They feel trapped.
English immigrants Chris and Alison Robinson arrived in New Zealand from France in 2005, drawn by New Zealand’s pollution-free image.
An architect, Chris developed their Ness Rd property into Killara Luxury Lodge and Retreat but they believe the property is poisoning them.
“We moved to New Zealand fit, healthy and wealthy. We had full medical examinations done. It took the last four-and-a-half years to turn us into dying, poor and desperate”, says Chris.
He believes the land is contaminated by dioxin, possibly from past use of 2,4,5,-T once used to control gorse or from a spillage.
Chris says the first sign of ill health in the family was chronic fatigue.
A keen golfer, he found he could no longer pull a trundler around the golf course. He had trouble breathing and developed skin conditions.
Daughter Eleanor, 18, came down with glandular fever, son Alex, 20, developed a digestive problem, Alison became ill too. A pet guinea pig developed lumps and died. A second guinea pig died and their cat became ill.
Chris says his health insurance company has paid $30,000 for specialist assessments but specialists can’t pinpoint the cause of his on-going ill health.
And he’s angry. “We would leave New Zealand like a rocket if we could but we can’t sell up because who would buy a deadly property? We can’t run the lodge. We’re stuck. We’ve run out of ideas and cash. We have been seriously conned. I want government compensation.”
The Robinsons say if they are away from the property for any length of time, their health improves.
And they concluded their tank water was contaminated when they noticed their symptoms increased when, to save money, they bought a soda machine and used tank water instead of store-bought fizzy drinks.
“It could all be a wild co-incidence, all four members of our family showing similar symptoms while living together – fatigue, malaise, hirsuteness, breathing difficulties, aches and pains. If anybody has any suggestions as to what could cause us all to be ill – except an environmental effect of our home – then I’d like to hear about it.”
The Robinsons have been told that they need to prove that dioxin poisoning is the cause of their problems before the government will step in.
Health protection authorities have visited the site and reviewed past land use but it was concluded that dioxin from an environmental source was unlikely to be the cause of the family’s ill health.
Saddled with a mortgage and no income from the lodge, they say they can’t afford the $2000 dioxin tests.
Northland Medical Officer of Health Jonathan Jarman says in such cases Northland Health can have access to testing only if it is confirmed that people have a notifiable disease. This includes poisoning coming out of a chemical contamination of the environment, but unless there is strong evidence and unless it is notified by a doctor, his department can’t help
“It is not unusual for people to approach us with appeals for testing but, while we are sympathetic, we are not an environmental agency that does testing. In the case of dioxin we would ask for a specialist assessment. We have to prioritise and consider situations where it is likely there will be an impact from contamination.”
MP John Carter says he is aware of the situation the family is in and is approaching authorities for funding to test for pollution.
In the meantime, the Robinsons have launched a campaign on the internet, threatening to sue the New Zealand government for promoting the country as 100 percent pure.
* indicates comments made or image inserted by Dioxinnz blog editor
*17 May 2012: Arson charge over Northland mansion fire
*17 May 2012: Northland mansion owner faces arson charge
*13 Sep 2011: Luxury lodge fire treated as arson
*02 Aug 2012: Arson accused back in court
*24 Jan 2013: Former Killara Lodge owner facing hearing