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Environment Southland – Environmental Awards


My vision for environmental management in New Zealand

The motivational speaker Zig Ziglar says that “to get through the hardest journey, we need take only one step at a time – but we must keep on stepping!”
Well, we are all on a journey.
Some of us know what we’re heading for.
Some of us even have a goal in mind.
What’s more, some of us have clever little diaries and spreadsheets to remind us to keep checking our progress towards that goal – and we have medium- and short-term goals to help us along the way.
I believe that all of us here tonight are on the same journey. We’re heading down the same road, though we aren’t always helping each other along.
That journey is towards a sustainable future. A future in which we have a quality of life that is good for our environment as well as for all of us.
Among other things, it’s a future where what we take from the environment – and what we dump into it – is in balance with the capacity of the environment to adjust. Which is vitally important, because the natural environment supports all the economic and social gains this country makes. It’s our greatest strategic asset.

If New Zealand’s economic and social development doesn’t take account of our impact on the environment, then we risk damaging New Zealand’s most vital asset – the natural world of soil, water, air and ecosystems.
Some of us here tonight are a bit further along on this journey towards a sustainable future than others. The reason we are here today is to recognise the efforts of those who understand the need for a quality environment that will protect the health of people and ecosystems.
I know that Environment Southland recognises the need to walk with others along the road to sustainability. Their work in environmental education has been an inspiration to many. They were among the first councils in the country to have an environmental education strategy. They really show what can be done with lots of enthusiasm and bright ideas.
I’ve heard that Environment Southland’s approach includes both working with the teachers and taking business people out into the environment to “get their hands dirty.”
And if you haven’t seen Bruce C Gull’s website, well, I’d be surprised if your kids haven’t. That’s if you have kids, of course!
I was asked to talk today about my vision for environmental management. Sustainable development is a key element in that vision. So is working alongside people and organisations in the community.
This Government is placing a high priority on environmental issues as well as on economic and social development.
We know that on our journey to a sustainable future we will need to help people understand the environmental challenges we face and how the things they do – or don’t do – have an impact. Initiatives such as Southland’s environmental education programme are very important in this.
So my vision for environmental management starts with a well-informed community and the strong partnerships for sustainability that we can build. These will include central and local government, iwi, business, environmental organisations and many, many caring individuals.
My vision also includes action to protect and restore New Zealand’s threatened biodiversity – to turn the tide of loss. In the Budget we put aside $187 million over the next five years to address problems such as pest and weed control; to develop a comprehensive biosecurity strategy; and to help boost the protection of biodiversity on private land. This will build on existing successful partnerships between the Crown and local bodies, farmers, tangata whenua and other land users.
We recognise the importance of traditional Maori knowledge about nature – Matauranga Maori – and are providing funding to help preserve this knowledge. We are putting additional funding into the kiwi recovery programme, and into researching and managing marine biodiversity and marine biosecurity.
We are committed to rebuilding New Zealand’s reputation as a world leader in environmental issues.
A key element in this is meeting our commitments in that major international risk management exercise dealing with climate change. We intend to ratify the Kyoto Protocol by the time of the Rio Plus Ten Conference in mid 2002.
That means we must stabilise our greenhouse gas emissions at 1990 levels, on average, in the years between 2008 and 2012.
Easier said than done, unfortunately.
The latest greenhouse gas inventory shows that our total emissions in 1999 were well above those 1990 levels. Carbon dioxide emissions, in particular, were in 1999 about 19 percent higher than 1990 levels, with the transport sector continuing to show rapid growth.
We need to turn this around if we are to have a credible voice at international meetings.
Improving energy efficiency must be one of the first steps in slowing the growth of greenhouse gas emissions. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority – EECA – is now a stand-alone Crown entity with an enduring role to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy across all sectors of the economy.
One key task will be to develop, through consultation, a national energy efficiency and conservation strategy.
I am also determined to make a difference to waste management.
Not just managing waste either, but cutting the amount of waste ending up in landfills and improving the state of our landfills so that they are not a risk to our environment. We are aiming to have all waste management working on a full cost recovery basis and all landfills meeting high standards by 2010.
The Ministry for the Environment is working with Local Government New Zealand to develop a joint work programme on waste minimisation and management. The aim is a partnership to achieve a reduction in the solid waste stream.
The Ministry will also be looking into what other waste management issues can be advanced through similar partnerships – for example, with community groups, and industry.
And we know that we must take better care of our water. Some water-short regions are already under pressure to identify and allocate water resources – a problem which could be accentuated in the future by climate change.
The Ministry for the Environment is working to help local councils deal effectively with water issues in their plans, and to develop a draft framework for water allocation.
Other initiatives to improve water quality may follow. By the end of this year the Ministry, along with the Ministries of Health and Agriculture, expects to complete a research programme into the levels of disease-causing organisms in our waterways. Understanding the extent of contamination in our water will help in developing health and environmental guidelines for water.
Improving water quality will again call for effective partnerships, particularly involving central and local government and the agricultural, horticultural and forestry land users.
So what is my vision for environmental management in New Zealand?
You could say it’s about partnerships working for a sustainable future.
About environmental leadership – in New Zealand and internationally.
Above all, it’s about a journey rather than a destination.
A journey that requires us to keep on taking one step after another.
What we must do is help each other on this journey.
We have to support those who are out there blazing the trail.
We have to help and revive those we find lagging behind or just losing their energy.
We have to refocus those who are veering off course.
And we have to make sure that everyone has a map and a compass so that our steps are taking us in the right direction.
Getting people alongside us on the journey is a major challenge. As a nation, New Zealanders are concerned about the environment. But too often we want “someone else” – the Government, the council, business – to fix it.
We need to educate all of us about the environmental challenges New Zealand faces and how each of us can be part of the solution – or part of the problem.
What will help us all will be getting real information on the state of our environment and then making people aware of it.
The Ministry for the Environment is well down the track in working with local government and other agencies to develop a national system of environmental reporting for New Zealand.
The information gathered through this system will increasingly remind us of how well we are looking after our environment. It will focus us on some of those medium and short-term goals along the way.
Many of us assume that our water is safe to swim in. The sad truth is that often it might not be. Too many of assume that we have bottomless pits for our refuse to disappear into. But landfills can create their own environmental problems, as well as community problems – because nobody wants a landfill in their backyard.
Too many assume that our contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is too small to worry about. But New Zealand and many of our Pacific neighbours could be seriously affected by climate change – and who will listen to our calls for action if we can’t show that we are making an effort.
We all have a role to play on our journey towards a sustainable future. Business. Industry. Iwi. Local government. Central government. Community groups. You.
Until we all accept responsibility for our actions and for the impacts they have on our environment, we are going to struggle to make any real progress towards sustainability.
Sounds like a lot of hard work, doesn’t it? Sounds like a never-ending journey… Well, there’s a Taoist saying, “The journey is the reward.” Isn’t that especially true of the

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