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17, Feb, 2003

Community Right to Know Legislation Called for


Category: ECO Inc

New Zealand needs law for a legal "right to know" for communities when the environment or health may be affected, says the Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ, ECO, says co-chairperson, Cath Wallace.

"The Ministers for the Environment, Local Government, Health and Conservation should work together to develop law to give New Zealanders what the USA has had since 1986: a community right to know law.* The USA has long been accustomed to Community Right to Know legislation which applies there primarily to require disclosure of pollutants discharged from smokestacks, pipes and other emission sources.

"There are many activities that people want to do that may expose other people to risk or potential risk. Many of these activities are worthwhile: but when risks are imposed it is not enough to say "trust us, we're experts" . People must be informed directly and allowed to make their own judgements of how much of a risk it is to them and to take action or ask others to take action to diminish the impacts of the activity.

"In Auckland with the Painted Apple Moth aerial spraying, the community has a right to know what it is being sprayed with," says the Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ, ECO.

"ECO strongly supports efforts to protect the New Zealand environment and primary production from foreign invaders - and we support vigorous efforts to eradicate the Painted Apple Moth," says Cath Wallace. "The failure of MAF to fully inform the public and the reliance on the idea that only experts need know is giving Biosecurity measures a bad name and will erode public co-operation with Biosecurity actions.

MAF should not allow commercial confidentiality to overcome the public interest in knowing what is the substance that people are being sprayed with. It is not enough to say that ERMA approved it - because ERMA approves almost everything it is asked to and is not trusted.

ECO says that openness and transparency is the way to gain confidence and cooperation in efforts to control alien species. A Community Right to Know Act is needed along with much greater disclosure by MAF.

Ends

*the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, 1986.

For further information: Cath Wallace, 04-389-1696