Number 13 - The entrenched political mindset and stone walling of the obvious. The Massey Uni Study.

This is number 13 of a 15 part blog series, created by Mr Roy Sefton, Chair of the New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans Association.

You will probably be aware that in 2007 Massey University NZ, published a study contracted by the NZNTVA on 50 Operation Grapple veterans and their Controls. The research, The CytoGenetic Analysis) established significant damage in the DNA of the nuclear veterans.

The researchers stated….

“This result is indicative of the veterans having incurred long term genetic damage as a consequence of performing their duties relating to Operation Grapple.”

The NZ Government ignored the study. Two years later in 2009, the Hon Judith Collins set up the 'Ministerial Advisory Group on veterans Health'. This group, also known as the 'Expert Panel,' did an in-depth review of the Massey University Cytogenetic Analysis. About 12 scientists were involved in the review. NZNTVA had a number of meetings with the Advisory Group.

In 2010 the Advisory Group forwarded its findings to Minister Collins. The group in part concluded….

“ ï) The Massey University mFISH study results do provide evidence that the nuclear test veterans were exposed to ionising radiation. It is not possible to determine the extent of the exposure from these studies”.

Minister Collins and succeeding Ministers not only ignored the Massey study results, but unbelievably also the Government appointed Advisory Groups support of the Massey research finding that the Grapple veterans had been exposed to Grapple ionising radiation.

Prior to that, in 2008, the highly recognised Professor David Brenner of Columbia University New York, Centre For Radiological Research, reviewed the Massey University study.

Brenner's review was sent to the High Court of Justice, Queens Bench Division prior to the legal case being brought by claimants from the British Nuclear Weapons Testing Programme, including claimants from New Zealand. Brenner provided an in depth review of the Massey study. In part he stated……

“In my opinion, the Rowland mFISH (Wahab et al 2008) provides extremely strong evidence that the nuclear test veterans have a statistically increased burden of chromosome aberrations, compared to the controls. The measured aberration rates in the matched control group were what one would expect for individuals of their age – indicating that the methodology, precision and accuracy of the 2008 Rowland study was appropriate”.

NZNTVA passed the Brenner review to Government but it did not stop the political stone-walling of the Massey genetic research. Instead in 2013, Government initiated a “Lay Review'' of the Massey research. Despite it being full of errors, it was published on the VANZ website, and appears to be the guiding document for Government.

The problem with the 'Lay Review' is that the misinformation contained in it, not only dictates political policy on the nuclear test veterans issues, it is likely to mislead future researchers who may well be looking at genetic damage in the veterans offspring for example.

After more than a decade of political ignorance and non acceptance of the Massey University genetic study, a new Government and a new Minister for Veterans took office. In July 2018, NZNTVA and the Massey study lead scientist, Dr Al Rowland, met with Minister Ron Mark.

I presented the Minister with a bound copy of the Massey study, asking that it be the accepted official opinion on the irradiation of the Operation Grapple veterans. We are still awaiting a response from the Minister. Possibly the delay is due to Defence and others reviewing the Massey Study Report. We are ever hopeful that when a decision is provided to us, it will uphold the research findings and be accepted by Government. Until that happens it is impossible to move on.

If we are stone walled yet again we will battle even more strongly using any means available to us.

Roy Sefton QSM Chair New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans Association.

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