Greens calls for greater toxics testing in Taranaki food
The Green Party has welcomed the Ministry for Primary Industry’s (MPI’s) announcement that it will begin testing the milk coming off landfarms in Taranaki, but is calling on the Government to implement comprehensive testing of all animal products that have been exposed to toxic waste and pollution from the oil and gas industry, including from any of the 31 mix-bury-cover sites where petroleum industry waste has been dumped.
“The Government has been negligent by not yet testing any of the milk or meat in Taranaki for hydrocarbons and other toxic contaminants from the oil industry,” said Green Party energy spokesperson Gareth Hughes.
“While we welcome the decision of Government to start testing milk coming off landfarms, there needs to be testing of all animal products from Taranaki that may have come into contact with pollution from the oil and gas industry.”
In addition to the 12 landfarms in Taranaki, there are over thirty sites in Taranaki where toxic petroleum industry waste has been buried on farms in a technique called ‘mix-bury-cover’.
“Neither Fonterra nor the Government have tested for contaminants from the oil and gas industry in milk from farms with mix-bury-cover sites where oil and gas waste has been dumped,” said Mr Hughes.
“The Government still isn’t testing for petroleum industry contaminants in the milk or meat from farms which have petroleum wells on them despite companies having permission to discharge contaminants to air, land, and water at the wellsite. These farms must be part of MPI’s new testing regime.
"In the last 20 years, over 400 wells have been drilled in Taranaki, many of which are on or immediately next to dairy or beef farms.
"The National Government is putting New Zealand’s reputation for producing, clean, green and safe food to the world at risk by promoting the expansion of the oil and gas industry on our farms.
"Mixing the oil and gas industry and our food producing industries is an accident waiting to happen.
"We have seen from the DCD and botulism scares, that we can’t afford to have another contamination incident.
"Ideally we would not to extract oil and gas from the same land that we are trying to produce food that we sell to the world as clean, green and safe. But if the Government is going to let this happen, then at the very least, it should have comprehensive testing of all food products that may have become contaminated from petroleum industry pollution,” said Mr Hughes.
Fonterra 'should suspend milk from oil and fracking land'
The Green Party is calling on Fonterra to suspend taking milk from land where oil and fracking waste, including highly toxic chemicals, has been spread and covered in Taranaki.
The call comes following revelations on Campbell Live that Fonterra takes milk from up to 12 landfarms and many other sites in Taranaki where oil and gas industry waste, including fracking waste, is spread and covered.
“Consumers will be concerned to know that milk from cows grazed on land spread with oil industry and fracking waste is in our milk supply,” said Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman.
“People don’t want to drink milk from cows grazed on pasture with petroleum industry waste beneath it.
"The DCD scare showed us that our consumers want a clean product.
"Fonterra says they rely on the regional council consenting process to ensure safety. But the Taranaki Regional Council is not a neutral umpire when it comes to fracking and the oil industry; it is an advocate.
"Fonterra has not unequivocally said that there are no issues with this milk from farms with fracking waste on them. The public deserve to know what testing has been done on milk from these farms and what the testing shows.
"Consumers can get dirty milk from any number of countries. Our brand advantage is that our milk is clean and green. We need to take all steps to ensure our milk stays that way.
"This issue highlights how the Government’s petroleum development plans are creating a reputation risk for the dairy industry.
"Widespread growth of oil and gas is a threat to our reputation as producers of safe, clean food.
"The dairy industry cannot afford another residue scare like we had with DCD,” said Dr Norman.
Federated Farmers Taranaki is concerned the Green Party’s scaremongering over rehabilitated landfarms is putting at risk New Zealand’s number one merchandise export.
“Politicians and political parties have a higher duty when it comes to what they say or do,” says Harvey Leach, Federated Farmers Taranaki provincial president.
“The Green Party media release I saw is like going into a packed theatre and yelling fire. I think we are hitting new lows in politics when the sum total of a political party’s research effort is a television news segment.
"Unlike that party, Federated Farmers has asked questions and knows there is a double testing regime in place for rock cuttings and clays.
"Taranaki Regional Council is incredibly rigorous in what it does. The Council tests ground conditions to ensure things are as they should be. Fonterra further tests for contaminants when it collects milk to ensure integrity of the entire milk supply chain.
"The science is clear; there is no issue here. Of course you don’t want the truth to get in the way of a bad story.
"Politicians misrepresenting the truth is low-ball stuff. They are calling into question the integrity of a major regional council which is the most experienced we have in dealing with oil and gas.
"It also puts at risk our $12 billion dairy export industry by questioning the integrity of our major dairy exporters. We are being ankle-tapped by politicians who get paid by our hard work and that of other hard working kiwis. We deserve much better.
"Farmers will be predictably disappointed in the Green Party because they seem willing to throw decent hard working people under a bus to get a cheap headline. It is nasty politics spun at its worst,” Mr Leach concluded.
Science 'validates Taranaki landfarming as fit for purpose'
Having described the Green Party’s claims about Taranaki landfarming as irresponsible scaremongering, Federated Farmers is buoyed that an independent scientific investigation has confirmed these farms are not only safe, but may be better for the environment.
“Federated Farmers congratulates Taranaki Regional Council for commissioning Dr Doug Edmeades of AgKnowledge to test landfarming,” says Harvey Leach, Federated Farmers Taranaki provincial president.
“If you happen to be a farmer with less than even pasture or soil quality, then the cliché, ‘One man’s trash is another’s treasure,’ very much applies. Landfarms recycle the mud, rocks and clay that comes from mining so is smart recycling.
"The blending of this material into the sand makes it worthwhile to add fertiliser and to put in place irrigation infrastructure. Simply put there is soil.
"These landfarms are also monitored and tested by Taranaki Regional Council and Dr Edmeades study vindicates both the concept and the council’s monitoring approach.
"That’s why the negative claims made about landfarms in Taranaki were so thin they could model in Paris.
"Dr Edmeades is a scientist who has completed an ANZAC Fellowship and was National Science Program Leader (Soils and Fertiliser) for AgResearch. In 1997, he established his own science consulting business, which became AgKnowledge.
"Dr Edmeades is an expert in his field. His report concluded that landfarming made sandy and highly erosion prone coastal farmland, ten times better for dairy farming. That is both an economic and environmental win since these farms previously had poor soils.
"Because of the value and productive uplift from landfarming, it has allowed better management practices to be adopted.
"His report found that the concentrations of heavy metals in the landfarms were at the low end of the range, when compared to soils from various regions in farmed and non-farmed areas. That is a positive.
"While hydrocarbons were found on the most recently completed landfarm, Dr Edmeades said these levels would decline as soil microbes broke them down.
"Being a farmer, I know that earthworms are a strong indicator of soil health and Dr Edmeades found them in large numbers. That’s a key thing for me because he described earthworms as a soil scientist’s ‘canary in the mine’.
"At least we now have a robust independent scientific report saying that landfarming is not only safe but can be environmentally positive. That’s why we need to base discussion on hard facts and evidence and not for short-term political gain,” Mr Leach concluded.