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State Of It With Manning & Williams – Uranium On Our Breath

Column – STATE OF IT by Selwyn Manning

Glenn Williams hosts State Of It, a weekly look at politics with Scoop’s Selwyn Manning as New Zealand enters an election campaign before Polls on November 26. This week: Uranium On Our Breath – Has New Zealand got a plan to deal with a radioactive spill?

Radio Wammo: Glenn Williams & Selwyn Manning’s State Of It – Uranium On Our Breath…

Glenn Williams hosts State Of It, a weekly look at politics with Scoop’s Selwyn Manning as New Zealand enters an election campaign before Polls on November 26. This week: Uranium On Our Breath – Has New Zealand got a plan to deal with a radioactive spill?

RUN-SHEET State Of It – October 19 2011.


The Rena container ship oil spill has exposed New Zealand’s lack of preparedness to tackle problematic toxic accidents when they occur near our coastline and territorial waters.

And as we discovered last night, New Zealand ports are being used as transit points for thousands of tonnes of Australian uranium, linking New Zealand to the nuclear power and weapons industries around the globe.

But more on that later in this bulletin.

First, lets look at how prepared New Zealand is when things go wrong.

As the Prime Minister said yesterday, no New Zealander can be held responsible for the oil spill. But it is the Prime Minister, our Government, and our politicians in general who are responsible for developing policy and laws to make sure we have a plan in place should things go wrong.

So, how do the politicians stack up?

On TVNZ’s Breakfast Programme, Corrin Dann asked Greenpeace’s Steve Able how the Government, and the response-workers were doing.

    [GREENPEACE’S STEVE ABLE: TVNZ Breakfast – full audio]
    1:01 to 1:33

So the question remains, has the government acted satisfactorily on this issue. Steve Able (who many KiwiFM listeners will recognise for his fabulous music) indicated that at some stage that question will have to be asked.

So let’s explore that, and analyse, the Government’s response so far.

Thursday last week editor Bernard Hickey and I were asked a similar question while taking part in Citizen-A on Stratos TV.

As you heard there, Bernard Hickey’s response was that it appeared rather slow to get off the mark. That was certainly the impression, and I agreed with him.

But exploring back, the Government had been engaging on the matter, and analysing its positioning from Monday last week it appeared the problem was that again the Government had been issuing mixed messages.

Take these two reports, both from the New Zealand Herald, both reported on the same day (October 10).

This is a comparison between the Prime Minister John Key’s messages and that of Transport Minister Steven Joyce.

But first, here’s the Prime Minister’s message:

And compare this to Joyce’s message:

Now some may say this edition of The State Of It is running a similar theme to what we pitched last week, and the week before.

Well yes, but only because there is this recurring theme emitting out of the Beehive where the Prime Minister says one thing and his senior ministers say another.

Now, which of those two politicians were right?

Who was on message there to presenting a truth, a reality check? Well, by now we know, and the people of Papamoa know, Joyce was right on message. As he said “the reality of the situation is this…”

To be fair, as the Mad Butcher is known to say, that comparison was from last week.

So let’s look at how the Government has been positioning itself since then.

This issue was always going to have a political aspect to it. And Labour and the Greens did not miss an opportunity to create distance from National on the Rena and deep sea mining issues:
    0:43 to 1:23

    See also the issue that developed after an interview between KiwiFM’s Glenn Williams and Labour leader Phil Goff over a moratorium: 3News report on moratorium


And yesterday, after meeting with members of Tauranga’s chamber of commerce, John Key said the Government is not yet in a position to announce a financial aid package for businesses affected by the grounding of the Rena, and that there had been no request for compensation.

What Key is not telling people is there is a legal opinion that is developing that suggests the Resource Management Act may provide recourse for the Crown to seek full compensation for the clean-up costs from the company responsible for the RENA grounding.

There’s irony in that fact. The National Government and its stakeholders have long sought an opportunity to scrap or reform the RMA. It may be that that very law will help it get the country out of a cost-based ditch.


But that aside… the most disturbing fact was revealed last night by 3News reporter Patrick Gower.

The exclusive report revealed container ships carrying uranium dock at the Port Of Tauranga, and Gower announced that 3 News had discovered Tauranga port authorities were concerned as recently as last year, that there was no plan to deal with a radioactive spill.

Here is Patrick Gower as he reported it last night:

3News revealed that hundreds of tonnes of uranium passes through Tauranga’s port by the container-load every two weeks.

Again, here is Patrick Gower:

As Gower alluded to there, this issue raises questions like has the government ever had a plan to deal with toxic waste accidents should they occur in New Zealand’s territorial waters.

It appears categorical that it does not.

Should we be reassured that the Prime Minister says all is ok with uranium being transported via New Zealand’s ports?

This is not the first time Key has faced controversy over this issue. Let’s look back to February 2010 with this report:

I guess, on that point, under the current Government, New Zealand may be nuclear free, but it is not uranium free.


Now back to New Zealand’s preparedness:

Here we have a country that has a pristine natural coastline, reputation, a country that clearly does not have the regulatory framework in place to ensure rapid response to coastal and oceanic environmental accidents, a nation that does not have the necessary hardware to deal with a deep sea catastrophe let alone a coastal one, a nation that has a Prime Minister and Government that says it must weigh up the costs of environmental risk against wider economic benefits.

Here is John Key speaking only yesterday:

And that was the Prime Minister telling journalists that his National-led Government will always have to balance the risk of environmental damage against economic gains.

And Glenn, that’s the state of it this week.


State Of It broadcasts on KiwiFM and Radio Wammo at 7:40am on Tuesdays. Video on demand episodes also webcast on


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