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Marion Hobbs Speaks At Environment Awards

13 December 2000 Hon Marion Hobbs Speech Notes

Environment Awards, Tasman District Council, Wednesday Dec 13, 3pm


Thank you for the invitation to speak at your awards presentation this afternoon. One of the greatest scientists of the twentieth century, Ernest Rutherford, was born and raised not far from here, a few kilometers up the road, at Brightwater. We all know that he was the first person to split the atom. What you possibly don’t know, however, is that he was one of our earliest environmentalists.
On his last visit to New Zealand, in 1925, he came home to see family and give lectures. He was rightly hailed as a national hero and packed the lecture halls. In his lectures he lamented the loss of New Zealand’s natural heritage and called on the Government to protect it. Not only that, but he called for the establishment of a scientific research institute. The DSIR was formed in 1926 as a direct result.
Ernest Rutherford hit two nails on the head. Isn’t it interesting that 75 years later his messages are just as relevant. We are still looking at how to protect our natural heritage, and there is still a need for applied research.
As a prolific inventor and experimenter Ernest Rutherford, apparently, attributed his willingness to find unorthodox solutions to his practical rural upbringing. He said, “We don’t have the money, so we have to think”.
Looking through the applications, it is clear to see that the factors to which Ernest Rutherford attributed his success are still alive and well in the Tasman District.
You people are obviously thinking about doing things better and looking at innovative solutions to environmental problems. Furniture made from recycled bike parts is certainly innovative. I hope the furniture is more comfortable than the original product!
I commend the Council for its initiative in running these awards. I strongly support the Council’s aims in recognising people who are demonstrating good environmental practices. The Council seems to be putting its money where its mouth is. It is providing support and advice to people who seek to improve their practices.
I think it is great that there were so many entries for the awards – 32 applicants I believe. I am not surprised though that there are so many good ideas. I have always known that New Zealanders care passionately about their natural environment.
What does concern me is that environmental issues are sometimes not given the recognition they deserve by elected representatives. We politicians need to be given a wake up call.
I have been Minister for the Environment for a year now. If there has been one thing that has really struck me over the last year, it has been the need to increase New Zealanders understanding of environmental issues. There are some big issues looming on the horizon and we are soon going to need make important decisions on issues like biodiversity, climate change and waste management. We need a well-informed community to make those decisions.
On our journey to a sustainable future, and it is a journey not a destination, we need to help people to understand the environmental challenges we face and how the things that people do or don’t do have an impact.
Sustainable development is a key element for achieving a high quality environment. It starts with a well-informed community. Environment awards are one way to inform the community about environmental issues.
We have not heard the term sustainable development too much in the last few years. Sustainable development fits well with the government’s commitment to the ‘triple bottom line’ approach. Triple bottom line refers to the three goals of social cohesion, sustainable economic development and a healthy green environment. The reality is, that if we don’t get it right for the environment, then we are not going to get it right for our quality of life and for our economic and social development.
Environmental decision-making should become second nature. I like the emphasis that the Resource Management Act places on local decision-making. We are not yet very good at collective decision-making and I know this issue causes a lot of angst in communities throughout the country.
Next year is local authority election year. I have a vision that environmental decision making will be at the forefront of election campaigns. I am keen to see communities challenging their elected representatives about the impacts of council decision-making on the local environment.
In 2002, the government has an obligation to report on the progress we have made, as a nation, in implementing Agenda 21. The ‘Earth Summit’, as it was known, in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 reached a consensus agreement among the 180 countries represented there to adopt the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and Agenda 21.
Following Rio, the government concluded that New Zealand’s domestic policies and practices were consistent with Agenda 21 in most areas. However, areas were identified where further action was desirable. The list included environmental information, economics and the environment, energy, climate change, hazardous substances, education and training, science and research.
I think it is time that we had a good look at what we have achieved in the last ten years, and where we are heading with our environmental policy.
We have to report ten years on from Rio. I see Rio +10 (as it is referred to) as an opportunity to stimulate community discussion on New Zealand’s environmental issues and priorities. We will be able to use the feedback from these discussions to provide part of the input into the environmental section of the Rio +10 report. I intend for this community consultation round to occur from about April to June next year. It is going to be a challenging timetable and exercise. The Ministry for the Environment is currently developing the programme and will shortly be discussing the initial ideas with local government.
Ernest Rutherford managed to get some action 75 years ago. I see in you and in others right around the country, the potential to really make a difference. Your creative ideas are improving the environment in the Tasman District. Now let’s see some better decision making at all levels.


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