Tommy Kapai: We need an action plan - now

By Tommy Kapai

3 comments
Are we living in the Bay of Plenty or the ``Spray of Plenty''? The effects of agriculture and 
horticulture chemicals on the wider environment are causing concern. Photo/File
Are we living in the Bay of Plenty or the ``Spray of Plenty''? The effects of agriculture and horticulture chemicals on the wider environment are causing concern. Photo/File

Dr George McGavin is one of the brilliant brains of the 21st century.

Besides being a British zoologist, he is an author, lecturer, television presenter and explorer plus an honorary research Associate at Oxford University's Museum of Natural History and the Department of Zoology of Oxford University - so he really is a clever bugger.

We have met him recently on the brilliant BBC television show Ultimate Swarms on TV1.

The show follows bees, ants and other insects and birds that swarm across the planet, and George totally understands the part they play in the future of the Earth.

So when he speaks about the effect sprays, especially agrichemical sprays, are having on the bee population we should listen; especially when bees are crucial to the future of life on earth as we know it.

Bees are disappearing in alarming numbers in Aotearoa and we should be treating this as a national disaster.

Authorities closer to home such as the Toxic Agrichemical Advisory Forum in Tauranga are saying the same thing about agrichemicals but their concerns are falling on deaf ears.

All poisonous chemicals are to be avoided at all costs whether we inhale them from cigarettes or we inhale or ingest them via agrichemicals.

Many believe chemicals are the prime cause of cancer and there is a mountain of research to support this line of thinking.

Our immune systems seem to be the area chemicals target and from this they trigger sicknesses that have taken so many of our loved ones.

So why do we jump up and down about passive smoking or Rena oil but stay silent about poisonous agrichemicals or copper-based sprays?

The answer is simple: a healthy bottom line.

However, some say a healthy human line is equally as important.

There is a saying in Maori: He aha te mea nui? He tangata he tangata he tangata - the most important thing in life is people; not profit, but people. Sadly this whakatauki has taken a back seat to profit and one day, as Dr McGavin predicts, our children's generation will be invoiced for this man-made disaster.

Surely major horticultural companies have to put their hands up and say, "we want to help", which starts with enforcing notification and then looks at long-term, organic alternatives to chemical sprays.

Many are asking, where do the regional council and Maori growers sit in this kaupapa? So far it seems the fence is the safest seat for them to perch on.

Surely the regional council has a moral responsibility to protect the brand of Tauranga and the wider Bay of Plenty that some are now calling the "Spray of Plenty".

This is not an impending disaster. We need to plan, because it is a disaster happening right now.

For many non growers the value of the brand of Tauranga and its ability to attract new residents is paramount and the growing perception we are fast becoming the spray capital of New Zealand can do nothing for their investments.

One chemical first applied as a trial 22 years ago has never been tested scientifically for its effects on human health and the health of the land. Why is that?

For the 14 years I have been involved in "outing" these chemical and copper-based sprays, every excuse and Band-Aid solution has been offered but never a scientific study undertaken.

If a study comes back with a clean bill of health I will gladly spray and walk away.

If the birds and the bees continue to swarm above us and haven't all buzzed off then we may have acted just in time.

But until then we must continue to knock on the regional council's door until we get some answers about chemicals and people instead of spin.

broblack@xtra.co.nz

- Bay of Plenty Times

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