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Public Have 'No Say' In Massive Spray Proposal

23rd April 2002

Community groups STOP and CC-PAM, are appalled that a massive aerial spraying campaign over a huge area of greater Auckland could take place without any public input or consultation.

STOP led a deputation to last night's meeting of the Auckland City Council (Tuesday 23rd April) protesting the total absence of any public or Council consultation on MAF's (Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry) proposals for funding for a continuing eradication programme against the Painted Apple Moth.

STOP spokesperson Hana Blackmore said it was outrageous and unbelievable that such a massive programme can be imposed by MAF on the whole of Auckland City, without the Council or its people being consulted, or having any process in place for deliberations or submissions.

"Few people have realised the scale of the possible operation. MAF are proposing to spray up to 44,000 hectares. This is an area eleven times greater than the Tussock Moth spray in 1996, and will affect hundreds of thousands more people" said Hana.

The last minute deputation was given speaking rights to raise the issue, after the Group realised that MAF proposals were going to government without any Council deliberation.

"Basically - it's already too late" said Hana. "We were informed last night that although two Auckland City Councillors were briefed by MAF in early April, they did not see fit to put the matter on any agenda for full Council attention".

"Personally I am appalled that both MAF and these two Councillors do not think it is of any great concern that the most massive aerial assault that New Zealanders have ever been subjected to, could happen within the month."

The deputation presented to Council an alternative option for the eradication of the pest. Kubi Witten-Hannah, Chairman of the MAF established Community Advisory Group outlined to Council the community-developed fifth option, which is based on an extended ground-based, non-aerial spray programme.

"This option has been endorsed and adopted by Waitakere City Council" said Kubi, "Whilst the Auckland Regional Council did not have this option available when it voted for MAF's blanket spraying, it could re-visit its decision if MAF do not meet their strong health protection provisos."

The Community Advisory Group is holding an Auckland-wide public meeting on Monday 29th April to put all options to a community vote.

"It is important that people come to this meeting and make their choice known. We will be passing their concerns directly to Cabinet" said Hana. "After all, they will be at the receiving end of any spray, not MAF or the Ministers in Wellington."

Appended: presentation to Auckland city Council - April 23rd 2002


I'm Hana Blackmore - spokesperson for the Society Targeting Overuse of Pesticides and member of the Community Advisory Group established by MAF to provide a forum for community input into the eradication of the Painted Apple Moth. With me is Kubi Witten-Hannah from Waitakere who is the chairman of the Advisory Group.

A brief re-cap to put this in context - and clarify the concerns that have brought us here today. Last week it was exactly six years since the White Spotted Tussock Moth was discovered in large numbers in the Eastern Suburbs of the city.

One year later after an extensive $12m aerial spraying programme - the Tussock moth was eradicated.

Exactly two years later in April 1999 the Painted Apple Moth was discovered in a mixed industrial/ residential area of Glendene in Waitakere City.

Today - three years down the track, this pest has not been controlled - let alone eradicated. It has spread from the original seven properties (or sites) to cover an extensive area of the cities of Waitakere and Auckland, with incursions into both North Shore City and Manukau.

This week MAF finalises a paper to Cabinet asking for additional funding of at least $20m to conduct an extended eradication campaign using widespread blanket aerial sprays.

Few people have realised just what is being proposed by MAF. Even fewer people have realised the scale of the operation.

The current area being sprayed in West Auckland against the PAM is 600 hectares. For comparison - the largest area sprayed by the DC6 in the Tussock Moth blanket spraying covered 4,000 hectares.

MAF are proposing to spray 44,000 hectares. An area eleven times greater than the Tussock Moth spray, affecting hundreds of thousands more people.

Aerial spraying on this scale will have a huge and costly impact on the health and wellbeing of everyone who lives and works in this city, not forgetting the disruption and consequences for our city's image and its vital tourist industry.

Many of us who have been involved since 1996 - participating in the two eradication programmes, and monitoring and researching the biosecurity issues - are appalled at the level of self-delusion and sheer bloody minded incompetence that has allowed this pest to infest an ever increasing area of the region.

As one of our well known West Auckland entomologist said recently ….
If this was an attempt to INTRODUCE a new species, you'd have to be pleased at how it was going".

To be frank with you, I find it outrageous and unbelievable that we can have such a massive programme about to be imposed by MAF on the whole of our city without this Council or its people being consulted, or having any process in place for deliberations or submissions - or any say at all.

If this issue was before Council now as an agenda item - instead of a ten minute presentation - we would have had the time to present all our research to you in support of our plea that Council not allow the City and its people to be subjected to this aerial assault.

We do not have this luxury of time - so before Kubi speaks to you about alternative options, I need to bring to your attention two related matters of great concern.

One - MAF and Public health are covering up a serious health issue regarding the safety of aerial spraying, and two - their refusal - and ministerial refusal as well - to investigate the matter has serious implications. .

In 1999 during an aerial spray campaign in Vancouver a comprehensive study was undertaken by the University of British Columbia. The study provided conclusive evidence of extensive spray drift, building penetration, and persistence both indoors and outside. The authors made a point of noting that the results were unexpected and complex.

What is the relevance of this? Over and over again - we are told this spray - Foray 48B - is safe.

The Painted Apple Moth Health Risk Assessment - says so. It quotes the evidence provided by the Health Surveillance Study that was done after the Tussock Moth campaign. Like all studies done anywhere in the world it compares the reported health concerns, consultations and outcomes with a control - or unexposed population.

But the evidence from the Vancouver study now shows - without doubt - that there would have been no control or unexposed group in the Eastern Suburbs to compare outcomes with. Everyone was exposed to spray drift.

Therefore - if substantiated - these results would invalidate Public Health's conclusions of non-effect and spray safety. (and we are not just talking about minor effects here. Premature births, miscarriages, thyroid conditions reported in the Eastern suburbs were all judged - and dismissed - according to this standard process).

From November last year through January - concerned and worried about the implications of this Study - we pressed for the Vancouver recommendations to be implemented here to validate their results.

To cut a long story short - neither Public Health nor MAF are interested or willing. MAF said they .."couldn't justify spending substantial government funds when they are being told by the health experts there are no health implications from using this spray". Beautiful example of a Catch 22, if it were not so serious.

We produced and sent to parliament, two comprehensive reports on spray drift, together with urgent requests to at least measure spray penetration into schools and childcare centres - the most vulnerable of places. Neither the Minister for Biosecurity nor the Minister for Health has even bothered to reply. And so the spraying went ahead - and people have got sick, and some people have got very sick.

We have all supported eradication of the PAM - but it had to be a safe. We do not believe the current aerial spray programme IS safe - and are appalled that it could be extended to involve the whole of this city. I would ask Kubi to take over from here and outline our solution.

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