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Greens say it’s only fair that polluters pay costs

18 June 2009

Greens say it’s only fair that polluters pay costs

The Green Party welcomed today’s acknowledgement of responsibility for historic contamination by a chemical company, but called for clear financial liability and a fairer contribution to the clean-up and health costs.

Dow AgroSciences has offered a $50,000 contribution to the clean-up costs of contamination from its products dumped 20 years ago at Marfell Park in New Plymouth.

“It is only fair that polluting companies have a responsibility to pay for the clean-up of contaminated sites like Marfell Park, as well as a fair contribution to the health costs of affected communities,” said Green Party Toxics Spokesperson Catherine Delahunty.

“It is completely unfair that the burden of paying to clean-up polluted public places falls on tax and rate-payers.”

“We call for this company to make a fair financial contribution to the health care of all exposed communities,” said Ms Delahunty, “and the clean-up of all environments affected by the toxic production processes and the dumping of waste from their factory.”

A former National Party Minister for the Environment, the Hon Simon Upton, proposed a change to the Resource Management Act (RMA) in 1999 that would make anyone responsible for historic land contamination liable for cleaning it up.

“Today the Minister for the Environment Dr Nick Smith agreed in Parliament that better policy is required to address the problem of liability, and has instructed his Ministry to investigate options, including the 1999 proposal for the RMA to clarify responsibility,” said Ms Delahunty.

“Establishing liability for historical contamination is not always simple, but where there is clear evidence of a company’s products contaminating land, the costs should not fall on the public.

“The Marfell Park remediation has already cost more than today’s $50,000 offer by Dow, and further testing has yet to begin, so this is clearly inadequate.

“However, Dow’s offer does indicate some recognition of responsibility for the serious environmental and health effects the company’s past activities have had on the community.

“It also acknowledges that chemicals from the Dow plant were dumped outside of the Paritutu area where residents are receiving some health assistance as a result of exposure to the chemicals.”

Overseas, companies like Dow have paid out millions to assist with clean-ups and health costs. In New Zealand, taxpayers and ratepayers cover these costs – the Government has spent and allocated $33 million since 2001, and Councils have spent millions more.

Ms Delahunty also used Parliament’s question-time to renew her call for a public register of known contaminated sites on public land.

“While the Minister for the Environment agreed that the public had a right to know, he shirked responsibility by saying that only Regional Councils have the information,” said Ms Delahunty.

“Unfortunately, the Regional Councils have refused to release the lists of contaminated sites on public land. The Minister needs to step in to require this information and publish a national register.”

ENDS

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