BACK TO THE FUTURE – TOXIC CHEMICALS RETURNING TO AUCKLAND
“The only consideration for Council should be the health and welfare of the public” Meriel Watts – July 2015
When the second Back to the Future film was released in November 1989 it portrayed a future 2015. Now we are that future, and unbelievably Auckland Council and Auckland Transport is emulating the character Biff and are returning thirty years into the past to change our present and future.
They are returning us to a toxic dark age that will see 1.5 million people once again facing chemicals on their streets and parks, berms and playgrounds on a regular basis. This is no conjecture or fictitious fairy tale – it is cold factual policy that is already being actioned.
We knew there had been a collective dragging of the feet on the part of Auckland Council and Auckland Transport (AT) in getting on with the task of implementing the hard won 2013 Weed Management Policy (WMP), what we didn’t know was that there was a hidden agenda. An agenda at the highest level of Council to gut and neutralise the vision, principles and objectives of the WMP and execute a return to chemical control across the region.
Papers and documents released to us under the Official Information Act establish that whilst we have been foolishly sleeping a covert committee has been meeting for a year without public or community oversight or knowledge. A committee that appears to have been set up to implement changes in weed management and vegetation control that they knew from day one would not be supported by local boards and ‘some communities and partners”. And those communities – (we doubt any of us are considered partners any more) – have been excluded from participation or involvement in this decision making in any shape or form, and our submissions, opinions and views clearly expressed over the years, dismissed and binned.
This is not simply a rejection of the collective wisdom and decades of progress in environmentally sustainable and non-toxic weed and vegetation control this is a hijack by the dispassionate bureaucratic monstrosity that Auckland – (aka the “super-city”) – has become. And the frightening reality is that “super-sizing” Auckland has resulted in the same health risks for its citizens as super-sizing their burgers, fries and cola.
The adverse health effects of toxic chemicals were known thirty years ago when the community campaigns were first initiated in Auckland to get them off our roads and parks. These adverse effects have since been confirmed and reinforced by decades of experience and research culminating in the recent reclassification of Auckland’s chemical of choice – glyphosate (aka Roundup) – as a probable human carcinogen. But this committee apparently knows better.
When, in the face of this overwhelming evidence, thousands of us demanded yet again that Council and Auckland Transport cease all use of this chemical on public land, with breath-taking superiority they inform us that they are not aware of ANY evidence to suggest that the use of glyphosate poses ANY risk to human health. Just a short perusal of the papers and reports we have up on this website – papers that have all been sent to Council and Auckland Transport in submission after submission – gives the lie to this “official” assurance.
And our inability to question or affect any of these radical decisions and policy changes being made “on our behalf” is as a direct result of this creation of a super-city bureaucracy that is isolated from not only the people they are supposed to serve, but the consequences of their decisions. And those consequences are unforgiveable.
We do not want to go “back to the future” – we should not even have to contemplate it.
To return to the days when communities had to band together and form Toxin Action Groups because there were so many being affected by sprays; when children were being poisoned en masse at school; when waterways and water tanks were being contaminated by spray drift and people were being made seriously ill – is this what we want?
We could be working positively and constructively together to expand on the best of the progressive and innovative work being undertaken in the management of weeds and vegetation around the country and around the world. Instead we are being forced to expend our energies fighting against this insidious tide of ignorance, indifference and unresponsiveness.
Something must be done.