After Conservation minister Nick Smith rubber stamped plans for one of the biggest blanket drops of the poison last Friday, the silence was deafening.
Mr Smith could not be accused of underselling his Battle for our Birds campaign. He warned a plague of biblical proportions was about to hit the homes of our endangered native flora and fauna. Rats, 15 millon of them, were breeding. Mice and mustelids, particularly stoats, were coming, and they were being fed up on a veritable feast of a million tonnes of beech seeds. Once the seeds were gone, the native birds would be on the menu.
The national poisoning programme will include 3854ha Pouiatoa Conservation Area east of Waitara but most of the operation will be in the South Island.
The fall of seeds in the beech forests this year will be the heaviest in a decade. Generations ago they would have resulted in population lifts for native animals. But that was a time when the equivalent of a mouse in a forest was a weta. It was a time of big and slow, not small and fast. Mammals' breeding rates are so out of kilter with the native wildlife they encountered here after being introduced that there would only be one winner without further human intervention.
Beyond the native birdlife victims - such as kiwi, mohua, parakeet, whio and rock wren - there are also native snails and even our only two native mammals, short and long tailed bats.
The Department of Conservation warns that without the help of 1080, the predators could wipe out 75 per cent of the remaining mohua population - or more than 3500 birds. Following another mast year in 2000, there was an 85 per cent drop in the number of orange-fronted parakeets in Canterbury beech forests.
Mr Smith's response to the pending plague is backed by the landmark reports from the Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright three years ago. She could have sat on the fence but didn't. In the face of wide opposition to 1080 and emotional testimonials to the gruesome pain and death it brings, she told the country it was a game changer and it should be used more, not less.
Yesterday we told Daily News readers to expect an influx of bugs and increase in diseases in the garden when summer arrives, because the 2014 winter has been so mild. Traditionally the garden nasties get a serious knocks via a few heavy frosts - but those frosts have not arrived.
The introduced predators which dine on our unique wildlife love the New Zealand climate, frosts and all. They have little to fear, bar the odd attack from one of their own, or a hawk.
That, and the fact it doesn't target native wildlife, is why 1080 is such a valuable weapon.
- Taranaki Daily News