1080 operation blunder nearly poisons water

Photo: Danielle Butler

Luggate residents are celebrating a ‘small victory’ in the temporary halting of a 1080 operation, which nearly saw the controversial pesticide dropped into the water supply of two homes.

Village residents received letters on Thursday August 3 and Friday August 4 informing them that the Alice Burn aerial possum control operation, carried out by contractor EcoFX on behalf of Operational Solutions for Primary Industries (OSPRI)’s TBFree programme, was due to begin.

The letter, dated July 2017, stated that the operation began with a non-toxic pre-feed towards the end of July, with toxic application following approximately seven days later.

Letter to residents - Supplied

When Luggate resident Tracey Morrow asked questions, she was informed that the toxic application was planned and booked in for Monday August 7.

“I still don’t really have any clear answers. We were given no notice at all and there have been failings here. We have a right to information, I’ve seen what the correct processes are and they have not been followed. I don’t think they had a great understanding of where we were here in Luggate,” Tracey said.

OSPRI’s programme manager for the southern South Island, Brent Rohloff, told the Wanaka Sun that the Alice Burn project had been put on hold following community consultation.

“This has revealed that a water reservoir within the operational area, that was previously believed to be solely used for irrigation, is also used to supply a small number of households,” Brent said.

“This requires safety procedures and consents for the operation to be fully reviewed, which in turn has caused a flow-on effect on timing.”

Luggate Creek, pictured, Alice Burn Creek and Dead Horse Creek, where two Luggate properties are permitted to take their drinking water from, were all included in the boundaries for the aerial drop over Alice Burn and Lake McKay Station.

“The permits for these properties have been in place for many years and it should have been considered that a community that has been rurally based for many years would most likely have different water supplies other than the town supply,” Tracey said.

“It is really disturbing that it was going to be dropped almost onto people’s back boundaries; the water locations that run through the town and into the Clutha River. Luggate Creek is a trout spawning waterway to my knowledge and is used by many locals for dog exercising, leisure activities and children play regularly there.”

The red line marks the boundary of the 1080 poison drop. The closest point to Luggate township is only 600 metres away. - Supplied

EcoFX informed residents that the closest aerial treatment area to the Luggate township was approximately 600 metres from its outskirts.

“It’s quite possible that some parts of the village could well be subjected to stray pellet drop and I am also gravely concerned about air-borne contamination. It’s literally going to be dropped from a helicopter and we have at least one pregnant mother here, babies, elderly people, people who are very ill and people with respiratory issues,” Tracey said.

Resident Cec Anderson said she also found the situation hugely concerning.

“I am very disappointed that we didn’t get our letters before they started. We didn’t get any opportunity to have our input and they didn’t even realise about the water, which is quite possibly a health issue even though they say it is not,” Cec said.

“I can see the other side of it. I know that the farmers have a possum problem that they have to deal with but one of the biggest disappointments was the lack of consultation. We need reliable information.”

Brent said that consultation with the Luggate community would be conducted “well before” the operation was due to be completed.

Tracey said, “the least they can do is come and front the community and have a face to face community meeting. Speaking on behalf of the people most affected at this point in time, we’re coming at this from a health and safety issue. I am extremely concerned about the health and safety of my community, which I love dearly.”

“Don’t come and drop it literally on our back doorsteps and expect us to be ok about that.”

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