Are New Zealand’s scientific experts really dead – or just resting? – Shaun Hendy

A stoush over comments made about the health of the Waikato River shows more scientists need to be heard in public, writes Professor Shaun Hendy at The Spinoff.

waikato-riverAn excerpt (read in full):

Traditionally Kiwis worry less about whether their experts are dead than whether they left a forwarding address before they moved to Australia. Sure enough, when more than 5,000 people became sick thanks to the contamination of Havelock North’s water supply in August, our experts made themselves rather scarce.

When Hawke’s Bay Regional Council chair, Fenton Wilson, was asked by Radio New Zealand about his Council’s reports concerning the woefully unhealthy state of the nearby Tukituki river, he said “I don’t have any of that information to hand.” When it was put to him that recent flooding may have driven contaminated water into one of the town’s aquifers, Wilson speculated that “speculation is not helpful at this time”.

Did we really not have any scientists who could speak knowledgeably on whether contaminated surface water could have gotten into Havelock North’s groundwater?

Remarkably, science confirms that remnant populations of such scientists do still reside in New Zealand. They work for the government, and as I wrote in Silencing Science earlier this year, they are the sorts of experts we almost never hear from.

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