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New air quality standards leave dioxin issue

15 July 2004
New air quality standards leave dioxin issue smouldering

Green MP Sue Kedgley says new environmental air quality standards announced today do not go nearly far enough and continue to allow industrial processes that pollute and contaminate the air we breathe.

"Polluted air affects the health of all of people and living organisms in New Zealand. We should not allow industry to continue to use processes that we know emit dioxins and other airborne contaminants," said Ms Kedgley, the Green Party's Health Spokesperson.

"The Green Party does welcome the mandatory bottom lines for ambient air quality set by these new National Environmental Standards (NES), but it's frankly absurd that it will take five to nine years for them to be fully implemented.

"And I am astonished that they do not include a commitment to phase out medical and bio-security waste incinerators, which are a significant source of dioxin contamination. The Green Party has long maintained that phasing out such devices over a five-year period would allow an orderly switch to the perfectly adequate alternative of steam sterilisation.

"We urgently need a comprehensive strategy to eliminate all industrial processes and products that initially produce dioxins, such as these incinerators, chlorine bleaching of paper and the use of PVC's in industry. Some of the measures in the NES, such as banning the open air burning of tyres, will put a dent in dioxin air pollution, but the goal should be the total elimination of this serious health risk.

"The Labour-led Government has still not ratified the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, more than a year after the passing of their HSNO (Stockholm Convention) Amendment Act, from which they excluded Article 5 of the Convention and its plan to reduce and ultimately eliminate dioxin-causing processes. Such a course of action weighs against their apparent good intentions in finally getting the air quality NES together.

"It is thirteen years since the provision for standards such as these was introduced in the RMA and yet the implementation of these air quality rules will not take full effect for another nine years. Twenty-two years between legislation being passed and its regulations taking effect is ridiculous and a sad indictment on the priority successive governments have given to protecting New Zealanders from a serious health risk.

"When it comes to reducing domestic air pollution, simply making rules will be insufficient if the Government does not allocate the significant resources needed to assist households to make the change from open fires to low-emission wood burners. These sort of changes need community 'buy-in', which isn't going to happen if they literally leave people in the cold," said Ms Kedgley.


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