Science, culture and community: a collective response to healing the earth.
Te Ohu Mō Papatūānuku is a collective response to heal the earth. From the early 1990s people became aware that the chemicals used for timber treatment from the 1950s to the 1980s were causing serious health issues for Whakatane sawmill workers and their families.
The group Sawmill Workers Against Poisons (SWAP) formed to support the community through the growing problem and advocated for health services. As the scale of contamination became clear, Te Ohu Mō Papatūānuku came about due to a desperate need for a collective response to the impact of the contamination on both the environment and people’s health. Te Ohu Mō Papatūānuku was formed in 2009, and was driven by the tireless efforts of Matua Joe Harawira and is supported by SWAP, Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa and Ngāti Awa tangata whenua, scientists, local government agencies, community and industry.
At the heart of the problem was the extensive use of pentachlorophenol (PCP) during the timber treatment process and dioxin was a manufactured contaminant in the PCP. There are 36 sites known to have received potentially contaminated wood waste from the mill and 22 of these sites are registered as contaminated.
Te Ohu Mō Papatūānuku acknowledges remediation and healing of contaminated sites is vital to restoring and maintaining the environmental and cultural wellbeing of tangata whenua. This unique collaboration strives to achieve remediation and healing through working together and through recognising the importance of our relationship with the land.
Matua Joe Harawira
The Green Chain - video