A University of Otago research grouping which has just run a
two-day conference in Dunedin could also play a big role in
helping protect the health of Defence Force staff, Squadron
Leader Tim Hopkins said yesterday.
Sqn Ldr Hopkins was commenting during a wide-ranging
discussion on management of environmental risk and chemical
exposure guidelines, on the final day of the conference, held
at the Dunedin Club.
The gathering was co-ordinated by Assoc Prof David McBride
and organised by Otago University researchers focusing on the
health of veterans, serving defence personnel and their
The gathering's second day, devoted to current research, had
earlier been opened by Major-general Dave Gawn, Chief of Army
in the New Zealand Defence Force.
Major Phil Wright had also discussed a more systematic
approach to environmental health risk assessments which had
He highlighted the need to protect soldiers in overseas
postings against many inhaled substances, including
environmental pollutants which could include potentially
carcinogenic industrial chemicals.
He also discussed environmental health risk assessments which
had been undertaken in respect of several recent Defence
Force deployments, including dust risks involving soldiers
deployed at the former Red Zone security area in
earthquake-damaged Christchurch and potential risks involving
petroleum products being cleaned up by defence staff after
the grounding of the container ship Rena near Tauranga, in
Sqn Ldr Hopkins said the Defence Force was on a ''journey''
to further improve workplace health and safety, and it had
now acquired powerful mobile testing equipment able to take
samples in the field to better alert commanders to
environmental risks, including the presence of hazardous
The NZDF still had some way to catch up with other
militaries, including that of the United States, where much
greater resources were available, including to conduct a
recent $40 million study of environmental risks in Iraq.
The NZDF had ''limited resources'' and ''it does take time
The Otago University researchers already working on
NZDF-related health issues could play a positive role in
helping to better protect serving personnel and veterans in
future, including by networking with overseas researchers, he
And it was important for the NZDF to continue close
consultation with the Australian Defence Force to avoid
Much could also be gained from a highly comprehensive system
of chemical hazard identification developed by the US
military, he said.