Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind

Home grown terrorism threat?


It was revealed today that a threat has been made to contaminate infant formula and other milk products if the government doesn’t stop using 1080 poison for pest control by the end of March.

Blackmail threats were made by anonymous anti-1080 campaigners late last year and small packets of milk powder, contaminated with 1080, were sent to both Federated Farmers and Fonterra in November last year.

Prime Minister John Key says the Government will not negotiate with “eco-terrorists”. However the police deputy commissioner of national operations refuses to call it a terrorist act, saying police had been treating it solely as an act of criminal blackmail.

In some ways the threat couldn’t come at a better time for the government as the Prime Minister wants to pass controversial anti-terrorism legislation that will allow our spy agencies to legally spy on NZ residents – something they have been caught doing illegally over recent years. With an upcoming by-election which is no longer a certainty for the government, could this be the event that persuades voters to give up some of their freedom in order to defeat terror? I hope not, but it looks like John Key is going to milk the threat for all it’s worth.

Why is 1080 used?

1080 (Sodium Fluoroacetate) was first approved for use in New Zealand in the mid 1960s to control introduced pests such as possums, rats, mice, stoats and rabbits. These creatures are decimating our native fauna and flora. The poison is spread from the air in pellet form at the rate of about 2 Kg per hectare (about 2.5 lb per acre).

Until the start of human settlement in New Zealand around a thousand years ago, these islands were devoid of land mammals. Birds occupied all the niches occupied by mammals in other parts of the world – with one exception. The niche taken up elsewhere by small carnivores such as cats, stoats and weasels, remained empty in NZ. This lack of danger resulted in a bird population with very low reproductive rates and many became ground dwellers or lost the ability to fly.

When the Europeans arrived here a little over 200 years ago, they brought with them the pests that are now the target of the 1080 poison. NZ has one of the highest extinction rates in the world for animal species. and that’s likely to continue until the pests are eliminated. Possums also carry bovine tuberculosis, which is a threat to our dairy industry.

Currently 1080 is the most effective tool available to make a significant effect in reducing pest numbers. In 2013, 1080 was dropped over 448,210 hectares (1730 square miles), and last year aerial drops covered  550,000 hectares (2124 square miles)

Why is 1080 controversial?

The poison is highly toxic to all mammals including deer and dogs. The hunting community is against its use for this reason.

Some communities have concerns over aerial 1080 drops near waterways. They are afraid that they or their animals may be poisoned.

However a report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment evaluating the use of 1080 was published in 2011 and concluded that not only should the use of 1080 continue to protect New Zealand forests – but it should be used more often. She also noted:

“It is seldom that I come to such a strong conclusion at the end of an investigation. But the possums, rats and stoats that have invaded our country will not leave of their own accord.”

“The clean green brand that New Zealand identifies with is at risk unless more is done to protect native animals and forests.”

There is one record of a hunter dying in the 1960s after eating a 1080-laced jam bait (which was later banned). An adult would have to eat about seven cereal baits to be lethal, although one bait could seriously harm a child.

1080 residues have never been recorded in public water drinking supplies and no human deaths from drinking affected water or food have been recorded. The Ministry of Health sets a drinking water standard of two parts of 1080 per billion parts of water, which has never been breached. At that level, a 60 kg (132 lb) adult would need to drink about 60,000 litres (15,850 gallons) of water in one sitting to consume a fatal dose. The highest record of 1080 in water was nine parts per billion.

To consume a fatal dose from an animal that had died from 1080, an adult would need to eat at least 37kg (81 lb) of meat from that animal. The New Zealand Food Safety Authority has not detected 1080 in any commercially-produced foods since testing began in 1999.

However, some people are so concerned by the possible dangers of 1080, that they formed the Ban 1080 Party which stood in the 2014 general election. They received 5,113 party votes (0.21 per cent of the total vote).

Personally, I’m happy for the 1080 drops to continue until the last of the vermin is dispatched. As for the blackmailer/terrorist, if they attempt to carry out the threat and put innocent children at risk, they’ll be no better than the likes of the barbaric murderous ISIS.

Author: Barry

A post war baby boomer from Aotearoa New Zealand who has lived with migraines for as long as I can remember and discovered I am autistic at the age of sixty. I blog because in real life I'm somewhat backwards about coming forward with my opinions.

5 thoughts on “Home grown terrorism threat?

  1. What about other mammals Barry – such as sheep? There must be an animal husbandry sector in NZ – will 1080 interfere with that? New Zealand is unique (to my knowledge) in that mammals only arrived with humans. You’re gonna have a hard time getting any sympathy from the rest of the world for a program that aims to eradicate mammals. We feel somewhat attached to our mammalian brethren. The argument will be that humans arrived at the same time as the other mammals , so shouldn’t they be considered interlopers as well? Intellectually, I understand your perspective but something inside rebels against killing little creatures that did nothing more than travel with us – especially since we evolved in tandem with them.

    I know enough biology to know that invasive species are nasty and destructive and need to be battled. We have a number of them here and it is a full time war. The thing is they are plants and crustaceans, not mammals.

    Any threat to harm humans as a means of blackmailing , is abhorrent in my mind and the perpetrators should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. That said, you are not going to get much world sympathy for wiping out mammals.

    • There’s about 35 million sheep and several million head of cattle along with a many other domesticated animals. They are relatively easy to keep in check. Pests such as rats. stoats, rabbits and possums have no natural enemies here, apart from the human species, and multiply like… well like rabbits.

      We have a huge number of native birds, including the kiwi that are endangered or highly endangered, and I for one would prefer to see the disappearance of possums than the disappearance of kiwi. Much of our wildlife is endemic – you won’t see it anywhere else. When it’s gone. it’s gone permanently. If we did manage to wipe out all the mammalian pests here, especially the predators, what effect would it have on their world wide numbers? Zip, Nada, absolutely nothing.

      So you think the world would prefer to see the extinction of the kiwi and Takahē or a minimal reduction in the world population of rats?

      • Ahhh, excellent argument. And it will be the one that will win. The thing is I had a pet rat in school and I’ve never seen a kiwi – so I associate with the rats (Ha! I have friends in low places [that was a hit country and western song over here many years ago]) but not the kiwi. Intellectually I know you are right, emotionally, I’m rootin’ for the rats. Personally, I’m intellectually enough driven that I’m on your side.

        That’s a big job, to try and rid a land of a non-native species. Is the spraying they are doing now having the impact they want? How many years will it take to finish the job?

        • How many years will it take to finish the job?” How long is eternity? Being realistic the chances of eliminating the pests is non-existent. I recall reading some estimates that to achieve that goal would take as much as 10% of our GDP over a decade or more. That’s never going to happen. The best that can hoped for is a reduction in numbers to the point where native species can hold their own. In other words, perpetual warfare against the buggers. At one time there was hope of finding a biological weapon such as creating a virus that caused infertility, but I believe such research is at a standstill at the moment.

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