Image for NZ: The incredible costs of Predator-Free

In NZ government’s projected scheme to make their country predator free one or two details have not been mentioned.

The government’s push to use more 1080 has led us to believe that a few drops of 1080 will do the trick. In fact 1080 only ever kills a percentage of any introduced species. When it comes to eradication
1080 is not used. Instead the poison of choice is brodifacoum which DOC uses in all its current predator eradication projects.

Instead of the 1 or 2 kg per ha of 1080 used for “control”, the “island” predator eradication operations begin with 20 or more kgs of poison baits per hectare. There follows a ground-based mop-up job lasting many months if not years before complete eradication can be announced.

The ground-based segment of the operation has to be meticulous. Dedicated teams using dogs, traps, guns and more poison scour the area so thoroughly that they clean out every animal which has escaped the poison - so thorough is this ground-based work that the initial poison drops now look superfluous.

One important detail in the predator-free idea will be the cost.

DOC’s most recent predator-eradication operation in our area was achieved at a cost of $804 per hectare. No possums were involved. The area was cleared of all domestic stock and unnecessary people so conditions were ideal for an efficient operation to go ahead under optimum conditions and at minimum cost. This figure of $800 per hectare is the cheapest eradication method we have so far.

A nationwide operation, with all its added difficulties, will cost considerably more.

If we take this conservative eradication figure of $800 per hectare and we know that NZ is nearly 27 million hectares in area the total cost of this project will exceed 20 billion dollars. If eradication is to be achieved by 2050, it will, with today’s technology and today’s personnel, swallow an annual injection of $617 million.

Most of this money will go directly from Government coffers. Such an incredible outlay of public money to clean up a few rats might only be possible in a rock-star economy. Gives us a clue as to just how big a rock-star Hamlin’s Pied Piper really was.