HOW DID THE INQUIRY COME ABOUT?
Since the early days of the first urban aerial spraying programme against the White spotted Tussock Moth in the eastern suburbs of Auckland in 1996, and the subsequent subject of this Inquiry, the Painted Apple Moth, there has been a consistent pattern of failing to hear the voice of the people being sprayed.
Their concerns and experience, particularly the adverse health effects, have been trivialised and dismissed and even basic human rights denied. Dissenting opinions within the scientific, medical and political fields on operational aspects of the government-conducted eradication campaigns have also been sidelined or silenced.
In spite of a number of community studies and reports over the years detailing these concerns, all requests to the Government for an official review or inquiry into the impacts and effects of the aerial spraying have been denied. The community decided the only option was to hold its own People’s Inquiry.
WHO RAN THE PEOPLE’S INQUIRY?
The People’s Inquiry was co-ordinated by a Steering Committee of members from the PAM (Painted Apple Moth) Community Network. The PAM community Network comprised representatives from nine community groups actively involved in the six year PAM eradication campaign.
WHAT DID THE INQUIRY CONSIDER?
This innovative and groundbreaking community Inquiry considered the impacts of urban aerial spraying programmes from a community perspective. It was heard in front of four commissioners of national and international standing with expertise in the areas of pesticide and chemical effects on human health, human rights, social, community and ecological impacts.
WHO DID IT HEAR?
The Inquiry considered information presented to it by members of the affected community, and community health workers and advocates who have been involved in the Painted Apple Moth programme. It also considered information from the community affected by the White Spotted Tussock Moth and Asian Gypsy Moth campaigns, and scientists and health personnel who come from, or contributed to, a community perspective.
HOW WAS IT FUNDED?
The Inquiry was entirely funded by the community and supporting individuals, groups, organizations and businesses. With a basic budget of $20,000 this target was achieved shortly before the Inquiry was held. The unswerving support of the Waitakere City Council and the free use of their Council chambers for the five days of hearings made it all possible on such a tight budget.
WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THE INQUIRY?
The Inquiry Report & Recommendations was published in November 2007 and presented to the community and supporters in Waitakere.
Although many of the twenty seven recommendations from the Commissioners were forward looking, proactive advice, to the best of our knowledge none of them have been considered or implemented by the Government.
One month later in December 2007 the four year investigation by the Ombudsman was published, reaching the same basic conclusions as the Commissioners. The Government’s response via its Biosecurity Minister was that it was unlikely that any of the Ombudsman’s recommendations would be implemented. This would prove correct. Eighteen months later in June 2009 the Ombudsman conceded defeat, writing that where an agency decides not to implement an Ombudsman’s recommendations, “there is little more to be done than report the matter to Parliament”. Of greatest concern was the rejection of his recommendations about further human health research.
Whilst aerial spraying of urban areas has not recurred in New Zealand, overseas they still continue. Requests for information continue to come in on our experience and of the Btk-based pesticide used here which continues to be used for control programmes in both Canada and the USA. Where we can we provide reports and submissions.
A continuing project is to investigate and document a model for other communities to set up their own inquiries. To be continued.