Saturday, 13 May 2017

EPA closes ranks

New Zealand's Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has a statutory duty to function in a way that
contributes to the efficient, effective, and transparent management of New Zealand’s environment and natural and physical resources (emphasis added)

In its 2016 Annual Report (pdf), the EPA described (p.10) its new vision and how it proposed to pursue that vision.

Our new vision – An environment protected, enhancing our way of life and the economy – will guide our strategy over the next four years. Our vision is the high-level purpose behind our work. It underpins why we were established and what New Zealanders want from us. We will achieve this through four key principles, or pillars. They are: working together as One EPA, supported by evidence, science and mātauranga Māori; by taking a customer-centric approach to our work, by partnering and working collaboratively with others for success, and by harnessing the potential of our people. Our new strategy is set out in detail in our Statement of Intent 2016-2020. We have restructured our teams so that we can best deliver on the strategic goals and intentions that you will read about elsewhere in this Annual Report.
Fundamental to this approach, is the appointment of our Chief Scientist, Dr Jacqueline Rowarth, who will work with experts from across the natural resources sector.
I was surprised by this, particularly the last bit. My impression is that Dr Rowarth is far too invested in the status quo to effectively "work with experts from across the natural resources sector". So I lodged an OIA, quoted the above section of the EPA's annual report and made the following request...

I am not alone in regarding Dr Rowarth as being extremely antagonistic towards certain types of “experts from across the natural resources sector”. Many people remember her terribly mistaken claims regarding the quality of the Waikato River water, and have noted that neither she nor the EPA has admitted any error over this. Her most recent public pronouncements on Roundup suggest that she is not up with the science regarding glyphosate and the adjuvants with which it is mixed. I am therefore concerned that the EPA is not receiving balanced scientific advice from Dr Rowarth. Please advise which individuals and/or groups is Dr Rowarth working with to inform herself about the following topics relevant to the agriculture sector in New Zealand:
  1. Biological farming, meaning farming with a focus on stimulating and cultivating beneficial biological organisms in the soil.
  2. Antibiotic resistance through the avoidance of antibiotics, including glyphosate.

In response, right at the end of the response period, I got a letter from Allan Freeth (CEO) declining my request on the grounds that this information.
does not exist and cannot be made available without substantial collation or research
So the chief scientist of the EPA cannot name any individual or group she is working with on biological farming or antibiotic resistance.

And, her boss doesn't care.


  1. Doesn't exist AND cannot be made available without substantial collation or research... does this mean that with enough effort it can be made to exist? Like with enough collation and research we could get a second moon? I would have though that if it doesn't exist then no amount of collation and research can make it exist. And in any case, how hard is it to look through the good doctor's diary? A bit easier than creating a second moon...

  2. Im not super surprised as following the USA in creating the EPA was nothing to be excited about given its profoundly negative effects in the US, the appointment of Rowarth was not going to help either. It does disappoint nonetheless.