The Environment Court has made an urgent order blocking Auckland Council from dropping 1080 poison across the Hunua Ranges near dams providing two-thirds of the city’s water.

Despite knowing of the application to the Court from the Friends of Sherwood Trust and a Court-convened telephone conference call held on Thursday, the council went ahead and covered the bush in the ranges with non-toxic pre-drop pellets – which has to be followed up with 1080 within seven to 10 days.

The aerial poison drop is part of the council’s fight against possums and other predators which attack native birds and wildlife. It was notified at the end of August and is understood to involve dropping 2kg of 1080 baits per hectare over 23,000 ha of the Hunua park (and some adjoining properties), much of which is catchment for the water supply. 

Judge J A Smith noted the pre-emptive action by the council in going ahead with pre-feed pellets when he later granted the interim injunction: “The council proceeded the drop in the knowledge of this application and therefore at its own peril in the event that the interim orders are granted in the long-term.”

He has barred the council or its agents from following through on the 1080 drop before a court hearing next Thursday, saying otherwise there was a “reasonable risk” the council could do so “prior to or at the same time as the hearing being conducted”.

The action has been brought against the council by the Sherwood Trust, using high-profile anti-1080 lawyer Sue Grey, and centres on what it says is the illegality under the Resource Management Act of dropping the poison into riverbeds and streams feeding into the water storage dams.

While there is a 20-metre buffer zone around the dams where 1080 is not dropped, the Trust and Hunua’s residents fear the dropping of the poison into waterways further away means it could not be kept out of the storage dams.

Judge Smith’s decision says it is apparent the Trust could consider arguing under Section 314 (1) (a) (ii) of the Act that the proposed drop would be “dangerous, offensive, or objectionable to such an extent that it has or is likely to have an adverse effect on the environment”.

A Friends of Sherwood trustee, Tricia Cheel, told Newsroom from an anti-1080 protest at Aotea Square this afternoon that her organisation was blocked by the council at its Governing Body meeting late last month from raising its concerns.

She said it “had no other option” but to turn to the courts. 

The Trust, which is North Shore-based and acted “as it’s our drinking water, too”  was amazed the council opted to go ahead with the pre-feed drop despite knowing the Court was to consider the injunction application. 

“I know they flout the public concern but to flout the court and the law seems to be going beyond the pale.”

Grey told the Court other parties, such as the Ngāti Pāoa Trust Board and iwi trust, could also join the action.

The application is the latest legal fight over predator poisoning. A case taken by the Brook Valley Community Group near Nelson against a sanctuary trust over poison drops was heard at the Court of Appeal last month and a judgment is awaited.

Tim Murphy is co-editor of Newsroom. He writes about politics, Auckland, and media. Twitter: @tmurphynz

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