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PC-ness put ahead of safety with Ruapehu decision

Hon Dr Nick Smith
National Environment Spokesperson

10 March 2004

Government puts political correctness ahead of safety with Ruapehu decision

Conservation Minister Chris Carter has put his government's politically correct concerns over Maori spirituality and purist environmentalism ahead of public safety in deciding not to proceed with minor earthworks to prevent a large lahar on Mt Ruapehu, says National Environment Spokesperson Dr Nick Smith.

The tephra rim of Mt Ruapehu's crater lake is expected to burst at some point between late 2004 and 2005, sending millions of cubic meters of mud and rock into the Whangaehu River.

"It is madness for the government not to proceed with minor engineering works to unblock the Ruapehu crater lake's exit into the Whangaehu River. These works would cost just $200,000 and would remove the very serious risk to life and millions of dollars in damage to properties downstream," says Dr Smith.

"Ministers Carter and Hawkins make fools of themselves in claiming that these minor engineering works cannot be carried out due to the risk to workers. This is a minor excavation that could be carried out by any number of civil engineering contractors in perfect safety.

"This latest justification for inaction is a smokescreen for the real reason of not wanting to offend Maori or environmentalists. While environmental and cultural concerns are important, public safety must come first.

"I challenge the Government to release the technical reports that say this work cannot be carried out safely," says Dr Smith.

"The Government must, at the very least, provide an indemnity that it will pick up the cost of any damage from the lahar as it is they that have decided, on behalf of local residents, not to take any measures to prevent it.

"It seems the Government is intent on playing Russian Roulette with people's lives and property."

Ends

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