New Plymouth People Poisoned Daily

March 7, 2005

Day 3: New Plymouth People Poisoned Daily 

After the Rotorua meeting the tour group split, most stayed on in Rotorua, but several of us journeyed through the night to arrive in New Plymouth at 2am to prepare for the following days March Against Dow.

Wreath laying at New PlymouthThe day of the march we awoke to grey skies and drizzle, but by the time of the march the skies had cleared and the sun shone down on the 150 people who d come to be part of the march to the gates of DOW in Paritutu.

A powerful karakia was given by a local kaumatua Huirangi Waikerepu who talked about the importance of the land, air and water to us all. Speakers talked on varying subjects with the recurring link being dioxin poisoning. Andrew Gibbs, a local campaigner who has worked on the dioxin issues for over a decade, Joe Harawira from Sawmill workers against poisons, Gordon Jackman a scientist who has campaigned on this issue for over 20 years and Mere Takoko toxics campaigner from Greenpeace.

After the Rotorua meeting the tour group split, most stayed on in Rotorua, but several of us journeyed through the night to arrive in New Plymouth at 2am to prepare for the following days March Against Dow.

The march moved off, at the front a lone bagpipe player, aged 13 years, led the way. The mix of people on the march was awe inspiring. Although only a small number of the people were present, they had so much passion for the issue. Residents of all ages, Vietnam Vets, Sawmill workers from Whakatane, activists from Wellington and Auckland turned out to protest. People marched and chanted slogans like DOW, DOW clean up now as we wound our way up towards the DOW chemical plant. Elderly residents and Vietnam vets who were too ill to walk, followed the march in vehicles.

Several hundred metres from DOW’s gates the elderly and ill people in the vehicles reunited with the rest of the march. They stood and sat in their wheelchairs up the front of the march with local residents and their children who were holding the DOW Poisoning People Daily banner. The march slowly progressed to the gates where we , stopped to hear Ian McLeod, a local Vietnam vet, talk about their families plight after being doused with Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

Then Ray Kennedy an elderly local resident whose whole family has been affected by DOWs chemicals was wheeled over to the front gates. Ray Kennedy was the first local resident to start challenging DOW publicly many years ago…

At the DOW gates Whakatane kaumatua Hemi Wirihana of SWAP said a karakia, and Ray laid a wreath at the foot of this chemical giant in memory of the many peoples lives torn asunder. Ray then stood to speak and I, like many, was overcome with emotion as he talked about losing not only his wife to cancer but also his children.

Time stood still. People were silent. There was no need to call for one minute s silence as we all stood united in our sympathy and anger at the unfairness of a world where governments let these companies come into our midst and poison us and our environment.

Then a haunting waiata was sung. People stayed together to talk for a while and then the crowd dispersed.

I was honoured to be there for the day. Although it is a sad issue, it was a powerful message to DOW and the government that people are uniting to stand up and state their right for health care for themselves and future generations, and demanding recognition for suffering inflicted by these corporates.

As I left Taranaki today to continue our journey onto Wanganui the clouds parted to reveal Mt Taranaki in all its glory, for me just another sign that this tour is truly blessed.




DOW agrosciences (formerly Ivon Watkins DOW)

DOW agrosciences (formerly Ivon Watkins DOW) has been a focus of many of the groups who have come together for the Peoples Poisoned Daily tour. During the 1940s to 1986 DOW produced the chemicals 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D which were heavily contaminated by cancer causing dioxins. These two chemicals were sprayed extensively throughout Aotearoa and subsequently poisoned our food chain through the animals that feed on the contaminated land. It also poisoned our waterways and kai moana that we eat.

DOWs chemicals – 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D when combined produce Agent Orange the deadly defoliant that was sprayed during the Vietnam War to clear the foliage and forest. But the planes spraying Vietnam also doused the Vietnamese people and the soldiers stationed there including many New Zealand soldiers, and left a toxic legacy on the land.

Not only that but the residents who live near the plant in Paritutu have levels of Dioxins as high as the people of South Vietnam, they have had to live with this polluting company in their midst since the 1960s.

NEWS-2005-M03-07-001  | March 7, 2005 | People Poisoned Daily | Weblog


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