I’m a Wellington Regional Councillor; Chair of the Council's Environment Committee and Environmental spokesperson for the Wellington Regional Council.
I'm also a member of the Capital and Coast District Health Board; the Consumer NZ Board; the Consumer Foundation; the New Zealand National Committee for UN Women and the Women's Empowerment Principles New Zealand National Committee. I am Deputy Chair of Consumer NZ.
I’m a passionate Wellingtonian, a long time consumer, women and animal welfare advocate, and founder of the Safe Food Campaign. I was a Wellington City Councillor for 8 years from 1992-9: a Green MP for 12 years from 1999 until 2011. I was Chair of Parliament's Health Select Committee and Green Party spokesperson for Health, Safe Food, Animal Welfare, Local Government, Transport and Broadcasting. Before that I was a television broadcaster with TVNZ, and I worked at the United Nations in New York for 8 years.
I’ve lived in Wellington most of my life and am a writer and author of six books, my most recent being 'Eating Safely in a Toxic World'. I was awarded a Women of Influence Award in 2016.
I’ve fought for years to improve public transport, cycling and walking on Wellington; promote genuine local democracy; protect our stunning natural environment and attract high-tech, creative businesses to Wellington. You can read some of my articles on these issues below.
It’s well established that once traffic growth in a city reaches a certain point, it clogs a city, destroys its quality of life, and threatens its economic and social viability. One only needs to think of Auckland, London before the congestion charge, Los Angeles and many other car dependent cities. In Auckland, despite decades of motorway building, congestion is gradually strangling the city, at a huge cost to its economy and quality of life.
I'm wondering why the Government is about to approve the importation of irradiated apples, peaches, apricots and nine other fruit and vegetables from fruit fly-infested Queensland. After all, we have an abundance of locally grown produce here that doesn't need to be irradiated, and it's still difficult for our growers to get their apples sold in Australia. So why is our Government bending over backwards to allow even more irradiated produce into our food chain? Nor can I understand why our Government wants to remove the requirement that irradiated food must be labelled.
It's time to question why the oldest, most polluting buses in the Wellington region are used to transport children to school each day. It's become the norm for operators to reserve their most clapped-out buses for schoolchildren mainly because they get a special exemption from NZ Transport Agency bus rules. NZTA stipulates bus operators must remove vehicles from their fleet when they are 20 years old. But under a schoolbus exemption, operators can keep them in service for a further six years if they are used as schoolbuses.
There's been a proliferation of pre-election political panels in the run-up to this election - more than I can remember, which is a healthy sign in our democracy. But the most interesting one I have attended was a political panel on animal welfare - a first for this country.
Two years ago the International Agency for Research on Cancer categorised diesel exhaust fumes as class one carcinogens in the same category as asbestos, arsenic and cigarette smoke. It said the scientific evidence about the harm of diesel exhaust fumes was compelling and its conclusion was that "diesel engine exhaust causes lung cancer in humans". The reason is that when diesel burns inside an engine it releases particles that stay in the airways and can trigger asthma, bronchitis and other lung conditions, including cancer.
Many Wellingtonians regret the fact our forefathers got rid of Wellington's trams 50 years ago. Now there's another, similarly short-sighted proposal on the table: to scrap our pollution-free, climate-friendly fleet of trolley buses and replace them with diesel buses. At a time when fossil fuels are becoming scarcer and pricier, and we're being exhorted to switch to clean, sustainable energy sources, it makes no sense to replace trolley buses that run on renewable energy with diesel buses powered by fossil fuel.
It's a mystery to me why sunbeds are unregulated in New Zealand. We know they increase our risk of developing skin cancer and that the more people use them, and the younger they start using them, the greater their risk. We know, too, that thousands of young women use them on a regular basis, oblivious to the risks. We also know we have the highest rates of melanoma and skin cancer in the world. So why on earth wouldn't we regulate sunbeds, to reduce the significant and entirely preventable public health risk they pose?
Conservative governments all over the world seem to dislike public service broadcasting. George Bush targeted public service broadcasting; John Howard made attacking the Australian Broadcasting Corporation a regular sport, and now Tony Abbott has launched an all-out assault on the ABC, accusing it of being unpatriotic, and threatening to cut its funding.
Looking back, the once common practice of painting lead on to women's faces to lighten their skin seems bizarre. I suspect future generations will also consider it bizarre that for more than a century we routinely put mercury amalgam fillings into our teeth. Mercury is a highly toxic heavy metal - more toxic than lead and arsenic. It's also a potent neurotoxin and cell toxin, and even minute amounts of mercury pose a significant risk to our nervous, respiratory and immune systems.
I'm delighted that Labour MP Shane Jones has shone the spotlight on supermarket tactics in New Zealand. And I'm pleased, too, that the Minister of Commerce, Craig Foss, has raised it with the Commerce Commission, as there's really no other way of establishing if the claims are true, as trading relations between supermarkets and their suppliers are intensely secretive, and suppliers are unwilling to blow the whistle for fear of losing their business and access to the marketplace.