Newcastle Herald wins United Nations World Environment Day award for Toxic Truth reports

The old Pasminco smelter at Boolaroo before it was decomissioned and dismantled.
The old Pasminco smelter at Boolaroo before it was decomissioned and dismantled.

A NEWCASTLE Herald investigation into lead pollution in Boolaroo has won the United Nations Association of Australia world environment day award for best reporting.

Journalists Donna Page, Matthew Kelly, Damon Cronshaw and Helen Gregory uncovered major flaws in a state government-sanctioned lead abatement strategy following the closure of the Pasminco  smelter. 

The investigation was a joint project with Professor Mark Taylor and Macquarie University.

The judges said the  Herald’s ‘‘Toxic Truth’’  was an outstanding example of investigative journalism on a major environmental problem. 

In response to the  investigation, the NSW government is reviewing the effectiveness of the lead abatement strategy.

The Herald  beat entries from the ABC’s  Four Corners and  7.30   programs and Network Ten’s  Totally Wild.  

The  Herald  team acknowledged the work of Professor Taylor and Macquarie University in accepting the national award, which they dedicated to the residents of North Lake Macquarie. ‘‘We are going to keep fighting until your homes,  backyards, playgrounds, parks and sporting fields are safe for your children to play in,’’ Page said.

Kelly was also a finalist for  reporting on the health  impacts of dust from  uncovered coal wagons. 

Herald  editor Chad Watson said the  United Nations  recognition had reinforced why it was vital to not only highlight environmental concerns but to act when community health   was under threat.

 “This has been a tremendous team effort but it doesn’t stop here,’’ he said.   ‘‘The  Herald will maintain the pressure  to ensure a proper clean-up is carried out.’’