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Hon Phillida Bunkle - Green Ribbon Awards Speech

GREEN RIBBON AWARDS 2000

Address by Hon Phillida Bunkle
Associate Minister for the Environment
14 June 2000

I firstly want to congratulate all of today's award winners. Let me also congratulate all the nominees, as it is clear that you are forging a path for all New Zealanders to take, in protecting our environment. I look forward to the day when your efforts and visions for the environment are norm for everyone rather than just the aspirations of a few.

This coalition government is striving to establish a platform that puts protection of our environment at the top of the policy development agenda. The reality of this will be seen in tomorrow's budget.

Sustainability is a word that is only now becoming part of the language of those people shaping our economic development policies. It has migrated from use in the Resource Management Act and will soon populate economic development legislation establishing Industry NZ.

The challenge for this government is to institutionalise sustainability as an immutable given in all our decision making.

Sustainable development is about meeting the needs of this generation without compromising future generations. I note that the rural award winners Di and Graham McBride have a more expansive philosophy - they want to leave their land in a better state than when they found it.

Sadly far too much of the New Zealand environment has suffered depletion to an extent that the McBrides' approach is an essential rather than a desirable goal.

Sustainability is the stated cornerstone of the government's approach to economic development. This government seeks to invest in projects that sustain communities and the environment while creating jobs in the long term.

This approach is intended to lead, encourage and provide the financial support for people with good ideas towards sustainable economic growth. We are serious in our support for enterprise that is balanced with the environment and gives more people the chance to maintain themselves in their own communities.

More than $100 million annually will be made available directly to individuals, businesses, and new enterprises that make development choices compatible with these sustainable goals.

I encourage all who have participated in the Green Ribbon Awards to consider taking up this opportunity. You clearly already have what it takes to meet this challenge - your country needs you!

The award made to the Pukekohe Vegetable Growers Association for pursuing sustainable farming practices is particularly relevant to me at the present time. I understand it was a close run thing for this award with other nominees involved in organic food production.

Organic food production is underpinned by a philosophy of sustainability. That is, achieving equilibrium in producing food, and, at the same time, preserving or increasing soil fertility and fighting pest and disease problems naturally without the use of synthetic chemicals. Most importantly there is clearly an opportunity to achieve this in a way that is economically viable to producers and to the community.

These were key elements in the success of The Pukekohe Vegetable Growers Association in winning an award in the business and industry category.

The focus of New Zealand’s food production sector is currently on the use of technology to leverage greater production, efficiency and innovation out of current farming practices.

Our publicly funded primary production research institutions are feverishly working at the latest biotechnology to meet the demands of the sector. However, most of that energy and investment builds on existing methods of production that may not be sustainable.

Much of the genetic engineering debate has been around genetic modifications that allow greater synthetic chemicals on plants such as ‘Round-Up Ready’ crops. Animal gene modifications include those that enhance conversion of pastures into meat and milk but with significant environmental consequences.

One of the big questions we face as a nation is: Should New Zealand take a more balanced approach to public investment in research, and in developing our knowledge of techniques for sustainable food production?

Ideally, I would like to see a broadening perspective of decision making on public spending in areas that have critical outcomes for the environment. Shifting the balance towards sustainable research and sustainable economic and social development approaches.

We can all learn a great deal from the vision of those people who have participated in these Green Ribbon Awards on this World Environment Day. Yours is a vision for the future more New Zealanders need to share.

ENDS

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