In a bold move on Facebook recently, several Ban 1080 activists have declared war on helicopters dropping the bait, asserting they will shoot down any they see.
A photo shared publicly on the social media platform shows three men standing beside a small and badly-printed sign which reads, “To DOC NZ any helicopter observed poisoning this forest will be shot down. Tangatawhenua”.
A four-wheel drive can be observed behind them.
The comments below show support for the action, with several people asking to share the post further.
Other comments included:
“Tuff cuzzi!!!Shoot em down!! [sic]”
“Ye show em whats up! [sic]”
“Good on ya J…..!”
I followed up some leads on this story and managed to speak with an insider who claims to have been part of the group who put up the sign. He asks not to be named for fear of prosecution by the police, who are rumoured to be investigating the threat.
“Yeah man, we gonna take them all down ae. We got guns at the ready any time.”
I asked what kind of guns they had. “All kinds, miss. We got a .308, and a couple .223’s, and a 12 gauge which will put a massive hole in anything, ae.”
I then asked if he thought they would be able to connect with a helicopter from the ground using those weapons.
“Aww, yeah. I mean with the rifles we usually shoot down or straight when we’re after deer or pigs and the bullets go pretty far, and the shotty spreads and takes out a wide area, you know, so going up they should be sweet as I reckon.”
This is not the first instance of activists threatening to fire at aircraft, with a hunting facebook group in 2017 claiming they would shoot down any helicopters attempting to drop 1080 in the Taranaki region, and also threatened to harvest dropped bait and use it to lace milk and meat intended for distribution.
However, a pilot who has been involved in dropping the bait in the past cautions against taking down helicopters, saying there is more than just bait and fuel on board.
“We carry some very sensitive materials on board which are usually distributed evenly in small bursts across wide areas. If the choppers were to be hit, the round could potentially strike the containers they are stored in, which would cause the concentrated form of the materials to be dispersed over a small area and make quite a mess.”
When I asked him to elaborate on the type of materials he was referring to, he declined to answer, saying he was not at liberty to say. “I definitely caution people not to risk releasing these materials, because the spillage could be a bit problematic.”
I pressed for information, asking if they carried chemicals on board. At this stage he ended the conversation.
Will the Ban 1080 activists take the risk and play Russian Roulette with the helicopters, which may or may not contain unknown materials?
Only time will tell.