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Anderton addresses Forest & Bird key concerns

10th November 2006

Minster of all the primary industries, Jim Anderton addressed the Forest & Bird conference tonight and said that he had good news about progress on the issues their members were passionate about. He said that issues of sustainability and the environment were becoming core business everywhere.

"For many years environmentalists have been challenging industry about the sustainability of our way of life and protection of our natural environment.
Our primary industries are also facing challenges from other directions. We need them to keep growing if we are going to enjoy a rising standard of living and even maintain the standards of education and healthcare our communities expect," Jim Anderton said.

"Consumers globally are demanding higher standards of environmental and social responsibility, and our producers are beginning to respond to this. The Labour-Progressive Government's vision is for New Zealand to become to world's leading sustainable food producer.

"We're seeing initiatives like the Dairying and Clean Streams Accord and more recently the Dairy and Environment Strategy. Meat and Wool New Zealand are also developing an environmental strategy.

"Earlier this year I had the pleasure of launching the FertMark Code of Practice for Fertiliser Use, and I note the firm Summitt Quinnphos are forecasting a thirty to forty percent reduction in fertiliser use from the adoption of nutrient budgeting. Within the horticulture sector, there are programmes for Sustainable Winegrowing in New Zealand and Integrated Pest Management in fruit production.

"Forestry is putting effort into independent certification for sustainable forestry practices. Half of our plantation forests and a third of the annual harvest are already third-party certified.

"These examples matter because agriculture and forestry use fifty-two percent of our land area and more than three quarters of our fresh water. Every-day decisions made by farmers, horticulturalists and foresters have a real effect on our environment.

"In recognising where we are going, I want to also pay tribute to the partnership approach making the new direction possible. Farmers are working with environment groups. Fishing companies are working with communities and with Forest and Bird. Foresters are working with local government and each other. I want to praise Forest & Bird's constructive role in the partnership as well, and encourage more of it.

"I encourage you to take a moment to reflect what an achievement it is for environmentalists who belong to Forest & Bird how far we have come. I've been round social activist groups most of my life and I know there is always a temptation to demand more and better. But it's also worth pausing to reflect to celebrate our achievements. And the direction of all New Zealand's primary industry should make you feel very confident about our future," Jim Anderton said.

Complete speech attached. Key environmental and marine themes included.

--

Hon Jim Anderton

Minister of Agriculture, Minister for Biosecurity, Minister of Fisheries, Minister of Forestry
Associate Minister of Health,
Associate Minister for Tertiary Education,
Minister Responsible for Public Trust

Progressive Leader

10th November 2006 Press release

Anderton addresses Forest & Bird key concerns

Ever since I was first joined in parliament by your former board member, Sandra Lee, I've known how passionately Forest & Bird advocates for its principles. So I have some good news to report tonight about progress on issues Forest & Bird members are passionate about.

For many years environmentalists have been challenging industry about the sustainability of our way of life, and protection of our natural environment.
Our primary industries have been one focus: Partly because they are such a significant part of our economy. But also because they are intimately linked to the well-being of our air, soil and water.

Our primary industries are also facing challenges from other directions:
We need them to keep growing if we are going to enjoy a rising standard of living, and even maintain the standards of education and healthcare our communities expect. (Agriculture, horticulture and forestry alone contribute about twenty percent of our economic output and along with fishing account for sixty five percent of everything we earn from overseas.)

But our primary industries are increasingly facing competition from low-cost producers, and we face trade barriers - most recently, we ran into arguments for 'food miles'. We can meet the challenges our primary industries face. ...And world-class environmental performance will be part of the answer.

I have talked to every one of our primary sectors: from foresters, to farmers, to fishers, to freight forwarders who handle our exports and imports. In every sector our strategy has to be to compete by finding high-value niches where we meet consumer demand.

Consumers globally are demanding higher standards of environmental and social responsibility, and our producers are beginning to respond to this. We can be the source of the highest standards in the world. The Government’s vision is for New Zealand to become to world’s leading sustainable food producer.

When foreign lawmakers ask us about carbon emissions from shipping our products to market, we need to be able to tell a story as good as anyone's about the quality of our environmental care. Sustainability and the environment are becoming core business everywhere.

We're seeing initiatives like the Dairying and Clean Streams Accord and more recently the Dairy and Environment Strategy. Meat and Wool New Zealand are also developing an environmental strategy.

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of launching the FertMark Code of Practice for Fertiliser Use, and I note the firm Summitt Quinnphos are forecasting a thirty to forty percent reduction in fertiliser use from the adoption of nutrient budgeting.

Within the horticulture sector, there are programmes for Sustainable Winegrowing in New Zealand and Integrated Pest Management in fruit production.

Forestry is putting effort into independent certification for sustainable forestry practices. Half of our plantation forests and a third of the annual harvest are already third-party certified. These are just some of the many, many examples I see everyday.

They matter because agriculture and forestry use fifty-two percent of our land area and more than three quarters of our fresh water. Every-day decisions made by farmers, horticulturalists and foresters have a real effect on our environment.

In recognising where we are going, I want to also pay tribute to the partnership approach making the new direction possible. Farmers are working with environment groups. Fishing companies are working with communities and with Forest and Bird. Foresters are working with local government and each other...

Partnerships are built on an understanding that our shared interests are a solid rock, from which we can build. Partnerships make possible the progress I've talked about. So I want to praise Forest & Bird's constructive role in the partnership as well, and encourage more of it.

The over-arching environmental issue is climate change. And no issue is more requiring of a partnership approach. Internationally, partnership between nations is essential. But we also need to act locally. We have to act because our climate is going to change. Greenhouse gases have already been released that will cause temperatures to rise in the short term no matter what we do.

New Zealand produces only 0.2 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases, but we will face a hundred percent of the effects of climate change. Temperatures are likely to increase in the North Island. Rainfall will increase in the west and decrease in many eastern regions. We should expect more extreme weather events. Our land-based primary industries will be deeply affected. The conservation estate and our natural environment will be affected. We have to act. We have to adapt. We have to do what we can to protect against making things worse.

Fonterra regularly surveys dairy farmers and asks them about their top priorities. It gave them a list of thirteen priorities to look at. For a long time the environment always came in the bottom three of the list. But recent surveys have shown a change. It now ranks as one of the top three. Climate change is one reason. Water is another. Land use is a third.

There is a lot going on. For example, the Permanent Forest Sink Initiative will be an opportunity for landowners to establish permanent forest sinks and earn carbon credits. The Government is currently working on a Sustainable Land Management strategy aimed at, in particular, hill country erosion. It will increase the resilience of our land based industries and of our rural communities.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is currently developing a discussion document. "Land Management and Climate Change" will give us a framework for the government and the land-based sectors to work in partnership with each other to manage the effects of climate change in coming years. The document will put forward a range of options for one of the strongest plans of action for addressing climate change and land use seen anywhere in the world.

The Government is committed to significantly increasing afforestation on farmland, particularly where there are co benefits for water quality and erosion control. I know tree planting is a particular passion for Forest and Bird so you will know how important these initiatives will be.

The consultation document should be released next month - and there will be a time for everyone to have their input before mid March next year. Final policy is expected to be made in May. I expect Forest and Bird to contribute to it.

There are other pressing environmental issues we need to address. The way we manage fresh water needs to be improved. There are both quantity and quality problems... We don't have enough fresh water in some places. Quality is variable and not always up to scratch. Demand is growing, putting more pressure on.

I am leading the Government’s Water Programme of Action, together with Environment Minister David Benson-Pope. We have an excellent Ministerial Advisory Group, on which Forest and Bird is represented by Mike Britton. This group is playing a valuable role and I am grateful for Mike’s input.

We are developing National Policy Statements and National Environmental Standards, as well as assisting local government in increasing their capacity to manage freshwater demands. The Government’s policy process is now moving at full speed and we plan to have regulatory instruments in place next year.

But as we move forward on the Programme of Action I urge you to be patient. Our water problems have been created over decades and solving them will be an intergenerational question. Our land-users will require encouragement and assistance, not insults and attacks.

The call by the Federated Farmers to reduce nitrogen runoff by ten percent over ten years is, of course, only a start and one that can be easily achieved. But the poor performers in the sector will be able to gain confidence and be shown just what can be done.

Setting goals too high will surely only alienate and intimidate the very people we will rely upon to look after our water resources. So we need to walk forward together.

I also want to say to you that I believe water storage schemes and well-designed irrigation will be a necessary part of managing our water demands and adapting to climate change. Similarly with hydro-electric power we need to be pragmatic about meeting our energy needs in a carbon-constrained future.

The position taken by Forest and Bird on hydro schemes has sometimes, in my view, been too pure. I am even aware of your opposition to some wind farm proposals. I am a big fan of wind power but it does not provide base-load generation for cold, still winter days. I would choose hydropower over coal or gas generation every time because it is climate friendly and renewable.

With climate change eclipsing all other environmental issues I think we all need to be pragmatic about water and its relationship to energy and food production. We may well look back on campaigns to save small blocks of forest or the occasional threatened specie as a quaint luxury of a bygone era.

Our water is also under threat from biosecurity threats, like didymo. The Government has invested over $13 million since 2004 to counter didymo and we are the world leaders in didymo research. But I have to be blunt with you – no one anywhere has figured out how to control didymo and it can be spread in microscopic quantities, possibly even by birds and certainly by one drop of water. So we have to be realistic about what can be done to combat it.

We will have to change the way freshwater users behave and I am pleased that we appear to be having some success already. We need to slow its spread and keep it out of the North Island for as long as possible; and
We need to keep doing research to identify what more we can do. I won't be supporting calls to nuke the rivers to get rid of the disease, along with every other living organism.

I noted Forest and Bird came in for criticism this week for maligning high country farmers in your campaign around tenure review on high country leases. On this score can I remind you that when you enjoy the high country parks dressed in your Icebreaker clothing, it comes from Merino grown in the high country. High country farming is an important part of the rural economy and we need to find a way that provides conservation protection, while still making it economic to farm.

This week’s commentary is an important reminder of how we have to work together with communities, not battle them. The Government is taking a balanced approach to this issue and is creating many new high country reserves while seeking to ensure farming can continue where appropriate.
So I'm pleased with the progress we are making across a wide range of policy areas.

One further area I know that is of interest to you is our marine environment.
I have to do two things under the Fisheries Act: I have to make sure the fisheries are managed in a sustainable way, and also ensure the resource can be used where possible. The law doesn't provide for zero by-catch or zero effect. But it does give me some discretion to ensure our fisheries are managed in a way that provides for our needs today and maintains the fishery for the future.

My approach is to look closely at the facts - the science and research that is available. The Fisheries Act intends that I can step in and take steps when there are threats to the sustainability of fish stocks. For example, recent stock assessment results for the orange roughy fishery on the Chatham Rise indicated that stocks in some areas were below government targets. They showed stocks were subject to decline and over-fishing, so I cut the total allowable catch.

Similarly a poor stock assessment for rig off the West Coast of the South Island gave me no choice but to cut the total allowable catch. Around the top of the North Island orange roughy fishing was not sustainable, so I significantly cut the total allowable catch. However, as some of you will know this is being challenged in the courts and the judge has not allowed me to enforce the lower catch for this season.

I am concerned about the court’s rulings on the discretion of the Minister of Fisheries to manage our fisheries sustainably so I am looking carefully at whether I have sufficient tools available to me.

This week Australia listed orange roughy as a threatened specie. I am concerned about the challenge of managing such a long-lived, slow growing fish that we do not know enough about. Where the facts show we need to act, I will act. Where we don’t have sufficient information we must be cautious.

I know many of you have been concerned about sea lions. I do not want to see sea lions killed by the fishing industry. But under the Fisheries Act I have an obligation to provide for utilisation and to ensure sustainability. The courts have already upheld the right of the industry to fish for squid in this area. I want you to know I apply very conservative management objectives.

For example, scientific data suggested that a maximum mortality limit of 555 sea lions would theoretically still be sustainable. But the information was not certain. And if we are wrong, the risks are too high. So I took a more conservative view and decided a limit of 150 would be more appropriate.
I am managing towards a very conservative objective.
The mortality limits ensure that the sea lion population will be ninety percent of the level that it would be in the absence of fishing ninety percent of the time...or at 90% of carrying capacity.

These objectives have been endorsed by a joint government, industry, NGO working group. They are consistent with global best practice. I realise that you do not accept that the scientific advice, on which I must base my decision, is robust. However I am legally only able to rely on the best available information before me and exercise reasonable caution.

Over the next week or so I will be setting the sealion mortality limit for the coming season and will be weighing all the factors carefully, including the latest falls in pup counts.

I am also committed to ensuring that the fishing industry reduces its bycatch of albatrosses and petrels. There has been a lot of progress. Trawl vessels now have to use seabird scaring mitigation measures, and these are being refined to be the most effective available.

The industry is doing much better over discharge of offal into the water by only doing this at night. In the past offal discharges resulted in a feeding frenzy and it's the single most important factor determining seabird by-catch on trawlers.
I am keeping a close eye on progress in this area.

I will take further regulatory action if the current approach is not enough.
I'll also be looking closely over the next twelve months at inshore long line fisheries, where voluntary measures have been disappointing.

I know bottom trawling is a big issue for you also, as it is for the Government.
In Hobart today, at the meeting of the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation, New Zealand is working with like-minded countries to adopt strong measures to prevent adverse impacts on sensitive habitats.

There are a number of countries in Hobart that are arguing against any restraint on bottom trawling in the South Pacific, and because RFMOs operate by consensus we have to be realistic about what can be achieved.
It might make us feel good to prevent New Zealand flagged vessels from bottom trawling on the high seas but if they simply reflag it will be a hollow gesture.

Instead we are focusing on a robust set of science-based proposals that will be enforceable and have a prospect of obtaining agreement. If these are accepted we will be able to be confident on the protection of vulnerable habitats. But the latest news from Hobart is not encouraging as some countries are blocking consensus.

The industry’s proposal to close a third of our Exclusive Economic Zone to bottom trawling is still being considered and the Government still has an open mind as to whether we will proceed. I hope to be able to announce our decision on this before Christmas. One way or another we will be taking action to protect benthic biodiversity within our EEZ.

Marine Reserves are a priority for Forest and Bird and the Government. This year, along with my Conservation and Transport colleagues, I have approved several marine reserves - Parininihi (north Taranaki), Volkner Rocks (off the coast of Whakatane) and Whangarei Harbour.

This week I have received final advice on the Wellington South Coast Marine Reserve application which was proposed by the Wellington branch of Forest and Bird and the Wellington South Coast Marine Reserve Coalition and I expect to make my concurrence decision in the near future.

We are moving towards a better framework overall for looking at sustainability and utilisation. The Ministry of Fisheries is working on transparent and consistent standards, some drafts of which were released today. These standards will define the point where the impact of fishing moves from acceptable to unacceptable.

They'll also allow for more certainty and consistency in the ministry's advice.
And standards will give groups such as Forest & Bird a chance to have an input into a policy framework at a national level.

I've met with the fishing industry and told them publicly I am excited about the future of their industry to add value and grow aquaculture. But I have also stressed that its growth cannot come from simply increasing the take. It needs to come from increasing the value we extract from the resource. More processing on shore, more productivity and so on. Initiatives like eco-labelling offer an opportunity to achieve both environmental and economic benefits.

I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on what an achievement it is for environmentalists who belong to Forest & Bird in how far we have come. Putting high environmental standards at the centre of our competitive strategy is now conventional wisdom.

I've been round social activist groups most of my life and I know there is always a temptation to demand more and better. It is sometimes worth pausing to reflect and celebrate our achievements. And the direction of all New Zealand's primary industry should make you feel very confident about our future.

ENDS

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