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Cr Vern Walsh On Former Horticultural Sites

15 November 2004

Comments By Cr Vern Walsh On Former Horticultural Sites

Prepared for delivery at the public meeting organised by Auckland City Council at 7pm 15 November, Avondale College

I believe in the right to know. Your right to know.

Some suggest we should not note on a LIM that your land has been used in the past for horticulture.

There is a message I would like the owners of thousands of properties, not only in Auckland, but in Waitakere, North Shore, Rodney, Manukau, Franklin and Papakura to hear tonight: The law requires a council to note information it has about a property on the LIM.

There is no choice.

Then we come to the question of what is noted.

In this case we note simply that the land was once used for horticulture.
And that there is no evidence there is or is not contamination.
Full stop.

From this, some have made the giant leap – at your expense – to describe this a “toxic soils shock”, a “toxic bombshell” and assert, without qualification, that your residential properties are “poisoned’.

So far, there is no evidence of this. Those who make these claims without evidence should look to themselves over the anxiety and distress they have caused you, and, indeed the loss they may have caused you.

A degree of calmness and proportion is required.

Most of all, leadership is required to make sure your very real concerns and questions are properly and quickly dealt with.

For example, among the 4782 residential sites in Auckland City alone, previously used for horticulture, 1589 belong to Housing New Zealand.

We have met with Housing New Zealand.

On the former horticultural sites in Auckland City alone, there are 12 state owned schools.

We have talked with the Ministry of Education.

But what about the schools and state houses in Manukau, Waitakere, North Shore, Rodney, Papakura and Franklin – and in 73 other local authority areas in New Zealand?

Are there tens of thousands of state houses and school pupils on former horticultural land throughout New Zealand? I suspect so.

Just like you, the Government, as a property owner, is wrestling with the question – should I test my property?

But if they do – to what guideline?

Astonishingly, the Ministry for the Environment has set no national guidelines. Last week they told us it would take at least 18 months for them to do so.

I believe the Government needs to address this as a matter of urgency, for your sake, for the country’s sake.

The time has past for others to hide behind Auckland City Council on this issue.

And why should you alone be left holding the bill for testing your soil?

In 1903 the Orchards and Garden Pests Act was passed - making it an offence to allow specified diseases to be present in an orchard. The passing of the Agricultural Chemicals Act in 1959 made pesticides subject to compulsory regulatory control. As a result the Agricultural Chemicals Board came into being.

So in 1903 the Government said you have to use pesticides or you can’t send your produce to market.

Now, under the Resource Management Act, it says you can’t have pesticides on your soil.

The Government can’t have it both ways – at your expense.

Auckland City wants this issue addressed nationally – and immediately.

We want Local Government New Zealand to take up a position on behalf of all local authorities.

I suggest to the Government and its agencies that they move quickly to determine what is safe and what’s not, and provide funding for and agree to a programme of soil testing, not only on its own properties, but private properties as well.

They said use these contaminants. I say let them now pay to test if they’ve caused a problem.


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