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Spying by companies for government agencies condemned

Spying by companies for government agencies condemned – major overhaul of NZ Petroleum and Minerals called for.

The release today of the independent report into spying on New Zealanders by the notorious company Thompson and Clark on behalf of government agencies is welcome but much more disclosure by the States Services Commission and other agencies is needed says Cath Wallace of ECO, the Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ.

“It is totally unacceptable that peaceful environmental groups who are simply trying to protect the environment and the climate have been targeted. We agree with the State Services Commissioner, Peter Hughes, that the way the agencies have behaved, targeting “issued based groups”, dissident individuals, and political parties is “an affront to democracy”.

We have long known that staff of the NZ Petroleum and Minerals section of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, MBIE, sees NZPAM as an advocate for the mining industry for oil, gas, coal and minerals. It has for decades been hostile to those who are concerned for the environment. This agency must be dismantled and those involved in these practices be sacked.

It is widely known that MBIE and NZPAM give favourable treatment to the mining and oil and gas industry. There is a revolving door between the regulators and the industry who recruit staff from each other. This is a well-known route to “regulator capture” by industry. The SSC must put a stop to this.

We demand full disclosure about NZPAM’s “Operation Exploration” referred to in the Report. The head of MBIE must tell us all what this does, who is involved and who is targeted.

We call on the government, including Resources Minister Megan Woods, urgently to remove the promotion of minerals activity from the Purpose of the Crown Owned Minerals Act and the Minerals Programmes developed under the Act. These bias decision making under the Act, including the regulatory functions, in favour of mining, says Wallace.

SSC must also arrange an independent review of NZPAM, its policy settings and its consultation, regulatory and recruitment practices. Minister Woods should also release a full account of any other surveillance and infiltration of environmental and other civil society groups and people by that agency, including by the Ministry itself.

Opposition leader Simon Bridges must come clean on the dirty practices of MBIE and the New Zealand Transport Agency when he was minister.

All joint intelligence committees with government and private companies must be fully disclosed.

We are very disappointed that when Nick Smith was Minister of Conservation, the Department of Conservation (DoC) used Thompson and Clark to spy on anti 1080 activists. Dissenters are entitled to their opinion and freedom of expression. We hope this practice is discontinued.

We condemn those anti-1080 advocates who have threatened, intimidated or endangered those who conduct 1080 drops. DoC should put such issues into the hands of the Police and not into the hands of a company that has for years spied on citizens and infiltrated groups who try to protect the environment.

ECO seeks fuller disclosure of the activities of the surveillance and infiltration commissioned by government entities not just by contractors to them.

We’d like to see all the Crown departments and agencies, including the intelligence agencies, Police, and CRIs, fully disclose their own surveillance and infiltration to independent reviewers and the SSC. This information should, as far as possible be disclosed publicly.

********************* ENDS **************

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