The Paritutu/NZ Story

1 Northland 5 East Cape 9 Wellington 13 West Coast
2 Auckland 6 Hawke’s Bay 10 Tasman 14 Canterbury
3 Waikato 7 Taranaki 11 Nelson 15 Otago
4 Bay of Plenty 8 ManawatuWanganui 12 Marlborough 16 Southland

The Cast…

AC {Allen and Clarke}
DOW {Dow Chemical Company}
ESR {Environmental Science & Research}
I.A.R.C {International Agency for Research on Cancer}
I.O.M {Institute of Medicine}
IWD {Ivon Watkins Dow}
MoH {Ministry of Health}
NPDC {New Plymouth District Council}
TDHB {Taranaki District Health Board}
TRC {Taranaki Regional Council}


Archived research documentation, narratives on those documents and knowledge gained from interaction with 1960-72 residents, officials, media and Ministers from 1998 to 2010 are used to explore how public officials, elected representatives and contracted consultants used taxpayers funds and cleverly scripted media releases to divert from and dismiss clearly apparent population impacts from historic chemical exposures among the Paritutu community of around several thousand residents who were significantly exposed to 2,3,7,8-TCDD (dioxin) and also other chemicals released from 1960 to 1972.

The official management of media cover on this issue from 2000 to 2010 can be broken into four distinct strands:

ACT: 01

First redirecting focus away from politically damaging failures of the Labour Government’s 1986 / 1987 Ministerial Committee of Inquiry to investigate official evidence of 1964 to 1969 airborne dioxin (and likely 2,4,5-T) exposures during the same time period that New Plymouth had the highest reported rates of birth defects in New Zealand. This shift in the context of the key issue came into play when media ignored the evidenced airborne issues which had led to the serum testing programme and focused primarily on what the media ‘thought’ was the core issue, sensational allegations of large buried chemical waste dumps reported in “Investigate” magazine Jan / Feb 2001.*MAG01 This drove the subsequent politically driven responses, the “reassurance” reports on the 2001 risks from buried wastes*TRC42; a report on the health of 1988 to 1999 Moturoa residents*RPT**; and the 2002 report on current risks from levels of dioxin in soils in the Paritutu / Moturoa areas.*RPT**

In February 2001 the Taranaki District Health Board withheld and ignored 1965-1970 birth defects data confirming the area around the IWD plant had elevated rates of Neural Tube*W01 defects [that the USA I.O.M associate with herbicide exposures]. TDHB then twice denied having seen the 1965-1970 data and dismissed significantly increased birth defect rates. This delayed reporting of the elevated 1965-70 birth defects rates until November 2010,*RPT** this data suggested that New Plymouth 1965-70 birth defect rates were the highest in New Zealand and also amongst the highest in the World.

ACT: 02

This was followed by the media management of the 2004 / 2005 Paritutu blood serum dioxin report exposure data*RPT** This was enacted by the MoH taking over the serum dioxin study and re-targeting Part II selections at known low exposure 1974 to 1987 periods as to “dilute” observed 2004 dioxin levels and then claiming there was evidence of ongoing 1974 to 1987 exposures, when in fact Part II*RPT** found no such evidence. However rearrangement of serum data ‘extended‘ reported exposures through the 1974 to 1987 period and steered the timing of the highly significant TCDD exposures away from the key 1960 to 1972 period.

ACT: 03

Then the Ministry of Health dilution of the ESR defined significantly TCDD exposed Paritutu exposure population by 20 to 35 fold in the 2010 Birth Defects and 2005 Cancer reports, obscuring evident increases in both 1965-1970 birth defects and 1970-1984 cancers. Effects the USA Institute of Medicine associate with herbicide exposures.This has been compounded by the Ministry of Health’s long running refusal to investigate or assess the health status of the most vulnerable in the significantly exposed community.

ACT: 04

Finally the misrepresentations of peer reviews and Broadcasting Standards complaints decisions on balance and fairness*ART01** used as to discredit the valid and accurate claims of data manipulation and errors in the Paritutu blood serum dioxin reports. This was finished of with the Allen and Clarke designed 2008 election year “early intervention” health plan*RPT** postdating significant increases in cancers by 24 to 38 years and significant increases in birth defects by 38 to 43 years. The ‘plan‘ dismissed Paritutu residents claims of ongoing multi-generational impacts, without ever investigating whether or not such effects had in fact occurred.


These four strands of how the Paritutu issue was ‘spun and won‘ are discussed in more detail along with the official documents verifying events, in the menu links ‘Serum Data “Spin”[02] and “TDHB 1996-2008.”

The focus of these narratives is on the 1960 to 1972 period as contamination of 2,4,5-T produced and used 1948-1972 throughout New Zealand was at its highest with annual average levels of TCDD in IWD. 2,4,5-T reported by the I.A.R.C as reducing 20 fold 1971 to 1973, referencing the 1986 N.Z study of A. H. Smith review-paritutu-dioxin-smith.pdf 2005/07 and N. Pearce.*RPT** This period is also when the Ivon Watkins and IWD building 03 plant for manufacturing 2,4,5-T was operating from 1960 with ‘rudimentary‘ process controls until it was replaced by the building 048 plant in 1969.

Instead of investigating the effects in the most exposed population and in particular those that the science suggests would be the most vulnerable, *NZS01 [01] the women, adolescents and children resident or born during significant historic exposures officials focused on reassuring recent Paritutu and New Plymouth residents and rearranged both data and study designs, then used media complaints processes and funded policy consultants to circumvent the ESR and Taranaki Regional Ethics Committee recommended definitive investigations of the significantly exposed Paritutu population.*MIN**

The dominant influence of the communications practitioners *B46 transformed the media’s role in this issue from one of informing the public of facts and preventing the abuse of power into a vehicle to distort facts, mislead the public and conceal official abuse of power. Unable to break through a wall of scientific spin, some ‘media‘ went so far as to ridicule the exposed population without reviewing official documentation which contradicted what ‘media‘ had been told by officials during ‘locked down‘ media conferences.*?**

Virginia Baker

ESR social scientist Virginia Baker in her September 2005 presentation to the Massey dioxin symposium*RPT** noted that officials had acted to protect the image of New Plymouth as a safe and clean destination and more recently in a 2010 publication*RPT** noted that health officials had often the dismissed community’s advocates as, poorly informed, confused and irrational.

This is an interesting position given that in 1999 and 2000 it was the community that had identified and alerted the Minister to historic exposures using the evidence overlooked by the 1986 / 87 Ministerial Committee of Inquiry*RPT** and then in 2011*?** had to investigate the rates of mortality and stillbirths, amongst significantly exposed 1960’s residents, as health officials simply refused, to conduct the ESR 2005 recommended targeted study*?** of those most exposed.

The classic Disclaimer:

Important: Ministry of Health disclaimer

The data and analyses contained in A Study of 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) Exposures in Paritutu, New Zealand have been supplied to the Ministry of Health by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research Ltd (ESR).

The Ministry of Health cannot confirm the accuracy of the data and the analyses, and accepts no liability or responsibility for any acts or omissions, done or omitted in reliance, in whole or in part, on the data or the analyses.


Ref: ESR V Baker



fn: 01: also see fn: 02: also see

Original Source



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