Nerve agent inspectors back UK over poisoning

Inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have agreed with the UK findings that a nerve gas used in a poisoning in Salisbury, England over the identity of the nerve gas that was used.

RNZ: Russian spy poisoning: Nerve agent inspectors back UK

The international chemical weapons watchdog has confirmed the UK’s analysis of the type of nerve agent used in the Russian ex-spy poisoning.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons did not name the nerve agent as Novichok, but said it agreed with the UK’s findings on its identity.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: “There can be no doubt what was used. There remains no alternative explanation about who was responsible – only Russia has the means, motive and record.”

Mr Johnson said the UK had invited the OPCW to test the samples “to ensure strict adherence to international chemical weapons protocols”.

A team from the OPCW visited the UK on 19 March, 15 days after the Skripals were found slumped on a park bench in Salisbury and taken to hospital, along with a police officer who was among the first on the scene.

The OPCW said it received information about the medical conditions of the Skripals and Det Sgt Nick Bailey, it collected their blood samples, and it gathered samples from the site in Salisbury.

The OPCW does identify the toxic chemical by its complex formula but only in the classified report that has not been made public.

In its summary, which has been published online, the report notes the toxic chemical was of “high purity”.

The BBC’s diplomatic correspondent James Landale said: “This is understood to strengthen the argument that this substance came from Russia because it is more likely to have been created by a state actor with the capability to make the nerve agent.”

This will add weight to the pressure on Russia over the poisoning. They deny any involvement.

Russian retaliation over poisoning expulsions, NZ excluded

Twenty nine countries expelled Russian diplomats over the nerve gas poisoning in Salisbury, England – with the notable exception of New Zealand. Russia threatened retaliation against those countries who joined the UK measures, and they have followed through.

BBC: Spy poisoning: Russia escalates spy row with new expulsions

Russia has announced further measures against UK diplomats while at the same time declaring tit-for-tat expulsions of officials from 23 other countries.

It has told the British ambassador to cut staffing to the size of the Russian mission in the UK.

Moscow has rejected UK accusations that it is behind the nerve agent attack on an ex-spy and his daughter in the UK.

However, some 150 Russians have since been expelled by mainly Western countries.

Russia initially hit back at the UK, but then announced 60 US expulsions. On Friday it called in a string of foreign ambassadors with news that their own countries’ measures were being matched.

British diplomats left Moscow a week ago, but ambassador Laurie Bristow was summoned back to the foreign ministry for additional punishment.

It’s not immediately obvious what it means in practice, but it’s clear that Russia sees Britain as the ringleader of an international conspiracy which resulted in the biggest mass expulsion of Russian diplomats in history.

A number of countries backed the UK with their own expulsions, and Russia is also retaliating against them.

Twenty-nine countries have expelled 145 Russian officials in solidarity with the UK – and Nato has also ordered 10 Russians out of its mission in Belgium.

The US expelled the largest single number – 60 diplomats – and closed the Russian consulate general in Seattle.

Russia reciprocated on Thursday declaring 58 US diplomats in Moscow and two in the city of Yekaterinburg to be “personae non gratae”. It also announced the closure of the US consulate in St Petersburg.

On Friday, ambassadors from Albania, Australia, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden and Ukraine were told to send home staff from their missions – corresponding to the same number of Russians their countries had expelled.

A statement by the Russian foreign ministry also said that Russia “reserves the right to take retaliatory measures” against Belgium, Hungary, Georgia and Montenegro – countries that had joined the co-ordinated action against Russia “at the last moment”.

But New Zealand has remained on the sidelines. The Press writes on The Government’s Russian dilemma

At last count, 26 countries have expelled Russian diplomats and intelligence agents in a remarkable response to the nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal​ and his daughter Yulia.

The BBC report said that 29 countries had acted against Russia.

The leaders of the UK, the USA, Germany and France made a rare joint statement that stressed there is no plausible alternative to Russia being responsible for the attack on British soil. They described a wider pattern of “irresponsible behaviour”. Russia’s denials have not been taken seriously.

But so far, New Zealand has not joined the other 26 countries in solidarity, although all four of our Five Eyes partners – the UK, the US, Canada and Australia – have led or followed in the mass expulsion of agents and diplomats.

The Government has been criticised at home over it’s vague and slow responses, and ridiculed abroad for claiming there were no spies here that could be expelled.

There is another way to view the reluctance of the Ardern Government to jump on the anti-Russia bandwagon and that is to see it in a proud tradition of New Zealand independence that would be recognisable to previous Labour prime ministers such as Norman Kirk, David Lange and Helen Clark. There is a streak in the New Zealand psyche that resists being anyone’s puppet.

But it has raised questions about the pro-Russian inclinations of Winston Peters in particular.

It is more likely that the Ardern Government’s motivations are submerged in murkier politics as far as the wider public is concerned.

The public is more likely to share the UK’s worries about the Vladimir Putin regime and to recognise the symbolic value of expulsion.

Some may even see more cynical thinking behind our neutral stance. Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has been keen to reopen negotiations with Russia for the Free Trade Agreement that was scuppered after the Ukrainian crisis in 2014. Even this month, Peters seemed unwilling to condemn Russia after news emerged of the Skripal poisoning. He also doubted Russian involvement in the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 and US election meddling.

Ardern has appeared to have difficulty dealing with balancing the request for solidarity with allied countries and the Russian leaning of Peters.

Newsroom: Ardern finally acts to ban Russian spies

Facing accusations of being soft and becoming isolated on Russia, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has moved to take some concrete action in solidarity with New Zealand’s allies. Ardern announced late on Thursday that New Zealand would impose travel restrictions on individuals expelled by other countries after a recent nerve agent attack in Britain.

The Opposition questioned why New Zealand appeared soft on Russia and was not joining with its allies in a more concrete condemnation of Russia.

Concerns about New Zealand’s stance have grown after Foreign Minister Winston Peters refused earlier this month to accept that Russia had been involved in the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine, despite internationally accredited reports to that affect. Peters has also advocated further trade negotiations with Russia, forcing his Prime Minister to say any talks were suspended indefinitely because of the nerve agent attack.

Peters again muddied the waters on Thursday in Parliament when he was asked whether Russia was responsible for the attack, appearing not to back Britain’s more robust assessment.

The Government faced increased scrutiny as the Prime Minister’s assertion the Government could not find any spies in New Zealand was ridiculed in the international media.

Former KGB agent Boris Karpichkov told Newshub Ardern was either naive or misinformed if she thought there were no spies in New Zealand.

University of Waikato Professor Alexander Gillespie said the Prime Minister had been poorly briefed on her response.

“She’s getting some very bad advice somewhere along the line,” he said. “Someone in Foreign Affairs should have explained to her that this is not about whether we have spies in the county or not. This is a question about solidarity with our allies”.

Gillespie said the Government could find the lowest order person in the embassy and ask them to leave as an act of solidarity.

But Ardern appeared to have put appeasing Peters ahead of international solidarity. Her international mana is likely to have taken a hit over this, and Foreign Minister Peters may find his job abroad a bit harder. If he waffles vaguely on international visits like he does in Parliament and in media interviews New Zealand’s international image is in for a difficult time.

 

Theresa May calls for long term response to Russia

The spat between the United Kingdom and Russia over the alleged nerve gas poisoning continues to escalate with UK Prime Minister Theresa May calling for a long term response, after a growing number of countries (New Zealand excluded) expelling Russian diplomats.

Reuters: Britain’s May calls for ‘long-term response’ to Russia after spy poisoning

British Prime Minister Theresa May called on Tuesday for a “long-term response” by the West to the security threat from Russia as NATO followed member states in expelling Russian diplomats over the poisoning of a double agent in England.

In the most sweeping such action against Moscow since the height of the Cold War, the United States and European Union members plan to expel scores of Russian diplomats in action against the Kremlin for the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter which they have blamed on Russia.

Russia, which denies any part in the March 4 attack on the Skripals, says the West’s action is a “provocative gesture” and has said it will respond.

The coordinated action among Western allies is seen as a huge diplomatic coup for May whose country is preparing to exit the EU bloc and may have had doubts about how much support she could count on.

Speaking to senior cabinet members in London on Tuesday, May said countries had acted against Russia not just out of solidarity but because they recognized the threat it posed.

Other diplomat/spy expulsions:

  • NATO 7 (plus 3 others pending)
  • Australia 2
  • USA 60 (their largest expulsion since 1986)
  • New Zealand 0

Russia has threatened symmetrical expulsions.

Bloomberg: Trump’s Russian Expulsions Leave Moscow Stunned

The MOEX Russia index of stocks closed down more than 2 percent, its steepest slide in almost a year, led by Gazprom PJSC and Sberbank PJSC. The ruble erased gains, trading little-changed at 57.3075 per dollar as of 7:12 p.m. in Moscow. The government’s 10-year ruble bonds dropped, lifting the yield five basis points to 7.06 percent. Russian credit-default swaps climbed to the highest since Jan. 1.

While the nerve gas poisoning has precipitated this it may be just a final straw.

Reuters: Before expulsions, a brick-by-brick hardening of U.S. stance toward Russia

America’s most sweeping expulsion of Russian diplomats since the Cold War may have seemed like a dramatic escalation in Washington’s response to Moscow, but the groundwork for a more confrontational U.S. posture had been taking shape for months — in plain sight.

While President Donald Trump’s conciliatory rhetoric toward Moscow has dominated headlines, officials at the U.S. State Department, Pentagon and White House made a series of lower-profile decisions over the past year to counter Russia around the world – from Afghanistan to North Korea to Syria.

The State Department earlier in March announced plans to provide anti-tank missiles to Ukraine to defend against Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Trump’s predecessor as president, Barack Obama, had declined to do so over fears of provoking Moscow.

In Syria last month, the U.S. military killed or injured as many as 300 men working for a Kremlin-linked private military firm after they attacked U.S. and U.S.-backed forces. The White House, meanwhile, firmly tied Russia to deadly strikes on civilians in Syria’s eastern Ghouta region.

In particular Europe is joining in taking a stand. NY Times: How an Outraged Europe Agreed to a Hard Line on Putin

The European Union is not usually a model of decisiveness, but the expulsion of Russian diplomats across the Continent on Monday was a dramatic and pointed gesture. It came in concert with a similar, larger move by the United States, which expelled 60 Russians, and signaled a new, tougher effort to punish bad behavior by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

“I can’t think of any previous occasion when so many countries have coordinated on expulsions,” said Ian Bond, a former British diplomat in Moscow, adding that for many of the smaller countries, “it’s the first time since the Cold War that they’ve even expelled one Russian diplomat.”

Russia is always a tricky issue for the European Union, given its critical role as an energy supplier to the Continent, as well as the divided opinion among leaders on how confrontational, or not, the bloc should be with Mr. Putin.

But the March 4 poisoning in Salisbury, England, of the former Russian spy, Sergei V. Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, crossed a line. The British authorities say they were exposed to the nerve agent Novichok, representing the first use of a chemical agent on European soil since before the Second World War.

The brazen nature of the act was too much for European officials to ignore.

“This is an intelligence operation carried out with intelligence capacity with weaponized, weapons-grade chemical agents,” one senior European official said. “It has taken matters to an entirely different level.”

Alluding to Russia’s earlier aggressions in Ukraine, the senior official added, “Russia keeps violating international law in Crimea and Ukraine and unwritten rules on nonintervention, and now there is the use of nerve agents in Britain.”

Mr. Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany were prominent supporters of Mrs. May’s call for action, having planned tactics with Britain before the dinner. The French had provided the British with technical assistance on analyzing the poisoning case and come to the same conclusion. And when the Franco-German couple agree, others tend to fall into line, even if grumpily.

The decision was finalized Monday morning, as European Union ambassadors met in Brussels to describe what each country was prepared to do.

tensions are likely to continue and will probably increase as Russia retaliates.

Russian judgment – “Winston Peters and Jeremy Corbyn are sane voices”

There have been claims that Russia has been set up over the allegations of nerve gas poisoning in Salisbury, England, ranging from valid questions to conspiracy theories.

Mike Smith at The Standard says that “Winston Peters and Jeremy Corbyn are sane voices calling for evidence” and suggests that there are “all the signs of another false flag operation” in Russian to Judgment.

The possible poisoning of Sergei Skripal and the consequent  hysteria have all the signs of another false flag operation, as we saw before the second American invasion of Iraq. The chain of circumstantial evidence has more holes in it than a swiss cheese, and while  attempted murder (if that is what it is) is a criminal act Winston Peters and Jeremy Corbyn are sane voices calling for evidence before any attribution still less action.

Smith questions whether anyone was poisoned at all – “possible poisoning”.

What we don’t know is what evidence may (or may not) have been circulated around intelligence agencies and governments.

Its not hard to see why the British government would like to draw attention away from the looming disaster of their bungled Brexit. The French and Americans are also unhappy about the continuation of Assad’s government in Syria. With the sudden firing of Rex Tillerson and the looming exit of McMaster, the neocons are firmly in charge in Washington and we know what that led to in 2003.

The situation now in Washington is very different to 2003, as the US reacted to the 911 attacks.

Helen Clark’s Labour-led government took a principled stance not to support George W. Bush’s  “coalition of the willing,” and no doubt had to withstand considerable pressure to do so. It is concerning to read that the British High Commissioner is briefing New Zealand media about Theresa May’s view of events, and sending out barely disguised threats in an attempt to interfere in our trade policies.

Smith seems to be a fan of Winston’s attempts to negotiate a trade agreement with Russia despite opposing the TPPA.

It is not as though we haven’t seen anti-Russian hysteria before. Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report seems to have gone full ‘Dancing Cossacks,’ following the lead of CNN which has led the charge in Washington since the election of Donald Trump.

Who sounds hysterical?

We live in a very uncertain and dangerous world and New Zealand is not immune. The Doomsday Clock is at two minutes to midnight. Now more than ever we do not nee to seed tensions escalate on such flimsy grounds as the latest beat-up. We need to maintain our independence and our principles, and not be sucked into other people’s wars.

Smith was asked in comments what signs there were of a false flag operation. He responded:

Signs of a false flag operation are those similar to the lead-up to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. I was in Canada in early 2002 watching hyped-up American television in my hotel room. I came back and reported to the Labour caucus that America was going to invade. A year later they did.

One sign is heightened tone in the media allied with treating allegation as fact.

Those signs sound flimsy – “heightened tone in the media” is hardly unusual, nor is “treating allegation as fact”.

A false flag operation is a terrorist act committed by one group for the express purpose of discrediting another group, which is framed for it.

Smith is suggesting that Russia has been framed, but he doesn’t specify who he thinks framed them, but the obvious implication is the UK and perhaps the US.

Smith also said:

Nobody’s giving deference to an oligarchy – just don’t want more war, and as for ramping up nuclear capabilities that’s more true of the US at the moment.

Few people want war, especially between nuclear powers, but as for ramping up nuclear capabilities – Russia’s Putin unveils ‘invincible’ nuclear weapons (BBC): The weapons he boasted of included a cruise missile that he said could “reach anywhere in the world”. He said of the West: “They need to take account of a new reality and understand … [this]… is not a bluff.”

What Smith asserts is at odds with our Government response. Jacinda Ardern on The Nation yesterday:

Okay. Well, let’s move on to an entirely different topic. Britain is out kicking 23 Russian diplomats, aka spies. Now, this is over the nerve-gas attack in Salisbury, and things are really ratcheting up. The US has issued sanctions; this is over interference with elections. So are we going to join any further sanctions in relation to Russia if we are asked?

Yeah, and, obviously, we’re working very closely with the UK and other partners. We’ve joined with them in saying these actions are repugnant. We’ve made strong statements in The Hague over it as well. The use of nerve agents–

But what about actual sanctions?

The use of nerve agents is an illegal international act. So at the moment, it is a matter of keeping in close contact with our partners to see what actions they’re taking. At the moment, they’ve isolated down in the UK and dealing with them at an individual diplomat level, but it is a matter of making sure that we’re in constant contact as those decisions are made.

So at the moment, you’re not ruling out the possibility of expulsions from New Zealand?

We haven’t ruled anything in or out at this stage, because, as we say, we’re working closely with our partners, and this is an ongoing matter, but we’ve been very clear this is an illegal act; it is a repugnant act.

A quite different view of Russia in Ardern stumbles badly on Putin-Peters axis:

…since invading and annexing the Crimea in 2014, Russia has:

  • Interfered with elections in the US, France, Germany, and possibly also in Italy.
  • Continued to carry out a clandestine war in Eastern Ukraine.
  • Provided military support in the form of soldiers, air power, equipment, and training to Assad’s regime in Syria which is again using chemical weapons on civilians.
  • Continued to murder and harass political opponents and journalists in Russia.
  • Continued to repress ethnic and minority groups within Russia.
  • And Putin has even revealed he’s antisemitic too in trying to blame Jews for any meddling in the US election!

Salisbury hasn’t changed anything. Russia is still the same brutal, aggressive, and repressive dictatorship that it was in 2014 when FTA negotiations were suspended over Crimea, the only thing that changed in that time was that Winston Peters had the balance of power following the 2017 election and used that power to wring a concession for a Russian free trade deal in his coalition deal with Labour.

It was a surprise concession considering Peters and NZ First had not campaigned on a Russian free trade deal.

It’s healthy to have some scepticism about what is asserted by the UK (or US or NZ) in situations like the Salisbury poisoning and the escalating diplomatic stoush. But it is also healthy to have some scepticism about Russian denials, and defence of Russia by people lie Smith.

I have seen some claim that Jeremy Corbyn is a sane voice on the current situation, but he seems to agree with evidence pointing to Russia – Jeremy Corbyn: Salisbury attack ‘evidence points towards Russia’

Jeremy Corbyn said the “evidence points towards Russia” being responsible for the Salisbury attack but he did not go as far as his shadow defence secretary.

He said the source of the chemical weapon used “appears to be Russia”.

Earlier, his shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith said the party accepted “Russia was responsible”.

The Labour leader condemned the “appalling” attack but pressed the PM on whether the UK had supplied traces of the nerve agent used in the attack to Russia for analysis before Wednesday’s deadline, as the Kremlin had asked.

And he asked what action the UK was taking with its allies through the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons.

The UK’s response, said the Labour leader, should be underpinned by support for the rule of law and international agreements and respect for human rights.

But in a later Facebook post, Mr Corbyn called for the Russian authorities to “be held to account on the basis of the evidence and our response must be both decisive and proportionate”.

Is that the sane voice that Smith was referring to?

Few have supported Winston Peters or called him a sane voice over the poisoning issue – he has been strongly criticised. But even he joined condemnation of the poisoning – NZ joins condemnation of nerve agent attack

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says the New Zealand Government has grave concerns over the use of a chemical nerve agent in the United Kingdom resulting in critically serious injuries to some of those exposed.

“We share and support the concerns expressed by other nations about such use of chemical weapons. The use of chemical weapons as a tool of war, or for murder or assassination is totally repugnant, and this incident is an affront to global rules and norms. As New Zealand has stated on many occasions, we are deeply disturbed at any use of chemical substances banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention,” he said.

“How this military grade nerve agent was transported from Russia and released abroad is the key issue here, and warrants urgent international investigation,” said Mr Peters.

 

Smith’s ‘sane voices’ seem to disagree with him.

 

UK versus Russia escalates over poisoning

Following the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury, England, the UK Prime Minister accused the Russian government of being responsible and demanded an explanation, giving a deadline for this (now expired).

Yesterday:  ‘Don’t threaten a nuclear power’: Russia’s extraordinary warning to Theresa May

Russia tonight warned Britain not to threaten a nuclear power as it refused to meet a midnight deadline for explaining a nerve agent attack on a double agent.

The extraordinary threat came as Theresa May signed up US President Donald Trump’s support to back the UK “all the way” in the stand off with the Kremlin.

As the incendiary row grew rapidly, Kremlin spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was reported as saying in Moscow one should not threaten a nuclear power.

Before speaking to Trump tonight, May had already secured the backing of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Following the call with President Trump, Downing Street said: “The Prime Minister spoke to President Trump earlier this afternoon to update him on the ongoing investigation into the Salisbury incident.

“The Prime Minister set out the conclusion reached by the UK Government that it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for the attack against Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

In a series of incendiary tweets tonight, Russia’s London embassy said: “Moscow will not respond to London’s ultimatum until it receives samples of the chemical substance to which the UK investigators are referring.

“Britain must comply with the Chemical Weapons Convention which stipulates joint investigation into the incident, for which Moscow is ready.

“Without that, there can be no sense in any statements from London. The incident appears to be yet another crooked attempt by the UK authorities to discredit Russia.

“Any threat to take ‘punitive’ measures against Russia will meet with a response. The British side should be aware of that.”

Russia continues to deny involvement and did not respond as requested, so May has taken action.

BBC – Russian spy: UK to expel 23 Russian diplomats

The UK will expel 23 Russian diplomats after Moscow refused to explain how a Russian-made nerve agent was used on a former spy in Salisbury, the PM says.

Theresa May said the diplomats, who have a week to leave, were identified as “undeclared intelligence officers”.

She also revoked an invitation to Russia’s foreign minister, and said the Royal Family would not attend the Fifa World Cup later this year.

The Russian Embassy said the expulsion of 23 diplomats was “unacceptable, unjustified and short-sighted”.

It is the largest mass expulsion since 31 were ordered out in 1985 after double agent Oleg Gordievsky defected.

Moscow refused to meet Mrs May’s midnight deadline to co-operate in the case, prompting Mrs May to announce a series of measures intended to send a “clear message” to Russia.

They include:

  • Expelling 23 diplomats
  • Increasing checks on private flights, customs and freight
  • Freezing Russian state assets where there is evidence they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents
  • Ministers and the Royal Family boycotting the Fifa World Cup in Russia later this year
  • Suspending all planned high-level bilateral contacts between the UK and Russia
  • Plans to consider new laws to increase defences against “hostile state activity”

Mrs May told MPs that Russia had provided “no explanation” as to how the nerve agent came to be used in the UK, describing Moscow’s response as one of “sarcasm, contempt and defiance”.

The use of a Russian-made nerve agent on UK soil amounted to the “unlawful use of force”, she said.

The PM, who was earlier briefed by senior intelligence chiefs in Downing Street, added there was “no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian state was culpable” for the attack.

She said it was “tragic” that Russian President Vladimir Putin had “chosen to act in this way”.

Russia denies being involved in the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal.

This looks likely to escalate further.

If the Russian government was not involved I would have thought they would have offered to help identify the poison and the culprits.

 

Theresa May: “Highly likely” Russia was responsible for poisoning”

Missy adds:

Theresa May has made a statement in the House of Commons today stating that the attempted murder of the former spy was by a military grade nerve agent developed in Russia, and that it is highly likely the Russian state were behind the attack.

She is ready to conclude that this is amounts to the use of unlawful force against the UK. That essentially says she believes it is an act of war against the UK.

Nelson’s upcoming “Stop the Drop” environmental rally

A guest post by “Spiderman”. 

Note that guest posts are offered by Your NZ to provide different information and opinions.


Recenty weeks have seen an increase in activity of Nelson activists opposed to the planned posioning of the Brook Valley catchment by the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary. The Sanctuary plans to use approx 26 tonnes of bait laced with brodifacoum to eliminate pest species within the 715 hectare fenced off area. The plan involves the aerial delivery of the bait, with all wildlife in the Sanctuary susceptible to posioning. Brodifacoum is an anticoagulant which is used in rat posion in New Zealand, and is worse than 10-80 in terms of the suffering inflicted upon posioned animals.

The terrain of the Brook Valley catchment is rugged with the fence running along slopes of up to 50 degrees. One area of the fence was destroyed by a slip and repairing it involved cutting into the bank, increasing the possibility of further slips. Water runoff has been a problem for the fence with the swales and culverts being left open in order to avoid being blocked by silt in heavy rain.

Allegations of conflict of interest have been fuelled by the lack of transparency of the Nelson City Council, which moved deliberations about the Sanctuary to a session in which public access was restricted. Nelson’s renown environmental lawyer Sue Gray has agreed to consult with the Brook Valley Community Group in order to pursue legal means of stopping the poisioning from taking place. As part of its campaign to stop the posioning the group will be distributing flyers and holding a public march up Trafalagar Street. The group’s website http://stopthedrop.kiwi has links to Facebook pages and resources for people who want to support the cause.