This National led Government cares about the environment a great deal and they even have a special branch or appendage of the party called the "Blue Greens" that is totally devoted to environmental concerns. Such is their passion for the environment that this group have devoted much of their energies to a single project of great national significance, the Meola Creek Restoration Project. They even have an impressive plan of action:
As part of our action plan, we'll be:
- cleaning up the creek to remove litter and waste
- monitoring the creek regularly to gauge the success of planting
- clearing weeds prior to planting
- undertaking restoration planting at designated site over some planting days
- providing regular maintenance of planted sites
- Highlight our activities at the Grey Lynn Festival
This National led Government cares about the environment so much that they changed the purpose of DoC from preserving our wild places in perpetuity to "Conservation leadership for a prosperous New Zealand". They then gutted the department by cutting their budget by $54 million. Gerry Brownlee had the brilliant idea of creating some "prosperity" for us by "surgically" removing some valuable minerals (mainly coal) from our National Parks and then was surprised when one or two New Zealanders ungratefully protested against his plan.
UNESCO will be interested to hear that the South West New Zealand World Heritage Park (encompassing Fiordland), that was granted this status due to its pristine nature, may have a road tunnel drilled through a major mountain range and a monorail constructed within the park. DoC's new purpose has seen it welcome commercial interests to make significant changes to the natural environment for private profit. A bus trip through a mountain tunnel and a monorail train trip through cleared bush is seen as adding something to the tourist experience of this natural wonderland.
Prime Minister John Key has shown considerable skill with promoting our 100% Pure brand overseas. When interviewed on BBCs Hardtalk he was able to quickly dismiss the quoted claim of respected scientist Mike Joy that we have many native species heading for extinction and 90% of our rivers polluted. To the astonishment of the interviewer Key claimed that compared to most other countries we were 100% Pure and that he would find another scientist to provide a differing view as he didn't like Mike Joy's.
This National led Government expresses concern about how the rapid growth of dairying and the intensification of farming is having a huge impact on our rivers. They have made it very clear, however, that in times of economic hardship balancing an economic recovery with environmental protection becomes more difficult and when Environment Canterbury couldn't shift the balance towards farming interests with enough haste, they sacked the councillors and replaced them with commissioners. Even though the Government promised to allow elections to occur again in 2013 they have decided to continue the arrangement (against the advice of the Human Rights Commissioner). I guess democracy impedes economic growth and shouldn't be encouraged. There are even plans to establish unitary authorities around the country that will see regional councils cease to exist at all.
With the continuing effects of farming on our rivers we are seeing the pollutants being passed on to our lakes, lagoons and estuaries and many are reaching saturation levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediments. New Zealand's environmental management ranking has plummeted from being 1st in the OECD to 15th since 2006. Desperate times call for desperate measures and this National led Government has decided that the enormity of our environmental catastrophe should be hidden, rather than take remedial action, and our clean image should be protected even if it is a fiction. To this end the Government has decided, against the advice of the Environment Commissioner, that they won't publish the five yearly State of the Environment report (due to be released this December) as it will make dismal reading. It would probably be best that New Zealanders and the world knew as little as possible about what is really happening.
This National led Government claim that they accept the science around climate change and even have it mentioned on their Blue Green web page. They also decided to continue with Labour's Emission Trading Scheme, but with a few tweaks. Although New Zealand has amongst the worst levels of greenhouse gas emissions per capita in the world, the Government has determined that we are too small to make a difference in a global sense and that we should exempt our major polluters and subsidise their emissions instead (to the tune of $150- 300 million of tax payer support per year). It was thought that we should wait for the likes of the US to get serious about their emissions before we really commit. To lesson the impact of the subsidies the Government has managed to drive down the value of our carbon credits from $20 a tonne to $3 a tonne. This may be a death blow to our forest industry but it will help the Government balance its books and give yet another boost to farmers and the struggling coal industry. The Government's commitment to road transport and building motorways will also contribute to our growing transport emissions and this will also prove costly in time.
I guess that the Government has decided that maintaining a clean environment and our 100% Pure brand is too hard, despite the recommendations of Pure Advantage, and have decided to withdraw from the legally binding Kyoto protocol. We once led the world with our environmental credibility but now we are joining China and the US by focussing on short term economic goals instead of making a longer term commitment to working towards an environmentally sustainable economy.
From 100% Pure we are now 100% down the environmental gurgler!
I thought I would end this post with a photo of the leading Blue Greens who must shoulder a good deal of the responsibility for the extent our current environmental commitment (at least Meola Creak appears to be looking good).
Back row (from left): Paul Hutchison, Ian McKelvie, Amy Adams, Scott Simpson, Nikki Kaye, Jacqui Dean, Chris Auchinvole, Nicky Wagner, Kater Wilkinson, Nick Smith, Todd McClay, Cam Calder, Louise Upston, Tau Henare. Front row (from left): Tim Macindoe, Colin King, Maggie Barry. (Absent: Tim Groser).
Kennedy Graham is an educated man and his sixteen years of experience in the NZ Foreign Service means he understands the danger of loose words and claims without substance. His charge of "ecocide" against this National led Government was not done lightly nor from a sudden emotionally charged impulse. While the accusation was serious (and supported with a good deal of fact) he still referred to the government members in a respectful manner. His speech was not respectfully received and he had to endure continuous personal abuse throughout. The sooner we remove this ideologically driven, ignorant government the better we will be.