Bay of Plenty marae tells UN about serious health issues from industry's 'chemical violence'

A small Bay of Plenty marae has told the United Nation's special forum on the rights of indigenous peoples that "chemical violence" by heavy industry is having serious health effects for whānau.

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Iwi claim heavy industry around their marae is having serious effects on the community. Source: 1 NEWS

Whareroa Marae spokesperson Joel Ngātuere and Ngāti Kuku chair Awhina Ngātuere presented to the UN and both spoke of the trauma inflected by neighbouring industry.

The marae has long called for cleaner, clearer air, and Joel told 1 NEWS having to take their fight to the UN is an embarrassment for New Zealand.

"This is an embarrassing moment for our country when the rest of the world hears that you've got children being poisoned every hour of the day," he said.

He says children suffer a number of illnesses because of the marae's proximity to Mount Maunganui's Industrial Area.

"The children of Whareroa Marae regularly experience migraines, vomiting, respiratory illnesses, random asthma attacks, rashes, sore eyes, sore nose and sore throats," he told the UN. 

They're calling on the UN to investigate, and enforce an immediate "cessation of chemical violence upon our community" and an investigation into the health impacts and governance arrangements currently in place.

Awhina told the UN she'd like a Crown apology, and for the Government to address air pollution.

"Our Government’s insatiable appetite for land has left us with nothing but the small toxic bubble we currently live on," she said.

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"The very land stripped from our ancestors is now being used to poison us."

She says her whānau are no longer living at Whareroa, "essentially severing a tie that my children are entitled to".

In a statement, the Bay of Plenty Regional Council says it supports iwi and the community's work to address air quality concerns.

"This is a complex situation that has been decades in the making and it’s important the spotlight is kept on this issue," a council spokesperson said.

They say the council is "currently in the process of drafting stricter air quality rules" for the Industrial Area amid issues around fine dust and odour.

A compliance officer is also based permanently in the Industrial Area to respond to "pollution events and working closely with industry to ensure best practice". 

Industry has also invested "tens of millions of dollars"over the past few years to "upgrade sites and introduce the latest technology for cleaner manufacturing".

The council says it cannot force industry out where it is a permitted activity, complying with resource consent conditions, and the land which borders the marae is zoned for industrial land use under the Tauranga City Plan.

The regional council says 2067 requests were made to the Pollution Hotline since January, 1173 of those were located within the Mount Maunganui / Tauranga area.

National Environmental Standards for Air Quality sets the minimum standard for contaminants discharged to the air.