New Zealand’s Asbestos Policy Unfit for Purpose – Still! 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



On February 10, 2015, Veteran Ban Asbestos Campaigner Deidre VanGerven circulated her response to the New Zealand Government-commissioned Inventory of New Zealand Imports and Exports of Asbestos-Containing Products. To say her analysis of this 47-page document was scathing does not begin to convey her outrage. It is hard not to agree with Mrs. VanGerven’s opinion as the inventory is so full of qualifications, reservations and errors as to be hardly credible. While admitting that the accuracy of the report was compromised by the voluntary nature of the data-gathering exercise and the failure of some of the country’s import codes to distinguish asbestos from non-asbestos products, the author does conclude that “non-asbestos materials are the accepted norm for most products, and alternatives are available for all uses, with no significant cost or performance concerns.”

Mrs. VanGerven’s corrections address mathematical as well as factual errors and by page iii of the introduction her patience with the author’s excuses had been exhausted. “What it boils down to,” she wrote “is the fact that no one really knows what asbestos-containing products are being exported or imported from New Zealand. This on its own should tell you that we need a complete ban on products containing asbestos in NZ...”

The lack of oversight of New Zealand’s import flow and the continued failure by successive governments to take decisive action on the asbestos threat were grounds for other countries to reconsider their import of New Zealand products, Mrs. VanGerven wrote. She speculated that Australia, New Zealand’s biggest trading partner, may wish to reconsider its policy of buying material from New Zealand in light of the continuing possibility that its exports might contain asbestos, a substance outlawed in Australia.

Commenting on the current situation, Mrs. VanGerven told an interviewer:

“Since my husband Thom died of asbestos cancer, I have been working to rid New Zealand of the asbestos curse which decimated our family and continues to kill workers as well as members of the public. It remains a mystery to me, how New Zealand politicians can downplay the threat asbestos poses when so many people continue to die every year from their exposures. NZ must ban asbestos and it must be done as a matter of urgency.”

February 11, 2015



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