Government’s economic Strategy harming the Environment says ECO
The environment is at risk from the government’s outdated economic strategy and the suppression of community voice. These were the conclusions from the well-attended Environment and Conservation Organisations, ECO, annual conference held near Christchurch over the weekend.
“When the environment is under stress from every direction, and the economy is threatened then society is put at increasing risk,” says Cath Wallace, Co-chair of ECO.
“The government’s economic strategy is a crude resource-exploitation strategy which needs to be re-geared. The strategy must be changed to decarbonise the economy and look for smart development based on lessening our ecological footprint and fostering community well being.”
The national summit of groups and academics, ECO, held at Living Springs outside Christchurch 2-4 July, shared information from across the country.
“There is increasing concern that economic interests are being privileged while citizen values and voices are being shut out of policy and decision making, as have the citizens of Canterbury with the abolition of the Regional Council” says Cath Wallace.
Diana Shand, former Regional Councillor of Canterbury Regional Council urged delegates to fight for their democratic rights. “In Canterbury the regional council has been displaced in favour of government appointees. In Auckland the Regional Council has been absorbed into the ‘supercity’, functions have been outsourced beyond the reach of accountability to citizens: clearly regional government is at risk across the New Zealand.
Other delegates identified further erosion of the rights of people to be consulted and considered. The Community in Long Term Council Community Planning under the Local Government Act is being removed in the same law changes that the government is using effectively to privatise water.
Public policy specialist Cath Wallace said the government has shown contempt forthe public and iwi with the decision to approve Petrobras oil and gas exploration off the East Coast and in the rohe of Ngati Porou without any public or iwi consultation. “Gerry Brownlee’s stiff cheese response is not good enough.”
“The Resource Management Act changes planned are deforms, not reforms,” says Barry Weeber, co-chair of ECO. “The Environmental Protection Agency is being designed to fast track infrastructure projects for the government and vested business interests.”
“Irrigation will be fast tracked: the environment, conservation and communities are being seen simply as obstacles to be shoved out of the way.”
Cath Wallace said risks to the economy from bad environmental and conservation measures were raised throughout conference. “The value of the environment to society and the economy have to be identified and protected.”
“Seventy percent of overseas tourists are here for nature based activities, and nature-based international tourists stay longer and spend more than other tourists, said consultant Kay Booth, former senior lecturer in Parks, Recreation and Tourism.”
There was widespread disquiet that John Key and Gerry Brownlee had both indicated they intended mining and exploration to go ahead in conservation areas, irrespective of public opinion. This arrogance and bad faith with the public is corrosive of trust in government.
“The government seems more interested in helping vested private interests than in protecting conservation and social values. This damages the environment, harms non-extractive values, and our reputation is suffering abroad,” concluded Cath Wallace.