19-E-0820, 19-E-0821 DOC- 6185440
31 January 2020
Dear Ms Carter
I refer to your official information requests of 20 and 21 November 2019 for
information about the animals washed up on West Coast beaches.
I will respond to some of your questions out of order for ease of reference.
Your request of 20 November 2019:
Test results and methods
You asked for:
1. All test results for all samples taken - all agencies and results as sent to
DOC prior to press release 20/11/19
2. Methods used for testing
3. Sample types (eg muscle, bone etc)
4. Requested tests from DOC to the laboratories conducted on the carcasses
All the results requested and received by DOC are available on our website, along
with the testing methods and sample types: https://www.doc.govt.nz/news/oia-responses/tiakina-nga-manu/
We are therefore refusing this part of your request under section 18(d) of the OIA,
as the information is publicly available. Storage and transport of the samples
You asked for information on the following:
5. Storage and or transport of the carcasses between the beach area and
the laboratories- please note of frozen, chilled etc.
Six rats and one weka were collected on 9 November 2019 and stored in the freezer.
On 11 November 2019, one rat and one weka were sent to Massey University by
overnight courier in chiller packs and five rats were sent by the same method to
Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research.
An additional four rats were collected on 11 November 2019, and stored in the
refrigerator. One rat was sent that day by overnight courier in chiller packs to
Massey University. The remaining three rats were sent to Massey University the
Conservation House - Whare Kaupapa Atawhai
PO Box 10 420, Wellington 6143
Telephone (04) 471 0726, Fax (04) 381 3057
next day, 12 November 2019 (they were collected after the courier cut-off for same
day pick-up. Correspondence relating to the rat carcasses
You asked for:
5. Any Correspondence relating to the press release between DOC and the
media relating to the deaths
6. Any correspondence relating to the apparent ‘suicide’ and or the ‘floods’
that supposedly caused the deaths and the methods of their decline.
7. Please also provide correspondence/phone calls etc relating to the 600
odd carcasses between DOC staff and between DOC staff and the
laboratories concerned between 1/11/19 to 20/11/19.
We note that as the incident occurred on the weekend, initial communication was
conducted by phone. The Director, Western South Island and Director, National
Operations spoke on the phone. The Director, National Operations then spoke to
two science advisors seeking advice on sampling of rats for testing.
We are providing you with 314 pages of emails and 19 text messages. We have
withheld the names of individuals from these documents under sections 9(2)(a) and
9(2)(g)(ii) of the Official Information Act 1982 to protect their privacy and to
prevent any improper pressure or harassment of officials or employees. In making
this decision, we have taken into account the public interest considerations set out
in section 9(1) of the OIA.
Your request of 21 November 2019:
Permission for burial of the rats
1. Was permission sought for the burial by anyone? Please include internal
DOC permission sought as well as external land owners and or anyone
else. Please provide all correspondence/communications.
2. Who from? Please provide their relationship with the land used for
3. Was that a personal or departmental request? Please provide any
4. Did the person/entity giving permission for the burial receive any
information/notification relating to potential toxins/poisons that may be
in the carcasses? Please provide any correspondence/communications.
5. If so, what toxins/poisons and why were they in particularly
noted/informed of? Please provide any correspondence/communications.
8. Please provide any internal and external communications
/correspondence relating to any follow up on the burial.
The Department consulted the Buller District Council and the West Coast Regional
Council on the disposal of the rats. As a cautionary approach, the Department
advised the councils of the possibility that the rats had been exposed to 1080, as this
was the only pesticide used by the Department in the area. The Department
received permission to bury the rats on West Coast Regional Council land, and
both councils were happy with the proposed burial approach.
We also attempted to consult with the Ministry of Health and the Environmental
Protection Agency, but were unable to make contact on the weekend.
We are providing you with the one email chain relating to the burial.
Guidelines for disposal of the rats
6. What are the rules and regulations relating to the burial of potentially
hazardous waste that DOC is required to follow?
7. How were these rules and regulations implemented in this burial?
The burial followed the manufacturer guidelines for disposal of 1080 bait
(attached), as it was at least 60cm deep, was in a bioactive layer of soil, was not
accessible to scavenging birds, and there was no risk of groundwater contamination.
We note that it was not practicable to bury the bodies at a landfill approved for
hazardous wastes, as the nearest such landfill was over 200 kilometres away and
not open on weekends. Further, the landfill requires three working days’ notice of
delivery, meaning it would not be possible to dispose of the animals in this way for
at least 5 days.
You have the right to seek an investigation and review by the Ombudsman of this
decision. Information about how to make a complaint is available at www.ombudsman.parliament.nz
or freephone 0800 802 602.
If you wish to discuss this decision with us, please feel free to contact me at this
Please note that this letter (with your personal details removed) and enclosed
documents may be published on the Department’s website.
Director National Operations