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Greens call for national contamination fund

7 December 2004

Greens call for national contamination fund

The Greens are urging the Government to set up a well-resourced national fund for cleaning up contaminated sites.

Green Health spokesperson Sue Kedgley said she strongly supported the Sustainability Council's call for a national fund and a national register of contaminated sites. "It's time for the Government to stop pussy-footing around and take some serious and genuine action to address this urgent national problem."

"In 1995, the Ministry for the Environment proposed creating a fund with hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up contaminated sites around the country. Almost a decade later, nothing has been done to implement this perfectly reasonable and appropriate suggestion."

"The Government is deliberately procrastinating on this important issue. We hear reports every other day from a different part of the country that local and regional councils are struggling with the contamination problem because they have inadequate funding to deal with it. Yet the Government is refusing to provide leadership and help out.

"The Ministry for the Environment has estimated that cleaning up contaminated sites around New Zealand will cost $1 billion. The present $2 million allocated for clean-up is peanuts and the Government needs to make a major funding commitment in next year's Budget."

Ms Kedgley also called for the Government to honour and enforce the "polluter pays" principle that it has committed to in international law.

"The companies causing this contamination must be held to account. There is currently no effective regime for holding polluters liable for the harm they cause others by using hazardous substances. Such polluters must be made to pay for the economic loss and damage to human health they precipitate."

Ms Kedgley added that the Government had been lamentably slow in dealing with New Zealand's contamination problem.

"What on earth have they been doing about contamination all this time? We have known about this problem for over a decade, yet the Government still hasn't responded in any coherent way. The time bomb is now blowing up in the Government's face, and instead of cleaning up the mess, it is diving for cover."

In July 1993, the New Scientist magazine published an article describing New Zealand as a "poisoned paradise", and identified contamination as an urgent problem. In the article, Pete Hodgson - Labour's then-Environment spokesperson - pointed out that New Zealand had thousands of contaminated sites. "New Zealand is sitting on a time bomb," he said.


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