Agent Orange papers released

Defence Minister Mark Burton today released historic documents relating to the alleged manufacture of Agent Orange in New Zealand.

It was recently claimed that two ingredients 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D — used in the manufacture of Agent Orange — were produced by chemical company Ivon Watkins Dow (now called Dow AgroSciences) and exported from Taranaki in the 1960s bound for an American military base in the Philippines.

The Government had looked at the claims and instructed Defence Ministry personnel to search historical records and files for any relevant material. That material was released today.

“In the apparent absence of any new evidence, it seems that the 1989 select committee inquiry still provides the most comprehensive response to the question of whether or not Agent Orange was manufactured in New Zealand,” Mr Burton said in a statement.

That inquiry, conducted by the foreign affairs, defence and trade committee, concluded that evidence as to whether New Zealand had any involvement in the manufacture of Agent Orange used in the Vietnam War was inconclusive.

“Their examination of the evidence at the time confirmed that Ivon Watkins Dow shipped some material to the United States during 1967 and 1968 but that it was not the type used in, or capable of being converted to the type used in, Agent Orange,” he said.

Papers released today included documents originally released in 1989 under the Official Information Act, the select committee report and submissions to the inquiry. Most were already in the public arena.

New Zealand First MP Ron Mark, who has criticised the Government over the issue, dismissed the release as not going far enough.

He had recently asked for all information on the issue to be released under the Official Information Act, including cabinet documents, advice to the government of the day from the secretary of defence and any discussions between the secretary of defence and the chief of air staff on the feasibility of shipping the chemicals.

“Despite all the inquiries, it wasn’t until last year that the Defence Force finally admitted that they had documents that showed that quite clearly troops had been exposed to Agent Orange and they had documentation which discredited the Reeves and the McLeod reports,” Mr Mark told NZPA.

“On that basis, I am absolutely convinced that there is documentation … that would enlighten the public and the Vietnam veterans families as to what the Government’s involvement or considerations of that time were.

“Failure to dig into those archives can only lead people to believe that the Government of today, like the government of yesterday and before that, don’t want to release the information.”

Published: 2005, Jan, 26. | Time-stamp: 1:18 PM Wednesday  | By: NZPA | Article Link: nzherald.co.nz | Article Title: Agent Orange papers released.

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