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Launch of Rio+10 - Hobbs Speech

Hon Marion Hobbs Speech Notes

Launch of Rio+10 community programme, Rushes Bistro, Pauatahanui, 9.45am Thurs May 3

Two things are really important to me as Minister for the Environment – getting some practical action to improve our environment, and involving a wide range of people in the community in decision making about our environment.

I hope that the Rio+10 community programme which we are launching here today will help advance both these aims.

New Zealand has an important international reporting requirement in 2002. Next year marks 10 years since the Earth Summit was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. A World Summit of international leaders will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, to review progress and consider today’s sustainable development challenges.

In preparation for that world summit, we are expected to look at – and report on – what we have achieved towards sustainable development over the past 10 years and where we want to go from here. Now there are two ways we could do that.

We could send a group of officials away to check the facts, gather the information and pull together a report. And to some extent we will have to do that, because the relevant government departments have access to a wide range of information.

But we can also say to people around New Zealand – “This is your community and your environment. What do you think about how we are doing? Are we as “clean and green as we’d like to be? What do you want to see happen in the future? ”

We can give our report a perspective that says “people in New Zealand see our progress and our priorities this way”. That’s what we have chosen to do in preparing the environmental chapters of New Zealand’s report, and the Rio+10 programme is the primary means to achieve that.

It is my hope that, at the same time, we can focus people’s attention on the sort of environment they want for themselves and their children and how we should get there. I hope, too, that people will be thinking and talking about the part they need to play in decision making about our environment.

Later this year we will vote in the local government elections. Local government councillors play the most important role in setting standards for our environment. They develop regional and district plans. They give resource consents for a variety of activities in their areas. They raise rates money which is used to care for water, soil and air and which can be used to monitor the resource consents they agree to.

With a heightened awareness of the manner in which we protect our environment I hope there will be more candidates and a higher voter turnout in those elections.

I know that, right now, there is a large gap between what people say they value and what people are prepared to do about it. One example – recent research carried out by the Department of Marketing at Massey University shows that nearly all New Zealanders – around 90% according to this survey – highly value clean clear air, clean water in lakes and rivers, and unpolluted water in beaches and harbours. Most of us also highly value healthy soil that is not polluted with chemicals, our unique plant and animal life, and our national parks.

But when it comes down to what we are prepared to do ourselves, the numbers who are prepared to do the right thing for the environment, even when it costs money or takes more time, are much lower – and falling. So there’s an element of “somebody should...” in our attitudes to the environment, and a gap between our concerns and our own behaviour.

I also know that one of the most powerful forces for change in society is public attitude. If most of us regard polluting our air or water as unacceptable behaviour, few will try to get away with it. If most of us want strong environmental laws and good environmental management – and make that known – that is what our political leaders in central and local government will deliver. If most of us want products made in environmentally friendly ways, that is what business will give us.

I know – and I am sure that many of you do too – that there is only so much governments can do through laws, regulations and policies. They tend to make for compliance, but not for enthusiasm about practical action.

One of the reasons we asked the Guardians of Pauatahanui Inlet and the local branch of the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society to share in this launch of the Rio+10 programme is that they are a living example of what local people can do about the health of their local environment. I applaud all of the volunteers from these groups here today, for both their practical action and their engagement with local government in planning for the future of the inlet.

Next month, on World Environment Day, I will be presenting my Green Ribbon Awards for outstanding environmental achievement. I know that the Guardians of Pauatahanui Inlet are a previous winner of this award. This year we have two new awards, for reporting on the state of our environment and for young people. The awards are an annual reminder of what can be achieved by people who care about the environment and are prepared to put in the effort to achieve results. I am pleased to say that we have around 100 nominations for this year’s awards, the highest number of nominations we have ever had.

Finally, let me encourage you to participate in the Rio+10 programme. There is a debate coming up in Wellington on Tuesday 8th May as one in a series around the country that will help encourage interest in the Rio+10 programme. With a topic like “Our environment – trash can or treasure” and a group of local defenders being challenged by a “national” team, I am expecting a vigorous battle of wits.

I am sure that most of you are members of community groups, recreational clubs, or service organisations. You can help us by promoting discussion about the environment and encouraging their participation in the Rio+10 programme. I know that staff of the Ministry for the Environment are open to invitations to meet with groups who want to talk about what’s happening in our environment. We are happy to work in with local government activities, as we will be with the Environment Southland environmental awards later this month.

Most of all, I encourage you to take away a “starter pack” from this launch today and make others in your organisation aware of the Rio+10 programme.


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