Fisking some Green stats

February 12th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

A new column in the Dom Post is how to greenify your life. The column cites some stats to motivate you. Now I think it is very laudable to encourage recycling, use solar power etc etc but I also think one has to take care with some of the stats.

According to National Geographic, each year we’re losing 46,923 square kilometres of forest due to human activities. That’s an area the size of Panama. 

Firstly Panama is 75,517 square kms, not 46,923.  Also worth noting that the rate of deforestation is declining. I agree the rate is too high, and ideally any trees cut down should be replaced by new trees.

More than 50 percent of all living creatures on the earth reside in tropical rainforests, and they’re disappearing at a rate of 100 species per day. 

The 50% figure is fairly well established. The rate of disappearance is less so, as it is an estimate based on forests lost and average density of species. WWF say the rate of loss may be somewhere between 200 a year and 100,000 which is a daily rate of 0.5 to 274.

Average temperatures will increase by 2 – 6 degrees celcius by the end of the 21st century if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at the current pace. 

Actually the IPCC range is from 1.5 to 4.5 degrees.

So all important issues, but be careful of getting the facts right.

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Bill Gates on “The Bet”

January 26th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Bill Gates on “The Bet”:

The year 1981 was a big one in my business life. It was the year Paul Allen and I incorporated Microsoft in our home state of Washington.

As it turns out, 1981 also had big implications for my current work in health, development, and the environment. Right when Paul and I were pulling all-nighters to get ready for the release of the MS-DOS operating system for the brand new IBM-PC, two rival professors with radically divergent perspectives were sealing a bet that the Chronicle of Higher Education called “the scholarly wager of the decade.”

This bet is the subject of Yale history professor Paul Sabin’s new book. The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon, and Our Gamble over Earth’s Future provides surprising insights for anyone involved in addressing the world’s “wicked problems.” Most of all, it gave me new perspective on why so many big challenges get bogged down in political battles rather than being focused on problem-solving.

So what was the bet? University of Illinois economist Julian Simon challenged Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich to put his money where his mouth was and wager up to $1,000 on whether the prices of five different metals would rise or fall over the next decade. Ehrlich and Simon saw the price of metals as a proxy for whether the world was hurtling toward apocalyptic scarcity (Ehrlich’s position) or was on the verge of creating greater abundance (Simon’s).

Ehrlich was the country’s, and perhaps the world’s, most prominent environmental Cassandra. He argued in books, articles, lectures, and popular television programs that a worldwide population explosion threatened humanity with “the most colossal catastrophe in history” and would result in hundreds of millions of deaths from starvation and dire shortages not just of food but all types of raw materials.

Ehrlich is still preaching his doom and gloom.

Who won the bet? Simon. Definitively. Even as the world population grew from 4.5 to 5.3 billion in the 1980s, the five minerals that were included in the bet—chromium, copper, nickel, tin, and tungsten—collectively dropped in price by almost half. Ehrlich begrudgingly made good on the bet. But to this day he still does not concede that his predictions of Malthusian horrors have been off the mark. Similarly, he does not acknowledge that the discipline of economics has anything of value to contribute to discussions of population or the environment.

However he has inspired Green parties around the world to insist we need population control policies.

Even though I had gone back in recent years to read Ehrlich’s Population Bomb (1968) and the Club of Rome’s intellectually aligned book Limits to Growth (1972), The Bet was a stark reminder to me of how apocalyptic a big part of the environmental movement has been. Ehrlich claimed to have science on his side in all of his predictions, including how many people the Earth can feed. He stated as scientific fact that U.S. lifestyles were unsustainable, calling developed countries “overdeveloped countries.” Limits to Growth claimed the credibility of computer modeling to justify its predictions of apocalypse. …

We know now that Ehrlich was extremely wrong and that following his scientific certainties would have been terrible for the poor. He floated the concept of mandatory sterilizations. He pushed aggressively for draconian immigration policies that, if enacted, would have kept out much of the foreign talent that came into the U.S. over the past three decades and added greatly to the U.S. economy. Ehrlich and his fellow scientists criticized the Green Revolution’s agricultural innovations because, in his view, “we [will] have an even bigger population when the crash comes.”

On population, Ehrlich ignored the evidence that countries that developed economically dropped their birth rate. (The current view is that population will rise only modestly after hitting a bit over 9 billion by 2050.) Granted, population growth is a huge issue in some poor countries, where it creates locally some of the instability and scarcity that Ehrlich foresaw for the entire world. But fortunately, there is strong evidence that if we continue to produce innovative reproductive health tools and make them available to women who want them, and we keep pushing forward on economic growth, there will be fewer and fewer of these places in the decades ahead.

As incomes rise, births decrease. It’s ironic, but true.

The recent Economist special report on biodiversity makes a strong case that economic growth allows us to make environmental concerns a priority. It contrasts the environmental record of the rich countries with that of poor countries to say that economic growth is the best hope for environment protection. All of this suggests to me that we should be wary of broad attacks on economic growth. 

The Green Party philosophy is historically anti economic growth. They now cover this up with buzz words such as smart growth and green growth.

I’ve been meaning to read “The Bet” so must get around to it.

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World has never had it so good

November 16th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Some like to focus on how awful they think the world is, and that humanity is so flawed that everything is getting worse – conflicts, poverty, the environment etc. But in fact it is the opposite.

Allister Heath writes at The Telegraph:

Contrary to what environmentalists, anti-globalisation campaigners and other economic curmudgeons like to think, the world is not going to hell in a handbasket. …

But humanity as a whole is doing better than it ever has: the world is becoming more prosperous, cleaner, increasingly peaceful and healthier. We are living longer, better lives. Virtually all of our existing problems are less bad than at any previous time in history.

Some examples:

Genghis Khan’s mad conquests in the 13th century killed 11pc of the global population at the time, making it the worst conflict the world has ever had the misfortune of enduring; the Second World War, which cost more lives than any other, was the sixth worst on that measure, killing 2.6pc of the world’s population.

There has been immense progress since then, especially following the end of the Cold War.

The Peace Research Institute Oslo calculates that there were fewer battle deaths (including of civilians) in the first decade of the 21st century than at any time since the Second World War.

To be fair to Genghis, around one in 200 people alive today are thought to be descended from him so he helped repopulate the world also! But there was an upside to Genghis killing 40 million people:

The Mongol leader, who established a vast empire between the 13th and 14th centuries, helped remove nearly 700million tons of carbon from the atmosphere, claims a new study.

The deaths of 40million people meant that large areas of cultivated land grew thick once again with trees, which absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

And, although his methods may be difficult for environmentalists to accept, ecologists believe it may be the first ever case of successful manmade global cooling. 

Luckily in NZ, it is only cows that the Green Party wants to slaughter!

Instead of fighting, we now trade, communicate, travel and invest; while there is still a long way to go in tearing down protectionist barriers, international economic integration is the great driving force of progress.

Trade is much more preferable to war.

We are also far less likely to die from the side-effects of economic development and the burning of cooking and heating fuels. In 1900, one person in 550 globally would die from air pollution every year, an annual risk of dying of 0.18pc. Today, that risk has fallen to 0.04 pc, or one in 2,500; by 2050, it is expected to have collapsed to 0.02pc, or one in 5,000. Many other kinds of pollution are also in decline, of course, but this shift is the most powerful.

In fact, we are living healthier and longer lives all round, thanks primarily to the remarkable progress made by medicine.

Average life expectancy at birth in Africa has jumped from 50 years in 2000 to 56 in 2011; for the world as a whole, it has increased from 64 to 70, according to the World Health Organisation.

While people in rich countries can now expect to reach 80, the gap is narrowing and emerging economies are catching up; in India, for example, life expectancy has been increasing by 4.5 years per decade since the 1960s.

That’s what you call closing the gap.

The probability of a newborn dying before their fifth birthday has dropped from a world average of 23pc in the 1950s to 6pc in the current decade.

Still too high, but a massive drop.

While 23.6pc of the world’s population remains illiterate, that is down from 70pc in 1900 and is the lowest it has ever been. The costs of illiteracy have fallen steadily from 12.3pc of global GDP at the start of last century and are set to be just 3.8pc by 2050.

Gender equality is also improving. In 1900, women made up only 15pc of the global workforce. By 2012, it reached around 40pc and is expected to hit 45pc by mid-century.

What a waste of potential it was, when women were expected to not work, and just raise babies.

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Science vs environment

August 2nd, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Robert Wilson at The Guardian writes:

Do many environmentalists hold anti-scientific positions? This idea, put forward by environmental journalist Fred Pearce and others, may have received some pushback (eg Anne Chapman earlier in this series) but for me, it is merely a statement of the obvious.

Consider that great scientific battleground of the early 21st century:embryonic stem cell research. Here is an issue where too many greens hold views indistinguishable from those of the Vatican. Greenpeace brought and won a lawsuit against the German scientist Oliver Brüstlewho wanted to patent a method of turning human embryonic stem cells into neurons. In a debate with writer and neuroscientist Kenan MalikGreenpeace claimed they were not opposed to embryonic stem cell research. Yet their own press release at the time made it clear that they were opposed to it.

Until 2010, the UK’s Green Party had rather unambiguous views on the issue too: they wanted an EU wide ban on embryonic stem cell research. Parts of a statement from Caroline Lucas were reminiscent of the religious right.

And what were the UK Greens against?

Exactly what did Lucas think the associated health risks are in attempting to cure debilitating diseases? To me, this is not merely anti-scientific, it is morally repugnant.

And on GE they ignore all the science, as they also do on fracking:

And let’s not forget the fondness of some environmental groups for destroying trials of genetically modified crops. Whether it is Monsanto or government scientists doing the research there always seems to be an environmentalist or two thinking of doing some uprooting. And we are not talking about fringe lunatics here. Last year’s failed attempt to destroy a trial of GM wheat in Rothamsted was supported by both the Green Party’s candidate for the London mayoral election and their current leader Natalie Bennett.

Greenpeace has a much richer history of ripping up GM crops. For some the defining image of Greenpeace campaigning may be brave activists climbing Europe’s tallest building, for me it is grown adults wearing hazmat suits to destroy crops they have no reason to be afraid of.

That Greenpeace takes a dogmatic, not a scientific, approach was made clear when Lord Melchett, then director of Greenpeace UK, made thefollowing statement on opposition to GM crops whilst appearing in front of the House of Lords:

“It is a permanent and definite and complete opposition based on a view that there will always be major uncertainties. It is the nature of the technology, indeed it is the nature of science, that there will not be any absolute proof.”

Such statements would make even religious dogmatists blush. The UK’s main organic farming group, the Soil Association, naturally did not mind such dogmatism: they made Melchett their policy director.

A permanent, definite and complete opposition. They should work for the Spanish Inquisition.

Our choices about the future of energy supply need to be based on solid evidence, yet let’s consider the UK Green Party’s attitude to the evidence about nuclear power. In 2003 they published a report, enthusiastically endorsed by Caroline Lucas, that claimed “radioactive releases up to 1989 have caused, or will eventually cause, the death of 65 million people worldwide.” The research into this report was written by the rather absurd figure of Chris Busby, who apparently for many years was the Green Party’s main “expert” source on nuclear issues. I put scare-quotes round expert here for in late 2011 he was exposed for attempting to sell ineffective “anti-radiation” pills to people in the Fukushima region. For years the Green Party grounded their opposition to nuclear power in junk science, and it appears it still does.

If all of this leaves you unconvinced of the marriage of irrational, unscientific, and unethical attitudes by many green organisations then you should read about the history of opposition to golden rice, an innovation that has the potential to greatly reduce human suffering.

Golden rice provides Vitamin A, which boost the immune systems of children in developing countries and helps prevent blindness.

Am I not playing into the hands of the climate change sceptics by saying environmentalists are not consistent on science? No, I am not. Environmentalists who say we should accept the scientific consensus on climate change while telling us to ignore it on other issues are the people who are playing into the hands of those who oppose action on climate change. Because if we are to win the fight against climate change we will need to replace ideology, wishful thinking and spin with sober analysis. As the great physicist Richard Feynman said, reality must take precedence over public relations.

This is the great hypocrisy. They say you must accept the science around climate change (which I do), but they fight tooth and nail against the science around GE, fracking, fluoridation and nuclear. The reality is the extreme environmental movement is more akin to a religious organisation. They have a view of the world which is minimal human activity or interference with “nature”.  Hence why they see science as the enemy so often.

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The road to Milford

March 2nd, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Geoff Cumming at NZ Herald reports:

It is the holy grail of New Zealand tourism: easing the path to Milford Sound for domestic and international tourists without destroying what lures them there in the first place – its scenery, ecological value and remoteness.

For decades, tourism entrepreneurs have laid schemes at the door of the Conservation Department without quite prising it open, from a coastal road defying engineering conventions to a gondola.

Now, DoC has allowed two proposals a foot in the door – one a bus-only tunnel with approach roads through two national parks; the other a “back-country experience” involving boat, 4WD bus and monorail. Both promise to cut in half the circuitous 4hr road journey from Queenstown to Milford around Lakes Wakatipu and Te Anau. The applicants plan international marketing to bring an estimated 20,000 extra visitors a year to New Zealand, targeting time-poor tourists who want the greatest hits at speed.

I would have thought environmentalists would be keen to support a tunnel that means that you don’t have scores of buses driving several hundred extra kms a day. But the reality is that many of them are preservationists – they oppose all change.

Opponents argue that getting there is half the fun: the existing route takes in outstanding natural landscapes

It’s simple. If there is a choice of routes, then everyone can be happy. It is true there are some good stops on the way, but the four hour trip back doesn’t see anything new. Some operators could do a loop – drive down via Te Anau but come back directly. That would mean that tourists would gain an extra two hours in Milford itself.

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Even the EDF supports fracking

November 28th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

While the Greens still insist fracking should be banned (until it is *proven* safe – an impossible test to ever meet), other green groups are less reactionary.

The United States Environmental Defence Fund is a non-partisan environmental group. So they are worried abotu the environment, not about getting elected to anything. They have over 700,000 members. Their achievements include getting DDT banned, the Safe Water Drinking Act, getting lead out of gasoline, banning ozone depleting CFCs, marine and ecosystem reserves and many more.

The EDF has blogged why they think that fracking overall is beneficial for the environment:

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is often called upon by those opposed to natural gas development to support a ban or moratorium on drilling.  They argue that fighting for tough regulations, as EDF is doing, helps ensure that natural gas development will take place.  Some of our friends in the environmental community have questioned why we are working on natural gas at all.  They suggest that we should simply oppose natural gas development, and focus solely on championing energy efficiency and renewables.  We understand these concerns, and respect the people who share them.  And for that reason, we want to be as clear as we can be as to why EDF is so deeply involved in championing strong regulation of natural gas.

Our view on natural gas is shaped by three basic facts.  First, hydraulic fracturing is already a common practice in the oil and gas industry.  Over 90 percent of new onshore oil and gas development taking place in the United States today involves some form of hydraulic fracturing, and shale gas accounts for a rapidly increasing percentage of total natural gas production—from 16% in 2009 to more than 30% today.  In short, hydraulic fracturing is not going away any time soon.

Second, this fight is about much more than the role that natural gas may play in the future of electricity supply in the United States.  Natural gas is currently playing an important role in driving out old coal plants, and we are glad to see these coal plants go.  On balance, we think substituting natural gas for coal can provide net environmental value, including a lower greenhouse gas footprint.

This is the hypocrisy of the Greens. They moan about job losses on the West Coast, at the same tide as they try to close mining down. They  complain our greenhouse gas emissions are too high, yet oppose fracking for natural gas.  Underneath the slick marketing, you have a fundamental belief system that any industry that use natural resources is wrong and must be stopped.

I reccently heard one person, who must be a Green member, advocate against trade that requires transporting of goods further than can be done on a bicycle. No, I am not kidding – this was in New Zealand.

Our analysis has led us to conclude that there are many ways to eliminate hazards and reduce risks from hydraulic fracturing and related ‘unconventional’ oil and gas production practices.  Strong rules that require these steps to be taken are needed, backed up by effective oversight and enforcement with the necessary financial and human resources to make these efforts real. 

There is where the debate should be.

Demand for natural gas is not going away, and neither is hydraulic fracturing.  We must be clear-eyed about this, and fight to protect public health and the environment from unacceptable impacts.  We must also work hard to put policies in place that ensure that natural gas serves as an enabler of renewable power generation, not an impediment to it.  We fear that those who oppose all natural gas production everywhere are, in effect, making it harder for the U.S. economy to wean itself from dirty coal.

Natural gas production can never be made entirely safe; like any intensive industrial activity, it involves risks. But having studied the issue closely, we are convinced that if tough rules, oversight and penalties for noncompliance are put in place, these risks become manageable.

This is the difference between a true environmental group, and between politicians who spout slogans to attract support, such as banning fracking.

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NZ Herald on Mike Joy

November 27th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial yesterday:

Russel Norman is absolutely right to say that scientists must be free to perform their academic duty to report environmental degradation. But in talking about concerns raised by Massey University scientist Mike Joy, the Green Party co-leader should also have noted that any comments from academia should be fair and accurate. If not, they can expect to be the subject of well-warranted criticism. Such is the case with Dr Joy’s comments about New Zealand’s environmental record.

Specifically:

Dr Joy told the newspaper that although this country promoted itself as “100 per cent Pure New Zealand”, the reality came nowhere close to matching this. “We don’t deserve 100 per cent Pure, we are nowhere near the best in the world, we are not even in the top half of countries in the world when it comes to clean and green,” he said.

Maybe Dr Joy has not travelled a lot. I have. To say we are not even in the top half is bonkers. No doubt he has some criteria that he bases his claims on – but the criteria he uses will not be ones most people would regard as vital for clean and green.

But the reality of New Zealand is also a long way from the bottom half of the countries of the world in terms of pristine environments. Whatever its deficiencies, it is nonsensical to place this country in the company of the world’s more polluted nations.

The 2008 Environmental Performance Index has NZ 7th highest in the world. The Greenest Countries Index has NZ at 19th out of 141. We are 13th lowest for air pollution. So of course not perfect, but Dr Joy’s smearing of NZ as being in the bottom half is just cherry picked data to make shock headlines.

Dr Joy is also making something of a habit of this practice. In an Opinion article in the Herald in April last year, he exclaimed that “far from being 100 per cent pure, natural, clean, or even green, the real truth is we are an environmental/biodiversity catastrophe”. This implies a situation where there is great damage or suffering. On no account could that be considered close to reality.

We have had a big loss of biodiversity. But that is more a historical issue. Yes many species were wiped out 150 years ago. So does that mean no one should visit New Zealand today?

Academics have a right and responsibility to comment publicly on issues of importance to the community without fear or favour. Their expert knowledge makes them an important part of any public discussion. But their comments must be appropriate. Dr Joy’s exaggerations fail that test. If he wants his criticism to be treated seriously, it will have to be expressed in a more judicious manner.

When academics become politicians, they get treated as such.
UPDATE: I should make clear I have no problems at all with academics publishing research showing our environment is not as good as it could be. I doubt anyone does. The issue is around the words Dr Joy used to describe New Zealand, and the timing of his comments – which appear to be timed to do maximum damage to NZ.
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100% idiocy

November 21st, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Motella blogs:

In 1999, Tourism New Zealand launched 100% Pure New Zealand with much fan-fare. When it comes to a tag-line in advertising, this is very powerful. If someone in the marketplace makes a claim that something is “100%” then this boldly stands out and makes you pause.The 100% Pure New Zealand tag-line was never meant to measure anything that is quantifiable or tangible. It relates to a mystical Kiwi state of mind. It’s a feeling, an attitude, a set of values or an aspiration that is unique to this country. This may seem to be somewhat wishy-washy, however if you look at the campaign in context, you will see majestic landscapes, unique people and exciting experiences that play out to the back-beat of an iconic Kiwi soundtrack. The tears will start to swell and all of a sudden the 100% Pure New Zealand tagline starts to make sense.Back in 1999 the 100% Pure New Zealand campaign resonated as a message that the public understood. The tag-line could be taken at face-value or could invite a simple thought process to uncover a deeper meaning. As time has moved on, the tag-line has accumulated some baggage. For many, the ability to think for themselves and understand the meaning behind 100% Pure New Zealand has been lost.Unfortunately there seems to be an increasing amount of people that suffer from the inability to view things in context. These uncreative, bland folk seem to have varying degrees of Asperger’s syndrome and tend to take things too literally. They just don’t get the 100% Pure New Zealand tagline and assume it’s an overreaching environmental catch-cry.Inevitably, these same mean-spirited, hapless folk believe 100% in the headline grabbing hysteria created by University environmental science lecturers, Green Party activists and Greenpeace vandals that get a kick from knocking New Zealand as a tourism destination.Has idiocy finally hijacked 100% Pure New Zealand?


Amazing that so many people try to sabotage the country’s tourism efforts. Of course 100% pure is not a literal statement on the environment. Only a moron or someone malicious would think it is. If you take the statement literally, then we could only use the slogan if we destroyed all the cities, closed down all the farms and oh yeah deported all the people.
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The Fiordland monorail

August 15th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Simon Moutter’s first media statement since taking over the helm at Telecom this week has nothing to do with the telco.

In a news release from Fiordland Link Experience Moutter is quoted at length putting his weight behind tourism initiatives, including Fiordland’s proposed monorail.

Company spokesman John Beattie said the former Auckland International Airport chief executive believed it was vital for New Zealand to keep developing world-class tourism projects.

In today’s statement, Moutter calls for public support for new initiatives to sustain not only the sector, but jobs as well.

To be bold, the industry had to adapt to a changing world. Failing to do so would see the country fall behind, he said.

“The proposed Fiordland Link Experience, which will include the longest monorail journey in the world, is an example of the sort of ambitious privately funded tourism project this country needs to consider.

“This is the sort of product that I believe would be attractive to the high-value, shorter stay, new markets that will be vital to New Zealand’s tourism future so it merits serious consideration.”

I think the monorail project is a great win-win. It will be a significant tourist attraction, but also will reduce the need for such long car journeys, benefiting the environment.

A sleek monorail is also sympathetic to the conservation values. The magnificent Kuranda area rainforest is enhanced by the Skyrail which allows people to get into its heart without driving up the hill.

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The EEZ Bill

August 8th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Amy Adams announced:

Companies that do not comply with marine consent rules in the Exclusive Economic Zone could face fines of up to $10 million under proposed changes to a Bill that provides better protection for New Zealand’s marine environment, Environment Minister Amy Adams has announced. …

The key changes the Government proposes to make are:

  • Amend the purpose of the Bill to incorporate the concept of sustainable management to reflect the Resource Management Act
  • Increase the maximum penalty for companies that breach marine consents from $600,000 to $10 million
  • Clarify that a transitional period for planned petroleum activities will cover the 2013/14 drilling season; and
  • Provide a maximum statutory timeframe of six months for a marine consent process.

Lifting the maximum fine would send a strong message that New Zealanders value their oceans.

“At this new level, I consider the penalty would be high enough to provide significant incentive to comply with the regime when operating in the EEZ,” Ms Adams says.

I’m pleased with these changes. I think there is significant economic opportunity to be had from our exclusive economic zone – recall it is an economic zone. Some want to ban all economic activity in it.

$600,000 was too low for a maximum fine. The higher maximum fine will provide greater incentives for companies to minimise risks of environmental damage. That is a win-win – we get more economic activity in the zone, with  less risk.

Of course some demand no risk at all. But I think most New Zealanders like having jobs.

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Labour on clean and green

July 5th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Grant Robertson has put out this pamphlet, which really needs a response. It is hard to know where to start, so let us take them in order.

Climate Change

Labour is great on rhetoric, but crap on results. In 1999 NZ’s gross emissions were 67,395 CO2e. Under nine years of Labour gross emissions went up 10% to  74,198  (and net emissions went up 13.4%). In the first two years under National gross emissions dropped 3.4% to 71,657.  There was a failure to deal with climate change -Labour’s. Under National we are set to come in under our Kyoto Protocol target.

Labour’s policy blunders saw 30,000 hectares of deforestation in their fianl three years.

Maritime Disasters

This is a reference to the fact that National did not pass a law to give effect to the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage that would have doubled the liability of the Rena’s owners from $12m to $24m.

What Grant omits to mention is the convention was adopted in 2001, and Labour didn’t legislate for seven years on it, and the Labour Cabinet gave the legislation the lowest priority rating. Sure with perfect hindsight would have been good for National to have passed it, but for Grant and Labour to claim not passing the law has dented our clean green image is stupid. The impact of not having changed the law is potentially fiscal, not environmental.

EEZ environment

National has in fact passed a law to give give environment protection to the EEZ. Previously there was no protection at all. One can dispute the balance in the legislation, but again ironic and rich for the party that did nothing to protect the EEZ to be saying that actually passing a law to protect the EEZ damages NZ’s clean green reputation while having no law at all, bolstered it!

46 wells were drilled in the EEZ under Labour – all without any legislation at all to protect the environment.

Mining conservation land

Oh my God, National put out a discussion document on mining. Oh yeah, I am sure that really undermined NZ’s clean green image – a discussion document.

And do I even have to mention that Labour approved 218 permits for mining on conservation land – all done without harming NZ’s clean green image. You see in Labour world, it is only bad if National talks about it. It is good when Labour does it.

MFE Funding

Now this is just getting silly. No funding has been cut for environmental activities. The $1.75m budget cut was for 12 admin staff, after a review found their admin/non-admin staff ratio was 1:10 and in most agencies it was 1:20 to 1:40.

In Labourland, I guess there are hordes of foreign tourists thinking about coming to New Zealand because of its clean green reputation, and they decide not to come because 12 admin staff were got rid of in the Ministry for the Environment!  Really, what planet do they think people live on.

I guess it is easy to stick five nonsensical bullet points on a postcard with a lovely picture as a backdrop. Far harder to actually have a track record that comes anywhere close to matching your rhetoric. I’ll take substance over rhetoric any day.

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Jim Anderton on Q+A

June 24th, 2012 at 5:30 pm by David Farrar

Some words of wisdom from of all people Jim Anderton on Q+A:

Well, there’s no question climate change is the number-one issue facing the future of the world.  I don’t have any doubt about that, but you’ve also got to have the ‘glass half empty, glass half full’ thing.  I mean, our major emitter, methane gas, for example, is our agricultural community.  50% of all our emissions come from there, and this is a very important exporting-food nation, so we live by exporting food, and yet we’ve got a big problem with the method of doing it.  So we’re putting a lot of research into that.  We’re encouraging farmers, and farmers have stepped up to the plate too.  I get— As a townie, but former Minister of Agriculture, I get a bit tetchy with the green kind of approach to this – that all farmers are dirty farmers and all the rest of it.  They are not.  There are thousands of young farming families in New Zealand that are putting their best endeavours into making their streams on their farms fenced off and planted and making sure that their farms are in better shape environmentally than anything they inherited from their parents and grandparents.  And sometimes we have to celebrate that instead of bashing into them.  And when we get into the clean-energy thing, well, try and dam a river these days.

This is the contradiction the environmental movement has. They want more renewable energy, but they oppose all and any law changes to make it easy to consent renewable energy projects such as dams.

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Excellent news

June 23rd, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A High Court bid by Greenpeace and a Maori tribe to quash a permit granted to Brazilian oil giant Petrobras for exploration off the East Coast has been thrown out.

The applicants claimed the Government failed to meet environmental and consultation obligations under the Crown Minerals Act, Treaty of Waitangi obligations and international law.

Justice Warwick Gendall said their claims for judicial review failed on all counts. Not only that, he said that if he had found an error of law in the process he would have taken the rare step of not granting relief.

In effect, he is saying he would not have overturned the permit because of the time delay in the applicants’ issuing proceedings.

The challenge was not made until 15 months after the permit had been granted, by which time Petrobras had spent at least $8 million, and the time between the notification of the relevant block on offer and the challenge was two years nine months.

It is good the court found there were no merits to the claims, but also noted the extreme bad faith in filing so late in the piece.

Some environmental groups was to ban anything that has any environmental risk. Mining, fracking, drilling – ban it all. That is a route to poverty. Have a look at Australia. GDP growth in Western Australia is something like a staggering 16%, while in some of the large states, they are actually in recession. You can’t criticise the Government for the growing gap with Australia, and oppose the industries which are generating the wealth in Australia.

Of course risk to the environment should be mitigated and minimised. But it can never be eliminated.

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Congrats Brittany Trilford

May 29th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Listener reports:

Wellington’s Brittany Trilford will speak at UN Earth Summit in Brazil after winning Date With History contest.

A Wellington teenager will travel to Rio next month to school the world’s leaders on the challenges of the future, after topping a global online search.

Seventeen-year-old Brittany Trilford will address the Earth Summit this June 20-22 in Brazil as winner of theDate with History contest. (See tcktcktck for more.)

Congratulations to Brittany for winning the global contest. It is a huge achievement to win any global competition, and will be an even bigger achievement to speak to a major international summit at the age of 17. From the video though, you can see why she won – a very clear and confident speaker.

Now I don’t agree 100% with Brittany’s outlook. The actual IPCC projections on sea level rises are not particularly extreme, for example. But this post is not designed to be a forum on whether or not people agree on the impact of climate change, and the need for more sustainability.

I have always been a huge fan of young people taking an interest in political issues. They are the ones that are most impacted by the decisions of today. It is somewhat depressing that so many under 30s do not vote. I suspect Brittany will never be a non-voter, and that her winning the contest to speak to world leaders in Rio may motivate others to take an interest in issues that affect them.

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The truth about drilling

May 9th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

A welcome reality check from the Petroleum Exploration and Production Association CEO at Stuff:

It seems as if opposition to the industry wants Kiwis to believe they can either have a country with a clean-green image or one that supports hydrocarbon exploration. But we don’t need to choose. We can have both.

We can have both, and in fact do have both.

To say oil and gas exploration is 100 per cent risk-free would be untrue. Like many other industries we cannot responsibly provide foolproof guarantees.

What we can do is work hard to ensure we have best-practice models, that we eliminate risks at every turn and implement the best technologies to ensure wells have little environmental impact and are as safe as possible from the risk of incident. We are more concerned about constructing a steel reinforced fence at the top of the cliff rather than providing an ambulance at the bottom.

New Zealanders travel on planes every day. The pilots and mechanics triple check the engines; ground staff prepare each plane for flight over and over again. But there are no 100 per cent guarantees the flight will proceed without incident. We see some horrific stories about plane crashes. But because the odds of a plane crash are so small, we continue to board planes every day to get from A to B.

When lobby groups and politicians call for something not to occur unless it is guaranteed to be absolutely safe, then they are really calling for it to be banned because they don’t like it. There is no industry or activity that can ever be totally safe.

For decades the industry in New Zealand has run largely unnoticed. There have been no major incidents and the last death was in 1996. Few industries can claim such a record. Block offers have passed us all by without a hikoi in sight, and hydraulic fracturing has been carried out for 20 years without a single incident.

20 years, yet some are calling for it to be banned.

The oil and gas industry is no Johnny-come-lately. It has been a part of the economy for more than 100 years, is the country’s fourth largest exporter and provides 7000 well-paid jobs nationwide.

I wonder how many people would be without a job in a New Zealand with no mining and no drilling? A lot.

In Taranaki we have become part of the community. And the benefits of successful finds can be seen throughout the region.

Don’t just take my word for it, go and visit Taranaki. Go down to the local pub or club, find some of the industry workers and chat to them about the oil and gas industry; about the jobs they and many of their family have; about the swimming pool sponsored by Todd Energy; or this year’s children’s book festival sponsored by Origin.

It is very easy for people in Auckland and Wellington to demand an end to certain industries, because they are not large employers in cities. But go out to Taranaki or the West Coast, and you’ll see how important they are to regional economies.

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Patrick Moore’s environmental beliefs

February 21st, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

I blogged yesterday on Patrick Moore’s views on what has happened to Greenpeace. From the same source, I want to today blog on his modern environmental beliefs, and encourage debate of which ones people agree with. They are:

• We should be growing more trees and using more wood, not cutting fewer trees and using less wood as Greenpeace and its allies contend. Wood is the most important renewable material and energy resource.

• Those countries that have reserves of potential hydroelectric energy should build the dams required to deliver that energy. There is nothing wrong with creating more lakes in this world.

• Nuclear energy is essential for our future energy supply, especially if we wish to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. It has proven to be clean safe, reliable, and cost-effective.

• Geothermal heat pumps, which too few people know about, are far more important and cost-effective than either solar panels or wind mills as a source of renewable energy. They should be required in all new buildings unless there is a good reason to use some other technology for heating, cooling, and making hot water.

• The most effective way to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels is to encourage the development of technologies that require less or no fossil fuels to operate. Electric cars, heat pumps, nuclear and hydroelectric energy, and biofuels are the answer, not cumbersome regulatory systems that stifle economic activity.

• Genetic science, including genetic engineering, will improve nutrition and end malnutrition, improve crop yields, reduce the environmental impact of farming, and make people and the environment healthier.

• Many activist campaigns designed to make us fear useful chemicals are based on misinformation and unwarranted fear.

• Aquaculture, including salmon and shrimp farming, will be one of our most important future sources of healthy food. It will also take pressure off depleted wild fish stocks and will employ millions of people productively.

• There is no cause for alarm about climate change. The climate is always changing. Some of the proposed “solutions” would be far worse than any imaginable consequence of global warming, which will likely be mostly positive. Cooling is what we should fear.

• Poverty is the worst environmental problem. Wealth and urbanization will stabilize the human population. Agriculture should be mechanized throughout the developing world. Disease and malnutrition can be largely eliminated by the application of modern technology. Health care, sanitation, literacy, and electrification should be provided to everyone.

• No whale or dolphin should be killed or captured anywhere, ever. This is one of my few religious beliefs. They are the only species on earth whose brains are larger than ours and it is impossible to kill or capture them humanely.

Some will claim Moore is no longer an environmentalist, but they will belong to one of the fundamentalist sects which are anti-development. But I’d like to hear reasons why the approach above is wrong, if they can be based on science, not fear.

Oh, and a topical cartoon below by Blunt:

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The Rena

October 12th, 2011 at 2:40 pm by David Farrar

I’ve heard from a source that sadly the Rena is breaking in half. Note this is not confirmed. If so, then it will become a mitigation operation.

Transporting goods by shipping is generally considered more environmentally friendly than roads, but alas in this case not so much.

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Earth Week

April 24th, 2011 at 9:15 am by David Farrar

Not PC has some predictions from the original Earth Day in 1970.

“Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”
      • George Wald, Harvard Biologist

“By…[1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.”
      • Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

“Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions….By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.”
      • Peter Gunter, professor, North Texas State University

“Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half….”
      •  ‘Life’ Magazine, January 1970

“At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, it’s only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable.”
      • Kenneth Watt, Ecologist.

“By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, `Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, `I am very sorry, there isn’t any.’
      • Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

Best of all, Not PC has the story of how one of the Earth Day founders and MC turned his girlfriend into compost!! A true story!

Incidentiaally I’m all for environmental responsibility. I’m just not into hysterical doomsday predictions.

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Editorials 22 March 2010

March 22nd, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald focuses on the environment in Auckland:

Stormwater pipes and sewers, many of them old and not sufficiently separated, overflowed 2500 times in 2008, fouling beaches and leaving them unsuitable for swimming. Aucklanders have been hearing about this disgrace for a lifetime, and paying for it to be fixed for almost as long. Yet progress seems not to be keeping pace with population growth.

For all that, this ARC report, the council’s third since 1999, suggests coastal water is cleaner than it used to be, beaches are usually safe for swimming and streams, though still polluted, are not as bad as before. While car use is rising, so is patronage of public transport. And though we have become fairly diligent at separating household rubbish for recycling, the amount sent to landfills is growing faster than the population.

The Dominion Post calls for more transparency in spending:

Today The Dominion Post reveals that funding for a $3 million taxpayer-funded project to turn domestic Maori businesses into export earners was abruptly suspended last November by Te Puni Kokiri because of concerns about the way public money was being spent.

Among the issues of specific concern to the Maori Development Ministry were: perceived conflicts of interest, value for money and contract compliance.

Documents obtained by the paper under the Official Information Act show the ministry was right to act as it did. But they do not explain why TPK signed off in the first place on a project that its chief executive Leith Comer now concedes was loose and wishy washy.

She is on the right track. Private organisations in receipt of public money have an obligation to account for the way it is spent. Government organisations dishing out public money have an obligation to put proper controls and benchmarks in place. Auditor-General Lyn Provost should be asked to conduct a thorough inquiry into both Tekau Plus’s use of the money and Te Puni Kokiri’s stewardship of it.

I like what some US states have done – every single payment is published on the Internet.

The Press looks at local transport:

The Christchurch City Council shows welcome determination in sticking to its plans to build the new bus exchange under ground.

Christchurch will benefit in the long and short term, even if the NZ Transport Agency regards the plan as not benefiting the nation.

The agency has to live within tight budgetary margins and contribute to projects throughout New Zealand, so it is bound to take a conservative view of the exchange. That is especially the case when the undergrounding is expensive, costing $212 million more than the above-ground option. Also, the Christchurch bus system could operate with the cheaper facility.

But the city council is right to take a longer-term view, and one that will give the city the safest and most efficient exchange with the maximum potential.

Undergrounding would do that. It would mean passengers would not have to negotiate entering and exiting vehicles and more buses could be accommodated. Also, the area above could be turned into a park – in the meantime.

Underground, overground, wombling free, the Wombles of Wimbledown Common are we.

Sorry that song just stuck in my head as I read the editorial on overground vs underground.

The ODT looks at water pollution:

Some assurance can be taken by the public from the latest survey of the efforts by dairy farmers to comply with both the law and the 2003 Dairying and Clean Streams Accord, but the results also show there is still a great deal to be done.

Indeed, the level of national non-compliance with effluent discharge consents is still a disgrace, although the situation has improved in Otago – and not before time. …

Public anger against dairy farmers who continue to flout the requirements – along with the damage being done to New Zealand’s carefully cultivated, if misleading, “clean, green” publicity – has grown to the stage where now politicians at cabinet level are taking an interest.

Claims by farmers’ organisations that “most [dairy] farmers” care about the impact their businesses have on the environment simply do not stand up to scrutiny if the survey statistics for the 2008-09 season are to be believed.

On a national scale, only 60% of dairy farms are complying with resource consents and regional plans in the discharge of their dairy effluent, although the figures for Otago and Southland farmers, at 75% and 69% respectively, are above average.

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NZ 15th of 163 for environmental protection

February 3rd, 2010 at 2:10 pm by David Farrar

Yale University has published its 2009 environmental protection index.

NZ is in 15th place, with a score of 73.4. Iceland is top at 93.5.

Sierra Leone is bottom at 163 with 32.1

The overall ranking is made up of 15 categories. NZ’s score per category is:

  1. Environmental Health 10th=
  2. Ecosystem Vitality 79th=
  3. Environmental Burden of Disease 21st=
  4. Air Pollution (effects on human) 3rd=
  5. Water (effects on human) 1st=
  6. Water (effects on ecosystem) 11th=
  7. Air Pollution (effects on ecosystems) 50th=
  8. Biodiversity and habitat 71st
  9. Forestry 1st=
  10. Fisheries 47th
  11. Agriculture 7th
  12. Climate Change 135th
  13. Environmental Burden of Disease 21st=
  14. Urban Particulates 1st=
  15. Indoor Air Pollution 1st=
  16. Access to Sanitation 1st=
  17. Access to Drinking Water 1st=
  18. Water Quality 2nd
  19. Water Scarcity 1st=
  20. Water Stress 54th
  21. Nitrous Oxide Emissions 123rd=
  22. Sulphur Dioxide Emissions 96th
  23. Non-Methane Volatile Organic Compound Emissions 106th=
  24. Ozone Exceedance 1st=
  25. Biome Protection 69th
  26. Critical Habitat Protection 14th
  27. Marine Protected Areas 69th
  28. Growing Stock Not Rated
  29. Forest Cover 1st=
  30. Marine Tropic Index 1st=
  31. Trawling Intensity 63rd
  32. Pesticide Regulation 1st=
  33. Agricultural Subsidies 109th=
  34. Agricultural Water Intensity 1st=
  35. Greenhouse Gas Emissions per capita 149th
  36. Industrial Carbon Intensity 66th
  37. Electricity Carbon Intensity 37th
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Mackenzie Basin Call In

January 28th, 2010 at 2:26 pm by David Farrar

Almost everyone seems to think Nick Smith’s call in of the Mackenzie Basin dairy consents was a good idea. Any doubts I had evaporated when I read this:

Environment Minister Nick Smith today called in three large dairy effluent discharge consents in the Mackenzie Basin and established a board of inquiry to decide on the applications.

“I have called in these discharge consents as they are nationally significant due to their scale, the fragile and iconic nature of the Mackenzie Basin environment, the importance of freshwater quality to the Government and the high level of public interest,” Dr Smith said.

“The effluent from these intensive farms is equivalent to a city of 250,000 people and raises quite legitimate questions over the long-term impacts on the water quality in the Mackenzie Basin.

That is (literally) a shit load of effluent!

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Why RMA reform is not anti-environment

November 23rd, 2008 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Nick Smith makes a very good case for RMA reform in the SST:

Smith replies that he doesn’t so much want to alter the environmental outcomes of disputes under the law, but the process. At present, decisions are made by dozens of local bodies, some of them tiny, and then routinely appealed to the Environment Court. The result is often expensive and unnecessary delay.

Yep, it is not about getting different decisions made, but the idiocy that it takes longer to get a resource consent for a road, than it does to build it.

He offers a couple of examples. “TrustPower has applied for a quite controversial power scheme on the Wairau River in Marlborough. The process has been awful. It went to a commissioners’ hearing and it dragged out for more than two years, but everybody knew from the word go that it would be appealed to the Environment Court. I have sympathy with the Marlborough District Council, which is the administering body for the law. They don’t have a high level of expertise with a very large hydro development. They’ve never had one before.

“And an organisation like Fish and Game has spent hundreds of thousands of their environmental money [fighting the proposal] knowing all the time that the thing was going to the Environment Court.

“Another example is a highly controversial Mokihinui hydro scheme on the West Coast proposed by Meridian. Now Buller District Council is one of our smallest councils in the country. For them to be dealing with a $200m proposal… You’ve got a council with a population of 3000 or 4000 processing a consent that’s got major implications way beyond the Buller District.” The officer concerned with processing resource consent applications, he says, was probably also the dog control officer.

If it involves national infrastructure, it inevitably is dealt with nationally. This doesn’t mean no local input, just that the actual Councils may not be best placed to deal with it.

Smith wants to set up a new body, the Environmental Protection Agency, with a trained and professional staff equipped to do the administrative work with these complex proposals, which would be considered either by the Environment Court or a board of inquiry. Time-wasting and expensive hearings by tiny local bodies would be omitted.

The EPA may actually result in a better level of environmental advocacy.

The RMA, he says, is an impediment to efficient investment in infrastructure “and that’s not helping the environment either”. Auckland has a worse air pollution problem than Los Angeles, he says, with cars stopping and starting in congested traffic. A better roading network would help the environment.

The Greens have an extreme anti-road views, but the reality is that NZ’s future includes both more roads and more public transport. Only extremists think it is a choice of one over another. And delaying much needed roads does have a toll – on the environment, on the road toll, and on the economy.

The RMA, despite some changes by the Labour-led government, presented huge difficulties for the development of environmentally friendly electricity projects such as wind and geothermal. Smith believes there is great potential for green power in New Zealand. The geothermal area of the central North Island had the advantage that it was close to the major growth areas of Auckland and the Waikato. There was some potential for hydro although “we’re certainly not going to be damming every last river”, he says. “And there is some longer-term opportunity around tidal and wave energy.”

A considerable number of renewable energy projects have been killed off due to the RMA process.

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Enviromental Forum in Wellington

September 17th, 2008 at 9:55 am by David Farrar

Forest & Bird asked me to promote this meeting tomorrow in Wellington.

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National’s Environment Policy

September 8th, 2008 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Such a good policy it was released twice – by Trevor Mallard and then John Key!

The major points are:

  1. Set 20 long-term environmental goals after stakeholder consultation.
  2. Transfer to the Independent Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment the responsibility for a five-yearly State of the Environment report.
  3. Change Ministry for the Environment into a small politically neutral policy ministry only.
  4. Expand the Environmental Risk Management Authority into a full blown Environmental Protection Agency.
  5. Confirm a target of 50% reduction (from 1990) of carbon emissions by 2050 through an Emissions Trading Scheme.
  6. Dump the Biofuels bill but provide a tax incentive for sustainable biofuels.
  7. $1,000 grants for households to install solar water systems.
  8. Exempt electric cars from road user charges.
  9. Establish a new national park in Northland’s Waipoua and surrounding Kauri forests.
  10. Initiate a formal investigation under the National Parks Act of a new national park on the public lands of the Waitakere Ranges.

There’s also additional details around air and noise standards etc.

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Upton on Mapua

August 13th, 2008 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

I have not followed the Mapua fiasco as closely as I should, but Simon Upton does the job in the Dom Post yesterday:

I’ve just read the report of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s investigation into the Mapua contaminated site clean-up. It is a short report – just 49 pages of widely spaced text. But it is a bombshell. It would be hard to imagine a more comprehensive indictment of a central government agency.

Hmmn, I must find this report. A quick Google and here it is.

The ministry appears to have had no understanding of appropriate roles and responsibilities and no technical competence to perform the role it took upon itself.

Maybe the Environment Ministry was too busy purging its ranks of anyone who had a boyfriend who works for John Key?

The problem was not confined to environmental management. The commissioner, Jan Wright, has felt compelled to write to her colleague the auditor- general inviting him to investigate some of the contractual failings she uncovered. The list of shortcomings is breathtaking.

So is anyone being held responsible for these?

As a result, the plant almost certainly pumped toxins into the environment but because of flaws in the way monitoring of the project was set up, we will never know what or how much harm was caused, though the community was almost certainly exposed to dioxins.

Meanwhile, groundwater contamination exceeded thresholds for more than three years. According to the commissioner, the ministry took no effective action to address the discharges despite requests from all those charged with monitoring the process.

And this is not the nasty private sector, but the Government’s own Environment Ministry!

The ministry helped design a sophisticated set of accountabilities and monitoring processes which it promptly flouted, having turned itself into the principal operator. Not surprisingly, the local council had difficulties treating the ministry – which was funding the project and at the top of the statutory hierarchy – like any other resource applicant.

Indeed. One reason why policy and operations are often best in seperate agencies.

Ministers have every reason to be very angry with the way in which the project was handled. How can any of us have any confidence in the ministry’s ability to protect the environment when its own performance has been so woeful? The ministry’s new chief executive, Paul Reynolds – who is in no way responsible for this toxic legacy – should waste no time in completely reviewing the roles and accountabilities of those around him and see to it that he gets some technically literate people on board fast.

I thought the Ministry’s main job was to produce propoganda for the PM’s Office on how NZ is going to be the first carbon neutral nation on Earth. This is far more important than actually protecting the environment!

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