Havelock North outbreak raises big questions about land use and climate change

The Havelock North outbreak calls into question the Government’s growth-at-any-cost economic strategy, says Green Party Co-leader James Shaw today, in response to comments today by professors of public health, Alistair Woodward and Simon Hales

The Havelock North outbreak calls into question the Government’s growth-at-any-cost economic strategy, says Green Party Co-leader James Shaw today, in response to comments today by professors of public health, Alistair Woodward and Simon Hales.

“As Professor Woodward said this morning, the independent inquiry is an opportunity to look at issues of land use, freshwater quality and the impacts of climate change to prevent further outbreaks and risks to public health, not just in Havelock North, but all of New Zealand,” said Mr Shaw.

“But that opportunity will only be realised if the Government broadens the scope of the inquiry and includes freshwater and environmental scientists, as well health and engineering experts, to ensure that it properly assesses the impacts of land use and climate change on the state of the waterways that we use to supply our drinking water.

“We know that the outbreak in Havelock North was preceded by heavy rainfall off the back of a dry period, which, as Professor Woodward has reinforced, meant there would have been heavy run off and an increased risk of faecal contamination of aquifers and bores.

“This is a vivid illustration of the real impact climate change is having on our way of life right now. New Zealand is facing huge increases in rainfall as a result of climate change, a reality that needs to be reflected in our economic and environmental planning decisions.

“Havelock North is a sign of things to come for New Zealand as our population and economy continues to grow, unless we change our focus to sustainable economic development rather than the Government’s ‘all growth is good growth’ approach.

 

“We need to measure and account for the true costs to society that a rapidly increasing population and industrial activity has on the environment, which we all rely on for our quality of life. The cost of cleaning up after Havelock North, the money spent on public health and looking after the thousands of victims of the outbreak will be recorded as an increase in GDP (Gross Domestic Product), which the Government will claim as a sign of economic success.

“The recommendations and outcomes of the Inquiry need to be considered and implemented at a nationwide level. By transitioning our economy to a more sustainable footing now, we can protect our environment, prevent future risks to the health of our communities and reduce costs to the public purse.

“With experts highlighting the risks of future contamination, National needs to stop being complacent about the real impacts of environmental degradation on public health and the economy,” said Mr Shaw.

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