Media Release – The Quiet Forest  

A fledgling tui called Malcolm and a bush devoid of birdsong seem unlikely motivators for a book.

And a retired Professor of Rheumatology would not be number one pick as the author of a book about aerial 1080 poisoning.

Dunedin-born author Fiona McQueen admits her subject choice is somewhat unusual for an author who describes herself neither as anti-government nor a “raving Greenie”.

As someone who’d always aspired to write, she thought it might be a children’s book or, at the very least, something just a little less controversial.

After moving from Auckland to Glenorchy, from where she still travels to Invercargill to work as a consultant rheumatologist for the Southern DHB, she became increasingly concerned about damage to the environment and decided to “put her head above the parapet” to write the book.

McQueen, who has a lifelong passion for tramping and experiencing the New Zealand bush, applied her considerable scientific research skills to finding out more about the pros and cons of 1080.

The result is ‘The Quiet Forest’, a 200-page tome outlining the case against what she calls the “eco-crime” of dropping poison all over the New Zealand forest.

It tells the story of a group of trampers who walked into deepest Fiordland only to find an area littered with carcasses of deer, wood pigeons and possums and with virtually no native birds in sight or sound.

And its prologue tells the tale of Malcolm the Tui, who McQueen and her family rescued in Auckland and hand-fed until he grew up and flew into the wild.

“I’m not the dry scientist people might think I am, I’ve always wanted to write a book,” she said.

“I’m not anti-Government, in fact I’d describe myself as part of the establishment. But what I’ve seen and heard about 1080 upsets me on a heart level because of my feelings for the New Zealand bush,” she said.

“The bush is a spiritual place and we’re stuffing it up. It’s an eco-crime to drop 1080 in this random, indiscriminate way because they’re being so cavalier with this stuff.

“Yes it kills possums and rats, but it also kills deer most horribly and birds and insects. And then we’ve cleared the way for the rats to come back because they’re the ultimate survivors.

“It’s an industry that’s funded by the taxpayer yet most people don’t know the extent of the poison drops nor the number of New Zealanders who have real concerns.

“Democracy is being undermined because the drops are now organised by the Ministry of Primary Industries which makes it harder than ever before for people to find out information or complain.

“I’ve done extensive research into this and conducted many interviews and after two years produced a book that aims to be readable, aimed at the average person and demystifying the science as much as possible.”

And as for Malcolm?

She thought of him when she learned that aerial 1080 had been dropped for pest control in Auckland’s Waitakere Ranges, very near to her old home. Although Tuis aren’t supposed to be susceptible to 1080 as they are nectar eaters, her book research discovered that it kills insects and insect-eating birds.

She thinks of him when she considers what she calls the New Zealand 1080 Experiment, in which scientists, DOC workers and politicians are ‘playing God’ in the country’s unique and irreplaceable ecosystem.

‘Killing native birds actually constitutes a crime under the NZ Wildlife Act of 1953, but for some reason deaths induced by the Department of Conservation seem to be exempt,’ she writes in the book.

“Dropping poisonous chemicals all over our pristine and beautiful place is appalling n all levels and has to stop. If something isn’t done there’s going to be a disaster,” she said.

The Quiet Forest: The Case Against Aerial 1080 can be bought on the Tross Publishing website The book costs $35 including postage within New Zealand.