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Nelson petition calls for methyl bromide ban

4 August 2005

Nelson petition calls for methyl bromide ban

The Nelson methyl bromide petition being presented today should put the next Parliament on notice that use of this toxic chemical must be phased out as soon as possible, Green Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

Ms Kedgley and Nelson-based Green MP Mike Ward are tabling the petition organised by campaigner Claire Gulman at Parliament today. Use of methyl bromide as a fumigant at the Port of Nelson is controversial locally because of ill health and deaths suffered by workers and nearby residents. The chemical is used to fumigate a range of imports at ports throughout New Zealand.

Mrs Gulman, the chairperson of Campaigners Against Toxic Sprays, became involved in the issue after being contacted by Ian Street, who was poisoned by methyl bromide while working at the Port of Nelson and is receiving ACC as a result. She initially lobbied local authorities and companies, but then decided to petition Parliament because decisions and action are needed at a national level.

"Under the Montreal Protocol, of which New Zealand is a signatory, methyl bromide is supposed to be phased out for all fumigation except wood because it is the most virulent ozone-depleting chemical. But there's no sign that this actually is happening here," Ms Kedgley says.

"But this chemical also has serious health effects, as demonstrated by Mr Street's case. There has also been a cluster of six deaths from motor neurone disease amongst men working at the Port of Nelson, which has prompted the local concern, although some researchers dispute that the fumigation is to blame.

"I congratulate Nelson for putting methyl bromide on the political agenda - people throughout New Zealand need to be aware of it. The concern nationally is that a resource consent is not required to establish or run a methyl bromide fumigation facility, so it can be used anywhere without public notification. And despite New Zealand signing up to the Montreal agreement, it is still be used here as a soil fumigant by industries such as strawberry growers, so its overall usage has gone up, not down since New Zealand signed the Protocol."

Mr Ward says the Port of Nelson fumigation facility is only a few hundred metres from where he lives: "in fact it is right next door to the pub where I drink".

Mrs Gulman says methyl bromide use has to stop sometime and it would be best if it were sooner rather than later.

"The first thing the Government can do is restrict it's use to those activities where it is most difficult to replace, such as products that require a penetrative fumigant, and use heat treatment and non-ozone depleting alternatives for import fumigation such as tyres and container loads of imported goods.

There are alternatives and the fumigation industry shouldn't be allowed to make people and the atmosphere carry the true cost of methyl bromide simply because it is economically cheap and convenient."

"The Greens are the only party that has shown any interest in this issue. People are dieing, I call on the whole of Parliament to stop ignoring it and get on with changing the rules," Mrs Gulman says.


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