, it kills slowly and cruelly. That includes forest birds and insects. As insects are vital to the breakdown of leaf litter and working it into the soil, the health of the forest itself is under attack from 1080.

Charles Forsyth with the contrary view for the NZDA is surprising for the omissions in his argument. He ignores the massive collateral damage to forest fauna, the fact that even at sowing rates of 3kg/ha, around two per cent is sufficient to kill every possum and rat. Another two percent will kill all the birds, and as for the rest, it is more than enough to kill every grub, beetle, fly and worm twice over; he ignores the massive overkill that is being applied to our forests. He fails to note that that at one 1200ha site in North Otago, searchers went in soon after a poisoning operation and collected and grid referenced every dead bird they could find. In 2009, Landcare scientists estimated the total bird kill from the operation to be around 10,000. That is four to five times greater than the potential possum population of the block. That is why New Zealand has a crisis in its conservation, and the sooner 1080 is stopped the better.

– W.F. Benfield, Martinborough

When the August issue came out and people read the 1080 letters, I am sure I heard a collective sigh of disbelief from the hundreds of trapper groups all around the country as they read the letter from Rene Aukins who proposed we stop killing introduced pests and let nature take its course.

Was the comment aimed as a seriously good old ‘wind up’ on the debate? I assumed not. While I really dislike the indiscriminate carpet bombing approach to dropping 1080, it’s no reason to stop pest control. Unfortunately Aukins has absolutely no idea of the depth of the pest problem we must combat. Our native species are unable to defend themselves against the invading killers and unless humans collectively work to control pests such as rats, stoats, possums and wasps we won’t have any native species left to protect.

– Bryce Buckland, Nelson

The debate ‘Is 1080 the right choice?’ completely dances around the real question over the use of (particularly) aerial 1080 poison in New Zealand native forests.

The real question is: Should the perceived rights of recreational hunters hold sway over the continued existence of a huge chunk of native flora and fauna?

Deer and other mammalian pests continue to wreak nightly havoc in New Zealand’s native forests. Those forests and ecosystems evolved in the total absence of mammalian species except for a few species of bat and have absolutely no defence against them. The pests’ relentless assault on native species is destroying the very structure and nature of native forests. The number of unique New Zealand birds in serious decline is but an early indicator of the changes they are causing.

Selective browsing by mammals has effectively ended the ability of many plant species to reproduce and forests of the future will be poorer for it. Aerially applied 1080 poison is the most effective and economic weapon available against the pests in an arsenal that Old Mother Hubbard would instantly recognise. We must urgently use a lot more of it.

I have sympathy for the hunting fraternity and acknowledge their right to promote and protect the current status they enjoy. Deer and other mammals were introduced to New Zealand many years ago with the best of intentions, but in total ignorance of the damaging effects on the native ecosystem. However, hunters continue to push a violently anti-1080 message offering scaremongering and skewed science in an effort to discredit the use of what is probably the most effective weapon we have in the fight against mammalian pests.

– Ian Smith, Auckland

I’m one of those hunters the NZDA is talking about – and it’s true, many of the concerns mentioned have affected me in terms of where I’ve been able to hunt, the death of dogs (not mine, but friends) and the often large number of ‘accidental’ deaths of game animals. DOC has often said deer aren’t targeted by the poison drops, but privately, that’s not the case with many of their regional offices.

However, I was disappointed to see the debate in your article came across as ‘hunters versus Forest and Bird’. Having the NZDA argue their case the way they did, didn’t help the cause and made the issue look like a self-preservation effort. I know both pro- and anti-1080 hunters and non-hunters.

This article unfortunately reinforced lots of people’s viewpoints that it’s just the hunters who’re anti-1080, because it’s upsetting their hunting.

A more robust debate could easily have been had if someone from the ‘anti’ brigade argued with facts and figures and left the self-interest stuff out. The Graf brothers, for example, as well-researched anti-1080 campaigners could have provided a more vigorous debate.

The 1080 debate isn’t going away in a hurry. It’s polarising communities and deserves a good discussion, with the well-researched sides presenting their valid arguments, and alternatives, clearly.

– Mike Cooney, email

The pest problem has been going on for so many decades you’d have to believe if there was a better solution it would have been found by now, so it’s time to stop mucking around and get rid of them once and for all. Or we could just wait until all the birds are extinct then eventually the predators might die of starvation too, but no guarantee.

Even if the entire New Zealand bush was out of bounds for a year to hikers, hunters, fisherman – everyone – but at the end of it we were rid of stoats, possums and rats, it would be well and truly worth it to me. Even if some birds were casualties and had to be reintroduced afterwards it would be worth it.

At the moment, spend an average hour walking in the bush, almost anywhere, and you’ll hear maybe one bird and pass maybe 10 predator traps. How fantastic it would be if that was reversed.

As for the NZDA points, they’re so suspiciously weak and trivial I could almost believe they’ve been made up to deliberately lose the argument. If Forest and Bird supports 1080, that’s good enough for me.

– Lisa Tresham, Auckland

When talking about the use of poisons to control wildlife, I ask people: What is your greatest fear? Dying a slow death from a poison for which there is no antidote must be up there.

I have worked for both the New Zealand Forest Service and DOC for more than 30 years and have been involved in the planning and implementation of several 1080 operations over that time.

Starting in 1975, I had the job of walking across farmland dressed in white overalls with yellow gloves picking up green carrot that had been dropped on farmland by mistake and had killed stock.

I have lived in Minginui for the last 26 years, last year I had to shoot my son’s dog after it ate a deer or possum that had been killed by 1080. His other dog ran under the house to die slowly.

Currently, possum fur is worth $135/kilo. That makes possum trapping close to a viable living. There is no need to waste a resource. I have trapped and plucked thousands of possum. Possums have put food on my table.

The most effective and sustainable conservation is that done by individuals taking on the task, being in touch with the forest and land and knowing how the forest works.

– Andy Blick, Minginui

It was a breath of fresh air to read correspondence in favour of 1080. Like me, the writers are realists, having reservations about the use of poisons but agreeing that until there is a viable alternative we must continue with what we have.

On the other hand, one of your correspondents who suggested we have to let nature take care of the problem won’t be thanked in a thousand years’ time if the only evidence left of native bird life is in digital form. At the same time, the poor old rata tree, if there are any left, will still be struggling to develop a leaf which will make possums sick. In the meantime, possums will have developed an antidote.

As for United Future I suggest Peter Dunn borrow a pair of shorts and tramping boots and go into the deepest darkest reaches of our impenetrable forests where there are no tracks and only steep gorges and if he gets back to his desk rewrite his policy on 1080.

– Graeme Croy, Taumarunui.

We conveniently label possums ‘pests’ but they are still lovely creatures and are no more pests than humans whose numbers are increasing at nearly 75 million a year, which is catastrophic for other life on earth. We should be intelligent enough to control our numbers too, with birth control for instance.

My first experience of possum was when I camped in the backcountry behind Queenstown. I had left the tent door open and was awoken by a friendly possum standing on me in my sleeping bag.

Since then, I have trapped a number of possums but have always felt an empathy with them. They are lovers of nature and life too and it is sad that we have to kill them. Many also have TB which must cause them suffering.

– Stephen Conn, Nelson

We cannot allow thousands of hectares of forest and bush and our rapidly declining bird population to deteriorate through the predation of possums, stoats, ferral cats and rats, so that an infinitesimal percentage of our population can have untrammelled hunting for deer, goats and thar.

Deer do need controlling. At one time this was done very efficiently with the use of helicopters. Hunting for deer and trapping and baiting for possum occurs in relatively small pockets of land. It doesn’t control numbers in large areas.

DOC funding has always been short with large amounts going to maintaining tracks, bridges and huts to a very high standard.
The use of 1080 has been refined and it is our only hope of salvaging our flora and fauna.

The Deer Stalkers Association is being presumptuous even asking for it to be banned for the sake of a handful of hunters and their dogs.

We are farmers and we wage war on these pests, not only for our birds and our bush, but for the health of our livestock. My husband has enjoyed deer stalking for the last forty years. However, that enjoyment does not override the need of the common good.

– Wendy Willis, email