Environmental challenges facing NZ

Published: Fri 9 Feb 2018 09:06 AM
Environmental challenges facing NZ
The bureaucrats are the Big Environmental Challenge facing New Zealand in 2018.
Water quality and availability, rapid urbanisation, and the impact of natural hazards and climate change are the top three planning issues affecting New Zealand in 2018 and beyond, according to the New Zealand Planning Institute (NZPI).
These challenges will be among those addressed at NZPI’s annual conference Breaking New Ground to be held in Tauranga from 21 to 23 March 2018. Agri-food disruption, housing supply, biodiversity offsetting, new technologies and reviewing the implications of the National Policy Statement on Urban Development Capacity are also on the agenda.
These issues have been happening for years and we don’t need a fancy conference wasting taxpayer’s money to identify what is needed.
Planning and resource management within New Zealand is out of control. The Resource Management Act spawned by Labour’s Geoffrey Palmer and then embraced and tinkered with by National’s Simon Upton (now the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment) and Nick Smith has been an absolute failure for New Zealand except for lawyers who have profited greatly out of the confusion and the resulting court wrangles. Also benefitting have been bureaucrats within central government and local councils. Bureaucrats have a self-serving interest in keeping what should be simple matters protracted into time consuming extended processes in order to keep their jobs justified. The public end up footing the bill either through rising rates to pay bureaucrats salaries or if involved in resource consent hearings, paying expensive lawyer fees and escalating consent costs to councils.
What of the environment itself after the long drawn out processes?
Clearly the environment is not benefitting. Many rivers are seriously declining in quality of water and flows.
Intensive monocultures, be that cows, grapes or pine trees, proliferate. Urban sprawl spreads over quality agricultural soils. The inescapable conclusion is after almost thirty years of the RMA there has been no benefit except to lawyers, bureaucrats and consultants. Worse, self-funded NGO's are now often the only groups battling for environmental protections through the courts, often against Government Departments and Regional Councils.
Environment standards have alarmingly declined after three decades of the RMA and its parasitic attendants.
The role of planners and resource management specialists has to be questioned as the issues New Zealand faced thirty and forty years ago remain the same but much worse. Councils brimming with bureaucrats have increased fees and rules and little positive outcomes have been achieved.
The issues like water, climate change, unbridled population growth and rapid and expanding urbanisation are much more pronounced than a decade ago. Meanwhile bureaucrats hold meaningless conferences, devise new rules often impractical and ineffective while ignoring the key causes of environmental declines.
A prime example is the erosion of water quality and quantity and the public’s right of access to water resources.
New Zealand has been facing the challenge of weighing up the need for protecting the environmental quality of our water resource while also allowing for the use of water for economic, social and cultural reasons. Corporate power has deep influence. There is more than a sniff of suspicion that some bureaucrats will do backroom deals and whisper invitations to corporate companies - often foreign owned - to take water which belongs to everyone – and to export it overseas for their gain and none for NZ.
This year’s conference is destined to be another failed “talk-fest” as bureaucrats, consultants and lawyers debate the issues without actually taking responsibility for the mistakes they have made over past years.
There is a need for a complete cleanout of local and central government bureaucrats. Local government politicians have forgotten they are public servants elected by the people to serve the public interest. Councils are failing to recognize and take responsibility for failed sewerage systems, allowing environmental damage to continue and ignoring the pleas from residents on the many issues that will affect future generations.
Continued over-use of chemicals and poisons is destroying farm soils, wildlife and ecosystems. Urban and rural developments are allowed to seep effluent into waterways. Raw and treated sewerage continues to be discharged into waterways as “accidents" in times of above average rainfall.
The Predator-Free-2050 programme is a classic case of a ludicrous, unrealistic, unjustified piece of bureaucratic nonsense. It would never be achievable and besides many of the bureaucrats and politicians flag cheering on the 2050 dream will not be around at completion to answer for their abject failure and massive waste of public money.
Councils and the bureaucrats need to be made accountable as Councils have failed the voting public. Most councils are mired in deep debt and cannot afford to upgrade failed infrastructure. At times elected councillors are stymied by bureaucratic CEOs and managers who are busy covering their butts and making nebulous excuses.
Another prime example of failure is the sorry state of rivers and waterways. The responsibility for failure sits on the shoulders of overpaid councils and recent inept central Government who have been captured by corporate interests such as dairying, forestry and others.
Most people know the problems and causes. More excuses, platitudes and rhetoric and dim-witted ideas are not needed.
Footnote: Graham Carter is an environmentalist of “the rational” kind and president of the trout and rivers advocacy, the NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers

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