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Govt must take responsibility for SOE’s poison

Govt must take responsibility for SOE’s poison river

Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says Mark Burton’s answers to her parliamentary questions today on Solid Energy’s environmental record at the Stockton Mine don’t match with what she saw just a few days ago.

“The Minister of State-Owned Enterprises was wrong when he told the House this afternoon that a plan to reduce acid drainage from the Stockton Mine is already being acted upon,” said Ms Fitzsimons, the Green Party’s Energy and Conservation Spokesperson.

“It was made clear to me when I visited the mine last Saturday that Solid Energy has only very recently begun to develop such a plan, after forty odd years of inaction on the issue.

“I was appalled at the state of the water draining from Stockton. Those streams feed into the Ngakawau River, which is thick with suspended solids that leave a scum line along the bank. As long ago as 1996 it was established that those streams showed high acidity, heavy metals well above Maximum Acceptable Values (MAVs) and high levels of suspended sediments, but nothing has been done since.

“There is no evidence that the Government has ever taken an interest in the gross pollution I witnessed; the recent steps that have been taken are the result of pressure from the local community and increased awareness from the mine’s management. No targets or timeline have been set, no clean up has actually begun and only some of the water monitors are in place.

“Solid Energy is a State-Owned Enterprise. The shareholding Ministers, Mark Burton and Michael Cullen, have the right and the obligation to insist SOEs are properly managed. I was shocked to find that the agreement between the Minister and the Board of Solid Energy requires no environmental clean up. Nor has any ministerial directive ever been issued, as provided for under Section 13 of the State-Owned Enterprises Act 1986.

“There are no meaningful conditions for water quality attached to Solid Energy’s Stockton consents, which last until 2027, because they were issued before the passing of the RMA. In this situation the Government has a clear responsibility to close this yawning gap and demand quick action from a polluter that it owns,” said Ms Fitzsimons.

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