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Innovative and Groundbreaking Inquiry to Be Held

MEDIA RELEASE
For Immediate Release

Innovative and Groundbreaking Inquiry to Be Held
Community to 'do it themselves'


An innovative and groundbreaking People's Inquiry into the impacts and effects of aerial spraying pesticides on people in urban areas, will be held in Waitakere City, New Zealand in November this year.

The PAM [painted apple moth] Community Network, which is co-ordinating the Inquiry, says it has previously explored every option with the Government to obtain an open inquiry into the human impacts and the conduct of these aerial spraying eradication campaigns.

Hana Blackmore, convenor of the Interim Steering Committee for the People's Inquiry, said that when all else failed, "we decided to hold an inquiry ourselves".

"This is the first time an Inquiry of this scope and nature will be held anywhere in the world. The People's Inquiry will be community-driven and led, which means that it is the community who will determine and agree the scope of the Inquiry and it's terms of reference."

Hana said the Inquiry will be heard in front of a Commission of three to five respected members of national and international standing with expertise in the effects of chemicals on human health, human rights, ethics, social impacts and a community perspective.

The Interim Steering Committee says it has already secured the commitment of one international expert, and expects to present the names of all proposed commissioners to the community for their endorsement at a public meeting in July.

"At last the people themselves will get the opportunity, not only to have their experience heard and taken seriously, but to positively contribute to future biosecurity programmes and research directions," Hana said.

"Since the early days of the first urban spraying programme in East Auckland, there has been a consistent pattern of failing to hear the voice of the people being sprayed. Their concerns and experience, particularly of the adverse health effects, have been trivialised and dismissed, and even basic human rights denied."

Hana said the need to conduct an Inquiry now was urgent and timely. "Government enthusiasm for aerial spraying continues unabated. There have been recent warnings that aerial spraying is on the cards against the Fall Webworm moth in East Auckland, and the Minister of Conservation has granted blanket permission to aerial spray 300,000 hectares of conservation land in Greater Auckland for any moth pest.

The Interim Steering Committee will be holding a public meeting with the community at the Kelston Community Centre, Waitakere City at 7.00pm on July 28th 2005 to discuss the process for and the scope of the People's Inquiry.

ENDS

Background to People's Inquiry

Over the last eight years New Zealand's Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) has conducted three major multi-million dollar eradication campaigns against incursions of alien moths - the white spotted tussock moth, the painted apple moth and the gypsy moth.

All these campaigns have involved intensive aerial spraying of insecticide over heavily populated urban areas. The extent and duration of all three eradications have been in excess of any urban aerial spraying programme anywhere in the world.

West Auckland for instance has experienced over 70 aerial spray events during the 29 months of the aerial spraying programme.

Some residents have not only been exposed to the continuous spray programme but also faced huge social, family and economic costs and disruption when government evacuation out of the area was necessary for medical reasons.

The insecticide used was Foray 48B, a formulation containing the active ingredient Bacillus thuringienis kurstaki, a bacterium, and a number of adjuvant chemicals. Because this insecticide is based on a biological organism it has been widely assumed to be safe for people. As a result monitoring of adverse health effects has been grossly inadequate, despite repeated requests for proper surveillance.

Because the Health Risk Assessments determined that health effects would be 'negligible' or 'acceptable', when members of the community have complained of ill health, generally the Government has discounted any link with the spray, or determined the effects to be acceptable.

During the most prolonged and intensive of the campaigns, that of the spraying of West Auckland for the painted apple moth, over 400 people have reported to a community health research project that they had symptoms of ill health resulting from the spray. Several university- based studies have also identified adverse health effects resulting from the spray.

In spite of these studies, and the evidence accumulated by the community, all requests for an official inquiry or review into the impacts and effects of the spraying programmes have been denied. The community therefore decided to hold its own Inquiry.

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