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New Minister Says Lessons Have Been Learned From Mapua Clean-Up

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Nick Smith
Nick Smith

Wellington, Dec 10 NZPA - New Environment Minister Nick Smith says his ministry officials made mistakes in the big clean-up of toxic chemicals at Mapua, but an independent report shows how future soil remediation projects can be done better.

Ministry for the Environment chief executive Paul Reynolds commissioned the independent report by Australian environmental expert Chris Bell after criticism from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) and Parliament's select committee on the environment.

"The ministry has accepted that mistakes were made at Mapua and is rectifying these," Dr Smith said.

The ministry managed the clean-up of a wide range of horticultural chemicals and toxic residues at the Mapua site, while Tasman District Council (TDC) -- a partner in the clean-up -- remained responsible for ensuring it complied with its resource consents.

The project clean-up was the subject of a damning (PCE) report, which found the ministry breached its consents, almost certainly released dioxins into the air and allowed other contaminants to flow into a nearby estuary.

But the ministry's chief executive until 2006, Barry Carbon, later said the criticism was nit-picking, whining, mean-spirited and ill-judged, and that heroes at the ministry and the TDC had cleaned up pollution that was too hard for everyone else.

Dr Smith said the current chief executive had accepted the independent report in full.

"The ministry erred in not having good project and financial management systems, in not complying with the resource consent around marine sediments, and in failing to deal effectively with conflicts of interest," he said.

But Dr Smith echoed Mr Carbon in saying the site was the nation's most contaminated, was adjacent to a sensitive estuary and residential area, and is now far safer for the community and the environment. There will be a public health report in March, a site audit report which should be completed by June, and then a Department of Labour report. The parliamentary select committee will also report back on its findings. "I am determined that we put matters right ... and learn the lessons from this for future site clean-ups," Dr Smith said in a statement

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