1080 drops planned for Mt Messenger for pest control

8:35 pm on 26 March 2023
Tony Pascoe says there's about 70 different varieties of native orchids at Mangapēpeke Valley, where he lives.

The Mangapēpeke Valley is near the proposed route for the new bypass. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Mt Messenger bypass contractors are planning a series of 1080 drops as they forge ahead with the project's pest control programme.

Since last August, the Mt Messenger Alliance team has created more than 70km of a targeted 250km of pest management tracks, and fitted 850 bait stations in damaged forest around the new section of State Highway 3 in Taranaki.

In addition, more than 170 wild goats have been culled from the project area and the adjacent Parininihi block.

Meanwhile, opponents of the new stretch of road will head back to court next week.

Mt Messenger Alliance lead ecologist Roger MacGibbon said great progress had been made on the project's ground breaking pest control programme since work began last August.

Predators such as rats, stoats and possums had seriously impaired the mature native forest surrounding the route of the future 6km bypass on State Highway 3, and the wildlife that lived in that habitat, he said.

"Our pest management programme will support the forest's recovery from this damage and provide an environment where threatened species such as kiwi, fern birds, kōkako and long-tailed bats can thrive once more."

The achievements to date would be enhanced further this winter with an aerial drop of 1080 over the project area and the nearby Parininihi, in a joint operation with the Department of Conservation.

Engagement with nearby landowners was now underway.

Delivered at regular intervals in the area since 1992, the cereal pellets containing biodegradable 1080 toxin was the only viable pest control method in large, remote, forest-covered, and rugged areas, MacGibbon said.

"Given the high tree canopy of this forest, an aerial treatment is necessary to achieve the required reductions in pest numbers, particularly of rats."

MacGibbon said the 1080 drop was supported by project partner Ngāti Tama, as kaitiaki and mana whenua who were committed to safeguarding the life expectancy and reproduction of taonga species in the project area and Parininihi.

The project's enduring pest management commitment over 3650 hectares was part of a broader environmental programme for Te Ara o Te Ata, which sought to leave the area in a better condition than its current state.

MacGibbon said the programme would also deliver large areas of restoration planting, to offset the native vegetation removed to build the road and would lessen the effects of construction on the local ecology.

Thirty-two hectares of forest, wetland and riparian planting will be undertaken, comprising approximately 120,000 plants. A further 100,000-plus plants will be planted along the roadside margins and embankments, with all seedlings grown from locally sourced seed.

MacGibbon said with these environmental efforts, Waka Kotahi and Ngāti Tama aimed to achieve significant improvements in biodiversity within 10 to 15 years of completing the bypass.

Opponents of the bypass argue the felling of 32 hectares of native bush to make way for the bypass cannot by offset by the planting of seedlings and should not have been allowed under the Resource Management Act which says the felling of native bush for such projects should be 'avoided'.

They say kiwi, long-tailed bats and other native species will be displaced or killed while the road is constructed.

Meanwhile, the Pascoe family, who have opposed the bypass and own a farm on its route, return to court next week.

They say Waka Kotahi has illegally extinguished their grazing rights on Ngāti Tama land which was granted in perpetuity.

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