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Act now for Ngawha!

15 August 2002

As toxic mercury levels keep rising in the Ngawha Stream because of the Department of Corrections construction efforts, and with a new Minister of Corrections, Mark Gosche - please act now for Ngawha!

Background information

When the Northland Regional Council refused to give resource consent for the construction of the prison on wähi tapu at Ngawha on spiritual and cultural grounds, Matt Robson (then Minister of Corrections) appealed against the ruling.

The Environment Court overturned the Regional 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 wähi 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 Waiaruhe River, then into the Waitangi River from which Waitangi and Paihia residents get their drinking 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."

Mercury is an extremely toxic substance and its release into the environment is a major health hazard. Information on the harmful effects of mercury is available from the World Health Organisation and from Greenpeace.

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, the work has not stopped. The five acre site for the prison has been stripped of arsenic and mercury laden soil to such a depth that double truck trailers and diggers now disappear from sight as they work.

The 'unlawful assembly’ provisions of the Crimes Act are being used against protesters at the site - any more than three people gathering together is deemed to be an 'unlawful assembly’. But "nothing short of repairing the damage they’ve inflicted will stop the protests"!

What you can do

  • Write to the new Minister of Corrections, Mark Gosche; the Minister for the Environment, Marian Hobbs, and the Department of Corrections demanding that the work on the construction site be stopped immediately, that an environmental reassessment be done as a matter of urgency, and that a review of the whole project be carried out without delay.
    • Mark Gosche fax (04) 495 8468, email
    • Marian Hobbs fax (04) 495 8467, email

    Or send letters to either Minister 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.

  • Support the campaign to stop the destruction of Ngawha: to help with campaign costs: send a cheque made payable to The Dove Account, to PO Box 601, Kaikohe (include your name and address if you would like a receipt); to help with legal costs: post a cheque made payable to R. Te Ripi and R. WiHongi, to PO Box 601, Kaikohe (include your name and address if you would like a receipt).
  • No prison for Ngawha


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