Two members of the activist group Hīkoi of a Poisoned Nation walked the entirety of the country to protest the use of 1080 poison.
The journey started on 15 June. Alan Gurden walked from Bluff. Emile Leaf walked from Cape Reinga. The two planned to converge at Parliament on Saturday for the national anti-1080 protest, but Leaf’s hīkoi took a few extra days, postponing the reunion.
About 15 protestors welcomed Leaf to Wellington at the Beehive last Tuesday. The Beehive was the last stop before the duo’s final reunion at Shorland Park in Island Bay, where they walked to the beach and touched the sea together. “I’ve been gifted some taonga that he’s not aware of. I’m going to share one of those with him and that will be our reunification.”
“My friend Alan and I have fought for 30-something years on this topic of 1080 poison. We’ve done all the legal channels we’ve done all the right ways that you’re supposed to do it through law … now we’re here to end it.”
Leaf carried a giant pole with three flags, the United Tribes flag on top, followed by the Tino Rangatiratanga flag and the New Zealand flag.
The goal of the hīkoi was to “raise awareness among the community and around the nation in regards to the use of a chemical weapon which is purportedly used to control pests,” said Leaf.
The protesters challenged 1080’s effects on water supplies, children, meat, and reproductive organs.
“This government is corrupt. They’re poisoning our people. It’s insanity,” said protestor Bronwyn.
According to Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage, 1080 poses no threat to human health when used correctly. She said it is biodegradable and quickly breaks down into non-toxic substances.
“Sadly, there has been an aggressive misinformation campaign which is not backed up by science, which is sparking concerns,” said Sage.
The protest continued on Wednesday when the group theatrically placed fake 1080 pellets and actual dead birds across the Parliament lawn.
According to Dr Graeme Elliot, from DOC’s Threat Management team, 1080 only increases productivity and survivorship for kiwis, riflemen, mohua, morepork, kaka, and long-tailed bats.
“For a few species – weka, kea, robin, fernbird – some animals are killed but the losses are far outweighed by the gains,” said Elliot.
“The choice is between our kaka, kea, and kiwi or rats, possums, and stoats. I choose our taonga,” said Sage.
Following the earlier Saturday protest, DOC, Ospri, Federated Farmers, Forest & Bird, and WWF-NZ released a joint statement showing continued support for 1080 as the best means for pest control.