An urgent interim order stopping the drop of 1080 poison in Auckland’s Hunua Ranges will remain in place until the Environment Court decides on whether it will be extended or enforced.

“We have to give justice to this case and justice will not be rushed,” said Judge Melanie Harland at yesterday’s hearing.

She questioned the “magic” behind Auckland Council’s assertion poison baits must be dropped seven to 10 days after non-toxic cereal baits. The non-toxic baits were dropped last week, despite Auckland Council knowing an application had been made to halt the 1080 drop.

The council said helicopters for the pre-bait drop had been booked and paid for and it had stood to lose between $60,000 and $70,000 if the pre-bait drop was cancelled.

The application to halt the 1080 operation was made by the Friends of Sherwood Trust which opposes “45 tonnes of deadly poison” being dropped from helicopters into an area which supplies two-thirds of Auckland’s water.

Auckland Council’s plans include a 20-metre buffer zone around water storage dams to ensure 1080 is not dropped directly into them, however, small streams feeding into storage dams are not excluded from the drop area.

The lawyer for the trust, Sue Grey, said people were confused by the plans as they thought 1080 was not supposed to be dropped into waterways.

She argued this would contravene a rule in the Resource Management Act which prohibits the dropping of substances in beds of lakes and rivers and the drop would be noxious, dangerous, offensive, or objectionable.

She also claimed the drop would be in breach of the Wildlife Act and the Agricultural Chemical and Veterinary Medicines Act due to the likely by-kill of stoats.

The trust’s submission raised concern at the lack of research regarding sub-lethal amounts of 1080 on humans, the effects on pregnant women and the possible breach of the Health Act in regard to drinking water quality.

“It was too late in the process. There was nothing they could say that would make a difference.”

Grey said the Ngāti Pāoa Trust Board, which joined as co-applicants with the Sherwood Trust this week, “intensely oppose” the drop and were not consulted by Auckland Council or the Department of Conservation (DOC) until last week.

The board is the mandated representative of the area; however, a different group and a retired member were initially consulted. 

By the time conversations were had with the correct representatives, Grey said: “It was too late in the process. There was nothing they could say that would make a difference.”

“It’s notification, not consultation.’’

The Ngāti Pāoa Trust Board considers dropping poison into water, riverbeds or on land as culturally and spiritually offensive and said 1080 would contaminate drinking water, pūhā and other wild foods.

The application is not the first regarding pest control using poison. A Nelson case to the High Court which found in favour of pest control is now with the Court of Appeal. The court’s decision is due in October.

Grey argued because the Court of Appeal has found there is an “arguable” case, this could be taken into consideration for the enforcement order the Trust seeks for the Hunuas.

“It is mischievous and an abuse of power for the applicant to use this forum to relitigate this.”

Both the Auckland Council and the Department of Conservation, which is an interested party in the case, told Judge Harland that until the Court of Appeal decision has been made, the High Court ruling made in the Nelson case stands.

DOC’s lawyer Claire Lenihan said the lawfulness of the drop had been confirmed by the High Court ruling on the Nelson case and said: “It is mischievous and an abuse of power for the applicant to use this forum to relitigate this.”

The submission from DOC also pointed out some of the issues raised by the applicants fell outside the jurisdiction of the Environment Court and called the case “spurious” and without “factual or scientific underpinning”.

DOC gave evidence 1080 quickly degrades in water and said in a similar 2015 operation in Hunua no detectable trace of 1080 was found in over 300 samples. Supply to the dams will be shut off during the operation and water testing would be undertaken before it is restored. 

The real risk, according to DOC’s submission is not to water but of “serious and irreparable damage to the native flora and fauna of the Hunua catchment if the drop doesn’t go ahead when planned”.

Several threatened and at-risk species live in Hunua park including long-tailed bats, Hochstetter frogs and numerous birds, including the kokako which will be in danger from predators during the upcoming breeding season.

Judge Harland questioned the urgency of the poison drop and was told the likelihood animals will eat poison baits decreases 10 days after the non-toxic cereal baits have been dropped. No poison can be dropped during the two weeks of the school holidays which begin on October 1.

The hearing is expected to finish on Friday.

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