Wellington Regional Council’s independence compromised

Toxic methyl bromide gas again wafted out from under a huge tarpaulin on Wellington’s waterfront under dangerous conditions last night from the Greater Wellington Regional Council’s (GWRC) majority owned CentrePort.

The independence of GWRC from CentrePort’s commercial focus is being questioned by the Soil & Health Association.

Soon after 7pm a cover over 15 shipping containers containing logs fumigated with neurotoxic and ozone depleting methyl bromide gas was removed in almost still conditions near Wellington’s busy Aotea and Waterloo Quays. Immediately after another row of containers was covered for fumigation.

“While hundreds of cars were going past, the gas would have been moving slowly in an invisible, odourless and tasteless poisonous mass and may well not have been detected due to monitoring inadequacies,” says Soil & Health Association spokesperson Steffan Browning. “GWRC and CentrePort’s increased monitoring will only prove anything if they chance to be at the ideal spot, but they cannot predict well, what or where that spot is.”

“GWRC states that the monitoring is independent, however last night Centreport staff were taking monitoring results. Centreport with its commercial focus favouring log fumigation is majority owned by GWRC and neither organisation can be truly independent.”

“Two Regional Councillors are on the Centreport board and the political pressure to delay stopping dangerous release of methyl bromide was evident at yesterday’s GWRC regulatory committee meeting when human health came second to business as usual. Some staff and councillors had discouraged Councillor Paul Bruce’s motion for an abatement notice from being served on the fumigator and port.”

“Soil & Health is impressed with the concern of some other Councillors, who could see that the strategy being supported yesterday was not going to quickly address the health risks to the community. Soil & Health urges the Councillors as representatives of the community to reconsider the abatement option.”

“It is doubtful that the same staff and business as usual councillors will want to stand at the Stadium carpark or on Waterloo or Aotea Quay or at the downwind ferry terminal, or be on a dragon boat or twilight sailing, when the tarpaulins come off today.”

“Last week’s event, when strong winds ripped tarpaulins and caused the fumigators to prematurely release hundreds of kilograms of toxic gas without controls, should be enough to ensure an abatement notice stops gas release until safe facilities that can capture the fumigant are installed.”

“Does Wellington want the same appalling statistics of motor neurone disease as is the case with Nelson Port workers? Have the Wellington authorities checked or will they try and fudge the data as Occupational Safety and Health and others did in Nelson, and blend the statistics across the whole community?”

“Soil & Health is committed to removal of ozone depleting neurotoxic fumigants from our clean green environment and aims for an Organic 2020.”

Photos available:
Photo 1 shows a yacht sailing less than 1 hour after gas was released last night with fumigated containers part hidden behind logs. The yacht / Waterloo Quay – Stadium / Ferry Terminal: which were the unlucky sites last night?
Photo 2 shows tarpaulin covered containers behind the log stack at Waterloo Quay. This is part of the huge tarpaulin that will be removed today in northerly winds. Who and where will be unlucky today?

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