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Auckland Council

Hunua Project: 1080 pest management

Possums and rats are threatening native animal and plant species in the Hunua Ranges.

Hunua Project update

Feratox – 475gm/kg potassium cyanide in a pellet – will be added to some bait traps on public land in the Hunua Ranges area between 12 November and 31 December 2018 (map of affected areas below).

Treatment areas are mainly along the western boundary of the Hunua Ranges Regional Park, Waharau Regional Park, the north western corner of Mangatawhiri Forest Conservation Area, and the south eastern corner of Richard Sylvan Memorial Reserve.

Bait stations are installed at a minimum height of 1.8 metres off the ground. Warning signs will be displayed at all normal entry points to the area’s involved.

This work complements the recent possum and rat control programme using aerial application of 1080. The new work covers land where it was not possible to fly during the earlier operation.

Safety information

  • Potassium cyanide toxin is deadly to dogs. Dog owners should take extreme care to supervise dogs and prevent scavenging during the operation and the caution period that follows.
  • Do not touch bait.
  • Watch children at all times.
  • Do not eat animals from this area.

The Hunua Ranges Regional Park and surrounding Department of Conservation land still poses a risk to dogs from the recent aerial 1080 application. Avoid taking dogs to this area until April 2019, but if you do, you must keep them on a lead and supervise them closely.

Protecting the Hunua Ranges

In August and September 2015, Auckland Council aerially applied 1080 (sodium fluoroacetate) to around 21,500ha of parkland, adjoining Department of Conservation administered land and some private land in the Hunua Ranges area.

Within a few months of the last bait application, monitoring results were excellent, with the lowest-ever recorded figures for rats and possums.

This included registering no rats in the intensively pest-controlled kōkako management area for almost six months. 

2018 operation

Between September and October 2018, the area again underwent an aerial application of 1080 bait.

All parkland in the Hunua Ranges has reopened, including Hunua Ranges, Waharau and Whakatiwai regional parks, following the aerial pest control (1080) programme.

A caution period will remain in place for some months, until we can be sure all traces of the toxin has gone from the environment. Baits or carcasses in sheltered areas may break down slower than those with more exposure to the weather.

A full water testing programme has been carried out across the parkland and on water reservoirs. No tests returned positive for the 1080 toxin.

Important information:

  • visitors to the open areas of the park and reserve lands should observe information and warning signs. Dogs and young children are particularly at risk from 1080 poisoning
  • dog owners are advised to avoid taking dogs into the operational area until the caution period is over and warning signs are removed
  • those who choose to bring their dogs to areas of the parks (where dogs are allowed) or near the operational area should supervise them closely to prevent scavenging of carcasses. Consider muzzling the dog if off-lead
  • to protect against kauri dieback disease, a Controlled Area Notice is in place across the native forest area of the Hunua Ranges Regional Park and adjoining Department of Conservation-administered lands. You must use hygiene stations to clean and disinfect all footwear and equipment to ensure you do not carry any visible soil into the Controlled Area.

Map of operational area

Why we do this

As expected, in the three years since the last operation, possum and rat numbers have increased in the Hunua Ranges as a result of reinvasion from untreated areas. Repeating the pest control will protect the health of our forest and threatened species, like kōkako, that live within it.

The aerial application of 1080 is a safe and effective method for controlling possums, rats and mustelids. It does not require accessing high value areas by ground, so does not present a risk of spreading kauri dieback disease.

The operation took place across the Hunua Ranges, Waharau and Whakatiwai regional parks and included Department of Conservation (DoC) administered lands including the Mataitai Scenic Reserve and some adjoining private land.

We contacted all landowners or occupiers that lived adjacent to the parkland, and visited many, before the operation.

What is 1080?

1080 is a naturally occurring toxin found in many plants throughout the world. Plants have developed it as a natural defence against browsing mammals.

It is manufactured for use in baits for pest control and is particularly toxic to mammals. This makes 1080 a valuable tool for managing introduced pests in New Zealand, as our only native land mammals are bats.

1080 is highly water soluble and breaks down in the environment. It does not accumulate in the food chain or in soil.

Bait pellets

Each pellet is greenish in colour, about 2cm long and the diameter of a 20 cent coin.

1080 is the only toxin currently registered for use on mainland New Zealand as suitable for aerial targeting of possums, rats and - through secondary poisoning - stoats, ferrets and weasels.

Each cereal bait only contains a small amount of toxin, which equates to less than one teaspoon of toxin across a treated hectare.

How the operation was carried out

A satellite navigation system (GPS) and custom-designed bait applicators was used to distribute bait (by helicopter) across the operational area.

To reach as many pest species as possible, we used a two-step method.

  • Step one: A non-toxic pre-feed to familiarise pest animals with the cereal baits and make them hungry for more.
  • Step two: Application of baits containing the 1080 (sodium fluoroacetate) toxin.

In order to manage such a large area and protect water supply reservoirs, the operational area will be divided into two blocks.

The Cossey and Mangatangi catchments were treated as one block, and the Wairoa and Mangatawhiri catchments treated as another.

Each hectare received around 2kg of cereal pellets. Due to the effectiveness of the 2015 operation, this is is less than the 2.5kg/ha previously used.

The parks were closed during the operation and a track clearance programme carried out before they reopened.

Access to the ranges

The Hunua Ranges parkland was closed during the operation and reopened once the track clearance programme was complete.

Warning signs will remain in place until bait and poisoned animal carcasses have broken down and pose no risk - especially to dogs.

Precautions for people and dogs

Important tips to consider where any form of pest control is carried out:

  • Pest control is carried out in parks across New Zealand, and visitors may see traps or bait stations or visit an area that has been treated for pests. Always be aware of pest management programmes, heed warnings and exercise common sense.
  • Signs around the operational areas carry important information for all visitors to the parks.
  • Don't touch any bait you encounter. Pest animals will quickly start eating bait after it is applied, however, you may see baits within forest areas. Leave bait alone. Supervise children closely, and don’t allow them to pick up or eat baits. Consuming pest management baits could be deadly to a child.
  • Supervise dogs at all times. Dogs are susceptible to secondary poisoning, as scavenging is a natural canine instinct. Toxins like 1080 are deadly to dogs, and other poisons or naturally decomposing carcasses can make them very sick. Keep your dog under control at all times, and on a leash where required.   

Safety of water supply

Carrying out such an operation in a water catchment area requires careful planning and working closely with Watercare.

Important measures were put in place to ensure the ongoing safety of Auckland's water supply, including:

  • no flying over water supply reservoirs
  • exclusion zones around reservoirs where no bait will be applied
  • using accurate (GPS) technology to apply bait
  • returning reservoirs to service only after a rigorous water-testing schedule is complete
  • working with landowners to understand drinking water extraction from streams flowing out of the operational area.

More information

In 2011 the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment released an independent report endorsing 1080 use.

Download the report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment website.

DoC also looks after large areas of parkland and uses 1080 application to manage animal pests.

For more on the use of 1080, see the DoC website.