Residents urged to check for lead


Save keas from being poisoned by lead, the Kea Conservation Trust says.

A new trust campaign is asking locals to inspect buildings for lead elements including nail heads and flashings.

Trust chairwoman Tamsin Orr-Walker said although the use of lead in new construction was outlawed in the 1990s, buildings – including private homes, cribs, high country huts, and farm buildings – could still have lead on their roofs and flashings.

Ms Orr-Walker said keas picked at the lead, which tasted good to them.

“When it oxidises it is quite sweet, and it is highly malleable, so they can manipulate it really easily, which keas love.”

Keas swallowed the pieces they picked off, which then leached into their body, causing brain damage, organ failure and death, she said.

The trust hoped to encourage local communities to take a moment to look around areas close to kea habitats and get in touch when they saw places that might contain lead.

There had been sightings of kea at sites including Mount Aspiring National Park, Treble Cone, and Makarora, Ms Orr-Walker said.

“A lot of communities where houses or cribs were built prior to the 1990s will all have lead in them – they might have lead flashings on roofs or lead nail heads, so we are really keen for people to look at their own properties.”

The trust was also asking people to come forward if they could help with providing new roofing materials or installation, Ms Orr-Walker said.

“What we are looking at doing is to get other people within the community to help out.

“In the Arthurs Pass area, for instance, they are starting work on a lead removal initiative, and we have seed-funded that – we put in $5000 that came from one of our donors.”

The trust had also found a local roofing company which had donated flashings.

“So we are hoping that it will really become a community effort to help people remove it.”

Lead wheel weights and lead shot were also an issue, Ms Orr-Walker said.

“A lot of our bird species have been known to pick up lead.”

Lead-poisoned kea could be treated by a vet, so the trust encouraged people to come forward if they found a sick kea, she said.

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