Can the Green door be opened to GE debate?

Greens look like remaining staunchly opposed to genetic engineering, but the national party is trying to push against this.

Last week from Newshub:  Govt blocking breakthrough technology that could make New Zealand predator-free

There’s a major roadblock within the Beehive over the role genetic engineering (GE) could play in a predator-free New Zealand by 2050.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has stopped any and all work being done to use GE technology, despite official advice suggesting it could be used to help rid New Zealand of predators.

But Ms Sage told Newshub she is not interested in going down the GE “rabbit hole”.

“We want to focus on existing tools, making them better and finding new tools without being diverted down the potential rabbit hole of GE research.”

In one email, she wrote: “Please be assured that the department is clear about my expectations regarding genetic technologies. It has informed me that there is no mammalian gene drive technology research currently occurring in New Zealand.

“I have also required Predator Free 2050 Ltd to carry out appropriate due diligence on any co-funded projects before agreeing on any contracts, and have explicitly required them not to be involved in any research with genetically modified organisms and technologies such as CRISPR or gene editing.”

In another email, the minister made a similar comment: “I have been clear about my expectations regarding such technologies.”

Official advice also said the technology has the potential to control pests “in a humane and efficient manner without inadvertently harming other species like native birds”.

But Ms Sage told Newshub the Government isn’t blocking work in the area, there’s just been no decision to advance any discussion in the area.

“There’s no public mandate to do any work in that space – it would be a major change in Government policy.”

Alex Braae (The Spinoff):  Door opened to GE Free debate

It has been one of the cornerstone policies of New Zealand environmentalism for the past two decades. New Zealand’s GE Free status has been maintained throughout our primary sector, meaning horticulture and agricultural products can be sold under the label. But it looks likely a thorny debate is about to get underway over whether that should be continued.

Why? The National Party is pushing for that debate to start, and they’re being backed by former chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman, reports Politik.

Sir Peter says we should be looking at relaxing rules gene editing – not quite the same thing as genetic modification, but not a million miles away either – here’s an excellent explainer that outlines the differences further down the page. It’s perhaps a bit disingenuous to describe it as a call for a debate too – intelligent people don’t call for debates on topics if they don’t intend to then win the argument.

In particular, the topic in question is a type of ryegrass currently being trialled in the USA, which when eaten by cows could reduce their methane emissions by up to 25%. New Zealand’s output of methane is a significant contributor to our total emissions, and the argument goes that finding ways to reduce that is the best contribution we could make to reducing global emissions.

It’s also entirely in line with National’s approach to climate change policy, which they want to have minimal economic impact, and be primarily driven by science and technology, rather than cutting production.

But would it actually have minimal economic impact? 

This piece on Pure Advantage’s website (an organisation that promotes cohesion between business and environmentalism) argues that any changes to policy in New Zealand could be incredibly damaging to our global brand.

It’s fair to say that the science isn’t fully settled on the full potential benefits and risks of gene editing and other related techniques. However, as the experts collated by the Science Media Centre last year pointed out, that’s because more research needs to happen, and they largely support that research taking place.

In this Stuff story, Minister Sage said there wasn’t a push from New Zealanders for the GE policy to be changed. But if a flashpoint issue were to emerge, that could change very quickly.

I doubt it will change much at all while the Greens are in Government.

Predator control, 1080 and Green refusal to allow GE science

The Provincial Growth Fund seems to be in part a fund for whatever policies Shane Jones wants to promote. And so it seems with a predator control announcement.

But funding for innovative new means of control seems to be suffering, with Jones and NZ First wanting to move away from use of 1080 use , but the Greens refusing to allow research that has anything to do with genetic modification.

Newsroom:  Political dead rat a win for 1080 protesters?

Tired of being harangued by anti-1080 campaigners, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones is welcoming a $19.5 million Provincial Growth Fund investment to be spent on the development of new predator control tools and techniques as alternatives to the pesticide.

The funding will be used by Crown-owned Predator Free 2050 to encourage research and development of new tools, as well as to contract predator control projects for rural and forested land.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said it would help “stimulate rapid innovation” hopefully resulting in more effective traps, lures, remote sensing, surveillance and data management technologies. The Government hopes these new innovative techniques will reduce the need for 1080 to maintain predator-free status in areas where predators have been eradicated.

Sage was keen to emphasise that the Government was not backing down on 1080, but looking for innovative alternatives to use in addition to the pesticide, which has been the focus of nationwide protests, marches and the reported abuse of DOC staff.

However, comments by Shane Jones, and posts on the New Zealand First Facebook page, may give heart to anti-1080 campaigners that their protests have swayed the Government’s coalition partner – even though the funding of new pest-control technology is something that has long had all-party support.

On Facebook, the party is promoting the investment, with posts reading: “We’re doing our best to render 1080 redundant. New Zealand First has maintained its opposition to 1080 and that with adequate resources, research and development into alternatives, we can replace it.”

Northland is home to many of the anti-1080 protesters, as well as to Jones.

There seems to be conflicts between Greens and Jones on the us of 1080.

But what are the realistic alternatives to 1080?

Newshub:  Govt blocking breakthrough technology that could make New Zealand predator-free

There’s a major roadblock within the Beehive over the role genetic engineering (GE) could play in a predator-free New Zealand by 2050.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has stopped any and all work being done to use GE technology, despite official advice suggesting it could be used to help rid New Zealand of predators.

But Ms Sage told Newshub she is not interested in going down the GE “rabbit hole”.

“We want to focus on existing tools, making them better and finding new tools without being diverted down the potential rabbit hole of GE research.”

Officials have signalled GE could be an effective alternative to 1080.

“It could be efficient and much more cost-effective method of pest control than conventional approaches.

“For potential application to replace knockdown tools such as aerial 1080, they would be most effective for short generation pests such as rodents, and less effective for longer generation pests such as stoats and possums, due to their requirement to spread over generations.”

Despite that, Ms Sage penned a Letter of Expectation to Predator Free 2050 Limited, explicitly telling the company not to invest in research into the technology.

The letter:

Newshub’s also obtained a number of emails written by the minister that reveal her personal position on the technology.

In one email, she wrote: “Please be assured that the department is clear about my expectations regarding genetic technologies. It has informed me that there is no mammalian gene drive technology research currently occurring in New Zealand.

“I have also required Predator Free 2050 Ltd to carry out appropriate due diligence on any co-funded projects before agreeing on any contracts, and have explicitly required them not to be involved in any research with genetically modified organisms and technologies such as CRISPR or gene editing.”

In another email, the minister made a similar comment: “I have been clear about my expectations regarding such technologies.”

Official advice also said the technology has the potential to control pests “in a humane and efficient manner without inadvertently harming other species like native birds”.

But Ms Sage told Newshub the Government isn’t blocking work in the area, there’s just been no decision to advance any discussion in the area.

“There’s no public mandate to do any work in that space – it would be a major change in Government policy.”

So is it Government policy that any research into predator control involving genetic modification is banned?

National’s conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie said the Government is refusing to look into the potential benefits because it’s blinded by ideology.

“I think she’s been captured by her ideology, [and] that’s not a good thing,” Ms Dowie said.

“National’s all about the science. We think good science should inform conservation policy, and if we want our children to experience kiwi, tui, takahe in the wild – because that’s a New Zealand legacy – we need to have these conversations and make a decision moving forward.

It seems that while Greens are in Government science is limited to what fits within their rigid ideologies, which includes a staunch anti-GE stance.

Genetic modification is also contentious as a potential means of reducing carbon emissions.

High country ‘tenure review’ to be scrapped

Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage:  Government to end tenure review

The Government will end tenure review in the South Island high country, Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage announced today.

Tenure review is a voluntary process where Crown pastoral land can be sold to a leaseholder and areas with high ecological and recreational value can be returned to full Crown ownership as conservation land.

“Tenure review has resulted in parcels of land being added to the conservation estate, but it has also resulted in more intensive farming and subdivision on the 353,000 ha of land which has been freeholded. This contributed to major landscape change and loss of habitat for native plants and animals,” said Eugenie Sage.

“Tenure review has produced a mixed bag and has been criticised for a long time. It’s not clear that the taxpayer has always got value for money.

“We want to ensure that we are good stewards of the remaining 1.2 million hectares of pastoral lease land; that farmers can farm while safeguarding the high country’s landscape, biodiversity, social, economic and cultural values for present and future generations.”

With tenure review ending, the remaining Crown pastoral lease properties, currently 171 covering 1.2 million ha of Crown pastoral land, will continue to be managed under the regulatory system for Crown pastoral lands.

An announcement about the future of Crown pastoral land management will be made on Sunday.

Ending tenure review will involve law changes to the Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998.

That act was passed during a term of the Bolger/Shipley Government, and survived both the Clark term and the Key/English term.

Charlie Mitchell (Stuff):  The slow, sorry end of tenure review

For all of its flaws, there was something comforting about the way tenure review united groups that are often in conflict.

Before it was officially canned on Thursday, it was a rare piece of public policy that had few champions on any part of the political spectrum, despite the fact it had stuck to successive governments like a sloth clinging to a falling tree branch. There was little evidence of enthusiastic support, or even a vague notion of what was meant to be accomplished.

That was certainly the conclusion of an internal review by Land Information New Zealand (LINZ), released last week, which appears to have sharpened the blade for tenure review’s execution.

It was a fall from grace for a policy that had started with promise in the 1990s, when there was multi-partisan consensus between farmers, conservationists, and public access groups that it just might work. You could give farmers more control over managing the land, add to the conservation estate, and improve access to the most scenic parts of the country in one fell swoop.

That vision, in practice, strayed so far from its origins that by the time it was formally dropped, it would be hard to find a less popular policy, particularly one that had been continued by four successive governments.

Many farmers and conservationists had come to resent tenure review, albeit for different reasons; the minister responsible for LINZ, Eugenie Sage, had once called tenure review “the greatest wave of privatisation since Rogernomics” and repeatedly pointed out it had been “heavily criticised” when she announced its cancellation this week.

But the clearest sign that tenure review was done came in that internal review. There were many criticisms, but the most telling was this: The Crown “does not appear to have a clear strategic objective, other than exiting the arrangements.”

 

SPCA criticised for anti-1080 ‘news’ article

The SPCA has been under fire for supporting anti-1080 protests.They say that “the welfare of all animals should be viewed equally” p- which includes pests like stoats, rats and possums that many people and organisations are trying to get rid of. 1080 is a major tool in reducing pest numbers, especially in remote parts of the country where trapping and other labour intensive methods aren’t practical.

The SPCA advises on ways of campaigning against the use of 1080.

On their website:  1080 – what is it, and what can be done about it?

Is SPCA against 1080?

SPCA is against the use of poisons to kill animals due to the level of suffering they cause, as well as the nature of their use. We would like to see a ban on the use of poisons such as 1080, because these substances cause such intense and prolonged suffering to animals that we believe their use can never be justified.

There should be greater emphasis on looking for solutions that would enable species who cannot be completely removed, to co-exist in the environment instead. SPCA also encourages the research and development of humane alternatives to species control, including the replacement of lethal methods with humane non-lethal methods, such as limiting reproductive abilities.

What does SPCA think about ‘pests’ in New Zealand?

Although SPCA does not regard the lives of one species over another, we do recognise that there is a concern regarding the impact of so-called ‘pest’ animals. Sometimes it is necessary to capture certain animals or manage populations of species for various reasons, including biodiversity, conservation, and sustainability.

In these instances, methods that are proven to be humane and effective should be used. The welfare of all animals should be viewed equally, and people should recognise that they deserve protection from suffering pain or distress, regardless of the species or where they came from. Whether an animal is native or introduced, any measures taken to manage their impact or numbers must recognize that these animals are sentient and have the capacity to experience pain, suffering, or distress, regardless of whether they are viewed or classed as a ‘pest.’

What has SPCA done to ban the use of 1080?

SPCA are deeply concerned over the use of 1080 and other poisons and are working hard to achieve positive change. As a charity, SPCA has limited resources, but the use of 1080 and other poisons is a priority for us as an organisation. SPCA are working wherever we can to change the law, publicly speaking out against the use of 1080 wherever possible.

Why can’t SPCA Inspectors stop 1080?

SPCA’s Inspectorate are bound by New Zealand’s current laws specified in the Animal Welfare Act 1999, which unfortunately allow for the use of 1080 under a permit system and within permitted drop-zones. Therefore, if a poison is used to kill an animal and meets requirements, there is currently no legal course of action SPCA Inspectors can take. This is because no offences have technically been committed, even though the poison has likely caused the suffering, pain and distress to the animal.

What can I do to ban the use of 1080?

There are many things you as a member of the public can do to help end the use of 1080, including:

1.You can sign or create a petition to the government:Once a petition is closed a member of parliament must be asked to present the petition to parliament. This may be your local MP but does not have to be. Once presented in the House of Representatives, the petition will be considered by a select committee. At this point it may become open for submissions, allowing individuals to give their feedback in more detail.

2.You can sign up to MPI and NZ Government to receive alerts when select committees are accepting submissions: The more people who voice their opposition to 1080 use via submissions when opportunities arise, the more likely that the government will be to reassess the approach. You can sign up to receive alerts by following the link: https://www.mpi.govt.nz/news-and-resources/subscribe-to-mpi/

3.You can make your voice heard by meeting with or writing letters to members of parliament: It is particularly powerful to meet with government representatives in person, or at least to talk to them on the phone.

Hopefully, if enough people and organisations make their voice heard in opposition to the use of inhumane ‘pest’ control methods such as the use of poisons, the law will be changed and will no longer allow the legally sanctioned inhumane treatment of ‘pests’.

(Edited)

Forest and Bird responded:  SPCA 1080 position will lead to cruel deaths and extinctions

Forest & Bird says the SPCA’s statement calling for 1080 to be banned shows a naïve failure to understand how nature works in the wild, and they will be seeking a meeting with the organisation to discuss its position.

Forest & Bird CE Kevin Hague says “The SPCA’s statement on the use of 1080 is seriously misinformed, and contains errors of both fact and logic. Their position reflects their history of caring for domesticated animals such as cats and dogs, without understanding the needs of New Zealand’s native animals and ecosystems.

“While the idea of stoats and rats peacefully coexisting with native birds sounds great, the reality is that an estimated 25 million native birds, eggs, and chicks are cruelly eaten alive by introduced predators every year in New Zealand.

“This is the terrible death that countless native animals across New Zealand suffer every night.

“The SPCA’s position on 1080 is a blow to their credibility. It’s sad to see them promoting flawed logic whose outcome is the extinction through being eaten alive of treasured animals like our kiwi, kereru, and kokako.

“Without scientific, ethical, and precision pest control, of which 1080 is a key tool, there is no way to protect our native animals from the overwhelming numbers of introduced predators. Giving up 1080 would lead to an ecocide of huge proportions in New Zealand, and the SPCA need to understand this is the outcome of their pest control position.”

RNZ: SPCA criticised over article supporting 1080 ban

SPCA chief scientific officer Anya Dale…

… has clarified the organisation’s position.

“The SPCA’s position is that all poison’s cause prolonged and intense suffering to animals, both native and non-native, and as such it is very difficult to justify so it’s important to note that the SPCA is not opposed to the management of animal species, provided that it’s justified and humane and we absolutely support the innovation into alternatives to the use of poisons to manage species in New Zealand.”

When questioned over whether this meant the organisation wanted 1080 to be banned, Dr Dale reiterated the above statement.

She said that there needed to be more investment in alternatives.

Forest and Bird chief executive Kevin Hague…

…said that trapping was not a viable alternative.

“Anyone who is involved in trapping understands that trapping alone simply cannot cover the extent of the country that we need to be able to cover to control these pests. What it shows is they have a level of naivety around what’s required to protect our native animals and birds.”

OSPRI, the partnership organisation between primary industries and the government that is tasked with eradicating TB…

…agreed that alternatives to 1080 did not exist.

OSPRI’s research and development manager Richard Curtis said it budgets $2 million a year for research, of which half a million is for projects looking at alternatives or reductions to 1080.

He said there were two main pest-control research projects that the organisation had been working on but both of them would still poison the animal.

Mr Curtis said that biological alternatives were researched in the ’90s but found to have a low-likelihood of effectiveness.

“Biological alternatives are actually very complex and frequently don’t work… so at the moment we’re not investing in that space.”

TVNZ:  SPCA, Forest and Bird butt heads over call for 1080 ban – ‘a blow to their credibility’
Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage…

…has supported the use of 1080, saying last month that it is a “critical tool” in the fight against species which damage the environment and attack native species.

In 2017-18, $4.8 million was provided for 1080 alternative research, and that investment increased to over $7 million in 2018-19.

“The best alternative at the moment is trapping, which is already used extensively across New Zealand,” Ms Sage said in Parliament in December.

“The Government is supporting a range of research into different compounds, including things like PAPP, which is very effective for stoats; things like sodium nitrate; microencapsulated zinc phosphate paste; and also into traps like self-resetting traps,” Ms Sage said.

When asked if she supported or saw a future for alternatives to 1080, Ms Sage said “absolutely”.

“Aerial 1080 continues to be a critical tool if we are to prevent the regional extinction of kākā, kiwi, and species like that, but alternative research is well under way.”

The welfare of pests like stoats, rats and possums versus the survival of native species?

Green Minister criticised for ‘rubber stamping’ foreign purchases of land

Green MP and Minister of Land Information Eugenie Sage is under fire again, this time for approving 21 applications to sell land to ‘foreigners’.

I think this illustrates the contrast between the ideals when in opposition and the reality of Government responsibilities – “I’m bound by the law, and as a minister, I implement the law.”

RNZ:  Green MP Eugenie Sage accused of ‘rubber-stamping’ land sales to foreigners

Eugenie Sage is being accused of continuing National’s practice of “rubber-stamping” the sale of sensitive land to foreigners.

New figures reveal the land information minister and Green MP has approved nearly every application to cross her desk over nine months, rejecting just 30 hectares out of almost 60,000 hectares.

Between 1 November and 26 July, Ms Sage approved 21 applications covering about 55,957 hectares. She turned down two requests relating to 30 hectares.

But Ms Sage said most of approved land – roughly 40,000 hectares – related to the sale of Mount White Station, a sheep and beef farm in Canterbury.

In that case, the Czech buyer already had permanent residency and his wife and children were New Zealand citizens.

“There was very limited opportunity for discretion because … it had only been triggered as an application under the Overseas Investment Act because he was out of the country for a period.

“I’m bound by the law, and as a minister, I implement the law.”

Many of the other applications related to forestry which was a government priority area, she said.

“We need more investment in forestry to meet the billion trees’ commitment to ensure that we are sequestering enough carbon to meet our climate change objectives.”

There appears to be a clash of policy priorities here – something common in Government, especially when several parties want different things done.

But I think that Labour and NZ First had both campaigned against foreign purchases of land, so all three parties seem to have taken different positions on this once in power.

Former Green MP Sue Bradford is warning the news will stir up more disquiet among the party’s supporters after an earlier backlash over Ms Sage’s decision to allow a Chinese water bottling giant to expand.

“Her role is meaningless. The party’s role is meaningless,” Ms Bradford told RNZ.

She was shocked Ms Sage approved the sale of so much land to overseas people.

“It’s virtually just rubber-stamping.

“You’d think that either [the Greens would] move their person out of the role or they’d negotiate a damn sight harder with their coalition partners about changing policy on it.”

Bradford has never experienced being in Government.

Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa spokesperson Murray Horton said the approval rate made a “mockery” of the government’s promises to curb foreign investment.

“The Greens need to be a bit bolder, frankly. They’re in government for the first time ever.

“They have a mandate from their members and the people who vote for them to actually establish a point of difference.”

A mandate from 6% of voters is hardly a mandate to make bold changes.

It could also be argued that there is no mandate for Labour+NZ First+Greens to slash foreign purchases because that was never put to the voters as a joint policy.

However some changes have been made, and it is subject to one of the many reviews initiated by the current Government:

The government extended the Overseas Investment Office’s oversight in November and banned house sales to most foreigners in August.

Ministers also directed officials to review the Overseas Investment Act with changes expected by 2020.

Perhaps they can jointly seek a mandate in the next election for stopping foreign purchases.


More pressure on Sage: Minister challenged over Mackenzie greening (Newshub)

Crown decisions are allowing greater agricultural intensification in the Mackenzie Basin, new research has found.

The academic research, published last week in the Journal of NZ Grasslands, and funded by the business ministry, reveals two-thirds of intensive development in the Mackenzie since 2003 has been on Crown-owned land or land freeholded through tenure review. (Tenure review is a voluntary process which allows farmers to buy a portion of a Crown-owned pastoral lease, with the balance added to the conservation estate.) That reversed the trend before 2003, when almost two-thirds of intensification was on land that was already privately owned.

A big factor in the increase in farm developments was discretionary consents issued by the Commissioner of Crown Lands on pastoral leases.

Given Eugenie Sage is minister of both Land Information and Conservation, the article says it’s clear who has the power to make enduring and effective changes, to protect vulnerable land. “It is the Crown itself that can change its patterns of decisions to alter the trends in intensification. The choice and the power reside with the Minister of Land Information.”

Being a Minister can be a tough job.

Predator free project in the Mackenzie Country

When the National Government proposed a goal in 2016 of a predator free country by 2050 – see Predator free by 2050 – it raised both doubt (that it could be achieved), and praise.

Since then a number of projects have been announced as steps towards this, including some around Dunedin (one affects me directly, which I support). See also Predator free far north,and Twelve more Kiwibank Predator Free Communities announced…

Yesterday Green MP and Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage announced the biggest predator free area so far: Inspirational predator free Mackenzie project announced

A large predator free area featuring some of the South Island’s most majestic landscapes is the long-term vision of a multi-million-dollar predator control project announced by the Minister of Conservation, Eugenie Sage today.

“Encompassing 310,000 hectares between the snowy mountain lands of Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, glacier fed lakes and the iconic drylands of the upper Mackenzie Basin, the Te Manahuna Aoraki ‘mainland island’ is inspirational,” Eugenie Sage said.

“I am pleased to launch this fantastic project. Te Manahuna Aoraki will help to preserve and protect the habitats of 23 threatened species including wrybill/ngutuparore, robust grasshoppers, kea, and the world’s rarest wading bird, the kakī/black stilt.

The Department of Conservation (DOC), NEXT Foundation, Te Rūnanga o Arowhenua, Te Rūnanga o Waihao and Te Rūnanga o Moeraki are the project’s founding partners. They are joined by high country landholders, and investors Aotearoa Foundation, Jasmine Social Investments, Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC) and Predator Free 2050 Ltd.

“A $4.5 million investment will fund an initial three-year phase to extend protection for threatened species and to test predator and pest control techniques for the rest of the 20-year project.

“The project will use natural barriers including 3,000 metre high mountain peaks, ridgelines and waterways to prevent or reduce re-invasion of predators like rats, possums and stoats – keeping them away from our precious threatened species.

“Building on existing partnerships with Ngaī Tahu, landholders, and local councils this nationally significant biodiversity project builds on decades of DOC’s biodiversity work and the help of many volunteers.

“Supporting this work is the opening of the new captive breeding facilities for kakī/black stilt at Twizel. Funded by Global Wildlife Conservation, the new hatchery and aviary will play an important role in boosting the population of this cherished but threatened bird.

“For the kakī population to thrive, it needs its braided river habitat to be healthy and riverbeds to be clear of introduced weeds and protected from introduced predators. Te Manahuna Aoraki will go a long way to ensuring threatened species calling the Mackenzie Basin home are protected.

“DOC biodiversity ranger, Scott Theobald played an important role in the Te Manahuna Aoraki restoration project before he was tragically killed in a recent helicopter crash in Wanaka along with his colleague Paul Hondelink and their pilot Nick Wallis.

“All three men were committed to conservation and pioneers in their fields.  Scott’s knowledge and advice regarding control of black-backed gulls and rabbits, and his expertise in the construction of the robust grasshopper protection fence will be remembered always as Te Manahuna Aoraki is brought to life,” Eugenie Sage said.

It’s great to see this. Time will tell whether these are unattainable ideals or not, but significantly reducing predators (and keeping numbers down) will make a big difference to the country.

In the area I live they have had a big campaign over the last couple if years to reduce possum numbers after a bovine TB outbreak on several farms. This has made a big difference to plants and gardens and the area of native bush on my property and in the adjoining hills.  It hasn’t eliminated the problem (a possum or possums have been making a mess of rose plants recently) but both plant life and bird life have improved noticeably.

The Mackenzie project and other predator free zones are a beginning. Hopefully they will be largely successful, they will grow, and different areas will eventually merge.

 

Consultation leads to tahr cull concessions

After belated consultation with hunting groups it appears that concessions have been granted by the Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage on tahr cull plans.

RNZ (21 September): Tahr population out of control

There’s concern not enough is being done to control Tahr in New Zealand.

Numbers of the Himalayan tahr have shot up, the population is now five times what it should be, which could threaten our native alpine ecosystems.

A plan has been proposed to reduce the population, but hunting organisations are opposed to it.

To explain the situation, we’re joined by Forest & Bird’s Regional Manager for Canterbury, Nicky Snoyink.

Your NZ (27 September): Conservation minister versus hunters, National on tahr control

National have been having a spat with Green MP and Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage, in support of hunting interests opposed to the cull.

…this is an unresolved issue put on hold for now.

RNZ (28 September): Bid to take government to court over Tahr cull plans

A fighting fund of $145,325 has been raised through Givealittle to pay for lawyers, if talks between the government and the hunting sector, set for Monday, do not go well.

The cull is opposed by the National Party as well as by hunters, and there is even confusion about when it will start.

But the Minister for Conservation has given parliament details about how it will happen, with the animals herded into groups with helicopters, and then killed with shotguns.

Eugenie Sage was answering a question from the National Party MP Todd McClay about slaughter by helicopter-borne hunters.

“I have not instructed the Department [of Conservation] to do that,” she told MPs.

“But the department will be using aerial control, it needs to do the control operation now, and yes it will be using shotguns in the same way that hunters use guns to kill Tahr themselves. ”

Ms Sage said the operation had to be done quickly before a new breeding season started.

RNZ (2 October): Hunting lobby wins concessions over tahr cull

A meeting was held yesterday between Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage and hunting groups including the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association and the Game Animal Council as well as conservation groups such as Forest and Bird, and iwi Ngāi Tahu with the hunting industry emerging confident at the outcome.

The hunting fraternity say Ms Sage has pulled back from positions which the industry had found unacceptable and forced her to re-think plans to cull 10,000 Himalayan Tahr from the Southern Alps.

Former president of the Deerstalkers Association Bill O’Leary told RNZ that a draft operational plan was agreed on at the meeting which would reduce the number of tahr to be killed – but he did not give a number.

He said it was agreed that the original plan put out by the Department of Conservation was not fit for purpose and needed modification, including the number of animals that would be culled.

“The agreement as such was not so much that they had to be reduced, which we all agree on, as by how many and where and who would do the job,” Mr O’Leary said.

He also said there would be changes to the locations of the cull and a reduction in the numbers of males to be killed, which would preserve horned tahr for trophy hunters.

Mr O’Leary said the meeting was productive and attended by virtually everyone with an interest in tahr, with a set of general principles being agreed to.

Initially Ms Sage had proposed culling 10,000 tahr over the next eight months, but she said last night that DOC had taken on an adaptive management approach, and would cull 6000 over the next six weeks.

Ms Sage said this would be reviewed after the summer, but that DOC still had a commitment to cull 10,000 tahr by the end of July.

She also said DOC would not be targeting bull tahr outside of national parks.

Ms Sage said there are an estimated 35,000 tahr on public conservation land and the original Himalayan Tahr Control Plan forged back in 1993 was to limit the numbers to 10,000.

It may be that Sage is learning that consultation as a Green MP/environmental activist is quite different to the wider considerations and consultation required of a Minister. It is good to see that she has been prepared to listenand act on concerns.

Conservation minister versus hunters, National on tahr control

National have been having a spat with Green MP and Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage, in support of hunting interests opposed to the cull: Hunting group threatens legal action over DoC’s mass cull of Himalayan tahr

A recreational hunting group is threatening court action in an attempt to prevent the Department of Conservation’s (DoC’s) mass cull of the Himalayan tahr.

The New Zealand Tahr Foundation is unhappy with DoC’s decision to cull 10,000 tahr on public conservation land in the South Island, including the Westland-Tai Poutini and Aoraki Mt Cook National Parks, over the next 10 months.

DoC estimates there are at least 35,600 tahr on public conservation land – 25,600 more than allowed under the Himalayan Thar Control Plan 1993.

The Tahr Liaison Group, made up of organisations with hunting interests and Ngāi Tahu, will help reduce the numbers by hunting an extra 7500 – overall halving the population if successful.

New Zealand Tahr Foundation Treasurer Kaylyn Pinney says the group just wants its consideration to be heard by DoC.

“It think this is pretty clear this is important for everybody,” she says.

“You can’t just walk in and take away the biggest resource to the hunting industry and expect us not to stand up for ourselves.”

Yesterday from National MP Sarah Dowie:  20k signatures calling on Sage to cut the tahr cull

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage needs to listen to the almost 20,000 Kiwis who have signed my petition in less than 15 hours and halt her cull of tens of thousands of tahr, due to start this weekend, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.

“Ms Sage’s decision to kill these tahr based on anecdotal evidence and without a proper consultation process with recreational hunters and the hunting industry is appalling.

“This is not based on science and is an unacceptable slap in the face for the hundreds of thousands of recreational hunters who make a difference on the ground for conservation.

“Not only that, Ms Sage has also specifically instructed Department of Conservation to cull bull tahr – worth an estimated $14,000 each to the booming hunting tourism industry.

“National believes that conservation should be based on science, not ideology. Like the hunting community, National believes tahr numbers do need to be sensibly managed.

“Instead of taking a pragmatic approach, Ms Sage is ignoring advice from hunting representatives like the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association who have proposed a managed hunter-led population reduction over three years.

“The Minister is arming DOC rangers with guns and chartering helicopters as we speak.

“The cull starts Sunday. It must be stopped.”

The petition calling on Eugenie Sage to Stop the Tahr Cull can be found here.

There was some controversy over the petition that I don’t have details on.

Sage responded:  National prioritise invasive species above alpine ecosystems and landscapes

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage says the National Party’s petition to stop control of Himalayan tahr shows that National doesn’t understand conservation, and is resorting in opposition to a bizarre form of shouting for the sake of political point scoring.

“Truly, a petition by National to “save tahr” is absurd,” Eugenie Sage says.

“Whilst in government, National were missing in action protecting our special alpine landscapes and ecosystems from heavy browsing and trampling by a ballooning population of Himalayan tahr.

“Despite the international importance of New Zealand’s alpine plants, many of which are only found here in Aotearoa, the Department of Conservation was starved of funding and tahr numbers were allowed to explode.

“Once again, this government is having to clean up after nine years of neglect. I am taking the necessary steps to fix the damage done, and making decisions that protect our biodiversity and beautiful indigenous plants. I am proud to stand up for our native taonga in the Ka Tiritiri o Moana/Southern Alps.

“The previous government did not ensure that the limits in the Himalayan Tahr Control Plan from 1993 were kept, and numbers of tahr have ballooned three times higher than allowed.

“We’ve resurrected the Tahr Liasion Group that provides hunters, conservation and other stakeholders with input because we recognise that communities love our alpine landscapes.

“I will continue to engage with the Tahr Liason Group and with hunting groups such the Game Animal Council and NZ Deerstalkers on this important issue.

“I’m not sure if National are aware of the science on this, but tahr are an invasive species that eat their way through our precious native plants. They are destroying the unique New Zealand biodiversity in the Southern Alps, a stunning part of New Zealand that New Zealanders want to protect.

“Would National seriously rather protect invasive tahr than protect our world-renowned natural landscapes? That is what at risk here.

“I suggest National do some homework before continuing to peddle this petition,” Eugenie Sage said.

Deerstalkers Association is against this (ODT) ‘Search and destroy’ tahr cull criticised

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage’s proposals to cull 17,500 Himalayan mountain tahr has been described as an unnecessary ”large-scale search and destroy” operation – destined to end up in court.

Almost $120,000 has been pledged to the Tahr Foundation toward legal costs by hunters during the past five days, since Ms Sage announced the cull.

In a letter to members of the New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association, national president Trevor Chappell said yesterday Ms Sage’s proposal to cull so deeply into a herd was ”unprecedented”.

”If it means that a court injunction needs to be sought – so be it,” Mr Chappell said.

He believed Ms Sage’s stance could escalate further into a ”wholesale slaughter” of introduced Fiordland wapati and red deer and the sika deer of the Kaimanawas and Kawekas.

”Minister Sage has already indicated there will be no recognition of Herds of Special Interest on her watch. As these herds have relatively defined areas, they may be next on the list.”

Mr Chappell said ”We will oppose unnecessary 1080 poison drops on our game animals and we will vigorously oppose the unconsulted decimation of the tahr herd.”

NZDA agreed tahr numbers were too high, but proposed a reduction over three years.

Late Wednesday (National Party): Minister Sage forced to postpone her tahr hunt

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has been forced to postpone the mass tahr cull she ordered to start this weekend because of huge pressure from recreational hunting and tourism industry, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.

“Ms Sage personally ordered the culling of tens of thousands of tahr without adequately consulting with the hunting industry and recreational hunters who would be directly affected.

“While I welcome the fact that Ms Sage has delayed her cull this weekend, I am disappointed it has come to this.

“While National supports managing tahr numbers the Minister has no excuses for not adequately consulting with the hunting industry and recreational hunters.

“The hunting sector is advocating a responsible plan to manage tahr numbers rather than the slaughter of tens of thousands of animals. If Ms Sage had properly consulted, she would have a better understanding of this.

“Ms Sage must halt the cull until she has listened to advice from hunting representatives like the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association who have proposed a managed hunter-led population reduction over three years.

“Almost 23,000 concerned New Zealanders have signed my petition calling on her to stop the cull. She must listen to them.”

So this is an unresolved issue put on hold for now.

Sage again seems to have discovered that Green ideals can be tricky to implement in the real world of politics.

 

Greens trying to attract attention on social, environmental issues

The business end of the Green Party – their ministers – have had a low profile and have been overshadowed by Labour and NZ First. This hasn’t been helped by Julie Anne Genter being on maternity leave, but James Shaw and Eugenie Sage aren’t attention seeker types of MPs anyway. They have largely pout their heads down and got on with their new jobs.

But they are trying to change this, albeit in a very low key way.

Stuff:  Greens look to social issues and rivers in second year of Government

The Green Party is keen to advance social policies in their second year of Government, like a promise to give free mental health services to anyone under 25.

The party put out a release looking ahead to their second year of Government on Saturday morning, despite the anniversary not falling for another month and a half.

Remarkably I went looking for this and can’t find anything other than the Stuff report – I can’t find it on the Green Party website, nor on their Facebook page, nor on the Green or Shaw’s Twitter feeds. What are their PR people playing at?

In it, co-leader James Shaw talks up the party’s priorities for the second year of the Government.

“Our key objectives for our second year in a Government with Labour and New Zealand First will include transforming our social safety net so no child is left in poverty,” Shaw said.

“We’re going to work really hard to address the mental health crisis in New Zealand, working towards accessible mental health services irrespective of where you live or what you earn, with free mental health services for anyone under 25.”

That mental health policy was campaigned on by the Greens and is included in the Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Labour Party – so has a good chance of actually happening.

If NZ First don’t hobble it. Shaw doesn’t sound overly confident here.

But other changes to protect New Zealand’s waterways and introduce a rental warrant of fitness have not been agreed to by the other governing parties.

“No one said this was going to be easy. This Government holds a diversity of views, just like our community does, and everything we work on must be worked through together, as adults,” Shaw said.

It won’t be easy. Not only do Greens need to get Labour into giving their policies some sort of priority, they also have to convince NZ First to back them as well, or National.

“That is the beauty of a diverse Government and a world-leading MMP voting system, the alternative is US-style politics with mega parties that hold all the power, representing the few.”

Lipstick on a pig of a governing arrangement?

The tussles between Labour and Winston Peters are looking ugly enough, and Peters is likely to be even less willing to concede policies and power to Shaw.

As much as Shaw may like to promote a Green wave of progress, he doesn’t seem to be a strong leader and he has a weak political hand to play with.

He isn’t a politician that naturally attracts attention through controversy, and especially after Metiria Turei’s disaster last year he is unlikely to want to risk a stunt approach.

So what else can Shaw do but plug away nicely and quietly? Probably not a lot.

It doesn’t help when the party puts out a release on a Saturday morning, a very slow political news time, and does not make it available on any of the major social media platforms nor their website as far as I can see – and I went looking.

Green differences over 1080

Groups and individuals have staunchly opposed the use of 1080 to control pests like possums and rats, but the Department of Conservation and conservation groups see it as an essential tool in protecting native species.

Some take extreme measures. RNZ: Loose nuts threaten DOC staff safety

There are fears for the safety of conservation workers and contractors after recent attacks on their vehicles.

In three instances wheel nuts on the vehicles were loosened in acts believed to be connected to protests over the Conservation Department’s use of 1080 poison for pest management.

In the most serious case a contractor avoided injury when a wheel came off while he was driving, after its nuts had been loosened.

DOC director-general Lou Sanson said toxic bait had been put in a staff letterbox and he had also seen other threatening posts on Facebook recently.

“Threats to put wires across gullies to bring down helicopters and a number of brochures put on DoC vehicles depicting targets of helicopters.”

He said it was extremely disappointing as DoC staff were working hard to try and preserve New Zealand’s native birds.

“Rats, stoats and possums have been winning. We know we can turn it around and we have.”

“Keas have made a great recovery in nearly 20 percent of the Southern Alps and there has also been an amazing recovery in kākā and mohua in South Westland.”

Mr Sanson said people had a right to protest but it had gone too far.

There seems to be a difference within the Green Party on this.

Newshub: National MP accuses Marama Davidson of undermining Conservation Minister

National MP Sarah Dowie says Marama Davidson has undermined fellow Green Party MP and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage with comments over 1080.

Ms Davidson said on Wednesday protesters who threw dead birds and fake pellets on the steps of parliament had “valid concerns”.

“We need to listen, and we need to have community-led conversations about this,” she told Stuff.

“They are trying to be heard, and we will need to keep listening.”

“There are some concerns about 1080 but it is the major tool we’ve got in the tool box to assist particularly in the more remote and mountainous areas,” Ms Sage told Stuff in June.

Ms Dowie said it was not a good look for the Greens to have two MPs apparently disagreeing about the poison.

“Ms Sage will be highly embarrassed by Marama Davidson’s comments to the anti-1080 lobby,” she said.

“She’s basically undermined Ms Sage’s efforts with respect to the protection of our biodiversity.”

Ms Dowie said the division may go even further, considering another governing party’s stance on the poison.

“New Zealand First actually campaigned on banning the use of 1080,” she said.

Both National and Labour say 1080 is the most effective pest control tool New Zealand has. They have the support of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, the Department of Conservation, the Environmental Protection Authority, and lobby groups including Forest and Bird, Federated Farmers, WWF and Ospri.

A tweet from ex-Green MP Kevin Hague yesterday:

 

There seems to be a clash between the environmental Greens and the activist Greens.