The battler who never quit

Sep 10, 2004

A 42-year-old New Plymouth man has fought for more than 10 years to prove that Paritutu residents were exposed to unsafe levels of dioxin from the chemical plant Ivon Watkins-Dow.

Andrew Gibbs says that after “three properties and two breakdowns” the Government is finally being forced to admit the manufacture of 2,4,5-T at the coastal suburb damaged residents’ health.

Mr Gibbs moved to New Plymouth in 1994 after he believed he had been poisoned by toxic spray drift at a farm in Northland.

Two years later he discovered that a Ministry of Environment study had found elevated levels of dioxin in New Plymouth soils.

He continued his research of Ivon Watkins-Dow’s history at Paritutu and lobbied Health Minister Annette King to investigate residents’ airborne exposure to toxins from the plant.

In 2000, he helped organise a public meeting after he believed research showed that New Plymouth had higher rates of cancer than the national average.

Despite a Taranaki Health Board report saying cancer rates in New Plymouth were in line with the national average, Mr Gibbs refused to give up the fight, saying the Government was not looking at historical exposure of residents near the plant.

Yesterday, Mr Gibbs shrugged off suggestions that his long campaign had been at least partly vindicated.

He said he only felt “saddened it has taken the Government this long to face the truth”.  | Sep 10, 2004


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