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S.T.O.P Supports Call For MAF Resignations

The Society Targeting Overuse of Pesticides (NZ) - STOP - today supported calls for the Resignation of the Director of Forest Biosecurity, Dr Ruth Frampton over the Painted Apple Moth eradication fiasco.

Hana Blackmore, STOP spokesperson and a member of the MAF established Community Advisory Group calling for the resignations, said that confidence in the ability of MAF to control, let alone eradicate the pest had reached rock-bottom.

“ It has been one disaster after another - and with the spread of the moth into the Waitakeres and across swathes of the city, even the ability of aerial spraying to eradicate this moth is in huge doubt’ said Hana.

The Society today released a copy of a letter sent three weeks ago to the Minister for Biosecurity, the Hon Jim Sutton. The joint letter from STOP and CC-PAM - (a Waitakere Community Coalition formed five months ago) voiced their strong criticisms of the programme and called for both the resignation of Dr Ruth Frampton and her Technical Advisory Group, and the re-instatement of the Operation Evergreen Team.

"The fact that the Minister has not even had the courtesy to reply or contact us, is indicative of the degree to which public concern is being ignored and dismissed. How many more calls does it take before the Government realises there IS A PROBLEM and starts responding before it is too late," said Hana.

STOP was formed by residents during the intensive aerial campaign to eradicate the White Spotted Tussock Moth four years ago. It became involved with the PAM programme in mid 1999 after being alerted by scientists that the eradication programme was already on the wrong track.

“First the outgoing National Biosecurity Minister ignored appeals for intervention from members of the Operation Evergreen Team, then The Hon Marian Hobbs followed suit in August 2000, rejecting a critical report from STOP and ignored our recommendations. Even a report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment went unheeded. Now the current Minister is simply continuing the 'cover up'. ” says Hana Blackmore.

The Group is angry that yet again large areas of urban population are being threatened with aerial spraying, and that even basic precautions are not being taken. STOP says that spray drift data and persistence studies are being ignored, and out of date advice still being given. Hana Blackmore considers the implications of one comparable study in Vancouver puts in doubt the ability of anyone to avoid exposure to the spray, and compromises even Public Health's conclusions of safety.

"The declaration of an 'emergency' after two and a half years of slow-step means that the aerial programme will be rushed through without the time to set up either health or spray drift studies. It is unthinkable that we are going to repeat the same mistakes that were made in the Eastern Suburbs - that yet again the price of protecting people is' too high'.


Ends
November 27th 2001

Hon Jim Sutton
Minister for Biosecurity
Parliament Buildings
Wellington


Dear Jim Sutton

Re: Painted Apple Moth - Urgent action required

In August 2000, STOP presented an urgent report to the Hon Marian Hobbs detailing our major concerns about the failure of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to eradicate the Painted Apple Moth infestation in Auckland.

Our strong criticisms in August 2000 of the eradication programme, and the minimal recommendations we considered necessary to rescue this programme, were rejected or ignored.

Now, fifteen months later, and over two and a half years since the outbreak of this pest the situation is critical with an infestation out of control.

The very outcome we were trying to avoid, of blanket aerial spraying over an urban population, is now inevitable.

We have no confidence in MAF Biosecurity's approach to this eradication that has, and is failing us so badly. We deplore the atmosphere of secrecy and control that is surrounding all aspects of this programme, with the consequent dearth of checks and balances that external review and vigorous scientific debate and analysis brings. (That the evidence of the spread of the PAM has only just been seen after months of MAF refusal to release both minutes and trap data is confirmation enough).

We can no longer support the administration and the current technical and scientific advice and input that is continuing to lead us unchecked down this disastrous path. We consider that nothing short of emergency measures are now warranted.

We require:

 The immediate recall and re-instatement of the Operation Evergreen Scientific Advisory Group - and as a matter of urgency, for them to critically review for the Minister and MAF the PAM programme and all eradication and/or control options remaining.
 That the Minister orders the release of all MAF Biosecurity papers, data, and necessary material to the Group to enable this to be carried out.
 That the current PAM Technical Advisory Group be suspended from this programme, and the Director of Forest Biosecurity re-assigned to work to the Operation Evergreen Group to assist in any way she can.
 That until this group report to the Minister, continuing day to day control measures of the infestation be temporarily re-assigned to an Auckland based project manager under the OE Group.

There is no satisfaction in knowing that we were right to be so concerned about the potential failure of this PAM eradication approach. But we still cannot convey how angry we are that yet again we are looking at large areas of urban population being threatened with aerial spraying.

Even worse we are having great difficulty accepting that everything we went through in East Auckland five years ago WAS for nothing. That we could be so stupid and negligent as to allow it to happen again.

Your urgent response is required.

Yours

Hana Blackmore
Society Targeting Overuse of Pesticides
& Painted Apple Moth Community Coalition

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