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
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.
- Pollution is ‘choking’ NZ’s rivers. “Nearly two years after a national inquiry proposed sweeping changes to help clean up New Zealand’s water, pollutants and toxic waste are still pouring into rivers. Environment Minister Nick Smith has had a report since January that recommends tough rules to protect waterways. Federated Farmers is lobbying him not to adopt the policy, saying its own voluntary and “innovative” measures are helping clean up rivers.”Conservationists say New Zealand’s polluted rivers – one international report said the Manawatu was among the most polluted in the world – are in a disgusting state.
- “Heavy metal runoff from Richmond industry polluting two waterways that flow into the Waimea Estuary is well above levels lethal to aquatic life. A report from Tasman District Council resource scientists shows the most filthy and heavily contaminated waterways are Vercoes Drain and Jimmy Lee Creek along Beach Rd, which have high levels of heavy metals, “well above levels lethal to aquatic life”.
- “Tens of thousands of cubic metres of treated wastewater were discharged into Raglan’s Whaingaroa Harbour in the five days leading up to the town’s annual mid-winter swim in which more than 30 people took part. Those discharges have drawn criticism from Whaingaroa Harbour Care’s Fred Lichtwark, but Waikato District Council has defended its decision, saying it risked overflows at the town’s treatment ponds if it did not release the wastewater, the result of heavy rain.”
- The Manawatu River is one of the most polluted rivers in the western world, fouled with treated sewage, industrial waste and farm runoff.
“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
- “The Hutt River is being treated like a drain, says an environmentalist who wants people to stop flushing their toilets during big storms. Frequent flushing during wet weather stretched the sewerage system, leading to wastewater being discharged into the Hutt River, Fred Allen said. A public education campaign was needed to get people to ease up on the flush button during heavy rain…” (April 2011)
- 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)
- Despite it being winter an algal bloom killed farmed salmon in Queen Charlotte Sound, forcing a move to other waters(June 2010)
- The Dept. of Conservation is so concerned at the declining number of dolphins in Doubtful Sound that staff are scouring parts of the fiords for signs of life. “It was estimated that since 1994 the number of resident bottlenose dolphins in Doubtful had decreased by 34 %”. The department expected the drop was”because of the low level of calf survival and thought this might have been caused by the increased activity of tourist boats in the area.”
- Despite a relatively low population and geographic isolation, urban areas in New Zealand suffer poor air quality during winter. The Health and Air Pollution in New Zealand (HAPINZ) report estimated that each year around 1,100 New Zealanders die prematurely from air pollution with an associated health cost of $1.14 billion.
- The are presently 43 airsheds across New Zealand where air quality is monitored, 26 of them don’t meet the PM10 standard. (June 2010) The non-complying airsheds include Auckland, Christchurch and a number of provincial cities and towns (especially throughout the South Island). By 2013, it is estimated that 10 airsheds will continue to exceed the PM10 standard with another five airsheds potentially also exceeding the standard. These 15 airsheds represent 45 per cent of New Zealand’s population.
- Air quality in parts of NZ are so bad that the quality standards are to be dropped because the previous standards are “unrealistic” and “unfair”.The Government wants a standard that achieves material improvements in air quality without imposing unnecessary costs on businesses and communities,””These changes are about improving air quality but in a pragmatic and realistic way “… “The Government wants a standard that achieves material improvements in air quality without imposing unnecessary costs on businesses and communities.” (written June 2010) this shifting of goal posts has been talked about for the last 6 months.- See also NZ’s Double Accounting on carbon credits – “Environment Minister Nick Smith admitted that 10 NZ cities and towns are unlikely to meet air quality targets by the year 2013, saying that the overwhelming proportion of pollution is caused by home fires. And the solution to not meeting those targets?…..the goal posts will be moved.” (written June 2009)
- “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)
- The Green Party has accused the NZ government of fudging the figures for greenhouse gas emissions. (Feb 2011) They say that the 2050 emissions reduction target is “on the basis of net emissions in the future, relative to gross emissions in 1990”. The result being that emissions will not be cut in half by by 2050 but will rise slightly.
- 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.”
- 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.
Oil and Mineral Exploitation
- “The government’s draft energy strategy prioritises unsustainable fossil fuel extraction over policies to drive down greenhouse gas emission or stimulate alternative technologies.” “It is riddled with holes. There is significant depth and detail on plans for fossil fuel extraction, and a gaping chasm between the long-term future for alternative energy that the strategy describes, and the strategies and actions the government intends to follow in order to get there,” said WWF’s Peter Hardstaff.”
- Even though the government has ‘backtracked’ on the smokescreen of mining Schedule 4 land it is still going ahead with plans to explore the mineral belt around Nelson, the Riwaka complex in Graham Valley, the Rotoroa complex in Murchison and Sam’s Creek in Golden Bay have all been identified as areas that could be explored for their mineral wealth.
- Brazilian oil giant, Petrobras International Braspetro B.V, has been given a 5 year permit to drill for oil on 12,333 square kilometres off the North Island’s East Cape. Water depths range from shallow to 3000m at its northern reaches. BP’s leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico is in water 1500m deep.
- Radio 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.” (August 2010)
- 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.
- A lignite processing plant is likely to be built in Southland following successful trials carried out on Southland lignite
The Use of Pesticides and Herbicides
- New Zealand is the world’s greatest user of the toxin 1080, it is dispersed from helicopters over large areas of countryside in an effort to control mammals and unwanted pests. It is an indiscriminate poison and humans, native wildlife, livestock and pets are all affected by it. See also: Videos about 1080
- The Department of Conservation wants to release a toxin called Rotenone into the upper Karori reservoir and the streams flowing into it this summer in order to kill Brown Trout. The chemical, which may produce Parkinson like symptoms, has been used in NZ for some years but this is the first time it will be used in flowing water (August 2010)
- Native Kakapo had to be evacuated from Fiordland’s Anchor Island after a helicopter accidentally dropped 700kg of rat poison. The load of brodifacoum cereal pellets landed in the large freshwater lake on the island, a safe haven for Kakapo.
- Posters on the Trademe forum allege that the Animal Health Board is dropping 1080 onto the country surrounding Taupo Lake, contrary to ERMA guidance that 1080 aerial drops should only be carried out over inaccessible land.
- Maori Party MP, Rahui Katene, intends to draft a member’s bill to end the use of 1080 in NZ saying “Poisoning an entire forest to kill one or two species of pests, which also infects the land and waters, is lazy and short-sighted.“
- The NZ Food Standards Agency found traces of the banned chemical endosulfan in samples of cucumber and bok choi. Additionally, 10 out of 23 sample of bok choi contained the fungicide chlorothalonil or the insecticide thiamethoxam over the allowable limit. In four samples of New Zealand grown cucumbers insecticides methamidophos and thiacloprid were found at non-compliant levels in and two samples of imported oranges contained the fungicide imazalil at non-compliant levels. Read more about endosulfan here.
- See also: a Wikpedia page that contains limited information about Pesticides in New Zealand.
- A List of 763 contaminated or potentially contaminated sites in the Tasman District Council has been released, but ONLY after after the ombudsman ordered its release to the Nelson Mail. The sites include chemical, automotive, timber treatment, orchard land and landfills, a copy of the register can be found in the Box widget (below the videos) in the side bar to the right. Many councils in New Zealand have these lists but they are rarely released to the public.
- Residents in Mapua are relieved that the Government will pay to have 40 houses cleaned of toxic dust left over from a $12 million botched clean-up of the village’s former Fruitgrowers Chemical Company site.
Use of Dangerous/Ozone Depleting Chemicals
- New Zealand’s use of the highly toxic and ozone depleting fumigant Methyl Bromide has increased by 500% over the past decade. Europe has banned the use of this dangerous fumigant. Methyl Bromide is a highly toxic gas, especially to the lungs and nervous system. Chronic exposure to it through the air has been associated with a range of neurological effects and exposure to high quantities of the gas can be fatal. “The controls around the release of the gas at ports are sloppy and grossly inadequate, and are putting the health of hundreds of workers and nearby residents at risk on a daily basis.”
Unsustainable farming practices/Destruction of Rainforest Ecosystems
- NZ farm animals eat their way through 25% of world’s supply of palm kernel 1.1 millions tonnes, second only to the combined countries of the European Union.
- A leading academic recommended to a conference that NZ think smart to overcome what she called “greenwashing” by the countries that NZ sells its produce to. One of her suggestions was that NZ goods could be marked with a Fantail logo to imply that hay in NZ was harvested in a way that allowed the wildlife to escape. Companies such as Marks and Spencer will would not sell meat or milk from animals that were kept indoors all year round, this was something that NZ could try to take advantage of (despite NZ sows being kept in restrictive crates all year round and some dairy units already switching over to factory farming).
- Her comments are particularly ironic as New Zealand has itself been accused of commercial greenwashing after it’s “100% Pure” myth was exposed by the British press. The country is said to be using greenwash to promote everything from local wines to air conditioning.
- Applications have been made to operate 16 massive factory farming dairy units in the environmentally sensitive MacKenzie Basin, South Island. If successful 18,000 cows will be kept in cubicles 24 hours a day for 8 months of the year. The potential for damage to the environment is significant. One of the farms projects that it will produce 54,000 litres of effluent a day, another will produce 93,ooo litres. New Zealand has already helped to set up similar units in China.