The Nature Heritage Fund (NHF) is “an independent contestable fund established by the Government in 1990 for voluntary protection of nature on private land”, yet only 2,421ha of private land was involved in the Waitutu operation: the rest of the 25,000ha was Fiordland National Park. Is NHF being used as a slush fund to finance DoC projects for which it otherwise would not receive funding?
NHF receives an annual allocation of funds from the Government, is administered by an independent committee and serviced by DoC, with reports being made to the Minister of Conservation. This “independent committee” includes ex-DoC personnel and others affiliated with Forest & Bird Society.
Funding for the Waitutu drop was approved by the previous Conservation minister, Hon. Tim Groser, who stipulated that no less than 25,000ha were to be controlled for possums. This despite the fact that DoC know that stoats are the main problem and multiple research studies carried out in the Waitutu area show that Mistletoe has no significant relation to possum browse anyway.
Possum control had been discontinued in the Waitutu in 2000, but suddenly 10 years later we were told that intensive possum control was required to prevent immediate extinction of vulnerable forest species. DoC never released credible research data to prove this.
Interestingly, the pest control promised as part of the $20 million Waitutu Block Settlement Act 1997 had never been carried out, despite relatively accessible terrain and local communities in need of employment. Was this deliberate or just incompetence?
Despite private land accounting for less than 10% of the 1080 drop zone, the NHF committee provided $500,000 plus $62,500GST for pest control, stipulating that 1080 was to be used for the initial treatment, with further treatments to be undertaken within the next 3~4 years. (DoC Southland Conservancy provided an extra $100,000).
So, with such strings attached (i.e. “you will use 1080”) it is easy to see why ground control consisting of trapping or feratox bait bags was not a possible option even if it was cheaper. How many other aerial 1080 drops have NHF funded in this way?