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Minister in denial over environmental report

Environment Minister in denial over environmental report

- Maori Party Hon Tariana Turia, MP for Te Tai Hauauru

5 August 2008

Maori Party MP for Te Tai Hauauru, Tariana Turia, described the Environment Minister's answers to her questions in Parliament today as 'another load of the same old rubbish'.

"Trevor Mallard refused to answer questions about the Hokio Landfill near Levin, claiming not to have seen a recent report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, even though he had over three hours' notice of the questions and plenty of time to get the report," said Mrs Turia.

"Before Questions for Oral Answer are accepted by the Clerk of the House, documentary evidence must be produced - in this case the report. So even if the Minister did not know it was released yesterday, and didn't check the PCE's website this morning, or ring her office, he must have known the Clerk had a copy," she said.

"Mr Mallard said the report was not his responsibility, because the landfill is run by the Regional and District Councils - even though the report dealt with tangata whenua concerns about the lack of protections for the environment.

"It became clear why the Minister didn't want to answer questions, when he acknowledged that the report offered tangata whenua 'not much' assurance that their long-standing concerns were being heard," said Mrs Turia. "This was an interesting response, given that he said he had not had time to read the report."

"Ngati Pareraukawa and Muaupoko from around Levin have been waiting for four years for this report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment - instead of the six months they were told at a consultation hui in 2004.

"Who knows how much longer they might have to wait for any response from the Minister, because leave was denied me by Labour to hold my questions over till tomorrow, when Mr Mallard might have made the effort to read the report. This is a failure of democratic accountability to the people," she said.

"The Hokio landfill is a massive dump, built on sand dunes, directly across the road from Ngatokowaru Marae. For generations Ngati Pareraukawa, and Muaupoko from Lake Horowhenua, have objected to the discharge of sewage into the Hokio Stream, and leachate from the old dump polluting their drinking water aquifers.

"Now the landfill has been massively expanded, and solid waste is being shipped there from right across the Horizons region, and imported from other districts. The risks of leachate soaking through the sand and into the groundwater are unacceptable to tangata whenua and local farmers.

"This is clearly an environmental issue, and the Maori Party will be pursuing inquiries into why exactly the Minister for the Environment is so reluctant to talk about this report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment," said Mrs Turia.

ENDS

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