A modern, independent laboratory’s toxicology report from dead wildlife collected from a beach in South Island
has highlighted how the Government’s pesticide testing regimes are not fit for purpose.
On November 9th, 2019, one week after a Department of Conservation (DOC) aerial 1080 (sodium
fluoroacetate) poison operation 140 kms upstream, torrential rainfall caused dead wildlife to be washed down
the flooded Buller River. Hundreds of potentially toxic carcasses of rats, a goat, birds and numerous aquatic
species were strewn across the beach at Westport, South Island. Carcasses were collected by volunteers and
two non-profit environmental groups, Flora and Fauna of Aotearoa and Clean Green New Zealand Trust
commissioned an independent toxicological analysis of samples. DOC also sent samples to its Government-
funded laboratories at Massey University and Manaaki Whenua – Landcare.
The results from the independent laboratory, showed positive traces of the toxic chemical fluorocitrate in the
dead wildlife, in addition to traces of fluoroacetate and the green pigment from the poison bait pellets.
Toxicology results from the Government laboratory were published on DOC’s website, claiming the carcasses
were not toxic. However, DOCs statement is implausible because the methodology used by Manaaki Whenua –
Landcare is over 30 years old (1). Over the 65 years of aerial 1080 poisoning operations, the New Zealand
Government has ensured that only Government-funded laboratories may undertake any testing of potentially
contaminated drinking-water, food or wildlife. DOC’s instructions to Landcare to use a method that is not fit-for-
purpose, means that the major toxic agent from 1080 poison, fluorocitrate, repeatedly goes undetected (2).
Professor Ian Shaw, toxicologist at the University of Canterbury told journalists he was curious about why the
Government testing didn’t include fluorocitrate.
“The flaws in DOC’s testing calls into question all previous risk assessments and test results carried out by
Government laboratories: water, food, wildlife and human cases of potential poisoning.” said Di Maxwell, Flora
and Fauna of Aotearoa representative.
Valid pesticide residue testing requires high-level expertise and modern technology; knowledge about the
presence and the potential harm from trace chemicals has increased exponentially over recent decades. “A
miniscule amount of some pesticides, particularly endocrine disrupting chemicals, can cause serious harm.
Because these tests are not fit-for-purpose, the long-term impacts on public health from a sub-lethal dose of
1080 poison are unknown.” said Frank Rowson, retired veterinary surgeon and pesticide researcher.
Dr Wall of Ideas Lab, a highly-qualified UK scientist of complex chemical analysis, who conducted the
independent tests, runs successful international businesses that draw on high quality skills and cutting edge
technologies. He initially wanted to remain anonymous due to receiving threats in the past; however his identity
has since been made public. Dr Wall also has serious concerns about the inadequate testing for pesticide
residues in NZ Government-funded laboratories and is consulting with international colleagues on the issue.
The two non-profit NGOs that commissioned the testing are currently working with national and international
scientists to ensure further pesticide testing continues. They call for an immediate moratorium on the use of
aerial 1080 poison and a thorough independent investigation into DOCs testing policies.