Greenwash NZ – Alarming “bee colony collapse” in the ‘Greenest’ country on earth. Updated Sept 2015

Sept 2015 update, sent in by a reader:

All fruit and vegetable samples (except nectarine and tomato) and 90% of honey samples were detected positive for at least one neonicotinoid; 72% of fruits, 45% of vegetables and 50% of honey samples contained at least two different neonicotinoids in one sample, with imidacloprid having the highest detection rate among all samples. *****All pollen samples from New Zealand contained multiple neonicotinoids***** and 5 out of 7 pollen from Massachusetts detected positive for imidacloprid. These results show the prevalent presence of low level neonicotinoid residues in fruits, vegetables and honey that are readily available in the market for human consumption and in the environment where honeybees forage. In light of the new reports of toxicological effects in mammals, our results strengthen the importance to assess dietary neonicotinoid intakes and the potential human health effects.

July 2014 update:

A new study by a team of researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston has found the presence of neonicatinoid residues in many fruit, vegetables and pollen in the United States and New Zealand…

The committee says the levels detected were significantly below the maximum residue levels set by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority.

However, their concern was that the neonicatinoid imidacloprid was detected in pollen samples from kiwifruit when that product was not authorised for use in that crop.

The committee says this discovery is “crucial to understanding that the world’s most widely used systemic pesticide is now so common throughout our environment that no food stuff can be considered free of any residue.” source

New Zealand’s ‘Green’ Credentials aren’t quite as good as they should be for a country with such a low population, much of NZ’s green reputation is little more than greenwashing used to sell produce and tourism.

A new class of insecticides called  neonicotinoids is used widely  in New Zealand. They are thought to be contributing to the rapid decrease in the honey bee population.  By 2008 the Environmental Risk Management Agency had licensed 23 neonicotinoid-based products, despite mounting evidence of the harm the neurotoxin was having on bees.

By May 2011 an alarming “bee colony collapse” had been observed over a six month period in New Zealand. In some places 30% of the population has disappeared. But despite some classes of neonicotinoid being banned in Italy, Germany and France there are no plans to curb its use in New Zealand. Because of the important role bees play in the pollination of crops Albert Einstein speculated that “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man (sic) would only have four years of life left.”

In April 2011 a copy of the NZ government’s draft energy strategy: Developing Our Energy Potential was released ‘mistakenly’ into the public domain. It quickly became evident that the present National government was placing far too much emphasis on the mining of fossil fuels in New Zealand.

The Green Party called the strategy which promoted coal and oil exploration, 19th century and said it put ‘petroleum and mineral fuel reserves (essentially oil, gas and coal) ahead of investing in renewable power sources and new technologies.

“…This strategy demonstrates how backwards-looking this Government is on energy. They clearly do not have a logical, coherent plan,” said Greens energy spokesman Kennedy Graham.

“On one of the first pages of the document, the strategy acknowledges that oil prices and the cost of greenhouse gases will rise. But instead of developing a plan to reduce our reliance on these unsustainable energy sources, it goes on to prioritise fossil fuels like offshore oil drilling and lignite – the dirtiest coal.

“It’s a short-sighted economic strategy that will ultimately impoverish New Zealand, and will undermine international efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

“New Zealand’s prosperity in the future will depend on investment in clean, green technology and sustainable jobs, not opening our shores to foreign companies to exploit a 19th century resource.”…” read more, including what the public think about the report

NZ government recently caved in to the oil industry by allowing seismic testing for oil in the Raukumara Basin. since then there have been vigorous protests by environmental groups within New Zealand, none of which have been effective in halting the exploration which has the support of the NZ government.

In August 2010Radio NZ obtained reports under the Official Information Act that showed “Petrobras … was awarded an exploration permit two months ago off the East Coast without any environmental scrutiny.According to the documents released, the decision was made on technical and economic grounds, and required the company only to show it would use good oilfield practices.” source

Mass penguin deaths on the beaches on the east coast of New Zealand have been attributed to Petrobras’ oil exploration work in the Basin. International research suggests that seismic testing is responsible for killing a range of sea creatures.

This month a Chinese backed, Australian mining company, Goldmining NL, revealed it had plans to explore for oil in the seabed off the Abel Tasman National Park, across much of Golden Bay and the NW point of the South Island. It is proposing drilling the seabed for oil and gas, as well as prospecting for coal in Golden Bay and developing Port Tarakohe. (source)


The air at more than half of all the air sampling sheds in New Zealand fails quality tests, with much of the pollution caused by residential wood smoke during winter, even with proposed improvements 45% of the population will still be exposed to higher than acceptable levels of PM10s.

One of New Zealand’s rivers – The Manawatu – is among the most polluted in the world and many beaches suffer pollution from stormwater and waste water overflows making them unsafe to swim on. (more below, including videos and citations)

Tonnes of toxic herbicides and pesticides are dropped from helicopters over thousands of hectares of countryside every year, including the highly controversial and dangerous poisons 1080 (see 1080 posts) and Brodifacoum (a rat poison similar to warfarin) – neither of them are intended to be distributed from the air, they are supposed to be laid in covered bait stations. Weed killer  is also sprayed from helicopters over wide swathes of countryside in an effort to eradicate non-native plants such as gorse. Tourists, workers, farm animals, native fauna and pets have all been exposed to these toxins – sometimes with fatal consequences.

Hundreds of hectares of land are polluted with toxic chemicals left behind after years of intensive fruit growing, chemical use and/or manufacture (Agent Orange, wood preservatives, heavy metals etc) Over time, as the use of orchards declined, the land was often sold on for residential housing development. Many homeowners are unaware that their houses are built on contaminated land. Councils are very reluctant to release information as it will have a negative impact on land values and there could be massive bills for remediation work and difficulties in disposing of the contaminated soils.

Drums of toxic chemicals were recently discovered beneath a children’s playground in Marfell, the site of New Plymouth’s former city refuse dump. The chemicals were tetrachlorobenzene and trichlorophenol, both used in the manufacture of herbicides.

Ivon Watkins Dow (now named Dow Agro Sciences)manufactured herbicides ’24D’ and ’245T’, used in equal part in the manufacture of the defoliant Agent Orange, at its Paritutu plant for use in the Vietman war. The dioxin contaminant TCDD within ’245T’ is considered to be highly toxic to humans. Exposure to dioxins is alleged to have resulted in an estimated 10% increase in cancer deaths in the New Plymouth area.

Over a 30 year time span 20 million litres of the 2 herbicides were sprayed in New Zealand to control gorse and other weeds. The NZ government was said to have subsidised the use of the herbicides and 245T was both produced and used in NZ long after other countries had banned them. Production in the USA ceased in 1979 but continued in New Plymouth until 1987

Sustainable Development

An example of joined up thinking with regards to sustainable development in New Zealand can be seen is the construction of a new school in the Remarkables, Queenstown.

It is the first new state primary school to have opened in the lower North Island since the 1970s cost $17.3 million to build but it was refused a grant to install an energy efficient, sustainable energy system. The school is now reliant on electricity and paying more than $10,000 a month with an estimated spend of $75,000 for the full year. The education ministry doesn’t fund electricity bills of that size and the shortfall must come from the school’s operating budget, or community fund raising.

Will sustainable development be a key factor in the rebuilding of Christchurch? we will be watching.

Detailed Information

Polluted waterways

Under a system measuring oxygen changes in water, the Manawatu has by far the highest reading, almost twice as much as the next worst. The Manawatu measured 107. Anything over eight is considered indicative of an unhealthy river ecosystem. A measurement of 0–4 is considered healthy…Tests further south at Palmerston North were not as high but still indicated an unhealthy ecosystem. Checks internationally found the closest pollution reading to be 59, for a site on a river near Berlin, downstream from a sewage outfall…“Horowhenua District Council admitted in September pumping 5.1m litres of partially treated sewage – including tampons, condoms and toilet paper – into the river over 48 hours in October 2007.”
See also Fixing the Manawatu will take time

  • It took 4 days to clean up the latest an oil and diesel spill in the Kawau Stream in Palmerston North. The stream has a history of pollution with 2 spills in the last fortnight and 6 pollution events in 2007. The most recent was when oil and diesel was thought to have ‘spilled’ from a mechanical workshop. Pollutants over the years have changed the colour of the water in the stream, from black to green to white. The council plans to install new oil interceptors at the end of stormwater pipes in July next year as part of its 10-year plan (July 2010)

Polluted Air

  • “Air quality in Napier and Hastings dropped overnight to 61 in Napier and 86 in Hastings (ppm of PM10)” The limit is 50. So far this winter Hastings has exceeded the limit 3 times, this was the first for Napier. (as of 18 June 2010).  Both the Napier and Hastings monitoring sites are located in residential areas and home wood burners are the main source of smoke in the air in winter. An inversion layer can form during cold, still conditions over the plains areas which means smoke is not able to disperse so is trapped close to the ground. In the EC the limit for PM10s is 20 ppm as a yearly average, or 50 on a daily average.
  • “Christchurch has had five nights of high pollution since May 1. Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights all broke the 50 micrograms of particulates per cubic metre of air barrier, with Thursday night the highest at 72mcg. High pollution levels were also expected last night, with another frost forecast. Timaru’s winter air quality has been the worst of the measured sites , with 26 high-pollution nights at Anzac Park, including six in a row since last Monday. Its highest reading was 148mcg on June 18. Kaiapoi has broken the limit 12 times this winter, Rangiora five times and Ashburton three“. (5 July 2010)

Carbon Emissions

  • NZ’s failure to cut greenhouse gas emissions could cost the country a Kyoto liability of between $1-5 billion. The authors of one book describe the Government’s current ETS as “technically obsolete” and “beyond rescue” as a sustainable framework for tackling climate change. They say the scheme will not make any inroads into cutting New Zealand’s gross emissions levels. “There is complacency in New Zealand that credits for storing carbon in forestry crops will save the country from having to seriously address reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”

Oil and Mineral Exploitation

  • There’s an estimated $140 billion of minerals including gold, copper, iron and molybdenum beneath NZ. Plus another $100 Billion worth of lignite in the Southland lignite field. The minerals industry is now pushing the National led government to open up conservation land for mining. They are pushing at an opened door.

The Use of Pesticides and Herbicides

Contaminated Land

Use of Dangerous/Ozone Depleting Chemicals

Unsustainable farming practices/Destruction of Rainforest Ecosystems

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