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September 2017 Issue
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Sanctuary wins right to drop

A group explores the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary.
Brook Waimarama Sanctuary scores an important court victory, but a legal challenge remains.

Opponents of a poison drop inside Nelson’s newly-fenced Brook Waimarama Sanctuary have appealed a High Court decision to allow the drop to go ahead.

In late June, the Brook Valley Community Group, made up of people living in Nelson’s Brook Valley as well as nationwide anti-1080 and anti-poison activists, launched legal action against the Ministry for the Environment and the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary Trust, challenging the new national pest control regulations.

The High Court released its decision in early August, allowing the brodifacoum drop – 26.5 tonnes of bait laced with 450g of poison – to go ahead.

The ruling said “the decision to promulgate the regulations for use of brodifacoum, 1080 and rotenone was properly authorised and made under law, in accordance with all required considerations”.

The Brook Valley Community Group’s Nelson lawyer, Sue Grey, says the group was “disappointed” with the decision.

The crux of their case and their appeal was down to how a section of the Resource Management Act was interpreted.

Section 13 says, in part: ‘No person may, in relation to the bed of any lake or river … deposit any substance in, on, or under the bed’.

“We say deliberately putting poison baits on the bed of the river as well as the rest of the treatment area is something that is covered by section 13, and they say it’s not,” she said.

Grey said the group also had concerns about the environmental risks of aerial drops including by-kill of native birds, interference with the rights of neighbours and others, including those who draw water, the risk of rodents collecting uneaten stashes of poison baits under tree roots that may present future risk to children and/or native birds, as well as unanswered questions about the longer term and cumulative effects of these poisons.

Sanctuary founding trustee Derek Shaw said no-one wanted to have to use a toxin, but brodifacoum was “the best tool available”, insoluble in water, and risks were minimal. It was a commonly-used household rodent poison available from hardware stores and supermarkets.

“We think there’s a pretty remote chance of it affecting anything outside of the sanctuary,” he said. “We’re trying to follow best practice that all the other fenced sanctuaries have used on the mainland. If there was another way of doing this successfully without toxins, we’d be doing that.”

Sanctuary general manager Hudson Dodd said the decision from the High Court was “comprehensive and decisive”.

“It is therefore disappointing to see an appeal lodged. We would ask the conservation community of New Zealand to continue to support us as we work to prevail over this appeal.”

When the legal challenge was lodged, the sanctuary trust launched a Givealittle fundraising campaign to pay for the legal defence fund, which at the time of print had raised $24,000.

“It was an incredible response,” Dodd said. “We’re a small charitable trust and so any unforeseen drain on our resources is impactful. It is very gratifying to see the support coming through and the recognition that broad swathes of the community and further afield are very supportive of the sanctuary’s plans for a pest-free wildlife sanctuary and visitor attraction in Nelson.”