Doctor speaking to Studholme hearing says the law is an ass

8 April, 2016
EMBARGOED UNTIL 3:30pm Friday 8 April

Dr Alex Macmillan, co-leader of OraTaiao: NZ Climate & Health Council, and a public health physician specialising in environmental health, gave evidence to the Studholme milk drying plant expansion hearing in Waimate today. She called on ECan to continue to fulfil its ethical and moral obligations despite rules in the RMA disabling them from doing so, and turn down the application.

She explained that the impacts of Fonterra’s proposal to drastically expand milk processing in Waimate District, and use coal to power its new drying facility were complex and deeply inextricable from its impact on NZ greenhouse gas emissions, which the hearing is currently not allowed to consider under rules in the RMA.

“Our most important piece of public health legislation which is designed to ensure the sustainable use of resources currently kneecaps regional Councils so they canot protect their people from the biggest threat facing them. It also pretends that climate change can be separated off from the other big issues that regional councils are facing. This makes the law an ass,” Dr Macmillan said in court today.

She went on to explain using the example of Studholmes impacts on freshwater. More greenhouse gas emissions from dairy and coal burning lock in more severe climate climate change while also locking in further dairy intensification in the region to make the project economically viable. These things crash together in a perfect storm when worsening climate impacts leave Canterbury with lower rainfall, so that river flows are too low to flush through high levels of water pollution from intensive dairy. At the same time, more frequent and severe droughts will leave farmers unable to meet their expanded irrigation needs. That would be a disastrous confluence of risk for waterborne illness, ecosystem health and farmer’s economic security.

“Canterbury is already having to plan for a future of locked in climate impacts, including threats to water and food security. Saying yes to this expensive, long-term, climate polluting infrastructure would be a folly and a millstone around the necks of the people of Canterbury for the next 50 years,” Dr Macmillan said.


Media Spokesperson: Alex Macmillan, co-convenor 021 322 625

OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council are health professionals concerned with climate change as a serious public health threat. They also promote the positive health gains that can be achieved through action to address climate change. See:

NZ specific climate-health information in the NZ Medical Journal:
‘Health and equity impacts of climate change in Aotearoa-New Zealand, and health gains from climate action’.

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