The Department of Conservation (DoC) spends millions of taxpayers’ money annually, trying to convince the New Zealand public that aerial 1080 poison is a safe and acceptable means of wild animal control.
But, when it comes to consultation with local communities, stakeholders and those who stand to be affected, the Department has been repeatedly called out for its selective and even fraudulent processes.
The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and the Ministry of Health (MoH) legislation states there should always be full and fair consultation, and that information about the risks from the aerial poisoning operations should be accurate, transparent and open to public scrutiny.
The practical reality of these processes however, means the consultations are often carried out by poison contractors who do not have public health as a priority and have financial conflicts of interest in tendering for the operational contracts. Rather than engaging in genuine consultation and risk mitigation strategies with the communities concerned, the consultation is often seen as a ‘tick-box’ exercise in order to get the poison operation completed.
For years, communities around the country have repeatedly spoken out about the shocking, confusing and underhand tactics used by DoC during so-called ‘community consultations.’ says Dr Ursula Edgington, Peoples’ Inquiry Executive Committee member, “The frustration is now coming to head.”
In a recent interview with The People’s Inquiry 2020, Dr. Wendy Pond from the Coromandel Peninsula recounts what she terms “non-compliant” and “selective” process that ignores the rules and regulations governing aerial 1080 operations and brings the community into conflict with the government.
Back in 2013 DoC announced it had Iwi support for a poison operation on the sacred mountain Te Moengahau o Tama te Kapua, at the north end of Coromandel Peninsula. Dr. Pond says, “this was very disconcerting for people with Iwi affiliations, because they knew that there had been no hui and no consultation on their local marae.
So, I began to investigate how it could be possible for DOC to claim Iwi support. I applied for a copy of the application for permission that DOC had made to the EPA… so I had a look at the Iwi listed as having been consulted, and they are the leading Iwi of the peninsula indeed are listed there. So, I went to various of the local hapu from these Iwi and asked them, had they been consulted… and over and over again I found, indeed not.”
Dr. Pond discovered how some tribes had written to complain that not only had they had not been consulted, but also “they saw no necessity for a poison operation on a mountain whose canopy was thriving.” Dr. Pond says a theme began to emerge from her research, that clearly showed local stakeholders and hapu were selectively left out of the consultation.
In 2017, there was another aerial poisoning planned and she again investigated the consultation documents, only to find they were almost identical to those from the earlier 2013 operation. Dr. Pond also found that the 2017 consultation ‘log’ included the name of a Kaumatua who had in fact passed away, “This made it very clear to me that consultation is fabricated” she says.
Much of the same was experienced in Whangaroa, in 2018, when another flawed and dishonest consultation process by DoC was exposed by locals. When Nyree Porter Manuel of Te Papa Hapu saw an Official Information Act request of the consultation that had supposedly taken place she was shocked and angry.
The document listed more than 30 organisations and individuals who had supposedly been consulted. This included the local Runanga, but Nyree says she asked the Whangaroa Runanga which is a Treaty Partner and Iwi representative of 16 marae, “Did you agree to this?”
“They said, we have not even had a consultation.” Others on the list also said they had not been consulted or were incorrectly quoted as being in support of the poisoning. This created such an uproar in the local community that Nyree found herself in meetings with Deputy PM Winston Peters, trying to resolve the dispute. The poison operation never went ahead on the basis of what locals believe was a fraudulent consultation process.
“Dr Pond’s research exposes a pattern that we have seen happening all over our country; DoC seems to abuse its power and funding by using misinformation throughout the processes leading up to, during and after every 1080 poison aerial operation. It simply must stop.” says Dr Edgington.
Dr. Wendy Pond’s full interviews can be found on the NZ People’s Inquiry 2020 website and YouTube channel.