We don't need a national conversation about Predator Free 2050

by Joanne Black / 02 January, 2018

A possum tucking into fallen fruit. Photo/Alamy

We’re long passed needing to talk about wiping out pests – what we need is a national conversation about national conversations.

On a visit to Auckland recently, I saw that Predator Free 2050’s project manager had been quoted as saying the organisation was not advocating any specific technology for pest eradication. Rather, its role was to “advance our understanding of the range of options available for the task and facilitate a national conversation as to which approaches meet our collective social, ethical and practical standards”.

This made me think that New Zealanders need a national conversation about national conversations. My view is the only good rat is a dead rat, and possum skins look better in rugs than they do on possums.

It will be a national disgrace if the country loses another native species of any type. Introduced pests are both direct predators and responsible for destroying the habitat of native species, though no pest has vandalised the natural habitat as much as humans have.

However, since humans are calling the shots here, we won’t be having a conversation, national or otherwise, about eradicating them. Some days that seems a pity.

But much as I applaud PF2050’s raison d’être, my eyes roll at the whole “national conversation” thing. PF2050, I think, has its priorities in the wrong order. Its first research goal is to “explore social and cultural views about predator eradication, and confirm and expand our understanding of environmental and ecological consequences”.

If PF2050 advocated for a particular technology, it would find it had a national conversation on its hands without having to manufacture one. Gareth Morgan’s suggesting desexing of stray cats started a conversation. Then, John Key, when Prime Minister, started another by advocating changing the flag.

Conversations are spontaneous when people have an opinion, but it is hard to feel moved by PF2050 not having a view on any specific pest-eradication technology. What do we talk about?

In fact, I’ve already run out of things to say about its position except to make the other obvious point that, as a country, New Zealand has been talking about the poison 1080 for as long as it has been in use. Many people deeply oppose it, but it is used in the absence of anything more efficacious, which calls into question whether the conversation has achieved anything. We need less talk and more eradication.

This article was first published in the December 2, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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