22, Sep, 2010

Land and Water Forum Report a brave start, which is yet to be proved

Category: ECO Inc

“ECO (Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ) welcomes the unequivocal call in the Land and Water Forum Report for a National Policy Statement for Freshwater and National Environmental Standards, but says these must be strict, and is cautious as to how other recommendations will be realised, says spokeswoman, Diana Shand.

“The year-long Land and Water Forum to explore a new process of collaboration within water management planning was an admirable concept but was inadequately implemented and so is still to be proved, with many interested parties not properly involved, says ECO.

“Environmental management requires a very strong legislative base like the RMA, because such significant profits can be made at the expense of the environment. Exploitation of the environment is why our lowland rivers and systems are being depleted and polluted by current practices.”

“A more collaborative planning process is ideal, ECO says, but the purpose and nature of collaboration needs to be very carefully spelt out if we are to protect and restore our water systems.”

ECO was a member of the Land and Water Forum Plenary meetings that received reports of process from an inner group which discussed the issues and negotiated principles but was mostly excluded from drafting and viewing documents.

ECO says it supported the Forum intentions to find ways for the community to avoid some aggressive and costly RMA court processes.

“Too often the community defending the environment for future generations is up against those with long pockets and profit to be made by over-extracting from our rivers and wetlands. We supported looking for less confrontational ways to discuss these serious issues and develop sound water strategies,” says ECO.

However, ECO remains cautious of endorsing collaboration as a model for resource management. To have integrity, a collaborative system has to work within a framework that guarantees genuine across-the-board consultation and a genuine shared vision of protecting our biodiversity, restoring our rivers and preventing on-going pollution.

ECO said the report falls short of finding the formula to spell out to government. It remains to be seen whether the Government is committed to that vision and integrity. ECO supports attempts, but not the exact process used this time.

Some issues which ECO still believes need resolution include:

  • Reaffirmation of Water Conservation Orders as being for the purpose of recognising and sustaining outstanding amenity or intrinsic values of waters – including quality– in either a natural or modified state….
  • Avoiding extra-ordinary long-term consenting of major infrastructure, which will bind the hands of future generations and avoid periodic checks.
  • Acknowledging hydro generation and dams on rivers as being a consumptive use of water.
  • Ensuring a more environmentally precautionary approach which acknowledges that current polluting practices can take decades to surface and will cost future generations dearly.
  • Future collaborative processes must be truly inclusive and collaborative of interested parties, with circulation of papers in development to interested parties, with much less secrecy in their development. Many organizations with an interest in these matters have been excluded from even seeing the papers – so the process used for this Land and Water Forum will need a major overhaul if it is to be adapted to other areas.
For further information contact:
Diana Shand, 021 471 989
Or Cath Wallace, 021-891-994