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Minister releases historic Agent Orange papers

Fri, 28 Jan 2005

Defence Minister releases historic Agent Orange papers
---------------------------------

Minister of Defence, Mark Burton yesterday released papers from the Ministry of Defence and New Zealand Defence Force archives relating to allegations about the manufacture of Agent Orange in New Zealand.

"I instructed Defence officials to conduct a search of historical records and files for any material relevant to this issue. I am releasing all the documents today," Mark Burton said.

"Most of these papers are already in the public arena as they were originally released in 1989 in response to an Official Information Act request or were part of the Ministry of Defence submission to the Select Committee Inquiry in 1989."

"The issue received extensive media coverage during 1989 and 1990 and again in 1998 and 2001, and recent publicity does not seem to have provided any new documented information or insight.

The papers include correspondence among National Cabinet Ministers and officials about the possible supply of defoliants to the US military in 1967. While National Ministers were clearly enthusiastic about the possibility, this apparently did not occur because the quantity of defoliants that could be produced was deemed to be too little and in any event transportation of the material was likely to cause problems.

In 1998 both the NZ Herald and NZ Listener wrote about the issue in some detail.

"In the apparent absence of any new evidence it seems that the 1989 Select Committee inquiry still provides the most comprehensive response to the question of whether or not Agent Orange was manufactured in New Zealand," Mark Burton said.

The 1990 Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee inquired into the alleged Manufacture of Agent Orange by Ivan Watkins Dow in New Zealand during the period of the Vietnam War. The committee came to the conclusion that evidence as to whether Agent Orange was manufactured during the Vietnam War was inconclusive.

Their examination of the evidence at the time confirmed that Ivan Watkins Dow shipped some material to the United States during 1967 and 1968 but that it was not the type used in, or capable of being converted to the type used in, Agent Orange.

Papers released include:

· The documents originally released in 1989 under the Official Information Act · The report of the 1990 Select Committee Inquiry · Submissions to the Inquiry

ENDS


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