Community group takes legal action over poison drop

A community group has gone to the High Court in Wellington, seeking to stop a proposed aerial drop of poison at the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary in Nelson.

The proposal would lead to 26.5 tonnes of brodifacoum poison baits being dropped over an area which includes forest land and a riverbed in an effort to rid the sanctuary of a range of pests, including stoats and weasels.

But the Brook Valley Community Group said it was inappropriate to allow such an aerial discharge next to a residential and recreational area.

Its lawyer, Sue Grey, told the High Court in Wellington today that when exemptions to the Resource Management regulations were signed off by the Conservation Minister, he did not consider the possible effect on local communities.

“The exemptions remove aerial and other discharges of poisons from the usual checks and balances contained in the Resource Management Act.”

She said they have had an effect on natural justice.

“People have lost the opportunity to be consulted. Now there is no opportunity unless a poisoner wishes to consult, but they don’t have to.”

She said the bait drop could also lead to the sanctuary being shut for at least 120 days.

Ms Grey said another concern was that no consent was required for people to take water from the area for domestic use, including drinking.

“So…. those [applying to drop the poison] may not be aware, without public consultation, that someone’s drinking from the area downstream [of the drop].”

Ms Grey said the Brook Valley Community Group was also concerned that people who had been hunting wild games on their farms for 100 years might not be able to continue doing so if the poison drop went ahead.

“Birds could ingest the poison, fly over the [sanctuary] fence, die and then be eaten by wild pigs, introducing the poison to the food chain.”

Those opposing the Court action include the Book Waimarama Sanctuary trust, the Environment Minister and Nelson City Council.

If the case is unsuccessful, the poison drop could go ahead any time after 8 August.