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Dioxin Testing Programme Agreed

Environment Minister Marian Hobbs and Green Party health spokesperson Sue Kedgley today announced a $500,000 programme of dioxin soil testing for up to 45 residential and former sawmill sites and air testing for up to 15 industrial plants around the country.

The programme comes from a Green Party initiative agreed by the government during the last budget round and signed off by the Cabinet on Monday.

"This programme will quantify the levels of historical dioxin contamination in soil and assess current dioxin discharges from industry," Marian Hobbs said. "It will assist the Government in our goal to reduce risks to the environment and human health from dioxin."

Ms Kedgley said no dioxin testing had been carried out on several hundred sawmill and timber treatment sites around New Zealand where PCPs (Pentachlorophenol) had been used, so there is little information available as to whether the sites are contaminated or not.

"The concern is that dioxin contamination could be high for some sites, and this is a particular concern for sites that have been converted to other uses, such as residential areas," she said.

"The Green Party hopes that as a result of this testing, all dioxin contaminated sites around New Zealand will be publicly identified on a national register, and remedial action taken to clean them up," Ms Kedgley said.

The testing programme complements the Ministry for the Environment's "Action Plan for Reducing Discharges of Dioxin to Air", now open for public consultation. This plan proposes a national environmental standard for dioxin that will reduce dioxins being discharged into the air.

The sites to be soil tested are yet to be confirmed. The air testing programme will be developed in cooperation with industry.

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