Michael Kay breaks down Uncovering Biodiversity at a 1080 Drop Zone

Learn our story about how we are independent and what is needed to keep thisquality operating. You might be able to donate to us so we can inform and share what matters faster.

Learn Morearrow

One of the first mini-documentary premiers exclusive to thisquality ORIGINALS that is pushing for a change. Going to a drop zone to check on the insect life, soil quality, and density of birdlife. Uncovering Biodiversity at a 1080 Drop Zone features NZ Outdoors Party Otaki Candidate Michael Kay, NZ Outdoors Party Board member Mike ILES exploring the 1080 drop operation scheduled for late winter in the Tararuas that is run by both OSPRI at OSPRI’s Northern Tararua Operational Boundary & DOC (Department of Conservation) at DOC’s Tiakina Ngā Manu – Project Kākā Operational Boundary.

“We specifically went up there to try and sort of getting to the real bottom of how bio-diversity actually sits up there within the area that’s going to be the drop zone. A little disclaimer, obviously, we haven’t gone right through the drop zone. We’ve only gone to try and find variable habitats,” says Michael Kay.

While filming, going up to the top of the hills near the Otaki River Forks was a clearing of grass. Michael Kay and Mike ILES evaluated how the diversity was impacted in the grass clearing, especially the soil.


“As a regenerative farmer, the first we do is start digging around in the soil, and we want to find what the actual soil health is like. I just want to see if we (I) can get you a little bit interested too.”

Michael Kay says that he wants to teach others how to examine the soil quality in the ground while digging holes and how to understand what is being seen.

“So what we found up there was first it was pretty easy to dig, I didn’t actually think to take anything to dig with so I was just doing it with my hands. So the initial thatch on top was actually quite good, it certainly hasn’t had much pressure and what I mean by that is that it hasn’t had a lot of animals grazing on it. The next part what that kicks into, some pigs had a little bit of a root around, but going on how much poo was there, at tops was one or two pigs that actually turned over a hell of a lot of ground to find anything to eat.

“Going through the layers, the thatch is just sort of the very tip or crown of the grass that is and any different Forbes that might be there and, any legumes, that was probably one thing I didn’t speak too that there were nitrogen fixes and that’s a problem. So, it’s an environment that in parts (not all) it’s had a lot of clearings, those clearings have had a commercial interest over the years to log the area for whatever natural products were up there to draw an income out of them. You can tell this if you look up there, you can compare even some of the pine forest tree that’s been taken out, it looks very significantly the same as some of the law proto carp regrowth that is what you are presented with when you walk up into that area. You think this is the bush, this is what I’ve always known as the bush in my lifetime, but it’s very young regrowth. When it was cleared much like the pines when they were cleared a lot of soil runs off and a lot of that soil we know where that is, when we go to Otaki where the River ends up, there is a lot of that soil deposited from those hills on the Otaki Plateau. Like I’ve often said, we’ve got some nice deep soils in the Otaki township and that’s come at the expense of the very light soils that we found up there and had a good like (Tararua Forest Park)”

“to give you a little bit of comparison, a reasonable top-soil even on hill country should at least be 100mm deep. Optimally you are looking at what you call a class one soil should be two to three hundred millimeters deep. In regenerative agricultural farming and organic farming, we actually aim to get that to be 600mm to 800mm deep and when we are going into those sorts of areas to be tested, we tested where we think there should be significant soil deposit too so we were quite fair to DOC (Department of Conservations) or land care research or anybody like that that might have also done comparable studies to what we did. Those were areas that would be the largest deposit of what would be an alluvial move of top-soil from the hill it’s self down to the receptor slopes or flat areas, and that was still only an inch to two inches thick. It’s a highly sensitive and fragile environment.”

“It’s a terrible term to say you are pro 1080, let’s say you’re sitting on the fence and you think well you believe the idea and you know even to the people of DOC and Predator Free New Zealand they believe the idea that we drop the poison, we’re going to yield a regrowth or a regeneration in the bird population, I say that’s not possible on the next thing that we tested which was the amount of food for birds. That’s something you can’t do in a one-off thing to be fair because the bush it’s self as it’s fruiting as it’s providing even just the panga frogs things like that you know anything that a bird might eat.”

“We saw a bird in the car park area a pigeon, and he just has a good old feed. That was really good, and that was the only pigeon we saw as Mike ILES said in the trailer we didn’t actually hear a lot of birdlife, and it was a day that when I left home, it was deafening at home with the birds. It was a perfect day to be having a big fly around and a big feed. When I left home, it just rained (previous day) when we got up there (Otaki Forks) – what we have here on the farm is that when it rains, all that area that’s highly aggregated where there’s you know a good deep pan of top-soil; all of that activity that’s in there, all of the worms, all of the things that are thriving in that section of soil- well they all start going mad like it’s playtime and you can hear it moving. You can hear the soil aerating, it’s actually quite a lot of noise and we’re going to try capture that if we can so that there is something to compare.”

“In other areas of the country, there are heavier soils in a lot of the other areas of what the Government farms (conservation estate) we do have very hungry hills and the Tararuas themselves were a constant moving soil that’s why they were named the Tararuas and those soils have been deposited on our river flats. The George is getting closer to that soil geology of the Wellington area. Wellington area is even different again because it’s starting to just get to that harsh rock where it’s been thrust up, and there’s a significant difference as you go down each part is different, but it’s still suffering the same thing. They don’t make any mention to just populations of the food web and what would greatly benefit this great debate (which is probably not a good debate at the moment, we haven’t had a fair go) is there need to be very good evaluations of what food is available to the birds, and that’s the lowest hanging fruit for getting something really moving into this age-old problem of our declining bird population.”

“You are always going to get when you interfere; I’ve spoken about it before and I hope people understand this if you start going and wiping out something in a broad form application aerial type versing of 1080, doesn’t matter what it is, whatever the poison is it’s not a target thing but it’s blanket targeting everything. What happens there is you risk wiping out an imbalance into the food web, now DOC should be more capable or more, how can I put this? They should actually have better information and be able to speak to it that it’s not the case that they have an explosion of rats; it’s that they’ve caused an explosion of rats. When you go and wipe out the things that eat you know a mast crop, so when you have a good year, that should be every year in the bush. If you go, wipe out too many things that forage the deer, the pigs, and all that sort of thing. Then you are going to have the other stuff that’s laying on this ground, and the only thing that’s going to clean this up is rats and when there is an abundance of something else. Nature just goes back to repair that so that you can say well, why isn’t it repairing it to the soil, and that’s a good statement. Why isn’t it repairing it to the soil? and so that’s really where the answer is to why we have got a declining bird population, it’s not about wiping something out, it’s about what’s happening in the soil which is our first mechanism of many.”

“We read on the sign that we are meant to do a 5minute bird count… so that’s useless. That’s absolutely useless if you’ve got people making a 5minute bird count and sending that in, that’s so random like that’s lazy. The bird counting or the population counting that’s something that because that area is so fragile DOC should be in there and FOB (Forest and Bird) and anybody that’s caring for the environment should be at least once a week going in there and detailing that properly, that would be a 12-hour count. That’s going in and as far in as you can and then marking it on the map where you have gone but the other big part of that is monitoring the soil and monitoring what’s in the soil. Like we found one worm and that’s pretty bad. The one thing that makes all the aggregate and everything in the soil and processes all of that thatch, the one thing that I said was good, that thatch is sitting up there because there is nothing to process it. Only the pigs that are going to take it away, there is all of these little insects and all of this little creepy crawlies that I call them.. they do a job and they eat that and the birds come along and eat them… you know and it’s just like the rats would explode, the birds would explode if that was healthy and that’s the main thing that we found that’s wrong,” says Michael Kay.

Have time to spare? If you liked this publication, please learn our story to support thisquality. Fund trustworthy news coming from official Government newswires and local voices inside communities.