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Marion Hobbs Speaks To Arboriculture Assoc

Hon Marion Hobbs Speech Notes

New Zealand Arboriculture Assoc Annual Conference, 26 October 2000 9.00am, Sharella Motor Inn, Tinakori Rd.

Thank you the opportunity to open your conference. I am glad to be here and appreciate the warm introduction.

May I also take this opportunity to welcome those of you who are visitors to Wellington. This is a fine place to hold a conference and I hope you get to see and experience the reasons why many people are so proud to live in this great city.

This is my home (in bush above this motel in fact) – it is a beautiful urban environment – a harbour ringed by trees – which move in the zephyr-like winds. Across the road, the magnificent Botanic Gardens where you're holding the National Tree Climbing Championships. I'm not in the competition.

This morning I would like you to think of cities that you are fond of and then ask yourself, why is this so? What makes one more or less liveable than another?

I would like to discuss the liveability of New Zealand cities before opening your conference. After providing a brief context to this subject I would like to address the following:
 Why are people so passionate about particular cities?
 What are the qualities that make a city liveable? – trees/favourite species, gardens
 What keeps us there? -- ease of living in the community.
 What are the elements of a city we might like to change?—waterfront/traffic
 What must stay the same? (Rugby aside of course); and – green belt.
 What examples of good city life do we look for and how can these be developed? Trees/shade/space/views

Can I begin by saying that I love the title of your conference – ‘Arboriculture in the new millennium- A Practical Approach.’ The more I think about improving environmental management in New Zealand, the more I realise that making cities better places for living not only relies on effective frameworks and processes – but it depends on people mucking in, making it happen on the ground, keeping things practical and testing new approaches.

With this in mind, I propose to cover three main points with you:

 Firstly, Sustainable Development – Agenda 21 and the big picture context,
 Secondly, City environments and improving liveability; and
 Keeping it real by looking at local examples, including the role of the arboriculturist.

Point 1
To begin with the big picture, it is important for me to refer to sustainable development, a term that we have not heard often in recent years. It is however, a phrase that you will hear a lot more of in the future from this country’s leaders. What does it mean? In simple terms this is all about pushing for what is good for the environment, promoting an understanding of environmental issues and coming up with solutions that are practical and targeted while at the same time balancing economic and social priorities. Imagine sustainable development as a three-legged stool. A stool on which the environment, economic and social legs have to be strong before they will support the seat.

This Government regards sustainable development as a touchstone for the sorts of policies and actions that New Zealand needs in the 21st century. If we don’t get it right for the environment, we will not get it right with respect to other attributes of quality living. One cannot be sustained for the long term without the others and solutions must be achieved across government and across community.

Therefore, it is time we took a hard look at what we have achieved over the past 10 years and where we, as a country, are heading in environmental policy. The liveability of cities will be included in such a review. It is time that we engaged with the community in looking at the environmental outcomes we want and the priorities for action. While I still have to work through the details on this matter with my colleagues, I want to tell you now that I am planning a community programme early next year to do exactly this. It will provide a key element of New Zealand’s report to Rio + 10, especially on the way forward. Rio + 10 is a large gathering of nations in 2002 that will follow up on the work that has been achieved since the Rio Earth summit in 1992.
Each country has to submit a report and while many countries will have their officials write their reports, I want all New Zealanders to be involved in assessing how well we have responded to the goals of Agenda 21.

Point 2
Putting the big picture to one side I want to discuss in more depth city environments and their development as liveable places. The liveability of any city and the quality of life that a person or group experiences within that city is much more than just a concept. This term has real meaning to people and city managers in New Zealand. The differences in opinion creep in when we begin to describe what we mean.

In some New Zealand cities the standard of living is improving, however the liveability of these places (pleasantness, attractiveness…call it what you may) has not seen the same improvements. Money is being spent, plans are being written, resource consents granted and declined, landscape designs implemented and standards enforced, but (and it is a big but) are these actually improving the state of affairs in our cities?

Are people happier, more fulfilled, more creative, feeling safer? Do they find the environment in their city liveable or is it just a place where they have to be for the mean time? Is the city some place people seek to escape? Are there green spaces, a variety of tree types and shrubs, birds and animals, clean lakes and streams? Can community facilities be accessed by the variety of ethnic groups and differing age groups of people who live there?

Maybe I have asked more questions than provided answers? But that is okay, because after I leave you, I will have hopefully stirred something. Something that will make you ask those questions again. These are the issues I am faced with most days. So over the next few days I challenge you to think more broadly, beyond the usual work that you are involved in as arboriculturists. Do talk about the contribution you make as an association at the city scale. Find out how are you making a difference with respect to the liveability of Palmerston North, for example or Hamilton or Auckland or where ever? Do discuss the achievements and recognise the success stories, as they are sometimes forgotten. Make the necessary adjustments to your work and hook into the city vision of the particular place where you choose to live and work.

To better understand progress towards creating more liveable cities, the Ministry for the Environment is working on a programme to gather the views of the wider community on the progress we have made in finding solutions to our environmental problems and issues. I want to know in more detail where people see the priorities for future action. At the same time, I want to improve people’s understanding of the environmental problems New Zealand must tackle and their role in helping to solve them. The old adage ’...you don’t know, what you don’t know…’ applies to managing the quality of New Zealand’s environment. If people are apathetic, cannot comprehend in real terms or have no way of knowing that something is not right, then they will not be motivated in anyway to change their attitudes and behaviours.

In addition, the development of national Environmental Performance Indicators will assist to measure and draw the national picture on how healthy the state of this country is – or is not, as the case may be. These indicators (or signposts for sustainability) quantify many of the aspects of the environments that contribute to make cities more liveable. Example indicators include, air and water quality, the range of biodiversity, levels of urban amenity, use of energy efficiency practices, the health of the marine environment, quality of transport and recognition of cultural values to name but a few. They will form a solid basis for state of the environment reporting and the subsequent review of policy.

I also have officials researching the city liveability programs that are widely publicised and used as marketing mechanisms right across the USA. Such programs have existed since the late 1970’s and they celebrate the enhancement and development of quality of life strategies in improving a city’s liveability – what a great idea and there is such an opportunity for similar work in New Zealand. Imagine the benefits that could be obtained by developing such programs here? This years winners included New Orleans, Louisiana and Gadsen Alabama – and yes quality and quantity of tree and shrub specimen were on the criteria.

Once again, can I re-emphasise the success of this work is dependent on the support of many others. I want every one of you over the next few days to go away and think how you and your association can play a part. You are all making a contribution to greenness of our cities. What improvements can be made and how can you link with others who have similar objectives? Urban management is very dependent on practical solutions and co-ordinated efforts. – Chch urban garden schemes.

Point 3
New Zealand is a very urbanised society even by comparable countries. The 1996 census revealed that 80% of NZ’s population lives in urban areas. As a percentage of urban to rural this puts us slightly behind Australia (85%) and ahead of the USA (76%). New Zealand’s urban population now exceeds 2.9 million.
When we consider these numbers it is obvious that there will be growth issues, impacts on biodiversity and the health of ecosystems and the like. The fine line between balancing resource use and development while ensuring environmental outcomes are achieved is pretty tricky I can assure you. This work is not complete by a long way. If you were to look for a good example of planning for urban growth Auckland is making progress. Regional Growth Forum Strategies are just beginning to be developed and implemented and they involve numerous stakeholders. I hope you are included in discussions and debates.

I enjoy talking about success stories and researching examples of good environmental practice. I would like to stay local for a moment and celebrate a few that spring to mind from around these parts. Arboriculture has played a major role in increasing the liveability of Wellington and I encourage you to track down the locals amongst yourselves to get more details. After all, if it’s worth doing, it is worth doing it right and there are many examples in this neck of the woods.

City life in general is pretty good. But city life in Wellington is really great. Wellington is a very attractive place: a beautiful harbour, open skies, civic spaces, public transport, cracker views, vibrant shopping areas, and plenty of world class parks, trees, gardens and reserves.

The city does however, have a landscape that has been substantially modified since early human occupation. Colonial in their appearance…you will find them (no further than across the road) The Botanical Gardens, and to contrast these (a bit further up the road) you will encounter a regenerating native inland island called…The Karori Wildlife Sanctuary – both deserving a special mention. I believe you are visiting these sites as part of this conference. Can I mention, that in my role as an MP for this area and as a citizen, I consider them to be like shining diamonds in a royal tiara that represents my constituency – you’re in for a real treat.
Concrete jungles, endless rows of shopping malls, traffic jams, silted waterways, limited wildlife and lethargic plant life…who needs that, let alone wants it? Vision and combined effort will make the difference - your work included, which directly improves the way a place, looks, feels and breathes. This conference will fulfil an important role in extending knowledge and experience within amongst in New Zealand and I fully support that effort. I encourage your full participation over the next three days and have pleasure in declaring the proceedings open.

Enjoy your time in the capital and keep up the good work.

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