Possible legal action over toxic foam
People whose water was contaminated near New Zealand air force bases could launch a class action against the Government.
An Australian law firm has begun organising meetings with people potentially affected by runoff of toxic chemicals from Ohakea and Woodbourne airbases.
Shine New Zealand managing director Andrew Hooker said the firm was taking ‘‘a very big test case’’ against the Australian Defence Force because of similar issues from use of the now-banned firefighting foam. Damages of ‘‘many millions of dollars’’ were being sought there.
New Zealand officials have said the extent of the problem is much worse in Australia because of the concentration of the chemicals and the amount of area affected.
The law firm wanted to talk with farmers and residents from Ohakea about their rights, Hooker said.
Meanwhile, Horizons Regional Council strategy and regulation manager Nic Peet said government ministries dealing with the contamination needed to urgently give more information to those potentially affected, and start on the next round of testing for the contaminant right away.
The council is seeking its own
‘‘It's a bit of a shock to the system.’’
Ohakea resident Christine Hills
‘‘The community needs to know – ‘talk to people, and do it fast’ is our advice.’’
The PFAS chemical contamination was publicly revealed in early December, and initial test results from 64 properties surrounding the bases include 41 samples where it was detected, and 15 at levels higher than drinking water guidelines allow. People at some of the properties had been drinking the contaminated water.
Ohakea resident Christine Hills’ family’s farms are ‘‘in the middle’’ of the testing area, and their land tested high for PFAS. They are among those meeting with the Shine lawyers.
‘‘It’s a bit of a shock to the system. We’re still dealing with the [fallout] of what’s going to happen with all of this. It’d be nice to consider what’s happening, and how we can help ourselves.
‘‘I love living by the air force, and it’s not their fault. You’ve got to give them a chance ...‘‘
Hooker said ‘‘joining together’’ would ensure the problem ‘‘doesn’t just get swept under the carpet’’.
The law firm would also look to organise meetings with people near the Woodbourne base.
‘‘I find it strange for the Government to be telling people your land’s contaminated, but it’s safe. How do they know?’’
A detailed report by an independent investigator was needed.
Bonnie Wapp and her family are among those living at properties near Ohakea airbase.