The interim order banning a drop of 1080 in Hunua will expire at 5pm today following a decision by the Environment Court.
“We are not persuaded that there is likely to be serious harm to the environment if the proposed application proceeds,” says Judge Melanie Harland in the judgment.
The application to stop the drop was made by the Friends of Sherwood Trust who said it was “devastated” by the court decision.
The trust opposed “45 tonnes of deadly poison” being dropped from helicopters into an area supplying two-thirds of Auckland’s water.
Dams are excluded from the drop area and supply will be shut off during the operation, however, 1080 is likely to fall into streams which provide water for home owners living in Hunua.
An urgent interim order was put in place after the Auckland Council went ahead with a pre-bait drop three minutes before a court-convened pre-hearing conference call on Thursday 6 September.
Judge Harland described the case as “not an easy case to deal with” at last week’s hearing.
It was complicated by the fact a precedent-setting ruling made by the High Court allowing poison to be used for pest control in Nelson is now with the Court of Appeal which said there was an “arguable” case. That ruling is expected next month.
Judge Harland’s ruling today said at present the High Court ruling is what the Environment Court is bound by until the Court of Appeal ruling is released: “The Court of Appeal decisions do not add weight to the applicants’ application for interim orders in this case. The Court of Appeal did no more than indicate that the case for the appellant was arguable, which means arguable either way.”
The lawyer representing the Friends of Sherwood Trust, Sue Grey, argued dropping the poison into waterways 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.
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.
Judge Harland said she was concerned at the admissibility of most of the applicant’s evidence and there had been “extensive” rebuttal provided by the respondents.
“If we were required to consider these matters, we would conclude that the identified potential effects are not likely to be adverse, and are therefore not noxious, dangerous, offensive or objectionable.”
The issue of local residents’ private water supplies was also raised. The trust questioned whether Auckland Council’s notification efforts were adequate. In a submission to the court Grey said evidence supplied by the council to court was vague: “During this court process, the council provided no evidence to show it has verified all private water sources, or how it did this.”
Auckland Council’s submission said it had “engaged with” 108 properties bordering the drop area and had sent information to a further 1539 properties within three kilometres of the operation requesting they contact the council if their drinking water comes from within the operation area.
The court concluded the efforts to contact residents had been sufficient.
“We are satisfied that there has been an extensive consultation programme undertaken by the council and DOC to engage with those people who have the potential to be adversely affected by the proposed operation.”
Auckland Council told the court last week if the delay between the pre-bait and the poison bait is more than four weeks, the pre-drop would need to be repeated. Health rules prevent any poison drops during school holidays which begin on October 1. The court suggested if the drop takes place over the weekend the need for a second pre-drop of cereal baits will not be necessary.
Last week Auckland Council told the court the pre-drop went ahead despite knowing a court case was pending as it had already been paid for and the council stood to lose $60,000 to $70,000 if it was cancelled. The total cost of the project is $679,229.