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Water contamination from Ohakea: residents state concerns

Joint press release
Leaders from local councils and central government agencies met in Feilding today to agree on the next steps in response to the discovery of PFAS contamination around the Ohakea airforce base.

Mayors, Chairs and Chief Executives from Horizons Regional Council, Manawatū District Council and Rangitikei District Council met local Cabinet Minister Iain Lees-Galloway (on behalf of lead Minister David Parker) and senior officials from Ministry for the Environment, NZ Defence Force and the Ministry of Primary Industries.

“The biggest outcome today was that the agencies are unified around the needs of the community. This includes ensuring that affected people have easier access to the information they need, that the wider community knows what’s happening and that there is 100% consistency in what people are told,” said Bruce Gordon, Chair of the Horizons Regional Council.

“I was pleased to see the level of collaboration between the agencies. That close interaction will mean the full spectrum of support can be provided to the people of the area,” said Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.

“I had heard a range of concerns from local residents and I’m confident those are all on the agenda now. From a local perspective I think we’re all much clearer on the current state of affairs, and have the right people involved to make the next steps,” Manawatū District Council Mayor Helen Worboys said.

The combined group is now working at pace to meet the needs and expectations of the community.

Concerned local residents should continue to call the 0800 line (0800 668 776) or visit the website www.mfe.govt.nz/pfas

News from HRC and MDC – February 1
Horizons Regional Council and Manawatu District Council are requesting more action by central government officials over contamination of water by firefighting chemicals at Ohakea Airbase.

Growing community concerns about the information being provided around the extent and effects of the water contamination at Ohakea has prompted Manawatu Mayor Helen Worboys to visit residents around the base.

“What I am hearing from our affected community members is that the information they are being provided with is inconsistent and unclear,” says Mayor Worboys.

“In addition to water use, residents have concerns about the future of their farms, and are asking for further testing of the soil. Those on untested neighbouring properties are also concerned.

“These people, many of whom have lived here for generations, are genuinely worried about their future.”

“I am being told about headaches and illness in people. About poor performing animals that seem to recover when not on the affected land.”

Horizons Regional Council chief executive Michael McCartney says they are also concerned around the lack of information available.

“Horizons became aware of this issue just before the community was told in December last year. Since then we have and will continue to provide technical information on groundwater and surface water to the New Zealand Defence Force and the Ministry for the Environment,” says Mr McCartney.

“However, we still don’t know the full scope of the contamination and what the long term impact may be.

“We’re strongly encouraging government to work speedily and proactively with affected individuals and communities. This includes a wider sampling radius that includes testing in Sanson and to the Bulls side of the Rangitikei River, as well as ensuring the health and wellbeing of our residents is of the upmost importance.

“Contamination events such as this not only creates public health concerns, they can have long term social-economic impacts.

“I have put a call through to the Minister of Defence today to raise our concerns, and Mayor Worboys has done the same with the Minister for the Environment.

“Horizons is also formally investigating the contamination under the Resource Management Act.

“Until the investigation is complete it would be inappropriate for Horizons to comment further on the investigation or speculate about the possible outcomes,” says Mr McCartney.

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