The Stealth Dismantling of Environmental Protection

Written By: - Date published: 12:14 pm, March 6th, 2013 - 27 comments
Categories: Conservation, Environment, public services, science, tourism, uncategorized - Tags:

To a first approximation the protection of the environment in this country is managed by two distinct entities; inside the Conservation estate it falls to DoC and outside of that it falls onto the Regional Councils. Under this government both are being slowly dismantled.

Over the last month I’ve had the opportunity to talk extensively with DoC staff on various topics. Some literally trackside, some in their offices and one a very trusted source I’ve known most of my life. All of them related the same story, constant budget cuts and pressure, valued and capable colleagues resigning in disillusionment, and senior staff stretched to manage multiple conservancies. The primary focus is on the tourist dollars, expanding and extracting maximum cash from”The Great Walks” and corporate funding.

When I put it to them that a Department of Conservation is slowly but surely being transformed into a “Department of Tourism” … they all emphatically agree.

Now this does not mean that DoC has yet abandoned all of it’s science goals, high profile species recovery or biodiversity programs. But the long-standing tension in the organisation between the frontline ‘huts and tracks’ recreation oriented people and it’s science people is now a rank capitulation. The science has lost. It’s always the last cab off the rank and everyone in the department knows this. If it’s your career then you can see no future in staying so you leave; and when this calibre of person departs they take decades of specialised, irreplaceable knowledge with them.

This is not to denigrate in any fashion the excellent work being done on the tourism/recreation side. Sure there’s always controversial stuff to pick over, but overall I’m pretty supportive of the work that is being done in this area. But however worthwhile this work is, much of it is not conservation, it’s tourism oriented. And in the end it’s not too hard to envisage the day when the right wing starts asking “why does the government need to own a tourism business?”…. and then demand that it all be sold.

Outside of the Conservation estate we have another story slowly unfolding under the radar. Originally the Regional Councils were created to manage a range of environmental and public service tasks that were naturally regional and catchment based. Here is typical list of environmental services they provide. Within a regional council the environmental division, while it may not always be the largest in terms of budget, is nonetheless central to the purpose and character of the organisation.

The other reason why the Regional Councils were created was to provide a check and balance against the other Territorial Authorities whose focus is often on the development of the areas they share. This structure is especially useful in areas of regulatory compliance and RMA approvals that allows local government to keep these monitoring and approval functions at arms-length from each other.  Of course this has meant that many TA’s have come to see their Regional Council as an interfering, over-bearing big-brother and typically hold pretty jaundiced views around the relationship.

Unfortunately we currently already have a somewhat incoherent local government structure in this country. While there are 11 Regional Councils, there are also 6 Unitary Councils with the strong probability that at least 3 or 4 of these Regional Councils will be lost in the next year or two. Not to mention the on-going ECAN debacle. With both a government clearly happy to see Regional Councils role minimised and the TA’s keen to cheer the process on, the near-term trend is clearly towards another round of local government amalgamation resulting perhaps in perhaps some 20 Unitary Authorities across the whole country and all the Regional Councils vanishing.

At the same time it is vital to bear in mind that the 2012 Local Government Amendment Act has dramatically narrowed the scope of Local Government to “to meet the current and future needs of communities for good-quality local infrastructure, local public services and performance of regulatory functions in a way that is most cost-effective for households and businesses”. No specific mention of environmental management in there at all. Now while any new Unitary Authority’s will most likely incorporate most staff and functions from their various predecessors, it is also clear that Environment will no longer be central to the purpose and character of the new organisations. Inevitably there will be the same loss of focus and priority and a huge question arises when conflicting goals arise between development and protection within the same authority. Which principal trumps?

And certainly no more pesky One Plans that will require our rivers to be cleaned up.

There’s an emerging pattern here, both within DoC and Local Government that is marginalising conservation science and environmental management in this country. The full effects of this will not be seen or felt for some time yet, but the loss of skilled people and institutional capacity is happening already as people clearly read the writing on the wall.

27 comments on “The Stealth Dismantling of Environmental Protection”

  1. Pascal's bookie 1

    Thanks Red.

    If the government wants to do this, they need to change the Conservation Act. Turning the Dept away from Conservation, and using the estate for tourism over conservation isn’t a legitimate policy move under the act.

    • Jenny Kirk 1.1

      The Govt is already changing legislation to allow it to do whatever it likes with the environment. These include amendments and re-writes of the Resource Management Act, the Local Govt Act, the Crown Minerals Act and so on.

      Some of these were introduced before Christmas and others are in the pipeline.

      Claire Browning from Forest & Bird has good info on these changes on her blogs at The Pundit.
      (Sorry – I don’t know how to put links from one blogsite to another !)

      Update: I think this is the link you had in mind. RL

      • Jenny Kirk 1.1.1

        Yes – that link, and another post CB had a bit further back on similar topic as well. Thanks RL.

  2. scotty 2

    Sometimes I wonder if John Key has ever walked or sat on anything that wasn’t man made
    He went barefoot once from memory.
    When C & S ordered pizza, and half of the MSM was there to witness what an ordinary guy Key was.

  3. BLiP 3

    There’s nothing “stealth” about it. Since being elected, the John Key National Ltd™ government:

    has been caught out repeatedly lying in the run up to and during the election campaign about its real intentions in relation to the environment

    celebrated the opening of the foreign-owned Pike River Coal Ltd mine on DOC land adjacent to the Paparoa National Park from which 1 megatonne of coal will be extracted per year for the next 20 years – Pike River Coal Ltd has announced that it has found additional coal in the national park

    cancelled a proposed efficiency standard (MEPS) on incandescent lightbulbs

    reversed a moratorium on building new gas/oil/coal power stations

    removed the bio fuel subsidy

    scrapped the scheme that would have penalised imported vehicles producing high emissions

    removed regulations for water efficient new housing by Order in Council

    renewed leases on sensitive high country farms which were meant to return to DOC

    reversed restrictions on the freeholding of vast swathes of land on the edge of the Southern Lakes

    arbitrarily excised 400 hectares from the brand new Oteake Conservation Park, including the most important and, ecologically, the rarest part of the new Park, the tussock and shrubland that went right down to the banks of the Manuherikia River, to enable future access to lignite

    said nothing to say in regard to the World Commission on Protected areas of IUCN’s severe criticism of its intention to investigate mineral resources and mining opportunities in protected conservation areas including our three UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Te Wahi Pounamu-South West New Zealand, Tongariro National Park and the Sub Antarctic Islands

    approved two prospecting permit applications lodged by Australian iron-ore giant Fortescue Metals Group subsidiary FMG Pacific lodged in June – areas covered by the two-year permits include an 8204-square-kilometre area of seabed adjoining the west coast from Cape Reinga to the Manukau Harbour and a 3798-square-kilometre prospecting area of land from Cape Reinga to the Kaipara Harbour including Ninety Mile Beach, the west side of the Aupouri Peninsula, Kaitaia and the Hokianga.

    approved an additional prospecting permit for Fortescue Metals in relation to 3568sq km right next door to the Kahurangi National Park where the Heaphy Track is

    was forced to release its Ministry of Economic Development (MED) report under the Official Information Act that proclaims “significant mineral potential” in the Fiordland, Kahurangi and Paparoa national parks – the report said the Waitutu area of the Fiordland National Park had sufficient petroleum reserves to be “worthy” of inclusion in a review of conservation land protected from mining

    secretly granted the minerals industry the right to veto proposed National Park boundaries and permission for any such vetoes to be kept confidential – in spite of recommendations from its own officials against any such a veto

    Minster of Conservation Tim Grosser, on 29 August 2009, called for caring New Zealanders to halt their “emotional hysteria” and recognise that conservation land should be mined for minerals and went on to say “Mining in a modern, technological way can have a negligible effect”

    Associate Minister of Conservation Kate Wilkinson, in an interview in “Canterbury Farming” (June 2010 issue now offline) rubished her own department, DOC, suggesting it was incapable of looking after the high country reserves and parks under its control

    gutted the home insulation scheme

    pulled $300 million out of public transport, walking and cycling schemes and added it to a pot of $2 billion to ‘upgrade’ state highways

    changed the law to provide billions of dollar in subsidies for polluters via the ETS casino which is now a target for scamming by international criminals

    begun a process of gutting the Resource Management Act to make it difficult/impossible for the public to lodge appeals against developers

    removed the ability of Auckland to introduce a fuel levy to fund planned public transport upgrades

    left electrification of the Auckland rail network up in the air without promised funding commitments and then came through with a dodgy loan scheme and then unilaterally reorganised the local government structure before finally setting about the privatisation-by-stealth model when busting KiwiRail.

    removed the programme to make Government Departments ‘carbon neutral’ and also began its first wave of public sector redundancies starting with the Ministry for the Environment which was responsible for the scheme.

    removed funding for public tv advertising on sustainability and energy efficiency

    pulled funding for small-town public litter bin recycling schemes

    displayed cabinet ministers expressing public support the bulldozing of Fiordland

    reduced Department of Conservation funding by $54 million over three years

    canceled funding for the internationally acclaimed ‘Enviroschools’ programme

    usurped the democratic role of local Councils of determining policies for their citizens by requiring the abandonment of the efficient and well-established tree protection rules for urban areas

    set about revamping Auckland governance in a way that is likely to greatly reduce the ‘Environmental Watchdog’ role of the the current Regional Council (since completely fucked it up with the SuperShitty)

    removed Auckland’s metropolitan limits and opened the gateway for unfettered urban sprawl

    defended internationally the importation of rain-forest-wrecking palm kernel and stood silent while Federated Farmers called Greenpeace “terrorists” and criminals.

    stood silent while Godfrey Bloom, a Member of the European Parliament and infamous Climate Change Denialist, publicly rejoiced in the 1985 bombing of the Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior – who was doing so while standing on a dock next to the replacement vessel

    took a 0% emissions reduction target to Copenhagen. Yes, seriously, that isn’t a misprint – that was the lower bound of their negotiation platform – then missed the 01/02/10 deadline for commitment to action it had agreed to – meanwhile 55 of the 80 countries which attended did make the deadline

    secretly cancelled the internationally recognised scheme for the mandatory labelling of exotic woods to ensure the timber has not been taken from rain forests in direct contradiction of its own statements made at the 13th World Forestry Congress in Argentina

    supported the Department of Conservation’s decision to open up the pristine Cathedral Cove to an ice-cream franchise

    gave the Department of Conservsation $1.7 million to further develop commercial activities on DOC land and started an “off set” plan allowing company’s to damage the conservation estate if they agree to improve land elsewhere – no monitoring regime has been suggested on put in place

    left DOC director-general Al Morrison to announce that DOC is to charge for services that had been free and, to soften the public up to the idea that there will be more “energy generation schemes” operating on DOC land

    took no action to reduce existing pollution pouring into the Manawatu River and is “leaving it up to industry” to come up with solutions to heal the river which was described by the Cawthorn Institute as “one of the worst polluted in the Western world”

    announced a $1.69 million industry subsidy to kick start marine farming without identifying no-go areas nor putting in place a consultation process for individiuals, communities, and other general coastal users

    was forced to release documents under the Official Information Act which confirm that DOC has “giving up” on ecologically valuable high-country land in the Mackenzie Basin because of funding cuts. The released documents cite “statements made by ministers”, “diminishing funding” and the Government’s new high-country policies as reasons for the changed stance – the comments from DOC were made after Land Information New Zealand (Linz), which manages the tenure review process, ignored DOC’s previous conservation recommendations for the farms

    used former National Party minister and current director of Open Country Cheese – a company convicted of filthy farming practices and found by the supreme court to be a dodgy employer – Wyatt Creech to head up an enquiry into Environment Canterbury which had been standing up the dairy farmers’ demands for more and more water resources and less and less regulation. The Creech report recommended the Environmental Canterbury be sacked and replaced with government appointments and the voters of Canterbury do without democracy until the water situation had been resolved. The Canterbury area holds 50 percent of New Zealand’s fresh water reserves and 50 percent of the water required for hyrdo energy. The Creech report said Environmental Centerbury put too much focus on the environment.

    Was subjected to international condemnation for knowing next to nothing about the parlous state of the New Zealand fisheries,

    bucked international trends and poured more acid on the 100% Pure brand and increases the bluefin tuna quota.

    Squirmed when New Zealand is subject to international criticism for its backing of commericial whaling which National Ltd supports

    Funded Government-owned company Solid Energy runs an essay competition entitled “ The role of coal in sustainable energy solutions for New Zealand” for school children. First prize is a trip to New Zealand’s largest coal customer, China.

    Supported access fees for entrance onto DOC walkways – fee introduced following cuts to DOC’s budget.

    Pressed on with PR bullshit about how New Zealand’s environment would profit from mining national parks, Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson says.

    Department of Conservation director-general Al Morrison said the conservation estate created “opportunities to do a whole lot for a lot of different people . . . we’ve got to get away from this idea that somehow we have to protect one-third of New Zealand for a certain constituency and put it in a jar of formaldehyde and leave it.”

    Created random fantasies of abundant wealth to promote all forms of mining

    Ignored reports on sustained non-compliance with resource consents and worsening pollution of water ways.

    Ignored its own Ministers possible conflicts of interest

    Did nothing as both its own SOE Meridian and the Department of Conservation to withdraw appeals against an 85m high damn with a 14km long reservoir on conservation land.

    Granted Energy Resources permission to ship Australian yellowcake uranium ore through New Zealand.

    Apologised but does nothing else for breaching the Treaty of Waitangi by granting a mining exploration permit to Brazilian company Petrobras

    Continued to remove environmental protection powers from local authorities

    Totally reversed gains made in the protection of National Parks and other high-value conservation areas in the South Island.

    commenced a divide-and-rule strategy by attempting to paint New Zealanders interested in protecting the environment as outside of the “mainstream” and in defence of the fact that the media is catching to its bare-faced lies in the lead up to the 2008 election.

    Carried on with more lies by talking about modern mining like that at Reefton being carried out by Oceana Golds as being like “key hole surgery”

    Appeared to believe that the tourists it is attempting to bring to New Zealand are all blind and won’t see for themselves the impact of the dairy farming it is subsidising to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars

    Appeared itself to be blind when it comes to the Chairman of Fonterra

    Supported the Commissioner for the Environment’s decision to delay the release of a report into the ramifications for climate change in regard to lignite mining and proposals to convert the lignite into diesel.

    Employed financial sleight of hand in shuffling funds towards business interests and away from community groups looking to protect the environment

    Made more empty promises when a report showing that a third of New Zealand lankes have poor quality water is released.

    Backed down on promises to protect New Zealand children (and the environment cleaner by more informed disposal) from harmful chemicals by improving labeling and imposing mandatory standards on containers

    Ignored the findings by attacking the messenger when a World Health Organisation report confirms that New Zealand’s main centres have the worst air in Australasia and Auckland is the most polluted with twice the concentration of damaging airborne particles as Sydney.

    Studiously ignored so as to take piss about dire warnings concerning the quality of drinking water in Reidstone.

    Didn’t mention in its 100% Pure promotions that visitors to the Kerikeri Basin near the Stone Store – one of Northland’s iconic tourism and heritage sites – could come face-to-face with warning signs telling them the water is polluted.

    Didn’t mention in its 100% Pure promotions that tourists in the Coromandel could come face to face with New Zealand’s environmental standards when finding hundreds of dead snapper washed up on Beaches.

    Presented bogus evidence concerning air pollution

    Made more empty promises in relation to air pollution while also extending deadlines for local councils to reduce air pollution.

    extended deadlines for businesses previously require to reduce air pollution by 2013.

    Put tourism operators in Akaroa at risk by refusing to make the harbour a marine reserve . . . and then rubs salt into their wounds

    Done nothing after the United Nations finds that National Ltd™’s targets for reducing pollution are not consistent with the measures put in place to achieve those targets:

    Attempted to defend the Emissions Trading Scheme from comparisons with the Australian model while Environment Minister Nick Smith indicates there’s little chance of the two schemes being integrated any time soon.

    Then further slowed down the implentation of New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme:

    Allowed major retailers to reap the benefits of its earlier and secret decision to abandon the mandatory labelling of exotic woods after it is found that the retailers are contributing to the death of native Australian forests despite an independent, year-long investigation which finds otherwise.

    tried to keep a meeting between John Key and mininng company Anadarko’s boss secret. The company is responsble for a massive oil spill and is looking to to start drilling off New Zealand soon.

    Continued to ignore yet more evidence of farmers failing to comply with environmental regulations

    handed over $400 million to farmers to extend water storage and allow for more land to be used for dairy farms. No mention or provision is made for additional protections required to deal with the increased pollution.

    Didn’t point out in its 100% Pure promotion that tourists (and locals) should avoid the Opihi River along State Highway 1 because of the risk of exposure to toxins from phormidium.

    Didn’t point out in its 100% Pure promotions that tourists arriving at New Zealand’s “nuclear free” sea ports will be sharing the environment with up to 5,000 tonnes of radioactive yellow cake uranium.

    Lied about how bad the RMA is

    ignored top scientists and academics who point out that its underfunding of the Department of Conservation will send more species into extinction and hurt its 100% Pure image.

    Ignored John Key making an international arse out of himself in regard to New Zealand’s 100% Pure image:

    Carried on with its lies as New Zealand is identified as jeoparising its good name by allowing us to become one of a small number of states stalling progress in forming an international climate agreement.

    Kept stringing us along even after Next thing, New Zealand received the 2nd place Fossil Award for “proposing the most Flexible Mechanism imaginable with no oversight or review. Bring on the wild west. They want to be able to use any market mechanisms they wish with absolutely no oversight or international review! There would be no way to ensure that the units from one mechanism have not been sold two or three times to another such mechanism. This would likely unleash a wild west carbon market with double or triple counting of offsets and a likely increase of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.”

    Stood silent when Fonterra was caught out lying by overstating its farmer’s compliance on excluding stock from waterways by 100%.

    Put World class surfing waves and Maui’s dolphin’s at Raglan at severe risk by encouraging a proposed iron ore seabed mining in New Zealand’s coastal waters:

    Never followed up after the scientific models created by New Zealand and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to allow fishing are called into question:

    Sets the scene for our children heading down to the park to find an overseas’ owned company had set up a dairy farm in one corner. Over time the shit builds up

    Ignores data which shows the expansion of fish-farming in the Marlborough Sounds could cause unacceptable changes in the coastal environment.

    Strategically removed the word “environment” from the lexicon of local and central government.

    Didn’t tell the tourists it hopes to attact with its 100% Pure campaign that every year, New Zealand drops huge quantities of poison-laced food into its forest ecosystems; enough poison to kill its human population 4 times over, every year. No country has ever done anything remotely similar, on such a scale

    Didn’t tell the tourists it hopes to attract with its 100% Pure campaign that more than a third of Auckland’s beaches fail water quality checks and are closed for swimming

    Still ignored the closing of the beaches, this time as extremely high concentrations of the bacteria enterococci are identified.

    Still ignored Ministerial conflicts of interest, this time involving John Key who is identified as shareholder in the Bank Of America which is backing mining in New Zealand and Australia . . . even when more information is made available . . . and more information . . . and more information

    Pressed on with additional policies that move away from the protection of the environment towards exploitation

    Limited , as part of its effort to cash-in on the environment, access to some of New Zealand’s most endangered species and isolated islands only to those who those who contribute financially displacing conservation staff and scientists.

    ignored a World Wildlife Fund report, Beyond Rio, which makes clear New Zealand now risks some of the highest rates of biodiversity loss on Earth unless urgent action is taken.

    Fonterra director Colin Armer is convicted and fined $72,000 for “fouling” a Bay of Plenty waterway after a judge found he could have prevented the pollution were it not for his “systemic” failure to monitor what was happening on his company’s farm.
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/pollution/news/article.cfm?c_id=281&objectid=10815436

    National Ltd™ lies when it says New Zealand has the environmental laws and regulations to control oil and gas development on the continental shelf because thereis no equivalent of the Resource Management Act to control oil and gas activity outside of the territorial sea (12 nautical miles offshore).
    http://www.eco.org.nz/key-issues/oceans.html

    lied when it had already agreed coastal plans to allow marine farming consent holders in the Waikato and Marlborough to move from mussel farming to finfish farming without considering the additional environmental effects imposed.

    Put short-term business interests ahead of long-term consequences to New Zealand’s environment, particularly biodiversity by allowing damage in one area on the condition that it be “off set” in another creating a dangerous precedent in that such a provisin means that one part of biodiversity can be wrecked in return for “protecting” an area that was never under threat anyway.

    Promoted proposals that include include a plant producing about 2 billion litres of diesel per year, using at least 12 million tonnes of lignite per year and another producing 3 billion litres using 12-17 million tonnes of lignite annually. A further project would produce by 2016 1.2 tonnes of the nitrogenous fertiliser, urea, using 2 million tonnes of lignite annually.

    Documents obtained under the Official Information Act have revealed that DOC was intending to turn down Meridian (application to buils a damn on the Mohikinui River) and believed “the public conservation land within the Mokihinui River has such high value that it is most unlikely to be suitable for exchange at all.
    http://www.eco.org.nz/key-issues/energy.html

    National Ltd™ continues to ignore the slow-motion extinction of Maui’s dolphins:
    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1206/S00386/protection-measures-for-mauis-dolphins-fall-short.htm

    Significant cuts to the Ministry for the Environment in the 2012 Budget are not publicly detailed or announced by Minister Amy Adams. She prefers to hide. http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1205/S00478/cuts-to-environment-budget-explain-the-missing-minister.htm

    National Ltd™ ensures that New Zealand continues to ignore its international obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to “protect and preserve” the martime environment.
    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1205/S00267/eez-bill-fails-to-protect-the-environment-and-nz-reputation.htm

    Despite long-standing recommendations from the Land and Water Forum, National Ltd™ continues to avoid setting national standards for water quality even after the Greater Wellington Regional Council released its state of the environment report. The report highlights the poor quality of many urban, lowland and Wairarapa waterways, and some rivers and aquifers being at their allocation limit.
    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1206/S00207/strong-national-standards-needed-to-clean-up-rivers.htm

    National Ltd™ further weakenes protection for wild rivers in Canterbury with the ECan Act and indicates that further weakening will follow.
    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1205/S00550/green-party-welcomes-pce-call-for-improved-river-protection.htm

    The Environmental Protection Authority rubber stamps a motorway project with no economic benefit and likely to waste over $1 billion of tax payers’ funds. http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1206/S00336/epa-rubber-stamps-dead-duck-motorway.htm

    National Ltd™ is forced to admit that it has spent $1.67 million in a survey of minerals on the West Coast of New Zealand, including within the Te Wahipounamu South West New Zealand world heritage area. Te Wahipounamu is one of 183 natural heritage properties which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value.
    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1206/S00355/world-heritage-areas-should-not-be-open-to-mining.htm

    National Ltd™ secretly ordered that world heritage sites on the West Coast be surveyed as part of a $3 million mineral study spanning more than 16,000 square kilometres. The survey was only puiblicy revealed after Green MP Catherine Delahunty asked for details in a parliamentary question:
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/7168686/Mineral-study-marked-Coast-sites\

    The former interests of members appointed to the Establishment Board for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) make them unsuitable candidates for the job
    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1103/S00071/epa-board-members-unlikely-to-protect-the-environment.htm

    Inexperienced managers, poor policy decisions and falling staff numbers are threatening New Zealand’s biosecurity.
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/7175215/Biosecurity-fears-voiced-in-staff-letter

    An independent report on the PSA virus outbreak was commissioned by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) following the devastation caused by the virus in the Bay of Plenty orchards with an estimated cost of $400 million. The report found New Zealand’s biosecurity system is fundamentally flawed and there is no way of identifying how the virus got into New Zealand and, thus, no way of preventing it from happening again.
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/7224595/Govt-ignored-biosecurity-warning-Labour

    John Key hands over another $80 million to business and farmers to subsidise their pollution.
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/7208247/Nats-soften-emissions-blow-for-businesses

    National Ltd™ Minister Kate Wilkinson fobs off Save Fiordland protesters who point out that had the government’s own guidelines been followed consent for the Milford Dart tunnel and Fiordland Link Experience would never have been granted.
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/7222907/Stop-the-Fiordland-tunnel-Wilkinson-told

    A National Ltd™ appointed advisory group has recommended a significant rewrite of the Resource Management Act, removing references to the protection of coastal areas, wetlands, lakes and rivers and indigenous flora and fauna.
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/environment/news/article.cfm?c_id=39&objectid=10817613

    Documents pried from National Ltd™ under the Official Information Act show that senior government officials with serious concerns over projects in the Mackenze Basin and Waitaki Valley and hands out $180,000 of taxpayer cash. The decision to hand over the money was made by Nick Smith. More than half the cash went to environmental consultants – including about $88,000 to Ecologic, a firm run by Dr Smith’s friend Guy Salmon. Mr Salmon is also linked to the National Party ginger group the BlueGreens. The money trail shows: Ecologic consultant Guy Salmon: received $88,010 (includes $682 in restaurant and bar charges), Whanganui-based consultant Richard Thompson received $13,130 (includes $149 in restaurant and bar bills), the Environment Defence Society received $2256. Other expenditure included: restaurant and bar charges (at May, June and August meetings): $5495, and $30,800 for the production of two reports.
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/7327570/Money-for-mates-claims-to-be-probed-says-PM

    A further weakening of the already gutted resource consent process is being considered for foreign-owned mining companies, according to Energy and Resources Minister. Phil; Heatley.
    http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/resource-consents-mining-might-be-speed-heatley-ck-124676

    New Zealanders are locked out of the consultation process on the alloting of areas being made available by the National Ltd™ for resource exploration.
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/7366483/Oil-firms-first-to-seek-information

    National Ltd™ scraps government grants for solar water heating and Parliamentary Commissioner comes out against them:
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/environment/news/article.cfm?c_id=39&objectid=10822323

    National Ltd™ use the Navy along with police and Crown Law to bully environmental protesters in a legal case they knew could not be won.
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/environment/news/article.cfm?c_id=39&objectid=10822405

    National Ltd™ puts out an international call for foreign companies to drill for oil and gas in 23 blocks of deep and wild waters east of Wellington and Dunedin.
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10811689

    National Ltd™ consultants do a u-turn on the economic benefits of additional roading and then get handed a $200 million contract for further consultation work.
    http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/doubts-worth-holiday-highway-4992534

    The Department of Conservation grants foreign-owned multinational mining company OceanaGold permission to destroy 55 hectares of beech forest so as to extend its Reefton mine to a total 81 hectares without public notification:
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/minerals/news/article.cfm?c_id=259&objectid=10818463

    As National Ltd™ prepares to ease the resource consent process for mining companies, the Minerals Industry Association starts putting pressure on local authorities to step aside.
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10823321

    Economic commentator Gareth Morgan details National Ltd™’s ramshackle collection of underfunded agencies with no direction or policy for dealing with the vast marine resources of New Zealand:
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10823294

    A further erosion of New Zealand’s bio-security is highted when Christchurch Airport is found to have failed a survey:
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10823549
    National Ltd™ ignores Open letter to Minister for the Environment from the Environmental Defence Society, Forest and Bird, Fish and Game, Ecologic, Greenpeace, and World Wildlife Foundation New Zealand. Inter-alia, the letter points out that the removal of the directive terms “protect”, “preserve”, “maintain” and “enhance” from the RMA fundamentally weakens the legislation and introduces confusion as to its overall intent.
    http://www.eds.org.nz/content/documents/pressreleases/ENGOs%20letter%20re%20TAG%20report.pdf

    National Ltd™ ensures that New Zealand tax payers continue to subsidise 95% of big polluters’ emissions.
    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1209/S00143/ets-changes-a-farce-environment-commissioner.htm

    Proposed marine reserves off the West Coast have been drastically reduced in size so much so that one advocate says they are “an insult” to those who spent years trying to establish them.
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10835374

    National Ltd™ instructs its delegates at the world’s largest conservation conference, the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s conference in Korea, to oppose any further measures to protect Maui and Hector dolphins in defiance of 117 other countries and 460 environmental organisations requesting New Zealand ban gill and trawl nets in waters up to 100 metres deep.
    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/116332/nz-votes-against-protecting-dolphins

    Emergy Minister Phil Heatley is caught out lying about the environmental impact of fraking.
    http://www.3news.co.nz/Taranaki-gas-field-contaminates-soil/tabid/1160/articleID/269871/Default.aspx

    Regional council are caught out not enforcing regulations, Government says no action is required
    http://www.3news.co.nz/Fracking-in-Southland-exposed/tabid/423/articleID/259325/Default.aspx

    National Ltd™ ignores concerns about fracking which has seen the practise banned around the world.
    http://www.tv3.co.nz/Mar-18—Meet-The-Frackers/tabid/2059/articleID/76270/Default.aspx

    National Ltd™ Minister Stephen Joyce twists the knife by exploiting news of redundancies at Solid Energy in a statement which claims opponents to a proposed mine are “getting in the way of” potential jobs.
    http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/what-we-do/publications/media-release/forest-bird-rejects-inappropriate-request-withdraw-appeal

    A High Court decision says the effects on climate change cannot be considered under the Resource Management Act (RMA) as updated by National Ltd™. The Court decision came after an appeal was made against an earlier decision to allow Australian-owned mining company Bathurst Resources (also known as Buller Coal) to build a 200-hectare open-cast coal mine on the plateau and mine 80 million tonnes of coal that, when burnt, will release about 200 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
    http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/what-we-do/publications/media-release/forest-bird-disappointed-climate-change-ruling

    The extinction of New Zealand sea lions is further ensured after fishing restrictions announced by the National Ltd™
    http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/what-we-do/publications/media-release/squid-fishery-decision-won%E2%80%99t-save-sea-lions

    The Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf Bill, as reported back from select committee fails to protect New Zealand’s marine environment and ignores our international legal obligations.
    http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/what-we-do/publications/media-release/eez-bill-bad-news-both-industry-and-the-environment

    More than half of monitored recreational sites on our rivers are unsafe for swimming, a report has revealed.
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10841013

    Submissions to a select committee considering the Emissions Trading Scheme by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Jan Wright’s, and those of thers, to a select committee reviewing the Emissions Trading Scheme are ignored resulting in a Trading Scheme which “will have very, very limited effectiveness and has locked in subsidies to to the worst emitters indefinitely.”
    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/118536/commissioner-dismayed-by-emissions-report

    Environment Minister pulls out of participation in legal action to prevent more pollution being poured into New Zealand’s fresh water supplies.
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/7824674/Fish-Game-gets-hooks-into-minister

    National Ltd™ seeks changes to the law which will make it more dificult to get consent to build a deck onto a house than it is to drill for oil.
    http://www.3news.co.nz/Consent-for-oil-drilling-exploration-could-get-easier/tabid/1160/articleID/273254/Default.aspx

    New Zealand continues to avoid its international obligations “to ensure the conservation and management of sharks and their long-term sustainable use” while its fishers carry on with the barbaric practise of shark finning.
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/blogs/in-our-nature/7848342/Shark-finning-a-national-disgrace

    Recent survey results show that two thirds of New Zealanders believer spending on environmental conservation is a good use of tax payers’ money. National Ltd™ responds with further cuts to the Department of Conservation budget.
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/blogs/in-our-nature/7807524/Endangered-rangers

    Signatures from 30,000 people in a global email petition urging Prime Minister John Key to save the endangered Maui’s dolphin are ignored by National Ltd™ while the World Wildlife Fund points out that New Zealand was the only country to vote against more protection for the species at the world’s largest conservation summit.
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/7793952/Indifference-to-dolphins-seen-as-blot-on-NZ-image

    Finance Minister Bill English begins the process of further gutting urban environmental protection legislation to speed up the building consent process for developers.
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/7874263/RMA-changes-mooted-to-speed-up-building

    The Government is stopping the five-yearly State of the Environment report. Put together by the Ministry of the Environment, the report is the largest stock-take of trends relating to land, water, air, plants and animals. The next report was expected in December, but the Government has decided instead to look at the basic data for each area.
    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/119350/state-of-the-environment-report-stopped

    New Zealand abandons the Kyoto agreement
    http://tvnz.co.nz/politics-news/john-key-defends-kyoto-decision-5209727

    A government lobbyist who attacted a prominent New Zealand scientist for speaking truth about New Zealand’s environment remains unrepentent in his efforts to silence the accurate reporting of scientific evidence.
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10849308

    The New York Times highlights the fact that the pristine landscape featured in The Hobbit and used as the basis for the 100% Pure New Zealand campaign as fantastical as dragons and wizards.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/17/business/global/new-zealands-green-tourism-push-clashes-with-realities.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0

    An international study measuring countries’ loss of native vegetation, native habitat, number of endangered species, and water quality reported in the journal PloS One shows New Zealand is 18th worst out of 189 nations when it came to preserving its natural surroundings. John Key remains relaxed.
    http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0010440

    Pulls out of Kyoto just weeks after the OECD reports that global greenhouse gas emissions could rise 50 per cent by 2050 without more ambitious climate policies, as fossil fuels continue to dominate the energy mix.

    New Zealand has received two “Fossil of the Day” – first-equal and second place – awards on the first day of international climate talks in Doha, Qatar.
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10850322

    Hobbiton – Waikato – is a major source of pollution within the Hauraki Gulf yet is at the centre of the John Key led National Ltd™ government’s 100% Pure campaign
    http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/EN/AboutCouncil/representativesbodies/haurakigulfforum/Documents/hgfstateoftheenvreport2011.pdf

    The use of the “fraking” technique in oil and gas drilling/exploration is given the go-ahead by National Ltd™ despite the Parliamentary Commissioner for the environment pointing out there exists no effective regulations in case of disaster nor the ability to enforce what regulations are available. Instead, monitoring and reporting and adherence to existing legislation is being left entirely up to foreign-owned multinationals doing the drilling.
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10850431

    http://publicaddress.net/system/cafe/hard-news-fact-and-fantasy/?p=276592#post276592

    lied, obfuscated and used government resources to attack and undermined local authority plans to improve water quality

    sanction an unnamed foreign-owned multinational to go ahead with a major road through pristine South Island National Parks

    employed disingenuous gobbledeegook to defend its decision to withdraw from the Kyoto Agreement.

    turned a deaf ear to calls for New Zealand to assist pacfic island nations by taking a stronger position on climate change

    displayed contempt for existing agreements and Environment Case law by approving new salmon farms in recreational areas within the Marlborough Sounds

    refused to investigate the impact on increasing use of neonicotinoid pesticides which is likely to be a major contributor to the sudden and dramatic decline (aka colony collapse disorder) of the New Zealand honey bee population, National Ltd™ also refused to consider the development of a strategy to protect what is left of the honey bee population.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/environment/news/article.cfm?c_id=39&objectid=10858064

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/environment/news/article.cfm?c_id=39&objectid=10857992

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/environment/news/article.cfm?c_id=39&objectid=10857798

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/climate-change/news/article.cfm?c_id=26&objectid=10856154

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/climate-change/news/article.cfm?c_id=26&objectid=10855149

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/125522/sanford-pollution-%27will-blemish-nz-image%27

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/business/125649/apache-pulls-out-of-second-oil-exploration-phase

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/environment/news/article.cfm?c_id=39&objectid=10860411

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10860552

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/8208317/Govt-could-run-housing-land-supply-English

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/timaru-herald/news/8181859/Environment-Canterbury-holds-off-on-meter-fines

    mixed the cooperative model of climate change negotiations with the competitive model used in trade negotiations, thus putting outcomes in both areas a risk

    ducked questions asking for evidence as to the safety of genetically engineered food

    ignored the fact that New Zealand carbon credits are no longer the unit of choice in the New Zealand’s own carbon market. Figures from the official Emission Unit Registry show that emitters who initially supported NZUs are now using a range of international units to meet their carbon obligations under the Emissions Trading Scheme

    used highly dodgy figures in calculating the reduction New Zealand’s net carbon emissions by including trees due to be harvested in the next few years

    ignored news that New Zealand’s first glyphosate resistant weed has been found and the resulting call for the use of glyphosate (Monsanto’s “Roundup”) to cease

    stayed silent for five months after being advised that Fonterra’s milk product were contaminated with dicyandiamide (DCD) and now face an international backlash.

    set no maximum level of contamination of dicyandiamide (DCD) (AKA cyanoguanidine) in milk products for consumption by New Zealanders, stood silent while the farming industry says the withdrawal of dicyandiamide (DCD) will result in yet more pollution of New Zealand’s waterways

    stood silent as NIWA announced findings of research which showed 20 per cent of marine life in the Milford Sounds port area could be killed off as a result of copper leaching from anti-fouling paints on boat hulls

    we should always measure a Government’s environmental rhetoric against its environmental record.

    I’m confident that with the right policies New Zealand can make its environmental credentials an important part of its comparative advantage

    And, in seeking the balance between environmental and economic goals, National will never forget that New Zealand’s outstanding physical environment is a key part of what makes our country special. Kiwis proudly value our forests, mountains, rivers, lakes, and oceans.  They are part of our history and they must continue to define our future. 

    Having lived in Singapore and in London, I feel strongly about this point.  There is something very special about raising a family in a  country where we can take for granted going fishing in a local river, taking a family outing to a beach, or walking through the bush without bumping into anyone for kilometres on end.

    http://www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?ArticleId=28477

    It is disgusting that if you are a sportsperson you get no conviction for an offence that endangered peoples lives because it might affect their ability to play overseas, but an actress convicted for taking part in an environmental protest gets no such consideration.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/blogs/first-reading/7954334/Backtracks-on-climate-change-cause-little-heat

    http://www.andersonlloyd.co.nz/rakaia-water-conservation-order-amended/

    http://norightturn.blogspot.co.nz/2013/02/climate-change-locked-out.html

    Save the Trees!

    . . . its all on public record, we just need the people who care to stand up and shout “ENOUGH”.

    • RedLogix 3.1

      Hehe … I did think to link to your now infamous list in the post BLiP but it got culled at edit time.

      But you are right, if you have been paying attention there is nothing stealth about the overall process, however I’m thinking that the specifics around DoC and the RC’s is newish to a lot of people.

      • karol 3.1.1

        RL, it’s newish to me. Mainly because I haven’t seen/heard anything much about it in the MSM. So, thank-you for drawing attention to it in an easily understood way.

        Also thanks to BLiP for the wealth of supporting evidence.

        It’s a really important issue.

    • Peter 3.2

      The funny thing with all of these facts is that we assume that people are rational – that if only we spout enough facts at people that they’ll then weigh them all up, and make a decision in favour of the facts. So in this case, feed them enough bad environmental news, and they’ll run to parliament, or their local MPs office, and start shouting (and then voting…).

      This is what the Left constantly thinks – that people are rational. Give them the facts and they’ll make the right decision…

      It’s also where the Left gets it consistently wrong. People are largely non-rational when it comes to which issues they care about and which ones they don’t.

      Give people a stack of environmental bad news, and they’ll prefer to ignore it. Give them a very large stack of environmental bad news, and they’ll just yawn. And that, is the successful strategy of this government.

      So, any campaign to win over people on this needs to have a vastly different methodology from how these things are usually fought.

      • karol 3.2.1

        Peter: So, any campaign to win over people on this needs to have a vastly different methodology from how these things are usually fought.

        I was thinking something similar today in relation to the failure of the anti-asset sales campaign to mobilise a significant number of viewers. I was wondering if it was too broad and abstract for many voters. People seem to respond more to policies that will have an immediate and direct impact on their daily lives – the way promises of tax cuts have in the past.

        It is important to have the information above to base any environment protection/conservation policy on, but how to give it a sense of immediacy to a lot of people’s daily lives?

        • Peter 3.2.1.1

          There’s a couple of aspects to it I think. The first is the message, and the second is the messenger.

          On the whole, the Left uses dispassionate, highly academic reasoning. Why? Because its mostly the people of the intellectual left who are framing the arguments, and they imagine people like themselves doing the reading. Of course, this doesn’t work. It requires too much thought for exhausted, overworked, harassed people with a million and one things on the go. So they look for the sound bite, or the powerful emotive image, or the simple zero-sum reasoning from the more primitive parts of their brain (which invariably never helps the left, but that’s another post for another day).

          The Greens “Vote for Me” campaign was a classic example of this. As for any great images from last years Labour campaign that stick in my mind, well I can’t think of any really…

          The second aspect is the messenger. Even the most boring and complex topics can be made interesting by someone who is, well, interesting… Call it leadership, call it charisma, whatever you like, the left does not either attract or nuture those talents. In fact, it actively opposes such people (witness what happened to David Cunliffe). Put a few charismatic people in Labour’s line up, and we’ll start winning on the complex issues. Especially if they have a background that people can relate to.

          All of this takes time though, especially the non-rational messaging component. It’s no small wonder that the Right invest heavily in this stuff, and might test a slogan or “word”(such as ‘tax relief’) for a decade before rolling it out. I can’t see the Left ever having that resolve or long term dedication to put the effort into something similar. But to win both parliament and political power (two different things), that’s the way we need to be thinking.

        • RedLogix 3.2.1.2

          The alternate approach is to focus on specific issues (as marty does below with the tree at Mokihinui), with personalities and outrage. It’s the old reactionary, emotive formula that works well for reactionary causes.

          It doesn’t work at all well for progressive causes because engaging the emotions shuts down rationality. The progressive mind asks “Is it morally defensible for a wealthy nation to have 20% or more of it’s children living in poverty?” … the emotional mind reacts with a sound-bite like “lazy scum breeding for business”.

          Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast and Slow explores how we have two very different modes of thinking, one fast, instinctive and judgemental, the other slow, effortful and concious.

          Engaging the automatic brain is easy, most especially in crowds. It’s really obvious even here at The Standard; if a topic is emotionally loaded and personal it gets loads of response… much of it not helpful. A post that engages the rational mind at an abstract level garners a quite different response. In particular there seems a real barrier to entry in terms of knowledge of the topic and the skills required to think, imagine and communicate effectively.

          Engaging a mass of people in this mode seems a far more challenging problem. Maybe this is where the left should be focussing a lot more energy. Otherwise we are constantly fighting Cassandra’s curse.

          • Peter 3.2.1.2.1

            Ah yeah, the tree at Mokihinui. I’m involved in that issue, and a response to it, through my role on FMC, so I can’t really respond here too much further.

            The Left can address this, but it requires full time staff and long term resourcing, beyond the political fray. The environmental movement do it pretty well actually (F&B, F&G, EDS and others) with professional staff, but of course, there’s far too few of them.

          • marty mars 3.2.1.2.2

            Rationality and emotion are not mutually exclusive, in fact it is essential that they go hand in hand to move people. Think about any past or even recent environmental issue and getting engagement from the public – if you don’t use both emotion and rationality then the issue won’t gain traction and nothing will happen. Engaging people is a heart and head issue imo. The talent of the right (if it can be called that) is to mix up the emotion and rationality and argue one as the other with the disguise often being monetary or finaically based, as if that somehow automatically provides rationality. An example would be the escarpment mine on Denniston where the argument for is based on dubious numbers relating to profit and growth – that are based on emotion not rationality, even though they would argue till they were blue in the face that it is entirely based on rational thinking without emotion even getting a look in.

    • rich the other 3.3

      You have managed to demonstrate why this government has to get on with the job and advance NZ, clearly theirs plenty to do.

      When the RMA is altered some of the examples you have quoted will be resolved by local comunitys , why should , as an example Aucklanders have any input as to how west coasters live there lives ,this type of thing is simply an abuse of the current system.

      Thank God we have you greens to POISON any chance that labour might have had at the next election.
      The abuse of the RMA by the extreme green is about to be stomped on and if the pendulum swings a little to far the greens can only blame themselves.

      Bring on the change.

      [lprent: already have a rich. Altered your handle. ]

    • Michael Morris 3.4

      A very comprehensive list. But surprising you did not include all the stuff-ups over the Rena, that resulted in devastating pollution to Tauranga and the death of thousands of sea birds and mammals.

  4. Peter 4

    What a timely post and close to my heart, personally and professionally. This government’s approach to ecological limits appears to be to ignore them, starve those who point them out, or failing that, legislate over the top of the limit. It’s like King Canute ordering the tide to go out…

    It also amounts to a gradual tearing up of the hard-won environmental consensus in the 1980s. Like it or not, Roger Douglas was onto the right thing when he put most of the green dots of the public sector together in the Department of Conservation. Regional Councils had the right intent, but were always hamstrung by the conflicts of interests of most of their farmer councillors, which has prevented them, until quite recently, from getting on top of non-point source pollution. That is probably the biggest failing of regional councils, although some are getting on top of it (such as Otago and soon, Southland), without the controversy and publicity of the Horizon’s One Plan or the ECan debacle.

    So, the challenge is hard, but it can be done. In the long term though, my worry has always been this – given peaking resources, will the middle-class continue to support the environement and conservation? Will people, faced with falling living standards, continue to say that freshwater deserves protection and that the conservation estate deserves proper funding and protection?

    I’d like to hope so, but right now, this government is certainly testing that question, with little blast-back in the polls. Yeah, people fight it (and I’m actually one of the few who are paid to fight it).

    • Peter 4.1

      Sorry, couldn’t edit the post (comments editor not working). I should have added that the burden on those remaining in the conservation/environment field is hard, and that you can expect far more recourse to the justice system over the next few years if this trend continues.

      It’s also really disheartening when the major Opposition party – Labour – appears to be mostly asleep at the wheel on environmental matters. They may have a strategy to let the Greens fight these things, but they miss the point when most people engaged professionally in this field would prefer to vote Labour, not Green. As in, they are looking for a sensible, progressive and long term environmental policy backed up by governing experience, which only Labour can provide.

    • RedLogix 4.2

      Regional Councils had the right intent, but were always hamstrung by the conflicts of interests of most of their farmer councillors, which has prevented them, until quite recently, from getting on top of non-point source pollution.

      Agreed …. although this has varied a lot from council to council. Certainly Horizon have led the way and I’d suggest Greater Wellington have a respectable track record as well. But yes some RC’s have held back from overly aggravating local farmer interests for sure. There’s always the negative push-back from the minority of Neanderthals who believe that the rules never apply to them and in rural communities this sort of thing can make life difficult in lots of petty ways.

      And the big limiting factor has always been resources. Far too often issues brought to council staff attention by the public simply don’t get the response they deserve for this reason. There’s always dozens of other things that need doing as well.

      • Peter 4.2.1

        Horizons-Manawatu have taken a consenting approach to the problem. It’s one of a number of approaches. My worry with Horizons is that all the Council resourcing will be put into consents, and then a farmer will get a consent, put it in a drawer, and then say to himself that the environment is now fine. It’s also wide open for the Council to slow down the implementation, because so much of it depends on implementation, and annual Council decisions on resourcing.

        Because all Council resources are tied up in consenting, there will be nothing for guidance, education and compliance. Otago have tried a different approach, with a permitted baseline (based on catchment science), with everything over that being prohibited (except in some limited circumstances where you can get a consent). I think ultimately that this will free up more resources for the other part of the planning cycle that never happens – enforcement.

        Only time will tell which approach works.

        Beyond that, enforcing environmental rules that protect the commons will always be a core issue. It comes down to living in a small country. You don’t dob in your mates, and you don’t prosecute your mates. Instead, it’s easier to turn a blind eye. How we resolve that tension between familiarity and still abiding by the rules and prosecuting those who don’t is a central challenge I don’t think anyone has adequately addressed.

      • One of the great concerns are these farmers who want to “green” the Mackenzie Basin artificially, and say that it looks attractive.

        It is the vast open tussock expanses of that area of the country, its glaciated landscape and the Southern Alps that draw me to the basin. The rivers have some outstanding fisheries, and the hydro scheme – far from being an eyesore – supports salmon farms in the canals and high school rowing on Lake Ruataniwha. The farmers who want to green the landscapes are apparently not locals, but ones from somewhere else who are not down to learn the art of Mackenzie Basin farming, but to make a fast dollar at the expense of the environment.

        There would be something like 17,000 cows creating the poop volume of a small-medium size city’s population. It would put vast amounts of nitrate into the ground waters, which would eventually filter into Lake Benmore and possibly wreck the fishery and the water quality of the lake.

        Bob Parker drafted a letter to Rodney Hide with the help of the nine District Councils in Canterbury that laid out a raft of claims about incompetence at Environment Canterbury. They ignored the dysfunctional City Council; they ignored the fact that the Natural Resources Regional Plan would be operative in 2010 among other things. It was heartening last year to read Paul Gorman from The Press write that Environment Canterbury was often considerably more functional than the City Council.

  5. The felling of the 500 year old Kahikatea tree near the Mokihinui Forks Hut is a good example of what your post describes Red.

    The Buller Conservation Group has a good press release on it where Peter Lusk describes how the tree is on the Old Ghost Road mountainbike trail and that

    “This tree felling is a symbol of how far DOC is prepared to go to assist the Old Ghost Road Trust to carve a trail through this wilderness conservation area,” he says. “This Kahikatea was an iconic and very beautiful tree that they felled despite being asked not to, because they wanted to expand the Forks Hut and the tree apparently “constrained” the site.”

    and

    Conservationist Pete Lusk agrees that one of the biggest negatives was the way the ‘upgrade’ of the Old Ghost Road track bypassed normal planning procedures and opened up a wilderness that DOC’s West Coast Conservation Management Strategy (CMS) had wanted protected.

    “When the local Conservation Board questioned DOC they were told that the CMS didn’t apply since the money had come from the Ministry of Economic Development, he says.

    “This had everyone gobsmacked, including me. I’d worked on the CMS when on the conservation board a dozen years ago. DOC kept stressing to us how important the document was and that CMS will be our “Bible”. DOC’s senior planner said then that everything that happened on public conservation land on the West Coast would be governed by the CMS.”

    “Well, here’s a project that isnt! In fact the Old Ghost Road flys in the face of the CMS and allows a private trust to blast away at mountaintops and build huts in a very sensitive area,” he says.

    This tree is symbolic of the dilemma that DOC are in – it was slaughtered to ensure more people use that track and hut and pay the fees (get that millsy). The trees are in the road of progress and departmental financial security and DOC bowed their heads, put the blinkers on and got the chainsaw out. Could they have stood their ground and said no? Doubt it – not if you want a job and money to feed the kids. Now I am not 100% against and down on DOC – I work taking tourists into a Nature Reserve and can see the benefits of treating the environment respectfully and bringing people into it in a controlled way so that they can interact with that environment – I completely oppose a ‘let’s keep it looking nice without people’ approach, but that said, it is a very fine line.

    This tree didn’t deserve to die like it did and now be discarded as firewoo – imo DOC acted against the principles in which it was formed and the trust we place in that department to protect and maintain our environment especially sensitive areas and lifeforms and this is just one example that we know of – there will be hundreds happening all over the place below the radar.

    http://www.mars2earth.blogspot.co.nz/2013/02/dr-doc.html

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/AK1302/S00344/mokihinui-chainsaw-massacre.htm

    and check out this beautiful tree before DOC killed it

    https://twitter.com/izogi/status/305080585871847425/photo/1

    • RedLogix 5.1

      Thanks marty. Again we see the balance being tipped in a direction many people are very uncomfortable with.

      Most recreational users cannot see too much problem with some degree of development by the likes of The Old Ghost Road Trust. There is always going to be a legitimate tension and debate between a ‘let’s keep it looking nice without people’ (which I think should apply in some places, genuine wilderness is becoming an increasingly rare and valuable thing) and those who would turn the Conservation estate into a theme-parked Disneyland.

      The core problem here is exactly the same as the one we have with the sale of Mighty River Power; the effective privatisation of an asset the Crown should hold in trust for all New Zealanders.

      Now at present there are many hundreds of commercial operators with DoC managed concessions in the Conservation estate. We’ve already moved well beyond the ‘lock it up and keep the people out model’ for many of the more accessible and attractive sites. If we compare for instance the commercialisation at Milford Sound with Doubtful Sound and there is no question that Milford has gone too far. Yet for the most part these concessions relate to small to medium family held businesses that manage their operations well and in the sharing spirit of the great Kiwi outdoors

      Yet another part of me is disturbed by the Great Walks model. While it’s obvious that the most popular tracks require some form of demand management and rationing, at the same time it amounts to effectively locking out other users. That’s a form of exclusive use that is not too far removed from privatisation.

      So long as this ‘ownership’ privilege remains with DoC I’m happy with the compromise. As Maori were generally happy for the water to be used by SOE hydro generators as long as it was for the benefit of the whole nation. But I do believe we are starting to see the boundaries on this being blurred. Another decade or so and the same process takes us down the path of fully exclusive use of and privatised commercial ownership of the DoC estate.

      The parallels with the current hydro power asset sales program are stark.

  6. vto 6

    Redlogix, this is a crucial area for the future of NZ. This government is really eating away at all of our small pie as furiously as it can. You can almost sense the mad rush to chomp away on as much as possible before the next election shuts it all down. “Get in while you can folks” is the call that’s gone out.

    I have spoken with people in DOC who have come under direct political pressure to grant concessions (usually to do with mining).

    It almost feels like an amnesity on further DOC concessions or a severe clamping down would be the follow-on with the next government, such is the balance that would be required to counteract how far out to one end this extremist government is going.

    The Milford tunnel and disney railway decision will be a litmus and indicator. As will the nutters bashing on at the Haast – Hollyford Road.

    Sorry, not much justice done to your post in my comment but you are right to keep highlighting it. It is one of those gnawing issues that will get sparked into life like a Manapouri with one particular decision. This government is going way beyond what the vast majority of NZers would expect and have come to understand is necessary for our DOC estate.

    Gotta fly

    • Peter 6.1

      On the tunnel / monorail / haast-hollyford madness you can expect a response probably on the level of the Manapouri campaign. Fortunately for us, these schemes are still being processed under the Conservation Act, rather than a development act (as Manapouri was, and still is).

      On the Haast-Hollyford, they’ve chosen a vastly more expensive inland road route. There is only one reason for doing this, and this is to mine the Red Hills.

      • Jenny Kirk 6.1.1

        Yeah, Peter. And they’re changing the RMA (and related Acts no doubt) so they can get on with it all – in a great hurry and their overseas mining mates can get their resource applications approved before the next election. According to the proposed Crown Minerals Act, once these applications/licences are approved – the miners can’t be stopped !
        btw – I’ve posted on today’s Open Mike details of public meetings re the RMA changes which are happening over the next two weeks – daytime hours mostly – very handy (not) for workers !

        • Peter 6.1.1.1

          Yeah, and there’s another really significant announcement about to come out on Saturday (with one weekend day between the announcement and the first consultation meeting in Dunedin for people reading it) on the government’s response (or lack of it) to the Land and Water Forum. Normally governments announce bad stuff on Fridays, so to be announced on a Saturday…

          Fortunately, mining the Red Hills will be a wee bit more challenging, as they are in still within Mt Aspiring National Park (and thus have the protection of Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act). They are also in a gazetted wilderness area, but the new Conservation Act amendments will allow Cabinet (not the Minister, cabinet jointly) to remove this at the stroke of a pen if they so choose.

          Damned lucky that we kept a separate National Parks Act actually, there was a move at one time to merge them all into the Conservation Act, which would have resulted in a nightmare scenario right about now had it happened.

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