NGO Power Versus Leaded Petrol in New Zealand
This paper outlines the key role of non-governmental organisations(NGOs) in New Zealand's steps towards the removal of lead additives from petrol. Their actions had a significant effect on the Government's decision in 1984 to introduce lead-free petrol. This was despite resistance from officials within government departments such as Health and Energy, who were subject to intense lobbying by the suppliers of lead additives, Associated Octel. In a small country, with limited expertise among government officials, the NGOs were able to provide a broadly-based perspective from which to assess the competing demands of national energy policy, child health, the influence of the lead additive industry, the impact of fuel changes on vehicle performance, the release of emissions other than lead, the composition of the New Zealand vehicle fleet, and the refinery options for New Zealand. The NGOs strongly urged the need for a precautionary principle in decision- making. Their campaign provides an example of "popular epidemiology", in which community activists take part in environmental health issues that are usually the province of professionals. This included the involvement by these groups of other experts who were not aligned with either officials or industry, as well as highlighting offical delaying tactics in the form of unrealistic standards of proof.
Keywords: Lead-free Petrol, Popular Epidemiology, NGOs, Environmental Health
Dr. John Horrocks
Senior Lecturer, School of Health and Wellbeing, Wellington Institute of Technology