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TASK Welcomes Publication of People's Inquiry

TASK Welcomes the Publication of the People's Inquiry Report.

TASK welcomes the publication of Report of the People's Inquiry, with its thorough analysis of the community submissions and its researched recommendations. ( TASK is an informal network of 178 concerned teachers and parents in West Auckland who strongly objected to their students and children being repeatedly exposed to the bio-aerosols of Foray48B during the MAF Painted Apple Moth Eradication Campaign 2002-2005.)

The People's Inquiry, held over 5 days in March 2006, enabled the West Auckland community to voice their experiences of the health, economic and traumatic impacts on their lives of the MAF aerial spraying campaign from 2002 – 2005.

These were not just a "small group of activists" as dismissed by Biosecurity Minister Jim Anderton ( without having actually read the independent report). The people who presented submissions to the Inquiry came from a wide cross-section of West Auckland citizens, old and young, who felt strongly enough about the devastating impact of the aerial spraying on their lives, to speak out and have their stories recorded.

"My teaching colleague, Viv Shapcott, unfortunately didn't survive to be able to present her submission to the Peoples Inquiry. After being seriously ill after every spray, she succumbed to an aggressive motor neurone disease which she firmly believed was triggered by the sprays," said Stephanie McKee, who was Head of Music at Kelston Girls' College at the time of the spraying campaign.

One of the Commissioners, Dr Tom Kerns, concluded that MAF's risk-assessment approach to decision-making violated a number of International Human Rights standards and conventions that New Zealand governments have signed up to. This is ironic, considering that just today the Prime Minister is referring to our international obligations to support the passing of Amendments to the Terrorism Suppression Act.

The MAF aerial spraying programme indeed had harmful social and educational impacts on schools, teachers and students as documented in the 70 submissions to the People's Inquiry. As the People's Inquiry Commissioners pointed out, the spraying programme discriminated against young people, who have increased vulnerability to toxicants, due to their smaller body weight and increased breathing rate compared to adults.

In particular, the principle of informed consent, the core of the Nuremburg Code, was certainly violated by the repeated aerial spraying of an urban population with undisclosed chemicals, and this point was also emphasised by Sir Geoffrey Palmer in his opinion on the legality of the MAF two- year spraying blitz.

"School teachers and Boards of Trustees are duty bound under law to protect the health and safety of their students, yet here was a government department spraying Foray48B with its bacteria and assorted unknown chemicals over school playgrounds and preschools. A group of 178 parents and teachers, concerned about the impacts of the spraying on teachers and students, signed a petition to the Minister of Education who refused to accept it, and who passed it on to the Minister of Biosecurity, and from there it disappeared into the black hole of non-response," said Stephanie McKee.

"We encourage all parents, teachers and school boards of trustees to read the Report of the People's Inquiry.Anyone can go to www.peoplesinquiry.co.nz to download a copy."

"We also trust that it will be studied closely, and not hastily dismissed, by the Biosecurity Ministry, the Health Ministry, the Education Ministry, the Human Rights Commissioner, the Commissioner for Children, the Solicitor General and the Ombudsman.

"We are optimistic that the recommendations of the Report, when they have been looked at carefully, will lead to amendments to the Biosecurity Act that will take into account society's responsibilities to uphold human health and human rights standards.

"An apology to those who suffered health effects, trauma and economic impacts, due to the aerial spraying programme, may help repair the broken trust between the ordinary people of West Auckland and the government. For biosecurity measures to be effective, MAF needs to work in partnership with communities and not alienate potential biosecurity volunteers."

"Students and children are told to pick themselves up and learn from their mistakes, to say sorry to people harmed by their thoughtless actions, and make amends for any wrongdoing. TASK believes that these ethicals standards should equally apply to Government agencies."

ENDS

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