MP denies evidence of Agent Orange exports

By Kevin Taylor

New Plymouth MP Harry Duynhoven has denied claims he acknowledged that Agent Orange ingredients were shipped from Taranaki to the United States military in the 1960s.

A Sunday News report this week re-ignited a long-standing claim - which a 1990 parliamentary inquiry failed to substantiate - that Ivon Watkins-Dow's Paritutu plant in New Plymouth made the defoliant's ingredients and shipped them to the US military for the Vietnam War.

But Mr Duynhoven said from Europe yesterday that he had no evidence IWD (now Dow AgroSciences) had exported Agent Orange components - despite the Sunday News story quoting him as saying he had "acknowledged" the fact.

He told National Radio he was interviewed last year by a constituent who had been working on the issue for many years.

"I told him that I had from time to time received reports from people in my electorate that there had been not only the ingredients produced, but there had also been allegations they had been exported.

"Whether they were exported or not I have no evidence of that. If there is significant new information it hasn't reached me yet," he said.

"I've had people contact me saying that they believe or that they remember, but no one has actually delivered evidence."

The constituent is understood to be dioxins campaigner Andrew Gibbs, who provided the Sunday News with an affidavit about a meeting with Mr Duynhoven on November 8.

Mr Gibbs claimed that at that meeting Mr Duynhoven told him individual components of Agent Orange - the chemicals 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D - were shipped from Port Taranaki to Subic Bay in the Philippines during the late 1960s.

Mr Gibbs said yesterday that he stood by his affidavit that Mr Duynhoven had acknowledged that the shipments had occurred. A thorough investigation independent of the Crown was now required, he said.

Dow AgroSciences this week again denied that it ever made Agent Orange in New Zealand or supplied its ingredients to the US military.

Government Defence officials have been investigating the renewed claims since November, after John Moller, president of the now-defunct Vietnam Veterans Association, wrote to Attorney-General Margaret Wilson.

Defence Minister Mark Burton said yesterday the investigation was continuing, despite Mr Duynhoven's latest comments. Mr Burton said those comments showed Mr Duynhoven had no new evidence to back the exporting claim.

Despite repeated requests, Mr Duynhoven has not contacted the Herald to clarify what he knows. He indicated to the most recent parliamentary inquiry into Agent Orange - which reported back in October - that he knew it was exported.

During a December 2003 sitting of the inquiry, he asked retired colonel Raymond Seymour if he remembered Subic Bay as a route by which the chemicals may have come. Colonel Seymour said he did not.

Mr Duynhoven then said: "Okay, because a lot of chemical product was shipped from New Plymouth to Subic Bay around that time.

"It would be interesting to know what became of it."

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