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Papers prove MAF tried to delay spray report

Papers prove MAF tried to delay spray report

Green MP Sue Kedgley is accusing bureaucrats at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and the Ministry of Health (MoH) of deliberately attempting to delay a major study on the health effects of the Painted Apple Moth spraying programme.

"The paper trail shows that officials tried to keep the lid on this report until after the spray programme is finally completed tomorrow [Tuesday 11 May]," said Ms Kedgley, the Green Health spokesperson. "In other words, they didn't want the people of West Auckland knowing the potential danger of what's being dumped on their heads until it was too late."

The Green Party has obtained papers under the Official Information Act that indicate the draft report, which raised serious questions over the spray effects, was given to Health officials as early as January.

"Over the next four months, officials from MAF and MoH conducted an extraordinary correspondence in which MAF raised objections to its release and MoH basically offered options to delay its publication," said Ms Kedgley.

The papers indicate that by February, the report's authors are getting sick of the delays. One of the respected academics who prepared the report, Dr. Simon Hales wrote to Sally Gilbert, the Environment Team leader at the Public Health Directorate of the Ministry of Health, on the 25th February: "As scientists we do not wish to become involved in an essentially political discussion between Government officials about the validity, interpretation and significance of our findings".

On the 4th March, Sally Gilbert provided MAF with a range of options on how to proceed with the report. Option 1 reads: "Refuse to accept the report unless it is satisfactory." Other options for MAF include commissioning another analysis and report on the raw data and releasing the report together with an MoH "analysis and critique as part of a communications strategy". Ms Kedgley says the report probably would never have seen the light of day if media hadn't been leaked a copy and revealed details in mid-April. "Even when the media made public much of the report's findings, the Ministry of Health delayed its release for another nine days."

The Green Party is repeating its call for an independent inquiry to review the three-year spraying programme and its health effects on the people of West Auckland.

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