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Government "stacking" toxic spray advisory group

Government "stacking" toxic spray advisory group

The Agriculture and Forestry Ministry obviously intended to "stack" its new Painted Apple Moth community advisory committee with people sympathetic to the spraying, Green Party Biosecurity Spokesperson Ian Ewen-Street said today.

Mr Ewen-Street was commenting on the ministry's decision to disband the existing community advisory group and set up a new one. It has written to existing members, advising of its decision.

Mr Ewen-Street said the ministry obviously wanted to get rid of critics of the spray campaign, and stack the advisory group with people more sympathetic to the spray programme.

"The PAM spraying has turned into such a public relations disaster, MAF has decided to shoot the messenger. Because they're not hearing what they want from a group they set up to reflect community opinion, they're going to hand-pick their advisors. Whatever happened to democracy?" Mr Ewen-Street said.

He urged the Government to intervene to ensure a wide variety of views was represented in the new group, including people opposed to the spraying.

Mr Ewen-Street said it was particularly appalling MAF had removed Dr Meriel Watts from the group, as she was arguably New Zealand's leading pesticides expert.

It was also concerning there would be a period where there was no advisory group in place, Mr Ewen-Street said.

MAF's painted apple moth project director Ian Gear said today the ministry aimed to have the new group in place by early December.

"We are looking to establish a group that truly represents the community that we can liaise with, and reciprocate with, and have meaningful dialogue with," Mr Gear said.

"We will be seeking advice from the councils involved - Waitakere and Auckland City Councils - as to appropriate people or groups in the area we should be talking with, and will be formulating a group from there," Mr Gear said.

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