Pest Management Strategy

FAQs – Pest control on Lake Rotoaira Forest Trust lands

Why is the Lake Rotoaira Forest Trust undertaking pest control on its lands?

The Lake Rotoaira Forest Trust manages 16,500 ha of lands, on which there is 9,500 ha of exotic forest and 7,000 ha 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 Trust needs 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.

Why is 1080 being used as the main method of pest control in Lake Rotoaira Forest?

The Trustees have spent many hours learning about what the options are in regards to pest control, and the impacts of those options. We approach pest management from a standpoint that the application of 1080, or indeed any poison, on our whenua is to be avoided where possible due to actual or perceived negative impacts on the mauri of our whenua, our ngahere, and its associated waterways.

The Trust is aware of the debate around the use of 1080 and we understand that not everyone, including some of our owners, will agree to the use of this method to manage pests on New Zealand land. We know that this has an 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 TB, and pests.

Over the past two decades, the pest management programme using 1080 has been controlled and at no cost to the Trust. If the Trust had to undertake the same level of pest control without using 1080 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.

Aerial drop of 1080 is still the most viable option available to us which would meet our key objective of protecting our taonga species and the native flora and fauna on our lands. We have had limited success with ground-based trapping options to date, both in terms of difficulty in getting people to do the work, and because as it’s not just possums which are the issue.

Aerial application of 1080 has a ‘triple-hit’ impact, meaning that it kills possums and rats, and then kills stoats when they eat the dead or dying possums and rats. This provides a crucial breeding window for the survival of our native bird chicks.

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.

Is the Trust open to using other methods of pest control?

The Trustees, like all of our owners, and people throughout New Zealand, are very keen for alternatives to aerial 1080 to be developed for pest control. We keep abreast of developments in these areas, and have been encouraging OSPRI, the Department of Conservation, and others to work on them.

However, today we do not see any viable alternatives which would meet our key objectives of protecting our taonga species and the native flora and fauna on our lands. We believe that a move away from aerial 1080 use, given the lack of good options currently available, would result in both more expensive and less effective pest control on our lands.

We are open to discussing other options to put to the owners. Ultimately if they decide that higher cost methods should be supported, then we will be guided by them – provided they will achieve our goals.

What is the Trust doing to try limit the use of 1080?

The Trust continues to research and pursue alternative options to reduce the use of 1080 and continues to be open and transparent about how we do that, so our whānau know exactly what we are doing and can feed into what is a huge issue for us collectively.

OSPRI has also committed to exploring options to reduce 1080 use on Trust lands, including trialling lower sowing rates of 1080, and – on a case-by-case basis if approved by the Trustees - testing any new techniques or formulations which may be developed.

Owners can be assured that the Trustees will continue to follow all options regarding the on-going development of our Pest Management Strategy, and that these will continue to be communicated with owners.

How long has the Lake Rotoaira Forest Trust been undertaking pest control in Lake Rotoaira Forest?

Pest control has been taking place in Lake Rotoaira Forest since soon after the Trust was formed in 1973. In the first few decades ground-based possum control was done, although not in a particularly well-planned or effective way. We found that this was not working for us in terms of protecting our native forest, our native birds or our pine forests. In the early 1990s, the predecessor of OSPRI applied to undertake a 1080 operation on LRFT lands. This was approved by the Trust. Since then we have had applications for further operations on parts of our lands on average every two or three years.

How much land area falls under the Trust’s pest management strategy?

The Trustees are responsible for managing – including managing pest threats - all 16,500 ha of the lands it administers – whether that land is in plantation forest or is in native bush.

What success has been recorded by the Trust in regards to pest control?

Over the past two decades, regular monitoring of flora and fauna on our lands has shown that the overall health of our native vegetation is improving via the control of possums, 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 consider that the long-term sustainability of hunting is improved through this pest control mahi.

In 2011 we negotiated with OSPRI’s predecessor TbFree NZ to undertake a longitudinal bird count study on Trust lands to assess the long-term impact of 1080 use on native bird-life. This is a significant commitment by TbFree NZ and one which the Trusts expect will confirm that the operations are not harming, and hopefully are enhancing, our native bird populations. Early feed-back (after seven years) indicates that numbers of key native bird species are either staying the same or are increasing following the 1080 operations compared to numbers in ‘control’ areas where no 1080 has been applied.

Is there risk to humans if kai or rongoa plants take up 1080 from bait?

Research shows there is very negligible risk to humans. The uptake of 1080 in plants is so miniscule that a person would have to eat many tonnes of any plant, at one sitting, to have any chance of feeling any detrimental effects. 1080 also does not bio-accumulate in the environment, so there is no long-term build-up of the poison on the land or in animals or plants.

Does 1080 have an impact on our waterways?

We acknowledge that many owners and the New Zealand public, are concerned about the impacts of 1080 in waterways. Extensive research has been done on this. There is clear evidence that 1080 breaks down in water and does not chemically pollute waterways. 

More information on some of this research can be found here:

 I have a permit to hunt in Lake Rotoaira Forest, or, I am an owner who hunts on my lands. How do aerial drops of 1080 affect me?

 We fully realise that hunting is important for many of our owners and our permit holders.

While we insist on deer repellent being used to minimise impacts on deer, we acknowledge that 1080 operations are a significant imposition for pig hunters as dogs must be kept out of the treated lands for a period.

We communicate with you whenever a drop is to happen and how long you need to stay out of the lands, or certain areas, for.

We do not believe that animal numbers on our lands have been affected by these operations – there has been no reduction in the availability and health of pigs and deer.

On another note, our environmental monitoring also frequently indicates that our high deer populations are having a detrimental impact on our native bush.

Are you not just using 1080 because it is cheaper?

We acknowledge that we also have to consider the economic costs of pest management.

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. We 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 decisions 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.

It is important to our owners that we keep our costs to a minimum to ensure we can maximise the annual distributions and other benefits to our owners, and the employment that we provide to our people.

We have undertaken detailed research into what it would cost to achieve the same ecological benefits without using aerial 1080. OSPRI made it clear that they would not be prepared to fund this approach, so the cost of changing to a non-1080 approach would be entirely to the Trust’s account.  We, with the owners, need to consider how ongoing pest control should be achieved, as these are the last 1080 Government-funded procedures on LRFT lands.

We are convinced that a move away from aerial 1080 use, given the lack of good options currently available, would result in both more expensive and less effective pest control on our lands. We are open to discussing other options to put to the owners, ultimately if they decide that higher cost methods should be supported then we will be guided by them – provided they will achieve our goals of effectively protecting our taonga species.  

Where can I find out more information regarding pest control and 1080?

Trustees have invested many hours over the last decade in understanding pest control in general and 1080 in particular, and we encourage you to do the same. Some links to find out more about 1080 are included below: