Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Waituna's Fate in Minister's hands
Nick Smith is in town and having to confront some of our nation's most challenging environmental issues. This will be a real test of his commitment to protect the environment from catastrophic events and show, post election, what we can really expect from this government environmentally.
He faced his first hurdle when confronted by an excellent question from local environmentalist, Chris Henderson. Nick had been promoting the fact that any lignite mining in New Zealand would be modeled on international best practice and Chris' reasonable question "Minister, can you tell us, where is the world's best practice example of lignite mining?" stopped him in his tracks. He wasn't able to give an answer.
Of course the most immediate issue demanding the Minister's attention is the imminent "flipping" of the Waituna lagoon. Russel Norman put the issue high on his agenda and changed his programme earlier in the year to spend time looking at the problem first hand. As Minister of the Environment, Nick has finally made it down to the Deep South to see what can be done for our country's most internationally recognized wetland area.
The Minister had the greatest opportunity to do something significant to save all our fresh water systems with the National Policy for Fresh Water Management, but after delaying the release for some eighteen months the final document was a real disappointment. Regional councils had been crying out for some legislation that would give them real teeth for dealing directly with the causes of water degradation and got a damp bus ticket.
Given the failure of the water management rules to enable drastic change all eyes are on the Minister to see if he will give some strong governmental directives to deal with the most pressing concerns at least. The decline of the water quality in the Waituna catchment is largely due to stocking levels exceeding what the environment can sustain. The water rules do not allow for retrospective changes to consents that were not sustainable, so there needs to be an ability created to remove stock from the immediate catchment and some reasonable compensation to be paid to the farmers affected. This is the only solution that would really make a difference and the environmental clock is ticking......
This short amateur video is worth a look.