A possum killed by the poison 1080 probably faces a slower death than one ripped to death by pig dogs but it's the most efficient method of pest control, Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says.
The Department of Conservation is about to start its third Battle for our Birds programme to protect native species from pests and Ms Barry says the poison is the best option.
But just last week world renowned anthropologist Jane Goodall was in Wellington telling parliamentarians of the need to be humane in controlling pests.
"If we want to protect the beautiful birds and other wildlife that's endemic to New Zealand, these other creatures need to go because they're competing and in many cases driving them out, many species have become extinct," she said.
"We're probably going to be forced to take their life from them, but let's try and do it humanely."
Ms Barry said with 1080 the animals died "reasonably quickly" and that no method was particularly attractive or appealing.
She said for possums to die in traps, or joeys to be caught in their mother's pouch in a trap was also not a good death.
"The reality is when you're exterminating pests at the large proportions that we face them in we need to be able to use methods that are fast, effective and efficient," she said.
"I don't know how long it takes a four kilogram possum to die of 1080 poisoning but I would imagine it's probably a slightly slower death than being ripped to death by pig dogs or some of the other options that exist for their demise."