It’s taken me a few days to post on this opinon piece from Pattrick Smellie but it’s still worth reading! There are signs that Nick Smith is trying hard to improve the Nats environmental credentials, Gerry Brownlee notwithstanding. But Pattrick Smellie suggests it is not that simple:
The Greens over-reached themselves this week by claiming Environment Minister Nick Smith’s support for a 14-month moratorium on the Hurunui River was “the second environmental backdown” this week. Nice try. Tuesday’s U-turn on mining was a harsh lesson in political management, but the Hurunui decision is a sign it will try harder on the equally contentious politics of water.
It may even lend weight to wishful thinking among green lobbyists that the mining backdown shows a recalibration of environmental policy from a government it increasingly mistrusts. It would be wrong to conclude that.
The John Key-led Government is defined by its unashamed pursuit of higher economic growth rates, whether mining minerals or mining milk – which is effectively how water is used in the dairy industry, creating the biggest pressure on water use in the process.
In this context, the mining U-turn represents a political rather than an environmental policy recalibration.
However, there is some room for at least a little optimism:
There is a way through the political maze, and environmentalists who were starting to see the Land and Water Forum as a sop for the farming industry have taken heart from the signal implied by the Hurunui River moratorium.However, Dr Smith is right to tread cautiously. On this issue, a government impatient for growth may have no choice but to hurry up and wait.
Lots of people will be watching to see what comes out of the Forum which is due to report to government at the end of next month. I hope that some good cross-party discussion can be had, because this is one area where we don’t want to have pendulum policies.