I feel far more comfortable debating issues and solutions then attacking individuals and questioning personal motives and it was with some reluctance that I responded to a letter from Eric Roy in today's Southland Times.
Robert Guyton's irrepressible cheekiness in an earlier letter had sparked a strong response from Eric and a supporter, who described Russel's recent visit to the Waituna as a publicity stunt. They accused the Greens of just criticising from the sidelines and doing nothing when they were in government (we have never been in government).
On a personal level, I have found Eric to have a real interest in the environment and he has always been a keen outdoorsman like myself. While I have climbed, tramped and kayaked around much of Fiordland and Mt Cook, Eric has tramped, fished and hunted similar areas. The main difference between our shared interest in the environment is our political background and this dictates our perceptions around solutions to environmental issues. The National Party's core philosophies are around supporting economic growth and reducing regulations and impediments that could limit that growth. In practical terms this results in weakening existing environmental legislation and limiting consultation.
The Greens have a different approach, rather than looking at short term economic gains we would rather ensure any industry is viable over the long term. It may involve more regulation and consultation but what then develops is far more cost effective and sustainable. We only need to see the economic catastrophe that resulted from the deregulation of the building industry in the 90s to see how short term profits can turn into billions of dollars of damage control.
National recognized some time ago that green issues were generating greater public support and their Bluegreens initiative was largely developed to take advantage of this. I have found, however, through conversations with genuine Bluegreens, that there is a good deal of frustration through the lack of real commitment to addressing environmental concerns. Eric mentions the national fresh water strategy as a potential way forward but Nick Smith has been sitting on the clean water rules for 15 months and there is a real worry that the farming lobby will influence a dilution of the rules to the extent they will be largely impotent by the time they are legislated. They will be too late and not enough to save the Waituna.
Once again I feel obliged to write a letter to correct misinformation from Invercargill MP, Eric Roy.
“Sitting on the sideline” has never been a Green strategy, in fact the very reason we know about the impending disaster in the Waituna Lagoon is because of the $8.8 million the Greens managed to get from the 2007 budget for protecting wetland areas. Before this money was available the science around wetlands was almost nonexistent and the current advisory group for the Waituna and the related community initiatives have been funded out of this money also.
While I don’t question Mr Roy’s personal commitment to the environment, I am aware of a good deal of frustration from many genuine Bluegreen members who see short term economic gain being favoured over the environment time and time again. As highlighted by Campbell Live the other night, the milk industry has become a powerful juggernaut that is causing real damage, both environmental and social, as it bulldozers its way to huge profits. While the income from dairy is important for our economy, the sustainability of the industry is dependent on how well we manage the resources it relies on. 40% of our total water use goes to the dairy industry and the quality and availability of that resource is being compromised in many areas around the country.
Mr Roy mentioned meeting with various groups to look at ways of stopping the degradation of the lagoon, but what he should be doing is ensuring his own government takes the necessary action (through strong fresh water management rules) to give local authorities the mandate and teeth to do their job. We already know what needs to be done and the longer we delay the less likely the Waituna Lagoon will survive an overload of polluting nutrients.