Its length is about 3/4 that of the Resource Management Act. At 650 pages, the report released in 1997 entitled “The State of New Zealand’s Environment” was a systematic effort at covering all of the major issues in the environment of New Zealand as it was understood then in a single publication. 20 years on, how are we going?
Whilst there has been progress, there are numerous significant issues that need to be dealt with in the near future – next 10 years (or the duration of one Long Term Plan under the Local Government Act 2002). They are:
- The e-waste bomb – a problem growing at 80,000 tons per annum, not at all well understood by New Zealanders or the media (in fact slipping well under the radar)relating to the huge pile up of unwanted and unprocessed electronics in our waste
- Fresh water quality (and quantity) – a dual challenge to improve the use and treatment of our freshwater resource, the natural ecosystem in it as well as the humans who use it
- Ecological footprint – this seems to have been forgotten or somehow overtaken by the carbon footprint, but it essentially relates to the area and amount of resources consumed to meet the material needs of an individual human being, as that of the average New Zealander is one of the largest in the world
- Man made emissions – whether one agrees with climate change or not, these emissions are having a huge impact on the environment, with oceans affected by the large scale release of carbon into them, acidifying the water and threatening the well being of anything with a CaCO3 (calcium carbonate)body structure
- The large scale extinction of mammals, birds and fish species from over use, a failure to check poaching and the consumption of habitat
These are not in order of importance. I will leave that up to you, the reader to decide how they should be ranked and whether I have missed any.
Like other nations, New Zealand is going to suffer significantly if it does not take considerable and sustained action to address its short sighted economic growth first/environment second approach to life. There is nothing left wing or right wing – or anything resembling a point of being on a political spectrum – about ensuring that future generations are able to enjoy the same environment conditions we enjoyed and used. There is nothing improper about making sure that future generations do not have to pay exorbitant rates to drink clean water. There nothing Greenie tree huggy liberal about making sure that the food chain is not poisoned with americium, cadmium and God knows what else because we were too lazy, too money obsessed to address the e-waste bomb and stop ourselves from getting cancer.
In fairness, we have managed to keep the Resource Management Act alive – its success is best identified by the fact that political parties on both sides of Parliament want to meddle with it because they do not understand (or want to)that it was not written appease politicians. We have managed to – with U.S. help – set in place the initial framework for a vast Marine Protection Area over the Ross Sea.
Like I said the next 10 years are going to be critical. What happens in that time will have long term implications for New Zealand and New Zealanders.