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Greenpeace Alarmed At DOC Withdrawal

Auckland 10 August, 2005

Greenpeace Alarmed At DOC Withdrawal From Marsden B Hearing

Auckland 10 August, 2005 – Greenpeace today said it was alarmed to learn that the Department of Conservation has pulled back from its opposition to Marsden B after meetings were quietly held with Mighty River Power.

According to a statement by the Director-General of Conservation to the Northland Regional Council, DOC "is of the view that any adverse affects on its conservation concerns appear to be minor, subject to stringent resource conditions being imposed as recommended in the staff reports."

The Director General had therefore decided not to address the hearing in support of its submission, he said.

DOC had stated in its original submission that the power station would impact on the recreational use of Bream Bay, may adversely affect the habitat and biodiversity of affected areas, that measures to control leaching of contaminants to groundwater are inadequate, that Mighty River Power had failed to demonstrate that the water discharges will not adversely affect the coastal water and marine ecosystems, and that most of the proposal relies on information that is not currently available.

The submission advocated a precautionary approach and stated that Marsden B should not go ahead. Greenpeace said that DOC's original concerns had been borne out by evidence during the month long hearing, but DOC had not been there to hear it. It chose instead to only listen to Mighty River Power in a private meeting.

"What is of grave concern is that DOC is simply taking Mighty River Power at its word and has consequently withdrawn from the process before taking other evidence into account. It's like to blindly accepting scientific arguments from tobacco companies that cigarettes are good for you," says Greenpeace energy campaigner David Fields.

"By withdrawing from the process, DOC has abdicated its responsibility to advocate for conservation, and has certainly failed the community."

Mighty River Power had stated in the recent hearings that it did not accept the low limits on mercury emissions recommended by the Northland Regional Council. These were significant emissions which would adversely affect the marine ecology of the area, and which could pose a health risk.

"We find it incredible that has DOC declared it would not speak to its submission rather than simply changing it. The department has not taken Mighty River's objections to the proposed conditions into account at all."

The expert evidence brought by Greenpeace to the hearing included evidence by Dr Phyllis Fox, a coal expert from the USA whose work spans 30 years, told the hearing that the building of Marsden B would not be permitted today in countries like the US, Japan or many others such as Germany or Sweden.

Another, Greg Miller of an independent environmental company in Australia, said that the contamination of the marine food web by mercury was likely to significantly increase levels of mercury in certain fish species and consequently health risks to pregnant women.

Council staff themselves had concluded that the discharges would be a very high point source for several potentially toxic metals and dioxins.

"All of the evidence before the hearing points to serious contamination of the local area, and something DOC should be concerned about," said Fields.

The only remaining submission by central government is from the Ministry of Economic Development, which supports the proposal. This submission was specifically requested by the NRC (1) which argued that DOC's opposition would be the only Government response to the proposal.

Greenpeace has written to the Minister of Conservation expressing its concerns.

ENDS

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