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Normal Topic Ruahine OIA answered and my response (Read 570 times)
Marty Foote
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Ruahine OIA answered and my response
Feb 14th, 2018 at 6:41am
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First up. There has been a change of guard within DOC.

Amber Bill has replaced Alan Ross, whom many of you will know, from way back, and at least one prominent FishnHunt person had as his boss, conveniently retired shortly after the election which happened after he had also bailed DOC out of the negotiations with contract trappers in the belief, and I have this quote from good authority, [i]that there is no appetite, within DOC, to expose the aerial 1080 industry to open, fair and transparently tendered competition

Be that as it may, Amber Bill is the new person that I am dealing with and, to be perfectly frank with you, she is far more approachable that Alan Ross and his mates ever were.

Only time will tell how Amber pans out. Will she really listen and act upon what she hears? or will she end up following on the same old legacy that the likes of Alan Ross left behind?

Enough rhetoric from me. Please go on to read the real guts about the 2017 Ruahine aerial 1080 opeeration.

Amber Bill
Head Office

Dear Amber,

Below is my analysis of the Ruahine monitoring results as it relates to the 2017 aerial 1080 operation.

When we talked, last week, I explained how I go about analysing the monitoring information and why my conclusions are different from the conclusions DOC is presenting to the NZ Public.

My conclusions of the analysis of the Ruahine 2017 aerial 1080 operation is much the same as other aerial 1080 operational areas I have looked at.

When I first started looking at the raw possum monitoring data, a very clear pattern emerged that showed that OSPRI, in particular, and some DOC conservancies were timing the post-operation monitoring to show an underestimation of the surviving possum population and that little or no monitoring was being done at times that would show a true reflection of the effectiveness of aerial 1080 to control possums.

The same pattern emerged when I analysed the Kahurangi raw rat monitoring data, except rats were being monitored at times that did show a true reflection of aerial 1080 to control rats, however, only the post-operation data collected at times when the rat population would be underestimated was presented to the NZ Pubic and other data, that provided information about a not so good aerial 1080 result, was ignored when DOC was presenting information to the NZ Public.

As far as the Ruahine data goes, it is very clear that a decision to apply aerial 1080 was made, very early on, and only the information that would support, however flimsily, the application of aerial 1080, over the whole 30,000ha, was used and all information that didn't support the use of aerial 1080 was ignored.

I look forward to taking up your offer of having ongoing dialogue with DOC staff and scientists about these monitoring issues and how better to utilise the information collected to provide the best possible wild animal control within the budget constraints that DOC is working under.

Kind regards.....Martin Foote.

Analysis of the raw monitoring data relating to the 2017 Ruahine aerial 1080 operation.

I have received the monitoring data for the Ruahine Forest Park.

I am going to make some comments and relate them to the press releases DOC put out about the 2017 Ruahine aerial 1080 operation.

Possum monitoring.

There was no attempt to do any statistically acceptable possum monitoring.

The only way possums were observed, during monitoring, was if the rat tunnels appeared to be interfered with by possums. This is not an acceptable way to quantify the success, or failure, of possum control. Further to this, the post-operation monitoring was undertaken 3 weeks after the aerial 1080 was applied and the scientific advice, since the 1980's, has been to wait at least 4 months, after an aerial 1080 operation, before any possum monitoring takes place.

Rat monitoring.

The DOC press release states that 160 sites were monitored for rats. The real number of sites monitored was 15 sites as a pre-operation monitor and 16 sites as a post-operation monitor (The operational area is large enough to mean that 40 monitoring sites should have been used to monitor the rat population).

Of the 15 sites monitored pre-operation with rat tunnels:

8 (53%) recorded 0% rat presence.
2 (13.33%) recorded 10% rat presence.
2 (13.33%) recorded 11% rat presence.
3 (20%) recorded 40% rat presence.

This means that 53% of the area had no rats present before the 1080 was applied and 27% of the area had rat numbers at levels low enough to not warrant rat control.

Of the 16 sites monitored post-operation with rat tunnels:

16 (100%) recorded 0% rat presence.

The post-operation monitoring was done in December when rat numbers, recorded in rat tunnels, naturally drop wherever there is a forest canopy (presumably, the rats are in the canopy feeding on fresh vegetation and nectar laden flowers and are not on the ground to be recorded in the rat tunnels).

The December rat tunnel results cannot be used to measure the success of the rat control. Further monitoring will need to be done, after the natural seed-fall, when the rats will follow their natural food source down, from the canopy, to the ground where the monitoring is being conducted.

Seed-fall monitoring.

"Samples collected in the Northern Ruahine Ranges in February 2017 confirmed that a heavy beech mast is occurring at this site. Prolific beech seeding will provide predators with a stable food source over winter, enabling their numbers to peak just as birds begin breeding."

In my OIA request I asked for all the seed-fall monitoring that had taken place in the Ruahine Forest Park. The answer, received from DOC, was that "No seed-fall monitoring had taken place in the Ruahine Forest Park".


DOC applied aerial 1080 to over 30,000ha of the Ruahine Forest Park based upon the assumption that there was going to be a rat plague occurring during the summer of 2017-18.

DOC publicly stated that samples had been collected that showed a heavy mast year was occurring.
DOC stated, as a result of an OIA request, that no seed-fall monitoring had been conducted.
Only one of these two statements can be the truth.

DOC's pre-operation rat monitoring showed that rats were:
a) Recorded at zero/nil/nothing/not-a-single-one over 53% of the area (15,900ha);
b) Recorded at low-moderate numbers over 27% of the area (8,100ha);
c) Recorded at high numbers over 20% of the area (6,000ha).

DOC's post-operation rat monitoring was done at a time when the expected natural rat monitoring result would be at its lowest even if there was no rat control done.
Rat monitoring will need to be carried out after the seed-fall to ensure that the rats, that were feeding in the canopy during December, have come down to the ground where they can be recorded in the rat tunnels.

If we look at this in dollar terms, with the area being 30,000ha, the following can be calculated at $32/ha (recent aerial 1080 quotes from DOC, OSPRI, Auckland Council. Amounts can be doubled if the AHB 2010 cost review 1080 costs are reliable or halved if the lowest quotes by DOC and OSPRI are to be believed):

53% of the money ($508,800) was wasted by applying aerial 1080 to areas where there were no rats present.
27% of the money ($259,200) was wasted by applying aerial 1080 to rat populations that were low enough to not need control.
20% of the money ($192,000) was spent on controlling rat populations that were high enough to warrant control (No judgement, on the effectiveness of the rat control, can be made without further rat monitoring taking place after the seed-fall).
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