A legal challenge to stop a 1080 drop on Maori land in Hawke’s Bay has failed.
The Maori Land Court issued its ruling on the legal fight following a hearing in Hastings.
Tataraakina is a 14,000 hectare block inland from Hawke’s Bay, near the highway between Napier and Taupō.
Tataraakina is managed by an Ahu Whenua Trust, run by Trustee Clinton Hemana, and has 1,143 owners.
Trustees make decisions on behalf of landowners.
Farmers are battling a bovine tuberculosis (TB) epidemic in Hawke’s Bay, which is believed to be from Tataraakina.
The Trust has argued that 1080 is the most effective way to control this and kill the possums that are spreading it.
But some Tataraakina owners are angry about it and one of the owners, Nigel Baker, has taken legal action.
In 2004 and 2009, Baker joined in attempts to stop 1080 drops in the field, but requests were unsuccessful.
Last year he tried a third time after another planned abandonment – this was heard in court in late November.
He argued that 1080 would be harmful to the terrestrial environment, waterways, birds and fish.
In court, he was asked what science he was basing himself on.
“I’m talking about living on the land, noticing that in everyday life, the avifauna is not where it was,” Baker replied.
He argued that there should be a fully ground operation with traps.
An alliance for this land, between the crown and the trust, called Ngā Whenua Rāhui Kawenata, a way to protect the natural environment, history and spiritual and cultural values of the Maori.
Baker claimed the poison drops violated this commitment, but the court concluded that the Kawenata did not prevent the use of 1080.
The defense said it would be costly to try a fully ground operation.
The terrain would be difficult to cross and ground control would be dangerous for workers as it was inaccessible, he said.
TB Free, which is part of Ospri, manages the eradication of bovine tuberculosis – argued the defense – claiming evidence around 1080 shows it is biodegradable and with reasonable rainfall the bait can break down quickly.
The Ngāti Hineuru Iwi Trust, which owns a farm near the land, also supported the fall of 1080 and is confident in its scientific evidence.
Ngāti Hineuru also said that if the decline from 1080 did not continue on Tataraakina, the tuberculosis would get worse because she would simply continue to re-infect animals on her farm.
The head of the Maori Land Court, Wilson Isaac, presided over the case.
He noted that on two occasions these attempts by Baker and his supporters to stop 1,080 drops had failed.
He said Baker’s claim that there was overwhelming dissent from owners at 1080 drops did not add up.
He said evidence showed at a meeting in August 18 homeowners voted against the proposal and 15 voted for – so the judge said there was little difference.
Only 33 owners took the time to vote, out of a total of 1,143 owners.
Judge Isaac said the trust was acting legally – it had the power to make decisions on the ground.
“In light of the overwhelming evidence presented in court, I am convinced that the balance of convenience favors the trustee,” he wrote.
Studies show that 1080 biodegrades naturally, and it has not been detected in New Zealand drinking water.
The Conservation Department said ground control may actually disrupt the land further due to the number of traps.
In some countries, the use of 1080 is limited because it can kill native mammals.
But in New Zealand there are native land mammals except bats, but there are a huge number of introduced and destructive pests.
Forest and Bird said there was no evidence that bats were badly affected by 1080.