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New Zealand blocking int waste convention

New Zealand blocking international waste convention

Green Co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons today said New Zealand appeared to be dragging the chain on ratifying an amendment to an international treaty designed to stop OECD countries exporting their hazardous waste to developing countries.

The amendment is formally known as the Ban Amendment to the Basel Convention but is better known as the Basel Ban.

Ms Fitzsimons will challenged the Minister for the Environment Marian Hobbs during question time this afternoon on New Zealand's position on this treaty, and when the Government plans to sign it.

"Around 500 million tonnes of hazardous waste is produced each year, most of it by OECD countries. To avoid high disposal costs due to environmental standards at home, much of this waste continues to be dumped on developing countries which do not have environmental protection legislation.

"The Basel Ban does not prohibit hazardous waste being transferred between OECD member countries but it does ensure that non-OECD countries are no longer dumping grounds for dangerous waste from the developed world.

"We are concerned that at the current meetings in Geneva on implementing the Basel Convention New Zealand appears to be working with other opponents of the ban, such as the United States and Australia, to actively oppose it," she said.

Ms Fitzsimons said the treaty was important as developing countries did not have the capacity, the skills or the standards to ensure that hazardous waste was treated and stored appropriately. The Minister was unable to tell the House today whether New Zealand does any monitoring of the health and environmental effects in developing countries of the industrial waste we export, such as scrap electronic waste containing a highly toxic cocktail of heavy metals. Stories abound of 'recycling' operations in peoples' kitchens and bathrooms, exposing people and the environment to high levels of pollution.

"To prevent these risks New Zealand has already ratified the regional Waigani Convention that applies in the South Pacific. I cannot understand why we do not ratify the virtually identical Basel Ban, extending this protection to all non-OECD countries.

"Opposing this treaty is opposing the environmentally sound management of waste and the protection of developing countries from rich nations' waste. The Greens call on this Government to take some responsibility for the consequences of our own economic activity, and sign this convention," said Ms Fitzsimons.

Ms Fitzsimons will be following up this issue with written questions.

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