What’s up DoC?

WHAT’S UP, DoC? [full story leads the Feb/Mar 2014 print edition of Investigate in stores now]

What if NZ’s entire conservation policy has been based on a massive mistake…

For decades, New Zealand children have been educated since pre-school to believe that there’s no place for possums or deer in our native forests. Millions upon millions of dollars are spent on pest-eradication each year using toxic 1080 poison which contaminates waterways and kills a huge amount of forest life. But what if this entire conservation policy was based on a lie? What if our native forests actually needed browsing animals? BILL BENFIELD discovers how Leonard Cockayne’s (1855 – 1934) bogus vision corrupted the ecological science of a nation

Dense and ancient 

New Zealand has always claimed that its conservation is special; that it is special because its forest ecosystems evolved without browse or browsers. This claim has made New Zealand’s conservation management unusual, having since the early 1930’s sought to eradicate (exotic) browsers from the wilds of its forests and mountains. The programme has broadened over time to include all exotic wildlife except small birds. What started as government cullers with service rifles killing deer has over time morphed into aerial broadcast of attractant baits dosed with the metabolic poison, 1080 (sodium monofluoroacetate). Any insect, bird or animal that requires oxygen as part of its metabolic process is affected, 1080 could be considered a whole ecosystem toxin and the programme draconian, with implications to both rare and endemic wildlife.

In seeking to understand the reasons for such extraordinary conservation management, we have to understand the historical origins and Leonard Cockayne’s pivotal role in it. Over time, this “vision” has become deeply embedded in New Zealand law through the Resource Management Act and regional council regulations; it has even been embraced by the science establishment. It is a vision that is still growing, with the recent emergence of programmes such as “Pest Free New Zealand” and “Project Janszoon” at Abel Tasman National Park. It is now even being exported as island eradication programmes abroad. Any attempt at the re-introduction of browsers as part of a programme to restore the forests original ecological balance would fly in the face of the Cockayne vision and New Zealand’s conservation.

Cockayne actively sought honors to gain influence.

English born Leonard Cockayne was a school teacher who had taught in both Australia and New Zealand. However, he found the occupation “uncongenial” and his father’s death and the patrimony bequeathed him in 1884 left him financially independent to follow his passion as a collector and gardener of New Zealand native plants. His intention was to establish, as he described it, his “unorthodox garden”. This was the Tarata Experimental Garden at New Brighton, near Christchurch. He had a gardener’s attitude to his plants, i.e. that each was a precious specimen and to be treated as such. While he observed ecosystems, he never sought explanations for the changes he observed occurring or viewed species as part of a wider whole.

Despite only fragmentary formal training, his enthusiasm for collecting and cataloguing, in combination with being an incredibly prolific writer (over 1000 letters in one year), was further added to by sending thousands of seeds and samples to other collectors round the world. This brought him to the notice of Professor K. von Goebel of the Botanischer Gartens and the University of Munich in the early 1890’s, and was the beginning of a long correspondence between the two men. This association was to be a turning point in Cockayne’s career, and led to his being awarded an honorary PhD from the University of Munich in 1903.  Cockayne saw the possibilities of such an honour as he expressed in a letter at the time to von Goebel:-

“Of course, the possession of such an exceptional honour, will be of the greatest assistance to me in my future relations with the government of this country, and may procure me privileges for carrying out botanical work which would otherwise be undreamt of.”

Leonard_Cockayne,_1928Despite the honour which gave him credibility in scientific circles and which he used to further his growing career as a botanist, it appears he also indulged in more covert self promotion. His biographer, A. D. Thomson is of the view that some of the anonymous biographical material circulated about him appears to have been written by Cockayne himself. It was also around this time (1903) that he sold the Tarata Experimental Garden to devote more energy to his budding career as a botanist.He also used his wider contacts to seek funds and sought testimonials from well known botanists to use in influencing the government to create a position of government botanist, which Cockayne thought he would naturally fill.

Though unsuccessful in becoming a government botanist, Cockayne was still able get government funding for much of his survey work and at the same time, he continued to be a prolific writer of both published works and papers. He had become the senior scientific figure of his field in the colony, something that can be a double edged sword, especially in a small scientific community. A.D. Thomson, in his “The Life and Correspondence of Leonard Cockayne” reports (P22):-

In this context, some impressions conveyed to me on 1/3/73 by a retired former leading New Zealand scientist are of interest: “I rather have the impression of the old man (Cockayne) was rather formidable and cowed a whole generation of NZ botanists into accepting his statements on ecology without examining them critically. Somehow, instead of stimulating ecological work he seemed to suppress it – no one was prepared to question his statements by publication of opposing views”.

As increasingly Cockayne was developing links with amateur botanists to extend his survey, he was also proselytizing an almost religious fervour in his followers. In a 1912 letter to von Goebel he wrote of “the holy fire of enthusiasm without which, all is as nothing”. Later, there is his request to his friends for sending out the “Fiery Cross”, a botanist’s evangelical crusade!.

From a collector’s vision to an ecological dogma……..

In view of Cockayne’s obvious gardening origins, and his inability to see his specimens as part of an ecosystem, there is the whole issue of his complete blindness to the evidence that was all around him of the evolutionary origins of the New Zealand’s forests. It was Cockayne himself who observed and reported on a transition occurring, the decline of forests of slow growing conifers, forests that came to us from Jurassic times which were being taken over by fast growing palatable broadleaf’s. He never once considered that there may have been a balance factor that had ensured the forest dominance of the conifers such as the podocarps, and that kauri had previously been maintained by the browse of an avifauna which filled the functions of elephants, giraffe, deer and antelopes in other lands.

There was also other evidence he should have been aware of; it was known that until comparatively recently the Canterbury plains were forested, as the remnants were there for all to see. There was also the evidence that these forests must have been inhabited and browsed by substantial numbers of moa. Canterbury Museum had considerable material from Haast’s excavations at Rakaia to support this, as well there was such a vast area of moa remains at the Waitaki mouth’s Maori kill site, so much that a railway line was built in to mine the material for fertiliser. Yet in a 1926 monograph written for the Forest Service, Cockayne states:-

“In the forests of primitive New Zealand, except for certain species of moa, there were no grazing or browsing animals, while so far as the giant birds were concerned these would chiefly live in the open.”

He inserted the italicised “no” for emphasis! Further evidence of Cockayne’s denial of moa impact around the same time is an account in the Christchurch Sun of an interview with a visiting botanist, G.E. Du Rietz at which Cockayne was present. In the course of the interview, Du Rietz was commending New Zealand on the diversity and primeval nature of the vegetation. Cockayne apparently agreed, and added:-

“There is more vegetation that has not been nibbled and had its nature changed by grazing and browsing animals. If I could only tell those people who introduced deer what I think of them —-”

The interviewer then records “Dr. Cockayne went off at a tangent”! Cockayne’s attitude to forest browse was becoming more extreme, as can be seen in the second edition of his “Vegetation of New Zealand” of 1928 where he describes the sight of deer browse as: “heart rending”. In this book he also outlines his abhorrence of exotic plants. By the time of the “Deer Menace Conference” of 1930, he was in full voice as the evangelising radical gardener/botanist bearing his “fiery cross” to save his precious forest garden from browse. At the Deer Menace Conference as the Forest Service’s delegate, Cockayne claimed animal browse would lead to the destruction of forest and cause massive erosion which, through river borne gravels, would cause destruction of farms and towns. By such alarmist rhetoric, he ensured that it would be government policy that all mammalian browsers must be eradicated. That policy still persists today. It was also at that time, the years 1930, and 1931, that Cockayne was president of what has become New Zealand’s largest and most powerful conservation organisation, the Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society, a body which in the 21st. century, despite all evidence to the contrary, continues to maintain both Cockayne’s exotiphobia and the claim that the forest was never browsed.

            A single moment in time, frozen under a bell jar

Essentially, Cockayne’s vision was denying evolution and the effects of change by, in essence, putting the world under a bell jar, thus preserving it as he saw it about 1900. It was not the world before human intervention by Maori, but a world where early human intervention had destroyed most of its fauna and all its major browsers. The Maori had also burned around 40% of its forests and the forests remaining were in a state of significant compositional transition from pre-European intervention. Such was Cockayne’s authority his “vision” was so accepted, seemingly without question by the scientific establishmentthat almost nothing could challenge it. Today with Cockayne’s mantra embedded on governmental policy, and further urged by the adherents of the Forest & Bird Society, anti exotic wildlife policies prevail; it is just the tools that have changed. No longer service rifles, it is aerial broadcast of whole forest ecosystems with “super toxins”, primarily 1080 to eradicate selected “pests” that are claimed to be destroying iconic birds and forests.

From time to time, further evidence comes to light that demonstrates Cockayne’s view was flawed, that moa and other birds browsed the land from alpine herbfields to the lowland swamps but this is either studiously ignored, or “defensive” studies are made by members of the academic/scientific establishment to disprove such evidence; studies which claim that juvenile divaricating plantform is a response to climate and not browse. A 1941 paper which chronicles the gizzard contents of moa remains found in a swamp in North Canterbury had so little impact, that one of the authors (Roger Duff) subsequently wrote in several journals that the moa was a grazer of open country.

In the 1950’s, the Cockayne mantra was seriously challenged by a young American scientist who joined the Wildlife Service of the Department of Internal Affairs. Thane Riney was put to work on the departments animal eradication operations. He was able to disprove Cockayne’s claim erosion was caused by animal browse, but his career in New Zealand was short lived. His report on the Lake Monk expedition showing that browsers (deer and possum) did not eat forests to death, but their population came to a dynamic equilibrium with time, creating a stable and sustainable relationship with the forest. In the days before the concept of “re-wilding”, Riney had described a spontaneous re-wilding by surrogate browsers. It caused considerable angst in the Forest Service and for his troubles, he was publicly disparaged by senior forest service officials. So too was Professor William Graf who was at the time visiting New Zealand. Comments in his report to the Hawaiian Commissioners such as:- 

“The oft repeated and widely believed statement about the ‘vegetation which develops in the absence of grazing and browsing animals’ simply does not stand up under close scrutiny.”

were greeted with hostility. A 1981 study of moa gizzards by Burrows, McCulloch and Trotter and published by the Canterbury Museum concluded:-

“The present study confirms beyond doubt that members of the genus Dinornis were browsing animals which inhabited forest or forest margins. No evidence has emerged which shows that they habitually lived in grasslands…”

Brave as it was, it did nothing to cause a re-examination of forest management. It would not have needed a great intelligence to connect together the dots laid out in a 1989 paper by Les Batchelor of Forest Research. He estimated on the basis of the production ability of the forest, there must have been between six and twelve million moa. As the land was substantially forested, they must have been browsing the forest.

Probably one of the world’s greater ecologists of the later parts of the 20th century was New Zealander Graeme Caughley, D.Sc Ph.D. In his paper titled “New Zealand Plant Herbivore Systems, Past and Present” delivered at the same conference as Batchelor’s, he was even more forthright; forests without browse were in “an un-natural” state. He proposed two suites of deer as the only viable surrogates to the browse of the moa. As one, a European suite is largely here, ie. Red and fallow deer, only the introduction of roe deer would have been required to complete it. Despite the eminence and local experience of Dr. Caughley, the concept of utilising exotic browse was alien to a research establishment paid to support governmental policy, and ultimately the effect has been to make the New Zealand scientific community push its head deeper into the sand.

Making reality fit the “vision”?

Attempts to eradicate browsing animals using 1080 poison broadcast by air began in the 1950’s and were on-going, with only minimal monitoring of impact. To assess the effects on forest floor insects, a study was carried out in the early 1990’s by entomologist Mike Meads on the impact of aerial 1080. It demonstrated that a poison originally registered as an insecticide logically did considerable harm to forest floor insects. However, Meads’ study was not what New Zealand’s conservation authorities wanted to hear, and in an effort to kill the study, it was peer reviewed by no less than six other scientists, whose alterations rendered the original text almost unintelligible. The study was finally buried and Meads’ career and reputation left in tatters. The event was a salutary lesson to scientists on the dangers of independence and integrity.

Buttressed by a compliant science and academic community, large and profitable state owned poison factories and state agencies who see in New Zealand’s conservation industriesa continued and comfortable existence, Cockayne’s vision is still entrenched, and due to recent developments such as the more recent “vision” of physicist Sir Paul Callaghan, there are moves to extend what has become “pest” eradication to the whole country. This would include, according to a DoC and Landcare Research scoping paper, all browsers such as deer, chamois and tahr.

Recently two papers have appeared by Wood, Wilmshurst and others describing South Island moa coprolite (dung) studies. Titled “High Resolution Coproecology: Using Coprolites to Reconstruct the Habits and Habitat of New Zealand’s Extinct Upland Moa” and “Resolving lost herbivore community structure using coprolotes etc.” They support previous gizzard studies which show that, where moa lived in the forest, they were forest browsers, but they go further. Their analysis shows material (often pollens) from most plants of the forest including podocarps and beeches. Diet included fuschia, broadleaf, wineberry, as well as plants such as coprosma and forest vines such as muehlenbeckia, types which tend to dominate the forest edges and understory. In open areas there is evidence of browse of herbfields.

It is in their results that the distortion of science in New Zealand manifests itself. They note:-

“Our results show that moa lack extant ecological analogs and their extinction represents an irreplaceable loss of function from New Zealand’s terrestrial ecosystems”

This is technically correct, though as Caughley pointed out, there is no forest ratite to replace the moa, but there are other browsers such as deer (and possum) which would provide not the same browse, but a browse that would help maintain the forest in as near to its pristine condition as it is possible in the 21st. century. It also does not mention that though moa were the principle browser, there were many others including the extant kereru (pigeon) and paradise shelduck, the functionally extinct takahe and kakapo as well as many extinct geese and flightless ducks that have been overlooked as herbivores.

Like Cockayne, the researchers overstate the impact of exotic browsers such as deer on the forest. It ignores that by Landcare Research’s own numbers, the deer population in New Zealand is around 250,000 animals, only a fraction of both Batchelor’s and Cauley’s multi-million estimates for moa.

As ruminants, deer are efficient converters of green matter to energy, hence their food requirement compared to a bird with short passage times is much lower and so their per capita impact will be low. Deer had not long colonised many forest areas before they were put under heavy pressure from culling, meat recovery operations and finally aerial poisoning; like possum, their numbers in the forest are low. My own experience dating from the 1950’s to today is that as a consequence of increased commercial pressure and “pest” control operations, forest understories are far denser than 50 years ago. New Zealand’s large herbivore community underwent a dramatic shift from being bird dominated to, after a significant spell of around 500 years, to a much lesser and sporadic mammal dominated one.

The authors do briefly mention “re-wilding”, the concept of re-introducing missing parts of an ecosystem to try and achieve as near as possible the original balance, in this case browsers. Here there is the added difficulty that there are no large forest ratites suitable for New Zealand’s climate, and there are only, as Dr. Caughley proposed, mammals. In the context of New Zealand, that would fly in the face of the rigid orthodoxies of New Zealand’s conservation mantras, primarily, that “these forests were never browsed”!  At this point the researchers back off, their closing sentence pretty well sums it up:-

“The soil compaction and scarification impacts of introduced herbivores also likely far exceed those of moa.”

It seems the step forward is a step too far. Do the fates of Meads, Riney and others, the loss of funding and career opportunities that those who have questioned the orthodoxies of New Zealand science have suffered enter the equation. We can only speculate, but until that is addressed, re-wilding and the restoration of a complete ecosystem will only remain a dream.

It all overlooks the wider issues of present management, dogmatically trying to constrain a dynamic system in a frozen state by ecosystem poisoning. Initially to eliminate deer browse and since the 1950’s also 1080 poison spread by air over whole forests including waterways; supposedly selectively targeting the “pest” species. In fact, 1080 is a metabolic poison that affects any creature that requires oxygen as part of its metabolic process. Although it was originally registered as an insecticide, it kills birds, animals and even the forest insects that work the leaf litter to make the soil. Generally the faster breeders like rats recover first and come to dominate the forest. Many native birds like kea are right now being driven to extinction. It remains on one hand Cockayne’s followers like religious zealots, who bearing their “fiery crosses’ ignore the massive collateral damage in pursuit of their greater goal of a frozen in time “eco-purity” and on the other, by the cynical venality of the toxin industries which will continue to pursue their profits until they have finally destroyed it all.



Thomson A.D. “The Life and Correspondence of Leonard Cockayne”. Botany Division DSIR. 1983.

Caughley G. “The Deer Wars”, Heinman, Auckland . 1983.

Caughley G. “New Zealand plant herbivore systems: past and present.  NZ Journal of Ecology 12 (supplement) 3 -10. 1989.

Wood et al. ‘Resolving lost herbivore community structure using coprolites ….” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (US) Sept 2013.

Benfield W. “The Third Wave – Poisoning the Land” Tross Publishing. 2011.



  1. DOC’s thinking is that rats, stoats, ferrets, weasels and cats eat the dead possums – and all the dead endemic birds!!!!!!!!!!!
    But, what many believe happens is that what 1080 poison actually achieves is that it eliminates all invertebrates – thus eliminating Kiwi – and directly kills all endemic, native and introduced bush birds, as well as two of the world’s rarest species of frogs.
    But, we need to appreciate that 1080 poison is now a multi-billion dollar money laundering industry and DOC/FED FARMERS/Regional Council, the Government (and many more groups) are never going to stop bombarding our country without the matter becoming increasingly political.
    However, as I’ve said before – the situation will change rapidly once 1080 appears in Fonterra products and once the world realises NZ in no longer a tourist attraction after we’ve destroyed our ‘clean green image’!

  2. If stoats are 100% carniverous and 1080 is delivered in a cereal-based bait, how will that kill the stoat?

  3. It is certainly of interest to see that the 1080 lovers are afraid to provide their full name; clearly indicating a lack of security in what they preach.
    Here in the Wairarapa we know that “Barry” writes as “Sandra Hook” in the Dompost and recites precisely what DOC tells her. Who Tim & DC are we don’t know – or care!
    What we do know is the there are now less than 5 million possums, very few of which carry Bovine TB, and that a very high percentage if feral cats and ferrets are infected – and that 1080 has little effect on their survival. 1080 also has only a minor impact on rats, but very successfully eliminates endemic birds and destroys their food source.
    If any 1080 supporters would like to contact me I’ll be pleased to show them how to eliminate possums, rats, cats, hedgehogs, mustelids, etc., without any poison being used. E-mail – haltd@actrix.co.nz or phone 06.3796692

  4. All you 1080 opponents are so deluded.

    You seriously have no idea.

    I cant be bothered quoting facts, as you all seem to ignore them anyway.

    I have been into the bush before a 1080 drop in the Tararuas, and it was silent. Went again 6 months later and there was plenty of birdlife. I have seen first hand the destruction that possums have done to the forests around where i live.

    Get a grip people.

  5. Once again the anti’s continue to spout absolute garbage without any valid scientific data to back them up. Introducing mammalian predators would be an absolute disaster for our remaining endemic wildlife, and you don’t have to be a scientist to understand that – I hope David Mack was simply being a troll for such a ridiculous suggestion! And no I do not work for DoC or any other Government department in any way – I have simply done some basic research during my tertiary studies into the subject and have not seen any credible evidence to contradict that since.

  6. It’s a pity Barry says he has gone off, because I think it is important to look at the quality of the science behind New Zealand’s conservation, maybe he could learn something. A typical example would be this example:- http://www.lincoln.ac.nz/PageFiles/7074/3601_Powelslandetal__s11360.pdf.
    A study to determine the effects of 1080 on kaka and kereru survival and nesting success. It is cited by both DoC and Forest and Bird as a success story for 1080. What is interesting about this study is that there is a poisoned area and an un-poisoned control. The impacts of the poisoning are monitored for the “predators” (possum, rats and stoats) in both areas and the results compared. They show aerial 1080 is a stunning success story for stoats whose numbers have doubled as a consequence of poisoning compared to the un-poisoned control (fig 4, page 129); rats have recovered to their former levels in two years. Slow breeding possum have logically not recovered.
    For the kaka and kereru, the results on survival and breeding success have been deliberately hidden by combining the figures between poisoned area and control so no conclusion can be drawn as to the benefits or otherwise arising from 1080 operations.
    The abstract then claims 1080 “should” improve nesting success, In view of the concealing of results, this seems deceptive and dishonest science? Although the study is meaningless in terms of the birds, it does provide compelling evidence that stoats and rats are the real beneficiaries of aerial 1080 and, as the result for the birds has been concealed, we are left to assume that the consequences for them were dire.
    This is not an isolated item, it’s just part of a whole edifice of the peer reviewed junk science upon which New Zealand’s conservation, the PCE report and all is based.

  7. What I find disturbing is that this “Barry” who neglects to give his surname may actually be in a position to continue the vile work of poisoning our country and not just expressing his personal (misguided) opinion.
    If he really does represent DOC then that government department is in even more drastic need of a complete overhaul than I had realised.

  8. Well there you have it folks, I told you they were all nutty and they have all proved me right, ” innocent introduced valuable species” my arse. “Sandra” WTF.
    Not worth the time of day Ian. I’ll leave you with them. Good luck !

  9. The short piece available for me to read is entirely correct. I would recommend the wesite http://www.1080science.co.nz for papers on 1080 which might enlighten a few poison lovers.

    In my experience farming with boundaries contiguous with native bush and having native trees still left on our property I know that our birdlife has been reduced rapidly after each 1080 drop which are done with tones of poisoned cereal pellets dropped from a helicopter. The result to the bush is sickening, deadening. I could not show my grandchildren the birdlife we took for granted when their parents were growing up.

    Given that the American Environmental Protection agency gave up on 1080 when it could not be established that it was safe in water and it is not, refer Margie Jarman’s paper on the chemical breakdown of 1080, we in NZ where no population testing for the poison takes place and where no antidote is available, are completely stupid to play “Russian Roulette” with this poison which is often in our waterways. If not the poison then the dead animals and birds killed by it are always there.
    it is a cruel poison, and we put our people at risk, our tourism and our exports also.
    Time for these cavelier money-making poisoners to use simple targeted trapping if indeed there is a problem other than this poison in our wild lands.

    The easiest loss of bird life to quantify is the loss of kea, now down to very low numbers which even our Department of Conservation only guess at 1000 – 5000. I believe it is lower than this and it was in the hundreds of thousands in the ’70’s and ’80’s. Any use of 1080 poison in the South Island (its range) is more than likely to kill some kea. This rare mountain parrot is likely to have reached such low levels that it will extinct in the next few years.

    Congratulation NZer’s who support this poison, all our birds are killed by it at levels from 2% to 80% a drop. I hope the rest of our World can see this stupidity and help it end.

    Mary Molloy, Farmers Against Ten Eighty.

  10. I do have to agree to a point made by Barry about the lead poisoning of kea. This year DoC while on its SAD MISSIONS ( Search And Destroy tahr) use helicopters and their weapon of choice shotguns firing buckshot . 2,500 tahr were shot last year assuming the shooter was a good shot that’s 2,500 rounds that would mean about 25,000 bite sized pieces of lead which according to the DoC is very palatable to kea because of its sweetness . A very nice dessert after a feed of meat. The carcasses were never recovered so will have rotted away nicely in our pristine mountain streams.

  11. Barry, I think the snow leopard is highly unlikely to do for the Kea. DOC’s continued use of 1080 is far more likely to drive them to extinction long before any snow leopards could begin to make inroads in their numbers – remind me again how many Kea succumbed to 1080 after that drop a while back? But in any case kea are more than happy to live in places frequently visited by humans, not so the snow leopard which is the shyest of all big cats. If the range of the kea was somewhat modified as a result of a snow leopard taking to odd one in the most remote mountainous areas then I would regard that as an acceptable trade off.

    Oh and Ian can I nominate another species that New Zealand is sadly lacking? The Wood Pigeon, columba palumbus not in the slightest bit endangered in its European home range but as Britain’s premier sporting bird and a tasty table treat it would be wonderful to have them here – might take some of the pressure off the kereru once the Maori discovered how delicious wood pigeons can be though they are not actually members of the same family. Sadly the scruffy old town pigeon which we have in some numbers simply cannot compare

  12. The endemic Kea has been totally protected since 1986. The historic population of Kea was a guesstimated 200,000, but by 1986 there was a guesstimate population of only 15,000.
    Today under DOC management – which is simply bombarding the country with 1080 – there is now a guesstimated population of only 500 and the species is doomed to extinction, as are all endemic species that DOC is mandated to protect!

  13. This Mr Barry!! i firmly believe that this person has cyclopic views on the subject of 1080 poisoning.
    Get real Mr Barry ,poison does not discriminate. thats point one. Two? Poison has an everlasting effect on our wildlife. It is a known fact that 1080 has killed other species of our our precious wildlife apart from possums ansd deer. I don’t give a stuff on all your so called scientific evidence. I am speaking just as a person who loves his outback and i am seeing it gradually destroyed. Lake Waikaremoana ? where has the morning chorus gone? Lake Tutira , i used to watch dozens of pukeko’s crossing the highway, Mr Barry they have all gone! Maybe you could exp;ain to a dumb idiot like me where has all our birdlife gone? Where has all our browsing animals gone? Deer have populated vast areas of this globe for thousands of years yet the forests remain, now thats funny, according to all you so called experts those forests should have been destroyed by these browsing animals. Golly! they are still there. DOC has admitted that dead Kea”s picked up in Arthurs Pass were killed by 1080 poison. If it will kill Kea’s it will kill any wildlife. No argument. Its a cold simple fact. To all you supporters of 1080 our children will hold you responsable for the damage it is doing to our natural wildlife and our innocent introduced valuable species.

  14. Barry (also known as Sandra) is DOC’s mouthpiece and he/she is a person who simply follows DOC instructions.
    DOC has now proven to be a totally incompetent Department that is incapable of any form of environmental/wildlife management and is the most hated government ever seen in this country. By comparison IRD profile pales into insignificants.
    Barry/Sandra has been invited many times to see what real environmental management is all about – but has not taken up the offer – quite obviously DOC has infiltrated his/her brain!

  15. I find it interesting that most comment seems to overlook the central issue of this article; that is, the complete distortion of New Zealand’s ecological sciences so they could “fit” the vision of one man’s wrong and obsessive views about the origins of our ecosystem. It has lead to a whole edifice of peer reviewed junk science, the sort of rubbish that the PCE report is based on. Ecosystem poisoning by 1080 or whatever they will come up with next is the consequence of this fundamental error.
    I urge the commentators here to read the whole article before flying off at tangents.

  16. Barry if you have spent so much time in the bush you will have noticed that in areas regularly poisoned with 1080 that the re growth of rubbish species of native bush such as muelenbeckia a favourite food of moa and deer is blocking out sunlight stopping the regen of podocarps and access to the forest floor to ground feeding birds such as tomtits and robin and making it difficult for kiwi to push through,DoC research shows that kiwi prefer open areas that is why Haast and Okarito kiwi sanctuaries which are regularly poisoned with 1080 poison are successfully FAILING. When do start targeting pest bird species such as morepork harrier weka ( they love poweliphanta) takahe ( browsers) pukeko the list gos on.
    The biggest pest species in this country are the supporters and users of the super toxin 1080 poison

  17. Barry talks of possums as a pest. Does he know Graham Nugent, senior Landcare scientist told the Department of Conservation in 1994 that possums were not “the rapacious consumer of foliage” and that the possum population figure of 70 million bandied around for decades by Forest and Bird and DOC was fictitious describing it as “a back of a cigarette packet calculation.”
    But even if you accepted 70 million, based on diet weight and the foliage production rate of “forests” that 70 million possums would consume just 15% of the daily foliage production.
    Nor are possums a spreader of Tb as is claimed. While authorities (AHB, TB-Free) use an antiquated TB test in the skin test that has a 20% error, they will never fully eradicate TB because undetected “sleeper” animals will remain to transmit the disease to other cattle or to be sold thus potentially resulting in transferring the TB to other farms or regions. Perhaps the bureaucrats want TB to always be there-then there jobs will be?
    The “pest” myth is simply a gravy train.

  18. David Mack, if you want to exterminate kea then introducing snow leopards will most likely do it. Why go to the effort of stalking and catching thar when ground nesting birds which freeze as a defence mechanism are there for the taking ?

  19. I don’t have to read about moa browse to know that they didn’t climb and defoliate trees like possums and they didn’t strip the forest floor clean and cause erosion like deer. The mechanics of browse are completely different. Kereru have evolved in NZ’s forests, they eat mainly fruits and are very important for seed dispersal. They are not a threat to any species of NZ tree. They don’t spread tb to our farm animals posing huge risks to our economy. Large populations of possums will quickly eradicate favourite species such as kohekohe and mistletoe. You only need to look at the damage caused in the Arahura Valley to rata or to mountain cedar at Ahukawakawa Swamp to see what they are capable of.
    L.Hore I am very aware of the damage caused by rats, stoats and possums, I have personally trapped hundreds and I am also very aware of the inefficiencies and costs of trapping on the large scales required for biodiversity gain and disease control.
    What glossy books are you quoting ? I have gleaned my knowledge from personal experience of 1080 on my land, regular tramping trips into the same 1080’d blocks, anecdotally noting the changes and observing the monitoring, reading scientific literature and slogging my guts out on trap lines.
    Kea have died from 1080 but it is drawing a long bow to claim that 1080 is wiping them out. Video monitoring of kea nests has shown 60% are visited and destroyed by predators where 1080 is not used. 150000 were killed when there was a bounty on their heads. Six were shot by protesting morons not long ago and one thrown up the driveway of a DOC employee. Humanised kea at popular tourist spots used to being fed have been given 1080 baits to be photographed for propaganda purposes. They are also possibly being poisoned by lead head roofing nails.They only started attacking sheep livers when large numbers of browsing mammals such as deer, goats, thar, chamois, pigs, rabbits and hares competed for, eroded and damaged their summer feeding grounds in the alpine herb fields. Their range is far wider than the areas dropped with 1080 and where the deaths did occur they were not large percentages.

    Ian you need to be more specific. If you are talking about game animals or some other predator like cats to try to control the out of control introduced predators that have already proven to be a complete disaster then none. The acclimatisation societies of the past have caused huge damage to our native species and if I could go back in time and shoot the bastards advocating rabbits, stoats and possums I would.
    Parasitic wasps have been trialled to combat weeds and other insects such as mites, whether they are successful is still undetermined as progress is very slow.

  20. Ian, Thank you for that. I nominate the Snow Leopard. These animals are critically endangered in their home range. Their natural prey in the Himalayas and Tibetan plateau are Tahr and Bharal or Himalayan Blue sheep – also highly endangered. They are intensely shy animals that rarely grow to more than 50Kgs and have never been recorded as having attacked man. There would be bound to be arguments that they would prey on sheep but how many sheep are there in the high Alps? Another argument might be that if successful they would breed to excessive numbers. If that were to happen there would be a market for trophy hunters who would pay tens of thousands of dollars to hunt the excess population.

    On the 29th April 1999 The Dominion was kind enough to publish a letter to the Editor which I wrote under the heading “Doing the World a great favour” I wrote that “I have long thought that this country could do the world the greatest possible favour by ensuring the survival of the rarest, most endangered and most beautiful of the spotted cats. The snow leopard, liberated in the South Island mountains, would keep tahr, chamois and feral goats under control. It would also provide an almost mystical experience to anyone fortunate enough to actually see one of these shy and beautiful felines.” I am still very much of that opinion.

    Conservation has to be about more than just killing introduced species in the vain and pointless hope of returning this country to some pre human settlement state. We should look very carefully at what we could do for world conservation by giving a home to critically endangered animals and I look forward to reading other commentators suggestions..

    For further reading I highly recommend “The Snow Leopard” by Peter Matthiessen, Chatto & Windus 1978

  21. I tell you what would be fascinating: what foreign species should we introduce here and why, and what is the supporting argument? I’d be interested in people’s suggestions.

  22. I wonder has Barry read about Moa Browse and diet if he had he would have noted that 40 different species of bush has been found in the gizzard contents of moa with twigs as large as 3 mm moa have beaks built like a set of secateurs for cutting twigs not for plucking leaves. Has he ever observed kureru scoffing their favourite food for half an hour they to can defoliate a a tree in a a short time .
    1080 poison is classified as a super toxin. It is very unfortunate that the uneducated believe every thing they read in the glossy books published by F&B DoC and OSPRI. By the time pro 1080 poison supporters realise what havoc it is creating it will be too late as it is for kea.

  23. And Clyde don’t forget to mention your bent spoon award for “gullibility and a lack of critical thinking” in the film you promote as serious journalism. That is why it won’t get played on mainstream tv. It has no balance whatsoever.

  24. I have actually been to the trouble of seeing what this poison does and frankly the claims of the antis are quite nutty. I have done my homework. How many of you read the studies I provided. None by the sound of it. Apart from witnessing 2 drops on my land in the time I was there pruning trees I have also filmed the forests shortly after 1080 to investigate the sincerity of the anti 1080 peoples claims. My opinion – they don’t stack up. The science is proven, the anti 1080 protesters are quite naive.



  25. Personally I would hate for DOC to succeed in eliminating introduced species. I greatly value being able to walk in forest and back country where live the long list of introduced species the majority of which, far from being pests, are actually a valuable resource which enhance our environment. The NZ bush must have been a very boring place before the acclimatisation boards did their excellent work. If the Department of Conservation was really about Conservation then I suggest that we should be doing more to provide a home for some of the world’s most endangered species and at the very top of that list should be the Snow Leopard and Clouded Leopard. Both these animals would be very much at home in the South Island mountains and would prey upon the Himalayan Tahr just as they do in their now severely diminished home range.

  26. You are wrong in your reply you made to me Barry, 1080 is worth the effort to see banned from use. Sad thing is there are many people in NZ like yourself perhaps? that are paid to say how wonderful it is, while the minority can see the truth and have to fight to have their voice heard.

  27. David’s comment, as seen first on the list above is perfect, “the use of 1080 has become more sophisticated the risks have reduced and the benefits increased”.
    Perfect because it is a monumental revelation of how the public has been officially duped by the so-called wonders of the super toxin poison 1080. The propaganda of this unmitigated disaster on our wilderness has been fed to the NZ population by decades of repetition, omission of inconvenient facts, all packaged in an eminently plausible format which is rubber stamped by the likes of the PCE.
    If any critically thinking person could just step away from the harangue for 5 minutes and contemplate what this fearsome toxin actually does when indiscriminately distributed over vast areas of wilderness they might get a view quite different from the official propaganda :
    * It kills every living form that metabolizes oxygen from insects to large animals.
    * It kills by secondary poisoning scavengers of dead bodies.
    * It risks sub lethal uptake which could disrupt life systems in any insect or animal and there is no scientific monitoring for this as the sub lethal intake could be anywhere from small to large.
    * It has failed to achieve the intended results after about 60 years of use.
    * It has no ability to take out an intended single target because it is a comprehensive killing poison.
    * It favors fast breeding animals like rats who simply out breed it and disadvantages slow breeders like native birds.
    * It was developed as an insecticide and is banned in most countries.
    * It disrupts the entire balance of a forest wilderness environment which is a self adjusting eco system and we have no idea of its long term effects.

    If these 8 statements were handed out to Year 10 biology students for their assessment of the safe use of a poison indiscriminately broadcast over large areas of wilderness, I think you would know their conclusion.
    If we are unable to entertain the same conclusion it is time we enrolled in their class.

    1080 poison should be put on the dusty shelf of bad ideas alongside slavery, witch hunts and burning at the stake before we find ourselves in a world environment court charged with culpable destruction of NZ ecosystems.

  28. I couldn’t possibly say that Forest & Bird has ‘lost the plot’ cos F&B never had the plot – apart from wishing to see all our endemic wildlife become extinct!
    Since F&B’s ‘creation’ in 1921 50% of our native bush has been eliminated, yet instead of establishing a native bush restoration programme F&B has done nothing!
    1080 is the destroyer of all endemic wildlife – birds, frogs, insects, etc – and hopefully those groups and individuals who promote the use of 1080 will soon be held accountable.
    Congratulations to Bill Benfield and all others aiming to eliminate the use of 1080 in this country.

  29. The twittering by the Forest and Bird Society members is the old tired mantra of the “anti-exotic animal phobia” which a US Zoology professor decades ago said NZ’s departments were afflicted with.
    Barry has it wrong. Scientists at a 1986 symposium on “Moas, Mammals and Climate Change in the Ecological History of NZ” likened moa browsing to wild animal browsing.
    There’s according to Landcare Research 250,000 wild deer. Eminent ecologist Dr Graeme Caughley estimated there were several million moa. Another critic said vegetation has no defence mechanisms. The divaricating structure of many plants, thorns and even chemical toxins are Nature’s defences to browsing whether it be by moas (and other birds) or wild animals.
    So the critics, get real and do your homework — well done Bill Benfield and “Investigate”

  30. The point is that avian browse is completely different to mammalian browse and the outcomes on forest vegetation are different. There is no shortage of study material either. None of these show any benefits of deer browse to palatable species. Look at the images on this site –

    also –




  31. Good work, Ian, and Bill Benfield – it’s about time the 1080 poison industry scam was exposed. For those willing to go one step further, and watch the 4 x international award winning doco (that NZ TV stations won’t play for fear of litigation) click on the link and watch Poisoning Paradise … http://youtu.be/yQRuOj96CRs

  32. I think most have missed the point. If large fauna were grazing shrubbery and low branches on trees in the forests, then deer are arguably beneficial in helping return NZ native forests to their primordial state. The efficacy of 1080 is tangential to the fundamental question: was Cockayne wrong? That’s how I read it.

  33. Well done on the truth. 1080 is a poison, NZ isn’t as green as you think .Looks like you got David, Barry and Tim all running their mouths off, I bet they work for the government and get paid to support 1080.

  34. Ian, have you even looked at any up to date science? Your start by stating that 1080 pollutes waterways and kills massive amounts of native wildlife. Both statements are completely wrong based on actual scientific evidence from recent years. I thought you were supposed to be an ‘investigative journalist’, which to me means actually researching the truth of statements given to you, not simply running with anything that is controversial and goes against the mainstream views. If you are insinuating (?) that avian browsers and mammalian browsers/predators are the same then you are also completely wrong. Barry has already stated the difference between the two types of browsers and mammalian predators hunt by smell while avian browsers hunted by sight, thus many of our native species freeze when confronted by predators which is useless against introduced predators. I understand Benfields research is over 50 years old and based in the UK, which has native mammalian predators so cannot be automatically used in the NZ context. As suggested, the parliamentary Commissioner’s report is a good place to start to look at the pro’s and cons of 1080 use, Do not simply rely on the anti’s statements as they are misinformed, do not understand how poisons work or are used in the modern context and some have ulterior motives such as wanting deer to be considered a valuable resource rather than the pest they are.

  35. The article needs to reflect the difference between avian browse (eg moa) which was ground based and used a beak and gizzard stones and plucked leaves whilst constantly on the move.
    Deer browse in a different and far more destructive manner and will destroy all juvenile ground cover radically altering the nature of the forest.
    Possums browse in the canopy and feed selectively and can cause localised extinction of favourite foods.
    Neither of these pests evolved with our native plants and our plants have not evolved defences. Both pest species have proven that they can reach plague proportions.
    Bill Benfield is misguided.

  36. I am leaving a reply because this article is based on one statement that is very wrong ‘…1080 poison which contaminates waterways and kills a huge amount of forest life.”

    Although there is some risk to native natural life from the use of 1080 this has always been vastly outweighed by the benefits to the same native life. And as the use of 1080 has become more sophisticated the risks have reduced and the benefits increased.

    Many studies have been done into the effects of 1080 in the New Zealand environments. the best summary of these is the recent report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.


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