By Patrick Gower
3 News has learned the Department of Conservation is planning to kill the entire weka population on two remote islands off the West Coast of the South Island.
The weka is a cheeky, pesky little bird and the mass extermination will see around 100 native birds killed off.
The killing is to protect rare geckos, skinks and an indigenous leech, which are themselves threatened by the weka.
The dead birds may be given to local Maori for food.Bird lover Mike Bennett is fighting to save up to 100 of the birds, which DOC wants to eradicate from the uninhabited Open Bay Islands off the West Coast.
“The people of New Zealand own those wekas,” says Mr Bennett.
Publicly DOC is saying no decision has yet been taken, but 3 News has obtained internal emails which show its intent on the weka cull.
DOC is planning on advising the Minister of Conservation that "euthanasing" the weka is "legal and defendable” and its "duty".
DOC wouldn't appear on camera, but it has the support of the Maori trust that owns the islands.
The trust says the weka were introduced a century ago and are threatening a rare gecko, a skink and a native leech.
And Doc isn't ruling out allowing what's being called a 'cultural harvest' of the weka - in ordinary terms that's killing them for local Maori to eat.
Mr Bennett says slaughtering weka for food is “abhorrent”.
“We'll be eating people next.”
DOC has wanted to get the weka off the island for years. Killing them is the easiest option because they're hard to catch.
DOC has the power under the Wildlife Act but only if the minister agrees.
Mr Bennett says Minister of Conservation Kate Wilkinson needs to bring a stop to the killing.
“I think she needs to take a firm grip on the controls, and say ‘I am the boss’. She has the bureaucrats to advise her but the buck stops with her,” he says.
Ms Wilkinson says she needs for information before making a judgment.
“Well the weka are a native species and of course I have an interest in native species as the Minister for Conservation, but again I have to get the full facts of what's happening down there,” she says.
Killing one native species to save another is a hard decision and questions will be asked about whether DOC has kept its minister and the public properly informed.
source: newshub archive