Serious concerns expressed over inner city housing

The “central city” area of Christchurch was particularly badly affected by the earthquakes of 2011. On Monday 28 April 2014, Tony Milne facilitated a meeting with local residents and some other interested parties.

Although most of those involved in the meeting, were happy to be photographed or recorded, I was unable to get permission from everyone before the meeting started. Therefore no recordings were made by me, or by any others.

That was unfortunate as a more complete record of the evening would have served better, the interests of those members of the public who were unable to attend on the night. This report therefore is taken from my written notes.

Held at the Oxford Terrace Baptist church (now in a refurbished hall, since their main church collapsed in the February 2011 earthquake), the pouring rain from earlier in the day, had stopped, although it was still a bleak and wet evening.

The turnout was about 35 people in all, many walking from their homes nearby. Included in the audience was Megan Woods the current Labour Party MP for Wigram and Phil Clearwater, a councillor with the Christchurch City Council. Starting a few minutes after 7pm, Tony Milne gave a brief introduction.

The first speaker I shall refer to as “Ms S.” She’s lived in the local area for 10 years but expressed concerns over how the government would achieve their stated aim of getting 20,000 people to live in the central city. (Before the earthquakes, the inner city population was about 7,500, it is currently about 4,500).

Where are they going to live, she asked, especially when some of the current residential zoned land is being re-purposed for commercial interests. Ms S. has had meetings with Mike Greer (a well known name in house construction in Christchurch). One thing that had improved, since the earthquakes though, was the sense of community amongst local residents.

David Thornley was next up and he spoke about the population of the Inner City West area. The population there, he said, had dropped by some 46% after the earthquakes (far worse than the 27% loss of housing in the Northern and Eastern CBD areas).

Going by CERA (Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority) figures, of some 15,000 homes lost city-wide, Mr Thornley heavily criticised the CERA/Brownlow policy of having opened up so much new land in greenfields developments (greenfields = previous farmland on the outskirts of the city, being rezoned for big new luxury housing developments). He said that that policy had further hamstrung rebuilding of housing in the inner city and closer-in suburbs.

“We need 8,000 to 10,000 new homes” Mr Thornley said, and that CBD land currently designated residential must remain as residential ONLY and NOT be taken over for commercial use and development. We need to have LESS central government control and MORE community involvement.

Di Lucas was next up and used a range of powerpoint slides on the big screen to illustrate her points.

She reckons we should be making far more use of wood especially “engineered timbers” in the rebuild. She’s been heavily involved in the proposed Peterborough Village redevelopment. They had also done studies on using timber products for earthquake resistant foundations, and that information was available for all, on their website.

One powerpoint slide did give concern though. It was the Tonkin and Taylor diagram from November 2013 showing likely flooding if there was a one metre rise in sea-level.The Peterborough Village would be at risk of flooding. (This is the second time I’ve seen that slide recently. It was part of the presentation at Canterbury University just a few weeks ago, that public lecture was covered elsewhere on this blog).

Marjorie Manthei from the Victoria Neighbourhood Association described the area she was from as being bounded by Bealey Ave, Victoria Street and Colombo. She expressed concern at how many houses had been temporarily permitted to be used as business premises in the immediate aftermath of the earthquakes.

Temporary permits had been issued by the council, valid for 5 years. She was concerned though that there was no central database. Would it therefore require a door-knock of ever house in the area to ensure that, after the 5 years was up, the house was returned to residential purposes ?

She echoed earlier concerns that previously residential zoned land was being re-purposed. The Cranmer Courts land has been bought by the Majestic Church group. (One assumes, for a new church building, they were originally based at the old Majestic Cinema building on Manchester Street). However it suffered earthquake damage and the government has seized the land and intends to demolish the building as part of their “frame” blueprint.

Since shortly after the earthquakes, Majestic Church have operated from a converted car sales lot on Moorhouse Avenue. It has been reported elsewhere that it would cost just $ 15 million to repair the Majestic House building in Manchester Street and bring it up to modern standards. However to build an equivalent replacement would cost about $ 60 million. (If those figures are right, it would seem to me to be a ‘no-brainer’ that the building should be repaired instead of demolished).

Marjorie Manthei also brought up two other subjects in her talk. One was the effect of late night liquor licences on the residentsof the Victoria neighbourhood, and the other thing she mentioned was that local residents were VERY HEAVY users of the free yellow bus service.

(EXPLANATION: Prior to the earthquakes a free bus service called The SHUTTLE, did a closed circuit loop covering a large part of the inner city area. As well as stopping right in the middle, Cathedral Square, the bus stopped at several major shopping and ‘high foot-traffic’ locations including the South City Mall, Pak n Save supermarket and outside the CPIT polytech. This service has not run at all since the earthquakes. Melbourne had a somewhat similar free tram service running in a loop around their inner city area and Perth had 4 free coloured “Clipper” bus routes, that later evolved into the Urban CAT free service (Central Area Transit). As an inner city resident, I can say that I sorely miss the free Shuttle bus service. It now costs $2.50 to ride just a few stops, ie walking distance, down the road using regular bus routes.)

Phil Twyford MP for Te Atatu (Auckland), was the final speaker. He is the (opposition) Labour Party’s housing spokesman.

He claimed that some failings in the earthquake rebuild and repair strategies could be left soundly at the feet of the current government it’s “just too damn slow… it’s shocking” he said, about people who were “now facing their fourth Winter since the earthquakes.”

“60% of the over threshold repairs, are still not done.”

(EXPLANATION: Many houses suffered comparatively minor damage in the earthquakes. Minor items of a cosmetic nature such as some cracks in wall plaster. To fix those places, they basically just get some polyfiller over the cracks, a coat of fresh paint on the ceiling and some new wallpaper. Job done, and the insurance companies can crow about how they have fixed up 80% (or whatever % figure) of all the damaged houses. However many houses suffered major damage, in some cases shifting off foundations, or foundations slumping, or whole large sections of walls separating. Those houses suffering such “major damage”, or requiring a full rebuild, can be described as being “over threshold”.)

The government wasn’t entirely to blame though, as “most of the delays can be attributed to the insurers” he said. But he criticised the National Party government’s paradigm that “we’ll let the market fix itself”.

“The Government has left people out of the equation” Phil Twyford said, there was “not nearly enough emphasis on building homes for people.” He referred to the “human toll” of “people living in substandard and overcrowded conditions, for their fourth Winter.”

There was no coherent plan for a rebuild of the city that its residents wanted, he said. Some potential investors in CBD redevelopments, had simply walked away because it was just too hard to work with the government.

He claimed that a Labour led government would do things differently. He said they would be using “the levers of government” and would be building 10,000 houses per year for the first few years. He claimed that, there had been very little affordable housing in the rebuilding efforts so far.

Phil Twyford criticised the government for not mandating a percentage of affordable housing in new developments. This has led to large developments of new land for housing, but all at the premium, pricey end of the spectrum.

What was needed, to “unlock the rebuild” was for government to put the infrastructure in place and take a lead in overall design. This would reduce the risk for those private developers who would build the actual housing.

Some time was then allowed for questions from the audience.

One man who said that there had been 5 sawmills closed down recently, because they couldn’t get enough logs to mill. Yet raw logs were being shipped ‘not value added’, to China. “Is the free market, causing the high cost of housing?”

Phil Twyford responded. He said there were several problems that made New Zealand housing more expensive (than in overseas countries). Lack of scale and lack of competition. He went on to say that In California, treated “4×2” Radiata pine timber can be purchased for one quarter the price that Kiwis have to pay for it. (Known as “Four by Two” in NZ, from it’s old measurement in inches, this is a common size of timber used in constructing structural framing for houses, garages and small commercial premises of 1 and 2 storeys height.)

In response to a woman’s question, it was said that the government, Bill English in particular, had turned down at least 6 applications for development funding, regarding engineered timber construction systems, which could greatly benefit the Christchurch rebuild.

Another woman spoke about her difficulties in trying to get her small inner city home rebuilt. She specifically wanted a “7 star” Homestar economy rating.

Another woman spoke about the government selling unremediated TC3 land for $ 750 per square metre. She said that would mean that newly constructed residences would therefore work out to be about $ 800,000 each, which is an awful long way from “affordable housing”.

Phil Twyford replied “the (free) market will NEVER EVER deliver affordable housing!”

That’s probably a good point to finish on, and indeed that was the end of the public question time. Tea and bikkies were served and many people remained afterwards and spoke to the panellists.

Later that night, after the meeting had finished, the rain started pouring down again. Local residents were not surprised to wake the following morning to flooding (especially in the Flockton Basin area) and with shops busily sandbagging and police closing roads.

Tony Milne is a candidate for the Labour Party, for the Christchurch Central electorate. The next election is due in late 2014. This ‘blog is not related to any political party and will gladly cover other public meetings arranged by others involved in local issues, whichever political party they may be from.

Sea level rise dooms Christchurch… but not for awhile yet

The writing would seem to be on the wall, large parts of Christchurch city are under a very real threat of deluge at some point in the future.

That was pretty much the ‘take home’ from last night’s lecture by Dr Deirdre Hart, senior lecturer at the University of Canterbury’s Geography department.

“What if ? Wednesdays” is a series of free public lectures that happen throughout the year. It is necessary to book online, but anybody may attend, you don’t have to be a student.

There was hardly a seat to spare this time around. Initially when I went to book, the website gave me an automated message that it was already full to capacity. I sent a personal email, pleading to the organisers, and had my name put on a reserve list. Later I got an automated email indicating I had a confirmed seat. This particular talk was held in the C3 lecture hall, with a capacity of about 350 I estimate.

Dr Hart’s presentation went for some 55 minutes and included many powerpoint slides, and some occasional demonstrations thanks to Christopher Gomez and his trolley of glass beakers and coloured water. This was followed by a Question and Answer session with the audience lasting about 45 minutes.

Words and terms were explained clearly at the outset. “Relative” sea level for example, as the height of the worlds various oceans and seas does vary. The total difference is only about two metres (the Pacific Ocean as higher than the Atlantic and Southern Ocean near Antarctica, for example).

Dr Hart explained how glacial ice sheets actually weighed down the land masses and that when that ice melted some thousands of years ago after the last ice age, land started to spring back up again. It takes time though and continues even after the ice sheets have finished melting. It was for this reason that she said Scotland was rising higher. Unfortunately this is tipping England somewhat like a see-saw and London is headed downwards. This is likely to exacerbate future risk of flooding in the London area.

New Zealand unfortunately is still sinking. This is a great concern because 75% of New Zealanders live within 10 km of the coast.

NZ has already experienced 170mm of sea level rise in the last 100 years, but in Christchurch we are 190mm worse off, because the land has sunk by 20mm.

There are various estimates for sea level rise by the year 2100. The figures range from 300mm to 1 metre around the world. In NZ it is expected to be somewhere in the range of 700mm to 1 metre.

Ocean behaviour though runs on many overlapping cycles. Some play out over 3 or 4 years and others play out over hundreds.

EL NINO and LA NINA climate cycles affect water levels in the Pacific Ocean near NZ by about 500mm. Keeping in mind that our usual tides are only about 2 metres in height difference, clearly effects can be cumulative.

One effect that is very noticable in NZ is APOGEE and PERIGEE. This is caused by occurrences of the sun and moon lining up occasionally, which can cause mega-sized Spring tides.

Atmospheric weather plays a big part in sea levels too. For every 1 hectopascal drop in air pressure, the sea level rises by 10mm. On the 4th of March 2014 the whole the Canterbury area was experiencing a severe storm (waves off of Banks Peninsula are said to have been 12 metres high). The air pressure was low enough that the sea near Christchurch was 400mm higher than on the 4th of April, when the weather was more normal.

In the famous storm of 1968 (which caused the sinking of the interislander ferry “Wahine” while inside Wellington Harbour, with the loss of many lives) the extreme low pressure of the air caused the sea level to rise by about one metre.

In October 2012 the superstorm known as “Tropical Cyclone Sandy” (which had already cut a path through the tropical areas of the Caribbean) and as it was moving north and fading it made a direct hit on the United States’ north east area and New Jersey got absolutely clobbered. The air pressure was so low, and the “superstorm” measured some 1,100 kms across, that the sea level in the area rose by some 4.2 metres. Waves of 10 metres were recorded near the Jersey shore.

Christchurch isn’t alone in being at risk, Tokyo is also a Holocene Progredation Plain. One picture slide clearly showed the various coastlines over the last few thousand years. Not all that long ago, Riccarton was a seaside suburb, and if you went anywhere further East than that, you were in the drink.

The “Bruun” rule was discussed. Going by this formula, one metre of sea level rise would likely lead to a retreat of the shoreline by anywhere between 30 and 100 metres. Most likely something in the 50 to 70 metre range.

However Dr Hart reckoned that the Bruun rule (intended for sandy beaches) has often been trotted out when it is not appropriate, and therefore conclusions drawn are likely to be wrong.

In Central Canterbury we have the Canterbury Bight just South of Banks Peninsula being blasted by the full force of wind and waves from Antarctica, whereas in Pegasus Bay, Christchurch and Northwards, the large promontory of Banks’ Peninsula forms an effective shield.

Our river systems, (and here the Waimakiriri stands head and shoulders above everything else put together) provide a constant diet of fresh soil, effectively pumping sand, silt and other sediments into the sea, right at Christchurch city’s Northern margin. For us here at the moment, that is actually a good thing.

(As an aside, I’ll explain some background for readers who are not locals. The “Waimak” as it is known is one of Canterbury’s famous “braided rivers”. The braided rivers are restricted to the Eastern South Island of New Zealand. Similar braided rivers are found in just a few places elsewhere, notably North America and the Himalayas. These wide scruffy looking river systems were initiated by ice age glaciers grinding away at tall mountains (Mount Cook in South Canterbury is still 12,000 feet high nowadays) During Autumn and Winter the water flow can be low, with a mostly dry riverbed of stones and small trees and shrubs that can grow quickly and survive some seasonal flooding, either NZ native species or introduced poplars and willows. However periodically these rivers can flood BIG TIME. Melting mountain snows in Spring and Summer can add to high rainfall events that may happen in the headwaters along the edge of the Southern Alps. Over several thousand years the Waimakiriri River has changed it’s course several times, usually during a time of major flood. During the human timescale that Christchurch has been settled by Europeans, it just so happens that the Waimak is at the Northernmost point it has been. Christchurch city’s northern suburbs stretch right upto the stop-banks that were constructed decades ago. Previously the river’s run would have been right through Christchurch’s Southern suburbs. Whether a really big flood event could cause this river to again shift further South, absolutely obliterating much of Christchurch City in one fell swoop, I do not know. But it would seem to be a possibility… perhaps the subject of a future public lecture ?).

For now though, Christchurch benefits from the material being brought down in the river and deposited into the sea around the river-mouth. Material like this, has helped build up the South Brighton and Southshore spit for example. One slide showed that even since the 1950’s considerable extra material had been deposited, effectively increasing the ‘dry land’ area of the spit.

Generally speaking we’re getting more than enough material and in areas North of Banks Peninsula (including Christchurch beaches) we are actually ‘accreting’ and NOT ‘eroding’.

Worldwide though, it’s a serious issue, with about 70% of coasts eroding. The annual rate of erosion runs somewhere between 500mm to 1 metre.

Dr Hart repeated this quote “Sea level rise doesn’t create new hazards, it exacerbates existing ones.”

At was at this point that Dr Hart spoke about “Multihazards”. She referred to the recent flooding in March 2014 of the Flockton Cluster (Flockton Basin ?). The area os Christchurch’s inner suburbs around the Saint Albans and Richmond Park areas.

This area may have been a little lower lying than some of the surrounds, but it didn’t used to have major flooding problems. Suddenly it does. The cause is the 2011 Earthquakes which resulted in the land area dropping by some 400 to 500mm in those suburbs.

Dr Hart went on to say something like ” ‘Earthquake land subsidence’ effectively gives us a ‘laboratory’ to study projected sea level rise.” One reason for more chance of flooding, she explained, was because we are closer to the water level of our rivers.

In 1868 South America experienced an earthquake of 8.5 magnitude. If a similar sized ‘quake today led to a tsunami, then damage to much of Eastern Christchurch would be made worse if the tsunami arrived during a time of High Tide.

Sea level rise makes (earthquake caused) liquifaction even worse.

One slide came from a Carter from 1989 and was a flow chart showing six rectangles. It laid out how when something like a flood occurs, the local population put pressure on local civic leaders etc to install defensive systems… dykes, stop-banks, drainage and pumping stations etc. However then when those protections are in place, there is a tendency to make use of the now flood-protected area and allow even more development (housing etc). Then when a major event later happens that overwhelms those defences, the losses of people and property are made very much worse.

In the question time that followed, a few points were covered that may not have been addressed in the initial talk. I won’t quote all the questions and answers here, you can listen to them yourself.

The presentation was videoed by some dude who’s name I don’t know but he had a pretty flash camera and had a wireless receiver so was capturing the sound directly from Dr Hart’s microphone. His recording will ‘soon’ appear on an official university Youtube channel. However they didn’t record the Q&A session. Luckily I did, and it can be accessed via the following links.

Q&A part 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lK_Z5Ahqu88

Q&A part 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cB-jVT7SuB4

Beaker demonstration https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfXH_IFZFu8

Solomons flooding tragedy, a lesson for us all

OPINION. The Solomon Islands has just experienced a devastating flood event. Mercifully fatalities have been few, but thousands have been made homeless and with fresh water and sewerage systems destroyed, the spread of disease is now a major concern. International aid is being sent in.

Unfortunately the writing has been on the wall for a couple of decades that the Solomon Islands was headed for a downfall. In common with most places on Earth, people have simply been breeding at too fast a rate. The population is simply too big for the area and resources available.

This has been made very much worse by land clearing and forestry. By “forestry” I mean the practice of cutting down trees as fast as possible, and NOT sensible sustainable forestry management practices such as selective logging and replanting.

Whether or not the global climate is changing, when severe events such as storms do occur from time to time, areas which have had natural forest cover removed suffer increased and faster water run-off. This leads to even more severe flooding than might have otherwise occurred. Increases in the population can encourage new residential building on land more at risk from catastrophe.

It was about 15 years ago that I saw a documentary on TV about rampant forest destruction in the Solomon Islands. I fear that this recent flooding disaster is just their chickens coming home to roost.

Unfortunately for us all, many other countries could be said to be suffering from the same problems… overpopulation and destruction and over-exploitation of the natural environment.

As a child, the nearby Lower Selwyn, a river of crystal clear water, just outside Christchurch city (New Zealand), was clean enough to swim in (and probably drink too). The daily bag limit was 10 brown trout… which could sometimes be caught in less than an hour.

Nowadays the bag limit is 2 fish and it would be a very lucky fisherman who catches more than 1 in a whole day. The water is polluted with run-off from dairy farms and the quantity of water flow is now so low, and with increased silting-up, you can now walk across where previously it was several metres deep… thanks to dairy farmers pumping so much water out of the underlying underground aquifer.

When our locally elected body “Environment Canterbury” tried to at least ensure that water use applications were vetted in those areas where groundwater resources had already been over-allocated, the central Government (in Wellington) simply sacked our elected representatives and installed their mates.

Initially they promised that democratic elections would be held again after 3 years, however after 2 years they said they really enjoyed the new powers they had at directly controlling Canterbury’s water and environment, and said that it would be 6 years at least, before Canterbury people might again get to have some control of our local environment.

The rubber-stamping of consents for water extraction and new dams and irrigation schemes has continued at a hectic pace. This is a tragedy in several ways. If less wide-scale irrigation was permitted, then Canterbury could lead the world at developing systems enabling productive agriculture and horticulture in an area that is “Summer semi-arid”.

Crops like Olives, Pomegranites, Pistachio nuts and the alley-farming of Acacia and Tagasaste for stock feed could be more highly developed and used. Currently these crops and systems are very rare in Canterbury, despite the fact we have squillions of acres well suited to it.

When will OUR chickens come home to roost ?

“Our food, genetically engineered by stealth”

“Our food, genetically engineered by stealth”, was the title of a public talk given by Steffan Browning of The Greens political party.

The presentation given by Mr Browning included some 27 powerpoint slides, some of which he said, came from the documentary film “Genetic Roulette”.

Back in June 2013, Mr Brown had teamed up with Australian farmer Bob Mackley and given a public talk about Genetically Engineered (sometimes called Genetically Modified) foods and other organisms (which can include trees and farm animals). At that time, the hail and sleet had abated to just a bitterly cold wind and heavy rain, and that 2013 meeting had been attended by just a few hardy souls who braved the elements.

But the evening of Monday 31 March 2014 was a mildly warm, dry Autumn evening and the location, at the recently renovated Oxford Terrace Baptist church/hall, was much better attended with about 25 people in the audience (not counting the organisers).

Mr Browning’s presentation went for about an hour and a half and there was a short question time afterwards.

Steffan Browning seems to have the credentials for speaking on issues around GE/GM food plants and organisms. Before he became a Member of Parliament with The Greens political party, he had been an organic farmer for some 18 years, and had had one of the largest certified organic glasshouse operations in New Zealand. He has served on a number of parliamentary committees regarding food safety.

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand is the gatekeeper responsible for the safety of food in New Zealand. However going by what Mr Browning said, the gatekeeper seems to only ever open the gate and almost never shuts it. There had been 55 applications (for some 83 lines, as some included more than one item) and they had all been approved.

The crops were mostly Soy-beans, Canola, Lucerne/Alfalfa, Corn, Sugar-beet, Rice, Potato and Cotton. The two main traits concerned were ‘herbicide resistant’ and ‘insecticide producing’. Herbicide resistant is often referred to as ‘Roundup Ready”, or for short, just RR or HR.

In the USA, after many years of not allowing GE foods into the market place, the federal government’s FDA (Food and Drug Administration) changed their decision to allow them under the term “substantially equivalence”. It was later said by an audience member, during the question time at the end, that the term had been coined by a Californian lawyer who had been working for a major seed and chemical company.

It was 1985 when the USA first allowed the patenting of plants and it was 1996 when the patent on Roundup (glyphosate) was about to expire. Roundup is a commonly used herbicide on many farms and market-gardens around the world.

Owning a patent on seeds would enable Monsanto to maintain a revenue stream, as cheaper generic equivalents of Roundup, became available from other companies.

The same powerpoint slide also detailed how a 2002 patent was issued from the European patent office for some non-GE brocolli and tomato varieties.

Not mentioned was a case I heard about earlier, of a 2003 patent allowed in Australia for an extremely rare red flowering version of the Victorian wattle ‘Acacia leprosa’. It is worth noting that Plant Breeder’s Rights were granted even though the applicants had not bred the original plant, they had not genetically engineered or modified it in any way. They had simply stripped the original mother plant of some cuttings and reproduced further plants from those. The Red flowered wattle had just been stumbled across during a walk amongst native bush amongst the more common, yellow flowering form of Acacia leprosa.

There is perhaps a more fundamental point that should be addressed sometime, about whether it’s morally right to have laws that allow people to copyright and lock-up the control of entire lines of plants. However that would be a discussion for another day and wasn’t addressed in Mr Browning’s presentation.

According to the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, in 8 May 2009 they claimed that there was an “association between GM foods and adverse health effects”.

Four countries are said to grow 83% of current GM crops. The United States of America, Canada, Brazil and Argentina. Four types of crops account for 99% of the area of GM crops grown, with Soy and Maize being about 80% and Canola and Cotton being the rest.

Because RR crops tend to have more herbicide applied to them, some contamination carries over, and traces of Glyphosate and Formaldehyde have been found in samples analysed. Mr Browning said this goes against what the public were initially told, (that GE crops would lead to lower use of pesticides and chemicals and that residues would not flow on into the food chain).

When Bt Corn was tested, it was found to contain between 1.13 and 1.7 kg/acre of the Bt toxin (Bacillus thuringiensis), whereas normal corn has only 140 grams/acre. (I must say I am slightly worried about those figures as “kg/acre” is a mixture of both SI Metric and Imperial units. It is possible that somewhere along the line, some measurements have been converted to make them easier for the public to understand. People may wish to research this further themselves and check those figures).

In the last 16 years there has been an increase of 238 million kg in pesticides used. Herbicide use is greater, by some two and a half times, on herbicide tolerant crops.

In Denmark, one farmer claimed that 30% of his sows died with diarrhea when fed a diet of GE Soy, but the problem was resolved when he changed to non-GE feeds. Live piglet births increased after GE feed was withdrawn.

In a more scientifically rigourous study by Judy Carmen in Australia, feeding pigs on GE feeds was found to produce many more cases of stomach inflamation, than with conventional feed.

A study by ‘Seralini’ in 2012, showed rats would develop tumours when fed a diet if GE foods.

In 1997, Europe increased the allowable herbicide residue in human food by a factor of 200 times, from 0.1 mg/kg to 20 mg/kg. This occurred around the same time the Roundup Ready Soy was being commercialised in Europe.

In a 2011 study in the USA, 93 % of pregnant women and 80% of newborns were found to have detectable levels of Bt toxin in their blood. 100% of the women tested had 3-MPAA detected. (I do not recall hearing any explanation of what 3-MPAA is).

Mr Browning summarised by saying that even in NZ foods, upto 70% of processed foods may contain some GE starches, sugars, soy lecithin and oils. He said processing aids and additives are exempt from labelling requirements.

It was pointed out that FSANZ gives the Australians 9 votes to New Zealand’s one vote, and that trade deals like the currently being negotiated Trans Pacific Partnership may have effects such as on GE food labelling requirements.

After the question time ended, a light supper was available and many of the audience stayed to talk further amongst themselves and with Mr Browning.

Thanks go to Mr Steffan Browning MP for his presentation, to the Oxford Baptist Church for providing the venue and to the various volunteers who helped out for the evening.

It is up to the audience on the night, and for people at large, to make up their own minds on whether they want New Zealand to continue down the path of GE/GM genetically engineered or modified organisms…. plants, animals and trees, all of which are rigidly patented and subject to various provisions of their mostly foreign owners.

Coverage of Steffan Browning’s earlier talk along with Australian farmer Bob Mackley can be found as a series of short video clips numbered 360 to 370. Here is a link to the first of those segments.

A public rally concerning GE that occured earlier is covered in videos 348 to 357. Here is a link to the first of those segments.