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Greens maintain commitment to keeping NZ GE-Free

24 July 2005

Greens maintain commitment to keeping NZ GE-Free

GE is still in the lab and keeping it there will continue to be a priority for the Greens in the next Parliament, says Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons.

"There is one aspect of the Greens' Environment Policy announced today that is not new - we remain committed to keeping New Zealand's environment GE-Free.

"Happily, the Greens and the GE-Free Movement have so far succeeded in keeping living GE organisms 'in the lab'. We take credit, along with the rest of the movement, for the fact that NZ's first proposed release, in 1999, was withdrawn and there have been none since. This has given us a breathing space and time to reflect on the damage GE crops could do to our economy.

"Despite the lifting of the legal GE Moratorium in October 2003, there has still been no release of Genetically Modified Organisms. There haven't even been any applications.

"The Greens have kept the promise we made in 2002 and not voted confidence and supply for the Labour-led Government during this term because of its unwise and short-sighted lifting of the GE Moratorium.

"The Moratorium is now history, so by definition, its continuation cannot be a 'bottom line' for us going into this election or subsequent negotiations. But both the Labour Party and the public should be under no illusion - maintaining New Zealand's GE-Free status is a high priority for the Greens in any coalition or support talks after the election," says Ms Fitzsimons.

ENDS

Environment Policy Summary

Vision: A society that lives within the limits of the natural world, where people understand the impacts of their way of life on the environment, and are involved in decision making about sustainable development. Sustainability will take precedence over growth in GDP, and will be measured and reported.

Green Achievements: The Greens have achieved budget funding for environmental legal aid, environment centres, environmental education and organic farming and improved legislation including the RMA.

Policy highlights:

Rivers and freshwater
* Control pollution of lakes and rivers from urban stormwater and agricultural runoff through a National Policy Statement and National Environmental Standards under the RMA
* Require regional councils to have integrated catchment management plans for all their significant rivers
* Require resource consents for intensification of land use on sensitive soils
* Establish a contestable fund to support sustainable land management practices on farms, paid for by a levy on nitrogen and phosphate fertiliser matched by government funding.

Genetic Engineering
* Maintain NZ's current GE Free environment and food production - no release of GE organisms outside a contained laboratory

Air quality - vehicle emissions
* Set, by 2006, comprehensive emission standards for all ages and classes of vehicle
* Prohibit the import of vehicles older than 7 years unless they can demonstrate they meet strict emissions standards
* Introduce a range of mandatory emissions tests as appropriate for different types of vehicles

Education for Sustainability
* Increase funding and capacity in colleges of education and schools so that environmental education can be delivered in all schools, and develop cross-curricula achievement standards. * Emphasise the understanding of ecosystem function and human impacts, through direct experience.

RMA
* Uphold the core principles of environmental protection and public participation.
* Ensure better enforcement of consent conditions by councils.
* Support local decision making with National Policy Statements and Environmental Standards.

The policy also includes sections on Sustainable Development, Climate Change, Waste, Product Labelling, Antarctica, and International Agreements. See the full policy at:

Background: History of pollution of Waiwhetu Stream

In the 1920 to 1930s the Gracefield/Petone industrial area was developed. The 1970s saw further industrial development there.

Up until the late 1970s all industrial wastewater went straight into stream without treatment. In 1978, it was decided that the wastewater would instead be diverted to a trade waste sewer so that instead of flowing into the river it would be dumped directly into the sea at Pencarrow Head.

In 1979 top sediment layer in lower Waiwhetu was removed by dredging. Despite this contaminant levels remained high in 1983.

Table: Concentrations of heavy metals in lower reaches of Waiwhetu Stream

2000/2001 test results Typical background level in Hutt Valley Chromium 280 45 Copper 420 20 Lead 5200 to 9000 22 Zinc 2300 to 12000 80

results given in PPM - (parts per million)

In 1992, Deely et al said that the metals are highly mobile, moving between sediments and the overlying water and are readily absorbed by stream flora and fauna. Metal concentrations in sediments are almost paralleled by those in overlying water. The lower stretch of the stream is almost devoid of plant and animal life.

In 2001, Sheppard and Goff found high levels of contaminants even beyond 1m depth. They estimated there are 30,000 cubic metres of highly contaminated sediment in the stream. This equates to a rugby field 5 metres deep.

A 2004 report by the Wellington Regional Council found eels in the Waiwhetu containing between 9 and 21 times guideline levels for DDT and between 2 and 6 times for Dieldrin but all heavy metals were below guideline values. In contrast, mussels contained between 5 and 6 times the guideline level for DDT, were below guideline values for dieldrin, had between 4 and 7 times the guideline level for Cobalt and found lead at levels higher than guideline value in one mussel. The report concluded that there may be a health risk from consuming eels, mussels and other species from the lower Waiwhetu. The study was funded from the Contaminated Sites Fund.

There is a collaborative Waiwhetu Stream Group and a Waiwhetu Stream Action Plan that aims to clean the stream up.

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