Wait, go back…we missed something(s)

I was leisurely perusing the Convention on Biological Diversity site, no doubt a common activity of a Saturday evening? No? Right….anyway, I came across a rash statement, a forgotten goal and then recalled another reason to get a bit fresh…

In 2009, the hard-working poppets at Landcare Research published an Annual Science Report. In it, they identified that in the last decade, amid our pomp and toff about 100% pure and all that jazz, that the rate of loss of native vegetation was the fastest since Cook and his merry men arrived in the 1700’s, identified of course to be due to agricultural intensification (hear that Federated Farmers?!)[1]. So why then does the New Zealand profile on the Convention on Biological Diversity note than in the last 20 years the rate of ecosystem decline has slowed[2]? Other than perhaps in the arena of pest control, I see no real evidence of this. Am I missing something?

Our profile goes on to state that:

Marine protected areas are being created to address the threats of human activities on marine habitats, and the government has committed itself to protecting 10% of its marine habitats by 2010.

Let’s check progress shall we? The figures for this are possibly not even correct. It’s a lot easier to consistently fail in achieving ecological management targets when your monitoring is so inadequate that both failures and successes are never revealed. Nevertheless, the date has passed and let us see where we are at with the 10% goal. The Department of Conservation offers this analysis:

Collectively, these reserves protect 7% of New Zealand’s territorial sea. However, 99% of this is in two marine reserves around isolated offshore island groups (Auckland and Kermadec), and very little, in fact less than the area of our smallest National Park (Abel Tasman), in our mainland territorial sea.

So we are at 7%, 3% short of the target and the distribution of that protected area is highly concentrated in two areas. Add that to the fact that the goal was to protect 10% of our marine habitats one does get the sense that the spatial distribution is probably not in favour of representativeness. New Zealand also has a very large exclusive economic zone and it is perhaps worth noting that the total marine area in protection is actually 3%. Nuff said.

And let’s not forget the sterling example of nought short of corruption, when Chapter 13 was mysteriously deleted from the 2007 State of the Environment Report. Oddly enough it examined matters such as the influence of primary production on our ecosystems and did not paint a pretty picture. Thanks to direct pressure from the likes of the Green Party, said document was released, complete with begrudging and defensive preamble, see here: (http://www.mfe.govt.nz/environmental-reporting/soe-reports/enz07-draft-conclusion-chapter.html). The report confirmed that intensive farming and it’s effect on our waterways was indeed our number one environmental issue. The usual hue and cry ensued of farmers crowing about being the backbone of the country. The fact is that the spine is damn near broke, and the only things getting rich here are the farmers, their suppliers and the nutrient levels of our precious waterways.

The issue here is that not only are we failing profoundly to protect and sustain what matters, but that we are purposely obscuring the fact. I am, it’s fair to say, somewhat aggrieved.


[1] Landcare Research (2009) “The Economy and the Environment” Annual Science Report Part 1, Landcare Research New Zealand p.12

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2 thoughts on “Wait, go back…we missed something(s)

  1. The government are ignoring the fact that farmers are polluting the waterways without care or concern. Wake up New Zealand, somebody needs a kick in the guts, not tomorrow but now.

  2. Great post Marie. I particularly like this paragraph from the Environment New Zealand 2007 draft conclusion chapter you linked to:

    Another emerging shift in environmental values in New Zealand is evidence of a growing acceptance that those polluting the environment should have to pay the costs of this pollution, rather than just passing those costs on to the wider community or the country to pick up in due course. As all economic activities have environmental impacts, one way of encouraging less polluting activities is to internalise the environmental costs of economic activities by imposing these costs on polluters. It seems that New Zealanders today are more prepared than they were in the past to see the prices faced by consumers reflect the environmental as well as the production costs.

    Imagine if producers were required to pay for the pollution they cause. We would have milk in bottles again and shopping in recyclable paper bags quicker than you could say climate change three times. It might also encourage more local production, reducing carbon emissions and ultimately increasing food security.

    You can really see why the farmers hated this section of the report. Imagine if they had to pay for the cleanup of the 90% of low land waterways that are now highly polluted because of their negligent practices. No wonder DairyNZ is denying run off is the main cause of water pollution in New Zealand, being that a proper clean up will cost billions and the Farming industry is ultimately liable for such costs.

    It would be great to see kids experiencing the great outdoors and a safe clean and green environment again like the one I grew up in. It would also be good if people could feed their families by catching seafood that is safe to eat. Decreasing pollution by imposing proper costs and increasing marine reserves seems like a no-brainer to me. 3% seems rather pathetic, with 20% being a more realistic percentage to safeguard our marine ecosystem.

    Keeping plundering fishing vessels out of New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone would be a good idea as well, especially considering they often abuse their crews and are in breach of New Zealand employment laws. What’s National’s answer? Oh that’s right… increase environmentally destructive fishing practices and increasing intensive farming by giving farmers over half a billion dollars of taxpayer money for more irrigation. How dumb is that?

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