Pesticide factory a sound investment, West Coast Regional Council says

6:49 pm on 4 January 2020

The West Coast Regional Council says its investment in a 1080 poison factory in Canterbury is a sound one that will deliver increasing returns as the government ramps up its efforts to eradicate pests in native forests.

1080 pellets


The joint venture business made a loss of $100,000 last year.

However, council chief executive Mike Meehan said from next year it should make a good profit.

The regional council bought the Pest Control Research property in Rolleston in 2013, spending $1.3 million on the land and buildings, and a 49 percent share in the business.

The property valuation has increased to $1.65m and the company leases the building for $95,000 a year, providing a 7 percent return on investment to the council.

Meehan said that at the time of purchase, Pest Control Research was making only 1080 pre-feed (non-toxic pellets) and the rabbit poison Pindone, plus a few traps. It now had the licences needed to make the 1080 pellets.

"There's a very good market for it. We had a small loss because for the last two years we've had to upgrade the plant and buildings so we can produce more and do it more efficiently," Meehan said.

Pest control had been a good earner for the council in recent years. The operations team had won many tenders for 1080 operations from DOC and Ospri (the agency responsible for controlling pest-spread bovine Tb), but had returned only a modest profit last year, Meehan said.

"In previous years, it's been over a million (dollars) but it's a pretty competitive market at the moment, and we've had to work around really bad weather."

Planned aerial 1080 drops in the Landsborough Valley and Arthur's Pass National Park had been delayed and had only just gone ahead in the past month.

Mike Meehan

West Coast Regional Council chief executive Mike Meehan says the pest control industry is a competitive one in New Zealand. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Meehan acknowledged there was a strong anti-1080 feeling in parts of the West Coast but he claimed much of it was due to "misinformation" about the toxin.

"DOC does its best to get the facts out there, but some people, it doesn't matter what you say, or what information you put in front of them, it won't change their minds."

A good example was the rat carcasses that washed up recently on a Westport beach.

Tests by the accredited Landcare laboratory found no trace of 1080 in the carcasses sampled, but some people had continued to claim the rats had been poisoned, citing a lab they refused to name.

"And even if the rats had been killed by 1080, so what? We want to get rid of them. But I don't think it matters to those people what DOC says."

Silent majority 'accepts use of 1080'

Meehan said the anti-1080 lobby had lost much of its credibility with claims it could not substantiate, and theatrics like strewing protected dead birds on the steps of Parliament.

"I think there is a silent majority out there that accepts we have to use 1080 at the moment, and is not unhappy with the programme.

"We had a meeting out at Lake Brunner and one gentleman got up and was very upset the council had invested in Rolleston (PCR Ltd) and claimed 90 percent of people on the Coast were against it. But another fellow got up and said he was a farmer and he supported the 1080 programme.

"He didn't like the fact we have to use poison but he said he'd be in very big trouble without it, and he had seen the good results it was getting."

The council's investment fund now stands at $11m, an increase of $4m on the original fund.

For 20 years, the council used some of the interest to subsidise rates, making it the only council in New Zealand that had not increased rates over that period, Meehan said.

It had finally and reluctantly been forced to put the rates up and was now using all the interest from the investment fund on an annual basis, to meet the council's ever-increasing costs, he said.

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