Phil Bilbrough: Hubris and Nemesis

Hubris and Nemesis

By Phil Bilbrough

As a part time environmentalist I have begun to see a new side of social media – one that niggles and hurts me, yet like a sadomasochist it makes me love it more.

How could I have missed the can-do nature of social media? Social media is written about a hundred times a day in 200 word blogs. Yet strangely I thought that the general public wouldn’t use it for marketing, they would ring a digital strategist like me up. They didn’t call me and they use social media to great affect.

I’ve told clients of the public relations opportunities of social media and I believe that advice, yet now I’m on the receiving end. Its awkward, irritating and fun. I’m not doing it and my adversaries are. My nemesis. Why I never saw that coming – could only be hubris. Anyone can use social networks (that’s their idea). You don’t need to call yourself a digital strategist you just need to be quick off the mark.

I work part time for Forest & Bird (a New Zealand not-for-profit independent conservation society). It is an important society for New Zealand, yet a lot of people really hate you. This is not a personal thing (or it might be) and many of our critics are also passionate about the environment. But their climate changes if we appear to be threatening their lifestyle or taking an approach to conservation that they don’t like. Forest & Bird is a national organisation – there is a lot of land, sea, flora and fauna to protect – its easy to upset someone somewhere. And Forest & Bird supports 1080.

And 1080 upsets a lot of people. This is a poison that DOC and regional councils drop into native forests (and on islands with native forests) to kill possums, rats and stoats. Its effective. Both cost effective (to reach the tens of thousands of inaccessible hectares) and killing effective. Forest & Bird believes that 1080 has saved forests and many birds from nasty cute fluffy animals.

But poison is poison. Many think that it kills birds – and it can – although it is brightly coloured and has cinnamon smell which is meant to put them off eating it. Also, 1080 is dropped from the sky and during that drop it can and has spilled onto private property and it has probably killed animals on some of those properties. Also if you are a hunter 1080 could kill your prey.

This issue is ideal for social media sites. Emotive, both local and national – lots of anecdotes, scientists vs the public, Government vs the people, small fluffy animals getting killed all great elements for sides and trench warfare.

A person told me of seeing 1080 pellets while tramping, on the forest floor and not hearing any birds at all. She equated the silence with 1080 – that is 1080 killed the birds. There may have been no birds, but there were possums. Possums raid nests to eat bird eggs, (they also eat trees) and because there are possums then 1080 gets dropped.

The anti-1080 lobby are all over social media sites and sometime before the pro-1080 group. They stole the march and it has been successful for them. I mean they didn’t talk about social media (like me) they went and did it. All power to them, and they have had great results, the Kaikoura City Council, Taupo City Council and local community boards in the Coromandel are banning 1080. Stunningly stupid decisions. Possibly those councils think that they can manage the forest pest problem now that 1080 has done the hard work, and drops occur every 5 years and that’s a loooonnggg time in politics – ban it this year bring back it in 5 and no-one will know.

Kerre Woodham is anti-1080 as well, and1080 issues are never long out the news media.

Social media sites are the virtual 1080 battle ground. A DOC person has been accused of allegedly editing a Wikipedia page that referenced 1080.

I don’t live anywhere near a 1080 drop (as far as I know) I do live near the town belt in Wellington where poisoning for pest destruction is common place (and a poison much more toxic than 1080), it’s just that this kind of poisoning is under the radar and doesn’t drop out of the sky – that much (a key point). For those living near a 1080 drop  they really may have had an unpleasant experience of 1080, and it will kill pets and livestock if they eat it.

Pro-1080 people are fighting back on social media and news sites. The pro lobby are generally scientists and I suspect, that they may have waited for results from studies of the effectiveness of the pest destruction strategies. I mean, a bird population in a specific area wouldn’t bounce back immediately after a 1080 drop. And now that they have the ammo they are fighting back.

So I am pro-1080, but let’s move on. My advice too you is to kill possums, rats and stoats, don’t put stoats down your pants, and if you have something to say don’t hang about, get it on Youtube.


Phil Bilbrough is a freelance online advertising specialist who is blogging on the subject for Scoop at He can be contacted at

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