4 Feb 2009

Meeting held over fumigant use at Picton port

10:01 am on 4 February 2009

A meeting was held on Tuesday in Picton to discuss plans to resume using the toxic chemical methyl bromide to fumigate logs.

Log exporting company Zindia wants to use the chemical to fumigate a log shipment bound for Asia in two weeks.

Previous public concern about the gas has led to logs from Port Marlborough being sent to the North Island for fumigation.

The company on Tuesday met port officials, the fumigation company Genera, two Picton councillors - Nigel Weetman and Cliff Bowers - and representatives from opposition groups to discuss its fumigation plans.

The controversial fumigant is being phased out around the world because it attacks the ozone layer and has been linked to serious illnesses in port workers.

Soil and Health Association spokesperson Steffan Browning said not enough is known about the risks of releasing methyl bromide into the atmosphere.

The Picton councillors and Marlborough District mayor Alistair Sowman deny they have given the association an assurance that the council would stop the use of methyl bromide at the port.

Mr Sowman said the council's stance is that it would prefer the chemical was not used at the site. However, he said the council would not become involved in a decision by Port Marlborough about fumigation.

He said no-one wants fumigation on their doorsteps - but there are times when there are no alternatives and he has been assured it will be a one-off, done below decks.

Environmental group Guardians of the Sounds says protest action will be held if approval is given to fumigate.

The group's chairperson, Peter Beech, says locals are angry and the council urgently needs to spell out the rules about fumigations.

Port Marlbourough directors were to consider a report compiled after the consultation before announcing a decision.