The power of one does count, we ask you to show your support for a Just and Fair outcome for all who have been victims of exposure to dioxin New Zealand.
Dioxinnz.com is campaigning for this to take place in New Zealand concerning victims of exposure to dioxin which was in 2,4,5t and 2,4D herbicides manufactured and sold in New Zealand.
It was back in the year of 1986 when we were first informed or became aware of the health effects of exposure to PCP. Even though at that time people like me did not understand what all the fuss was, I guess to put it simply we didn't know what the word chemical meant let alone what it could do to you.
It was about 1989 after they closed our sawmill that a small group of my work mates began to look at the health effects of P.C.P. because the questions being asked at that time was "Why are we sick?!" and "How come some of our mates had died at a young age?" And so SWAP became an investigation group.
By 1990 the dangers of PCP had become more clear to us from a health point of view. We didn't know until this point about the environment i.e. the landfills, the air emissions, the burning of treated timber, the taking home of the chemical due to work clothes saturation, as a grass edge deterrent. PCP was banned in New Zealand by the Pesticides Board.
In 1994, my 28th year with the company I took advantage of the early redundancy because of my health. It was at that time that the Wood Industries Union were very concerned about the health of the workers. In 1994 Nick Curtis a former Sawmill worker from Whakatane took ill in Australia and was told by doctors over there that his symptoms or many of them were consistent with being exposed to chemicals.
In 1996 a report from OSH concluded that PCP did cause short term and long term health effects.
We decided at this point to become an Incorporated Society Sawmill Workers Against Poisons because of the difficulty of getting our concerns and issues recognised. Our main thrust being Environment and Health.
If there is something wrong with the environment on our issues then there is something wrong with us-with the understanding that as ex-workers we needed to be driving this ourselves hence the formation of the group.
The poisoning of New Zealand documentary done by TV3 where four ex-workers' DNA test results came back significantly high even after 8 years. The documentary and other media exposure began to raise public awareness. We were still having difficulty gaining recognition at local, regional and central government level.
Although our environmental issues were being listened to our health issues were being totally ignored. In order to progress our plight we engaged Gordon Jackman an authority on PCP, Harry LaGocky a Soil Hydrologist Scientist and John Moller Vietnam Vets Association where it proved that research overseas showed that PCP did cause long term illness and carcinogenic to humans.
In 2000 our progress was going at a snails pace. WDC and EBOP as well as TPK, Te Runanga o Ngati Awa were all ignorant to the fact of our plight. In August I was summoned to Wellington to address The New Zealand Maori Council who decided to support us in making an urgent claim to the Treaty of Waitangi Tribunal because at least 85% of the workers were Maori, this claim was circulated throughout Parliament.
The result of this was the formation of a working party, us, WDC, EBOP and Toi Te Ora and Pacific Public Health Presentations and meetings with MOE, MOE, OSH, ACC at Parliament and on our Marae as well. TV coverage, One Network News, Te Karere, Assignment encouraged our progress to a political level where we added Maanu and Gwenda Paul to our team of consultants., fortunately for us at no cost.
Eight years a couple of them have been with us. Through their collective efforts and expertise in their fields (horses for causes) we are not a major stakeholder on our issues. The Working Party MOH, MOE, OSH, ACC and also CHH re the Sawmill Site.
We have identified 27 possibly more contaminated dump sites which 10 are currently going through a risk assessment program. We have conducted a health survey on 80 families in our area where once again the results were alarming.
We have addressed groups such as The Whakatane Rotary Club, Sales Person With A Purpose, The Whakatane Probus Group; all the hapu of Ngati Awa ki Whakatane (7), Iwi Liaison Committee, BOP, DHB, CHAB, ETHICS Committee, PHO 7 GP's Clinics, Taranaki Dioxin Groups, 25 members of Parliament over the years, Union Groups, ex-workers Kawerau, Waipa, Tokoroa.
At the moment we are waiting for dates to be confirmed for an urgent hui with CHH re sawmill site remediation involved is the Working Party, the Mayor and Tangata Whenua.
This has been a long 11 year journey, frustrating and sometimes hostile. The problem we had was that we were about 3 to 5 years ahead of the public on our issues where now Ngati Awa Runanga has given their full support. TPK is now a keen contact for us. The general community support is awesome.
When we first came together as a group, bulk compensation was the order of the day but when we realised that there was a huge health and environment problem, we decided that we needed to first and foremost address the health issues and then the lands and rivers which is paramount to us and that MOH, MOE, OSH, ACC, WDC, EBOP, CHH and the manufacturers of the chemicals each have a degree of responsibility in addressing our issues.
JOE HARAWIRA, SWAP CO-ORDINATOR