Message to Owners of Lake Rotoaira Forest Trust concerning pest control on our whenua

E nga Rangatira, e nga whanaunga, tēnā koutou katoa

As Trustees of the Lake Rotoaira Forest Trust (the Trust), we have a responsibility to act on your behalf, and in the best interests of you all as owners, while also ensuring we carry out our role as kaitiaki over our taonga and whenua.

The Trust manages 16,500 hectares of lands. This includes 9,500 hectares of exotic forest and 7,000 hectares of native forest. The lands, and particularly the native forest areas, contain many species of native birds and native plants. Many of these are rare and endangered, and are at risk from pests like possums, rats, stoats, and wild cats.

The Lake Rotoaira Forest Trust represents the interests of 12,000 owners. Together we are all the kaitiaki of this whenua, waterways and taonga species associated with the lands. Our relationship with these taonga is based on a foundation of whakapapa and whānau.

Part of our role is ensuring the relationship between our taonga and our people is encouraged, flourishing and supported. This means providing for safe, open and enduring access to our lands for our owners, so they can fish, hunt and gather, practise rongoa collection and matauranga Māori.

We also have the unique position of enabling the livelihoods of around 200 people who rely on the sustainable operation of our forestry business, and who in turn support many of the whanau in and around the rohe of Tūwharetoa.

At times, we are forced to make difficult decision as we balance the cultural, environmental, social and economic needs and aspirations for all our owners, both today and for the future. We do not take this responsibility lightly, and we always make decisions based on information and a lot of kōrero and debate.

When it comes to controlling pests on our lands we have had to consider our complex position and all information. Our policy on pest control is “the need to protect our taonga species and the viability of the Trust for our owners through a pest management system that is appropriate for our unique position as kaitiaki and land owners”.

The Trust is aware of the debate around the use of 1080 and we understand that not everyone, including our owners, will agree to the use of this method to manage pests on New Zealand land. We know that this has a particular impact on our pig hunters, as dogs must keep out of the treated lands for a period of time. But this is where we need to make tough decisions, and we have done that to support the use of 1080 to get rid of pests on our lands.

Over the past two decades, pest control on Trust lands has largely involved using 1080. This has been controlled and at no cost to the Trust. If the Trust had to undertake the same level of pest control it would be at a cost of approximately $320,000 every year. That is simply not affordable. Even then it is highly unlikely that control of the rats and mustelids (i.e. stoats, ferrets and weasels) would match what is achieved by aerial 1080 – particularly over the less accessible parts of the Trust’s lands.

Regular monitoring of flora and fauna on our lands has shown that since the pest control programme started:

  • the overall health of our native vegetation is improving;
  • the populations of native bird species are increasing, in particular that of the kererū, and;
  • there has been no reduction in the availability and health of pigs and deer.

We would love to have an effective alternative to aerial 1080 but the reality is that one does not yet exist. We are actively encouraging OSPRI, the Department of Conservation and other key players to continue working towards this goal.

Currently, we do not see any viable alternatives which would meet our key objectives to protect our taonga species and the native flora and fauna on our lands. We have had very limited success with ground-based trapping options, both in terms of difficulty in getting people to do the work, and because the pest control issue is not limited to possums.

We are confident that OSPRI – who conduct the pest control on the Trust’s behalf – use the best practise currently available. We are also encouraged to support the OSPRI operations by the neighbouring Tūwharetoa-owned farms - which many of our owners also have ownership interests in. The livelihood of these farms is seriously compromised if they get bovine Tb in their herds, and this is yet one more thing we take into account when considering whether to consent to a request from OSPRI to undertake a 1080 operation on our lands.

It has been unfortunate that people have been making threatening comments on social media towards Trustees and our staff. This is not on, and is having an impact on us all. We would ask owners to understand the position we are in, and to know that we will always make decisions only after a lot of korero and consideration, and indeed in 2017, we held a consultation meeting with our owners to discuss this operation.  

We will continue to research and pursue alternative options to reduce the use of 1080. In the meantime, we will update you all at the AGM and via our website with details as they come to hand.

Ngā mihi,

Your Trustees

For further information, visit the following links:

  • The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s “Evaluating the use of 1080: predators, poisons and the silent forest” (2011).


  •  The Environmental Risk Management Authority’s (ERMA) report on the use of 1080 (2016)


  •  The Department of Conservation regularly uses 1080 on its own estate.


  •  Forest and Bird (New Zealand’s largest environmental group)


  •  Video of Māori responses and research into 1080 use


  • Forest and Bird, Department of Conservation, Federated Farmers and others – have put together a good summary of the use and   impacts of 1080: