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Mercury levels rising! what you can do
3 July 2002
When the Northland District Council refused to give resource consent for the construction of the prison on wahi tapu at Ngawha on environmental, spiritual and cultural grounds, Matt Robson (Minister of Corrections) appealed against the ruling.
The Environment Court overturned the Northland District Council's decision - ignoring the physical instability of the site, and ruling that the Court could deal only with things secular and that Maori spiritual and cultural beliefs were irrelevant. This shameful decision has now been supported by the High Court. It is a disgraceful breach of the Resource Management Act which states:
"all persons exercising functions and powers under it [the Act], in relation to managing the use, development, and protection of natural and physical resources, shall take into account the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi)." Resource Management Act, Section 8.
The Environment and High Courts should be stopping the desecration of wahi tapu, not making decisions which approve of such dishonourable destruction.
Since the High Court's decision on 20 June, heavy rainfall and rising water levels have added to the concerns about the increased levels of mercury in the Ngawha stream which runs into the Wairuhe River, then into the Waitangi River from which Waitangi and Paihia residents get their water. As one of the resource consent conditions, mercury levels in the water have to be tested monthly. The 'Northern Advocate' reported on 10 June that "Council monitoring manager Tony Phipps confirmed mercury levels in the stream had reached a 'trigger level' of 5.4 parts per billion, compared with the 'satisfactory' level of two parts per billion."
Despite the Northland Regional Council announcing on 3 June that "the Department of Corrections has been told to halt all major earthworks on the construction site" during the winter months, May to October, work continues.
What you can do
Write to Matt Robson (Minister of Corrections) and the Department of Corrections (contact details below) demanding that the work on the construction site be stopped immediately, and that an environmental reassessment be done as a matter of urgency.
* Matt Robson (electorate office) - tel/fax (09) 274 5031, or post to PO Box 22-600, Otahuhu, Auckland; or (parliamentary office) fax (04) 495 8462, or post to Parliament Buildings, Wellington (no stamp needed).
* Mark Byers, Chief Executive, Department of Corrections, Head Office, fax (04) 460 3207 or Private Box 1206, Wellington.
For more information, and for details of how you can financially support the Appeal against the Environment Court's decision, check out the on-line leaflet