Hokitika Beach Erosion
Grey Star - March 2017
Hokitika residents will be asked with urgency whether they want to finance sea protection works, with the next king tides due to batter the town in less than a fortnight.
The West Coast Regional Council on Tuesday released a report from a Niwa expert, outlining a range of options in response to the worsening encroachment, which has already claimed a picnic shelter on the foreshore and forced the removal of an art installation and the World War Two pillbox.
The regional council also agreed to push ahead with a survey of Hokitika residents, with a quick turnaround time. If supportive, a rating district will be formed and townsfolk will fund the foreshore protection works.
NZ Hearald 23 Oct 2016
The Government's use of 1080 poison has long drawn angry protest from opponents, who push a range of scientific claims about its efficiency and danger. In his new book, Protecting Paradise, science writer Dave Hansford scrutinises each of the claims - and concludes 1080 isn't the evil it's so often painted as. He talked to Herald science reporter Jamie Morton.
What made you want to write this book? Was there any particular event that triggered it?
There was no defining trigger point, but I'd been writing about pest control off and on for 15 years, and it became ever-more frustrating that the same old myths and misinformation about 1080 just kept on orbiting the national conversation.
They're all so easily debunked, but it's like whack-a-mole - no sooner is one countered with the facts, than they trot out another one.
I got a strong sense that there were lots of people out there who were rightly concerned about 1080, but with so much propaganda about, they weren't sure who or what to believe.
So I decided to hold each myth up to the scientific evidence in turn, to offer a kind of reference point they might feel like they could trust.
As a science writer, what have been your own interactions with the topic?
In 2004, I think it was, I travelled round the North Island for the Department of Conservation, gathering up the experiences of community groups engaged in pest control.
They told me about their successes and failures - it's important to remember that back then, there were none of these fantastic self-resetting traps, so trapping was very laborious, and painfully inefficient - each trap could only go off once, then it sat there redundant until someone came along to reset it.
So it was a hard grind for ordinary volunteers - one rat plague and all their great work was undone.
They talked about the benefits of getting regular 1080 drops, just to zero the pests and give themselves - and the birds - a breeding season in peace.
In 2010, I travelled the country conducting what turned out to be a sort of oral history, listening to older farmers talking about the truly dreadful days, back in the 70s and 80s, when bovine TB was practically epidemic.
Some got emotional just recalling the memory of herds they'd struggled and borrowed for to build up from scratch, only to see them test positive and get carted off for slaughter.
They were terrible times, and many went to the wall.
This was before we truly understood the role of possums and ferrets as vectors of the disease, so the worst part for these guys was not knowing what to do about it.
TB Free published those stories as a DVD and a pdf download: I think you can still get it from their website.
Can you tell us a bit about how you gathered the information for your book, and where the journey took you?
Well, like most science writing, a lot of it was reading - reams and reams of research papers, theses, conference proceedings, powerpoints, datasets - there are 30 pages of references in the back.
Because so many opponents refused to speak with me, I had to get a handle on their views instead by following anti-1080 Facebook pages, so there were long evenings doing that.
In between times, I'd hit the road. I went to the Coromandel to witness a 1080 operation for myself.
I spent a few days afterwards combing the bush looking for all the death and destruction - the slaughter of native birds etc - that activists insist happens after every drop.
I never found evidence of any, despite going off-track with a GPS and conducting long grid searches and bird call counts at different locations.
I travelled the West Coast, where I was fortunate that a couple of committed anti-1080 activists granted me interviews - they filled a conspicuous gap in the book.
I spoke with Maori people about their very special relationship with the forest, and how they struggle to reconcile poison pest control with the principles of tikanga.
I visited the Centre for Wildlife Management and Conservation at Lincoln, where so much innovative pest control work is going on - efforts to find an infallible stoat lure, for instance, and to develop an autonomous, species-specific toxin dispenser.
In Wellington, last year, I attended the anti-1080 movement's march on Parliament.
I went to public meetings to hear NZ First MP Richard Prosser selling his plan to get 1080 banned.
I followed DOC field technicians around the Victoria Range, catching and individually tattooing rats.
There was never a dull moment.
You've focused much of your book on testing the claims that opponents of 1080 often cite. Can you share a few of these?
The one people hear most often is that 1080 kills everything.
One look at the toxicology studies tells you that's untrue: some kinds of animals are more sensitive to 1080 than others.
It's highly toxic to mammals, and unfortunately, dogs are the most acutely susceptible.
Birds are much less so.