Dunne v Zealandia

October 29th, 2010 at 6:00 am by David Farrar

has done a PR:

’s proposed rotenone poisoning of the upper lake and tributaries of the Karori wildlife sanctuary is quite literally “short-sighted, ideologically driven extremism”, UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne said today.

“The fact that Zealandia – with the backing of DoC and Wellington City Council – is poised to flush a waterway system with rotenone within the city boundaries in the name of conservation is almost beyond belief,” said Mr Dunne.

“To poison a lake and all of its tributaries in order to kill some introduced trout, which most people see as a positive recreational resource, just because they are an exotic species is just crazy.”

It does seem over-kill, literally.

32 Responses to “Dunne v Zealandia”

  1. expat (4,087 comments) says:

    Nothing like a bit of militant green eco-cleansing. Hope this isn’t an indicator of how the Wade Brown administration will operate.

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  2. bhudson (4,770 comments) says:

    Hmmm. Rotenone is a naturally occurring substance which is universally safe for humans (who might eat the poisoned fish, in this case) and has only mild and short-term environmental effects, while being lethal to the fish they wish to be rid of.

    So Zelandia, a conservation attraction, is seeking to use a naturally occurring piscicide to rid the attraction of what they consider to be a pest. The use of which will cause no harm to humans or the environment. And Peter Dunne thinks it is a great issue.

    I would agree it is probably unnecessary. It could even be described as a waste of money. But to intimate that it is some way dangerous – the reference to using it within city boundaries – is errant nonsense

    I guess Dunne just feels the need to remind people that he exists.

    From Wikipedia:

    Rotenone is used in solution as a pesticide and insecticide, or in emulsified liquid form as a piscicide.

    People catch fish by extracting rotenone from plants and releasing it into water. Poisoned fish come to the surface and are easily caught. This method was first practiced by various indigenous tribes who smashed the roots. Fish caught this way can be eaten because rotenone is very poorly absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract of humans, whereas it is lethal to fish because it readily enters the blood stream of the fish through the gills.

    Small-scale sampling with rotenone is used by fish researchers studying the biodiversity of marine fishes to collect cryptic, or hidden, fishes, which represent an important component of shoreline fish communities. Rotenone is the most effective tool available because only small quantities are necessary. It has only minor and transient environmental side-effects.

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  3. Manolo (22,041 comments) says:

    It would be interesting to hear Forest & Bird’s opinion. I suspect that being the eco-naziz they are, they would be on Zealandia’s side.

    I’d expect the Luddites to issue a press release on this matter too.

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  4. the deity formerly known as nigel6888 (773 comments) says:

    Utter rubbish

    Trout are an introduced invasive predator, they have massacred indigneous fish and freshwater cray populations.

    I am always astonished that DoC who will try and exterminate any mammalian introduced species is actively releasing these voracious indiscriminate killers into our waterways.

    Its not even as if they taste as nice as a juicy clover fed wapiti!

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  5. magsta (3,645 comments) says:

    It pays to be an exotic tree at Zealandia….. if you’re a big, shady old pine…. you’re ok; and if you’re a quick-growing ozzie (Banksia), you’ll be introduced.

    Its a puzzle this restoration game…. some exotics good, some bad. Perhaps its ok to be purist about waterways, but more relaxed about usurping terrestrials.

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  6. RRM (12,574 comments) says:

    Yeah! Go Peter Dunne!

    What would DoC and Zealandia management know about consermivation anyway?

    What an idiot.

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  7. gazzmaniac (2,842 comments) says:

    Why not just let recreational fishermen in to do the job? Better still they could manage the fishery and have something that future generations can enjoy.

    Also, aren’t they man made lakes? In which case I feel their argument is a bit rich.

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  8. annie (540 comments) says:

    It also very effectively kills insects as well as all fish, which the ecowarriors posting don’t seem to have emphasised. So the food chain, including natives, gets bashed about, not just the fish. My guess would be that benthic invertebrates other than insects would also all catch it since they tend to absorb anything over their body surfaces. Since it knocks out the electron transport chain, it would be universally lethal. If there are any frogs left there, they would be expected to go, too.

    Any eels present will be goners, the insects fish feed on will go (though should be replenished from upstream eventually). This is pretty vile.

    When I was a girl doing a degree in freshwater ecology, we nabbed trout (to count them – we were looking for numbers to see if we could assess biological indices of organic pollution of streams) using electric fishing methods. Bzzt, trout lined up present and correct for counting. It may be more difficult in lakes, but wored a treat in streams.

    Since we seem to be using Wikipedia as our authoratitive source of information, go there and search on ‘electrofishing’.

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  9. Goon (14 comments) says:

    Excellent….nuke them salmonids. As someone involved in water management I am sick of the winging from the weekend warrior anglers about having to protect all rivers everywhere for their recreational enjoyment. Sure maintain some fisheries for angling but if you want to make F&G flannel shirts ‘flounder’ just ask them how maintaining optimum trout and salmon populations contributes to mainting New Zealands aquatic biodiversity. I don’t agree with Forest and Bird on much but support them on their campain to get rid of the ‘rats of the waterways’.

    I like shooting rabbits so maybe we should manage all tussock grasslands to optimise their numbers……and bugger the native flora and fauna why not more deer, pigs and thar in our conservation areas so I can choose to take a wander in the bush whenever I want and grab a feed (….mind you that seems to be the attitude of the anti 1080 clowns no matter how they dress the arguement).

    So bring it on I say…..’trout out’…..

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  10. gazzmaniac (2,842 comments) says:

    The lakes are artificial anyway – what’s wrong with having an artificial fishery? Especially one that is so close to a major city? The streams are fucked anyway because of the dams, so they might as well be put to good economical use.

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  11. bhudson (4,770 comments) says:


    “Any eels present will be goners, the insects fish feed on will go (though should be replenished from upstream eventually).”

    I won’t bemoan the loss of eels – now they are vile. As you note, insects would be replenished.

    In any case, as I noted above, I don’t necessarily agree with what Zelandia want to do, but for different reasons – I question whether it is necessary and, therefore, if it is just a waste of money.

    What I object to is Dunne alluding to public safety concerns to try and monger up a scare.

    (BTW – Electrofishing looks like a bit of fun)

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  12. RRM (12,574 comments) says:

    Gazza – I believe the goal with Zealandia is to re-create the pre-human NZ ecosystem. And Trout were not a feature of pre-human NZ…

    And the water in those lakes at the moment is seriously fuxxored anyway. Clearly they believe it’s worth taking the risk with this.

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  13. freedom101 (733 comments) says:

    Classic Dunne. It’s the sort of press release you put out when you are Minister of Revenue and you don’t want anyone to focus on the fact that you are borrowing $200m a week to fund your over-spending!

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  14. Shunda barunda (4,189 comments) says:

    What is the problem here? Do you guys hate NZ wildlife?
    For those that don’t know, this stuff is just plain old Derris dust!, the stuff your Granddad used on his cabbages.

    Trout are incredibly destructive to our Native Galaxiid (whitebait) species, obviously DoC want to restore this area to an original NZ eco system so the trout have got to go. They will electro fish most of the existing native fish and eels out before they do it and then replace them after treatment.
    There is nothing extremist about it, one could argue it is Dunne that is being extreme in opposing one trout free river!
    For the record I am a keen trout fisherman.

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  15. labrator (2,463 comments) says:

    I came to make that points that bhudson has already made. It’s a naturally occurring substance, is used by the council in other places, breaks down very quickly and seems like a good match to the job required which is to create a pest free zone. Dunne is doing himself a disservice, is he trying to appear more green? I can’t locate the official DoC response to these claims that others have also made but the response appeared very measured and very reasonable.

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  16. Repton (769 comments) says:

    Remember that Dunne used to be involved with Outdoor Recreation NZ. Maybe he’s still got sympathies that way..

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  17. kowtow (13,217 comments) says:

    This is a great ideology.

    Remove all non indigenopus species!


    To those moaning about govt borrowing,I agree,they should stop borrowing……..and then stop payments of old age pensions ,the dole,ACC,teachers and nurses salaries,DOC salaries………blah, blah , blah………..

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  18. thedavincimode (8,131 comments) says:


    “This is a great ideology.

    Remove all non indigenopus species!


    … pakeha???

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  19. UHBronco (1 comment) says:

    Magsta, I believe the pine trees still exist at zealandia because A. they are very expensive to remove and B. native birds like the kereru use the high branches for roosting. When they native forest grows high enough the pine trees will be removed.

    in regards to fishing the lake, the lake there is apparantely the deepest body of water in the Wellington region – so fishing could take months to remove the trout and perch. I can’t believe thats even been suggested by Peter Dumb.

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  20. ZEALANDIA (1 comment) says:

    Great to see such a lively debate going on! For those of you who are interested in what we are doing and why, here is ZEALANDIA’s official response to Mr Dunne’s comments on Jim Mora’s panel discussion yesterday:

    1) Far from being, in Mr Dunne’s words “short-sighted, ideologically driven extremism”, ZEALANDIA has a 500-year vision to restore a small corner of NZ as closely as possible to the way it was before humans arrived. Moreover, it was the first real breakthrough in the conservation and ecological restoration of threatened species like tuatara and saddleback on the mainland. Its value is as an internationally-renowned safe haven for some of NZ’s rarest native flora and fauna.

    2) The reason ZEALANDIA and the Wellington City Council don’t “develop the lakes for families and kids to go fishing” is that recreational fishing was specifically prohibited in the Management Plan for the development of the Karori Reservoir valley as an ecological restoration project and wildlife sanctuary.

    3) Our objective is to eradicate brown trout from the upper Kaiwharawhara catchment in one hit. We have trialled a range of other methods before resorting to piscicide, but none have proved suitable for complete eradication. Despite Mr Dunne’s assertaions, recreational fishing will certainly not achieve this and will, in fact, cause a lot of unnecessary damage to the fragile ecosystems along the lake and stream edges.

    4) ZEALANDIA’s lakes are pretty inaccessible, being surrounded by steep, heavily-forested slopes. The Wellington region has hundreds of far more accessible and less environmentally-sensitive fishing spots.

    5) As Mr Dunne acknowledged, to protect the native fish and koura already present, as many as possible will be caught and transferred to live cages in untreated streams so that they can be released back into the upper lake and streams after the operation.

    6) The reality is that, until all brown trout are removed, native species have no opportunity to thrive. Once trout are removed, a relatively small ‘seeding stock’ of natives will very quickly re-colonize the waterways. We will then also be able to consider re-introducing long-extinct species – something we could never do with trout present.

    7) Perhaps the most important thing to consider in this discussion is that, while brown trout can be seen and fished in nearly every corner of this planet, freshwater koura, kokopu, inanga and dozens of other endemic species the trout prey upon can only be found here in NZ. They are as unique to these islands as kiwi, tuatara and takahe and need the same opportunities to survive.

    You can download a detailed factsheet about the fish eradication that has been jointly produced by ZEALANDIA and the Department of Conservation here http://www.visitzealandia.com/includes/download.aspx?ID=111490

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  21. kowtow (13,217 comments) says:

    If honkey ain’t indigenous Maori certainly aren’t. They both are “introduced”.

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  22. RRM (12,574 comments) says:

    kowtow –

    It’s a native wildlife sanctuary. No-one’s imposing socialist dogma on you or anything of yours.

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  23. RRM (12,574 comments) says:

    And for those who maybe worried about possible deleterious effects on the pristine waterway downstream from the sanctuary… yeah… don’t be…


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  24. Rex Widerstrom (5,113 comments) says:

    Good to see Zealandia responding here. Congratulations on interacting. Since I don’t have time to read reports (though I’ve read your fact sheet), a couple of questions you might like to answer:

    1. While I accept that your lakes aren’t suitable as habitats for these fish, has any thought been given to first capturing and releasing as many trout as possible into areas that are suitable, thus minimising the numbers to be killed, at least. Since you’re catching and transferring native fish, presumably you can also catch trout… your point 3 and point 5 above seem contradictory. Similarly your fact sheet says the upper tributaries can be closed off… why not just “scoop up” trout as they reach this point? The labour intensivity factor could potentially be overcome by asking the community – especially those concerned for animal welfare – for help. Note I’m not suggesting this as an alternative to rotenone but as a preliminary measure.

    2. What do you know of the effects of this substance on the fish (other than that it’s lethal, I mean)? Specifically, is the death prolonged or painful? I would imagine “disrupting respiration” isn’t a painless death.

    3. Did you consider “contraceptive” methods of eradication (gonadotropin receptor antagonists)?

    4. Could you slip some into Peter Dunne’s tea? It gets rid of slugs, I believe… (Okay you don’t have to answer that one… I’ll just let it sit there as a suggestion).

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  25. big bruv (15,564 comments) says:

    Karori people are good folk, but, why the hell do they keep voting for that moron Dunne?

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  26. bhudson (4,770 comments) says:

    big bruv,

    We don’t. Karori is in Wellington Central, not Ohariu. What he is doing poking his nose into our sanctuary, I don’t know. He doesn’t even hold a Conservation portfolio.

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  27. bhudson (4,770 comments) says:


    A part of me might like to respond to #4, but it’s probably best I don’t. Meanwhile, taking an opportunity not extended to me:

    1. The trout are not in any way endangered. We let people kill them all the time. Why expend time & effort capturing swimming cattle?

    2. “I would imagine “disrupting respiration” isn’t a painless death.” – possibly not, but given recreational fishing (which is both legal and widely practiced) is largely based on hooking a fish and then letting it suffocate in air, how is it not, in effect, the same thing?

    3. Why waste time when it can be effected so rapidly?

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  28. Rex Widerstrom (5,113 comments) says:


    Those are the obvious answers (not that I mean that in a bad way) but I’m hoping to raise humane alternatives. I would hope most recreational fishers gaff or otherwise dispatch the trout when it’s caught, if for no other reason than it’s more efficient than letting it flop around. I realise not all do, but given this is a responsible, publicly funded organisation I’d be hoping it would look for something humane.

    We don’t, after all, suffocate cattle to death, we endeavour to dispatch them quickly and with an absolute minimum of pain and distress (again, I realise we don’t always achieve that objective, alas). If Zealandia were going to use dynamite, for instance, not only would I have no concerns but I’d be keen to participate!

    As for the “contraceptive” argument, I raised it because it’s more humane; it takes (I think) only one breeding cycle; in the unlikely event any trout survive (I’m not sure whether all stages of their development are suspectible to this poison?) it’s a way of ensuring that all are eradicated; and the closed conditions of the ecosystem provide an ideal environment to test the method which, if successful, could be used to eradicate nonnative species in less controllable waterways. We just seem to be letting an opportunity pass us by… and if it didn’t work, there’s always the poison option to fall back on.

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  29. Matt Long (100 comments) says:

    bhudson, I believe the word you are looking for is swimming vermin, nobody wrecks our lakes and rivers like Fish and Game

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  30. expat (4,087 comments) says:

    I withdraw my first comment and support Zealandia, good to see the plan not mentioned in hairnet Dunnes press release.

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  31. GNZ (193 comments) says:

    Hmm was all prepared to support Peter.. but simply the Zealandia solution seems like a good idea given all the other states of affairs. All we seem to get is suggestions that they might do it in a much less efficient convoluted manner or preserve for fishing a place where that isn’t very practical.

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  32. andyf (2 comments) says:

    This should be a non issue. Zealandia was set up to restore the Karori Reservoir valley to something ‘as close as possible’ to its pre human state. Clearly that recognises that there are species that have become extinct and therefore can’t be restored. Those suggesting this objective does not include humans visiting have either lost the plot, or perhaps it’s just they are into red herrings. The objectives of the Sanctuary Trust which runs Zealandia have always included conservation/restoration, education, scientific research, visitation/tourism, and community involvement (pretty hard to do any of those without people in the valley !)

    This discussion is yet another indicator of how important the education role of places like Zealandia is. I suspect most of us haven’t grasped how totally in just a thousand years of human ‘management’ we have totally modified, and often destroyed the genuinely unique ecosystems that existed here for millions of years. In many areas it is still happening. Perhaps Peter would do better to think about the ‘short sightedness’ he mentions in terms of Government policy and the way we do things that too often characterises our demand for money, resources, etc today with little consideration for tomorrow’s world, our children and their children.

    In terms of restoration of the Sanctuary ecosystem – we are talking about just one square kilometre ! Restoration obviously includes aquatic as well as terrestrial. Magsta is right that it’s not all ‘purist’, but very pragmatic. Some vegetation species (banksia he noted) have been introduced – simple reason being to provide food for birds until the native forest is restored to the degree that it can provide year round sustenance.

    The other thing that’s missing in this discussion is that the lower lake and steams below the upper dam (which hopefully will be able to be treated after the upper lake/streams) are infested with tens of thousands of tiny perch. Good luck trying to fish those out ! There’s been a lot of research (from memory by Waikato University) which indicates that these fish are eating the zooplankton leading to an explosion in phytoplankton which the zooplankton would have otherwise kept in check. In short that means algal blooms.

    Final comment to make. In 1999 Karori Sanctuary was as far as I know the first place in the World to achieve the eradication of so many terrestrial species from an area. Obviously that required poisons. It was well managed without problems for the environment beyond, and was completely successful. We have in Wellington something unique and special in Zealandia – Karori Sanctuary.

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