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New era ahead in environmental management

New era ahead in environmental management says Ministry CEO

A “new role” for the Ministry for the Environment emphasising partnerships with local government, industry and other groups, and more seamlessness in government policies and positions was spelt out by the Ministry’s Chief Executive Barry Carbon at Lincoln University last night. (31 July).

Presenting the University’s 5th annual State of the Nation’s Environment address, Mr Carbon said that management of the environment had passed through several eras since the catastrophic environmental disasters of the 1960s ’70s and ’80s such as exploding factories in Seveso, Italy, and burning rivers due to severe pollution in Guatemala and Cleveland.

From “command and control” to the protectiveness of “drawing lines” around natural areas to be preserved untouched, it was now time for change again, he said.

“We are coming to the end of the era of myriad small ‘how to’ decisions.

“It’s time to move on because everyone is now deciding to do the right thing.”

The future lay with taking a new look at a number of areas including leadership, he said, and partnerships had an important role to play.

“New Zealand’s expertise at the local government level is better than any I know, so if you’re going to do something about the environment you’ve got to do it with local government.”

He also pointed out the value of partnerships with industry.

The Ministry was now putting a huge effort into going to people and saying “We’re here to help”.

“We’re looking at how we can reward good behaviour because helping is better than regulation.”

The Resource Management Act was another area targeted for attention.

Problems such as the decision-making delays it led to would be “fixed”.

“The Act is now 10 years old and if you look around the Western World you don’t get more than 10 years out of an environment planning act. Things change.”

A package of environmental standards was about to “hit the airwaves”, said Mr Carbon. These would cover areas such as air quality - including emission standards for woodburners.

“We’re looking at banning fires in landfills - a source of dioxins - and the uncontrolled burning of tyres, waste oil and tar.

“We’re looking also at the application of biosolids to land and problems there.”

Freshwater was a “biggie” too, he said, describing water as part of the psyche of all New Zealanders. Matters of quality and allocation would be included in the “one big package” of standards which was to come.

Mr Carbon’s address was chaired by Mr Peter Townsend, Chief Executive of the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce, who described progress towards the goal of environmental sustainability as a “very, very important journey”.

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