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Te Ururoa Flavell: Waste Minimisation Bill

Waste Minimisation (Solids) Bill;

18 June 2008; 8.50pm

Te Ururoa Flavell, Member of Parliament for Waiariki

Tena koutou katoa i tenei po.

Madam Speaker, last night my colleague, Dr Pita Sharples, shared with the House his knowledge about the essential importance of whakapapa to tangata whenua.

In my case, Ngati Rangiwewehi, that whakapapa includes our taniwha, Pekehaua, as central in our understandings about who we are and where we come from.

Ko Pekehaua te taniwha, ko Ngati Rangiwewehi te iwi.

The Taniwha Springs or Awahou River are a significant part of our history; we regard these springs as our taonga over which we exercise rangatiratanga, ownership and control.

As Ngahihi Bidois told the Waitangi Tribunal, they are “entwined in our hearts and minds and culture as inseparable taonga of Ngati Rangiwewehi”.

Madam Speaker, reference to pepeha, to traditional sayings, are signals which if you like are all about respect for the people, for the resource and for the environment.

Ngati Rangiwewehi take our role as tangata whenua and kai-tiaki seriously, as indeed, do all of the whanau, hapu and iwi across Aotearoa.

Tangata whenua believe that we have a vital role as kaitiaki, as guardians over Papatuanuku, the earth.

Across the generations, we have been linked as indigenous peoples of the land. Our oral traditions, our pakiwaitara, our patere, our ngeri connect us to land, water and air; our environments are integrated.

Because of our customary guardianship of our environmental and cultural heritage, we feel very strongly, the responsibility to ensure that traditional ecological values are upheld.

We are always mindful that although legislative actions have impacted negatively upon the legal ownership of our traditional lands, we continue to maintain mana whenua over them including all resources as guaranteed by te Tiriti o Waitangi.

But the good news is that the protection, management and development of natural and physical resources is not an exclusive responsibility.

In the spirit of meaningful partnership articulated in Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Maori Party welcome the advances made by our brother here, Nandor, in bringing this Waste Minimisation (Solids) Bill to the House.

You see, the bottom line for us all, is that we know that if waste disposal reduces or destroys the life supporting capacity of soils, it damages the mauri, the life essence, of the whenua.

The disposal of solid waste must be done in such a way as to keep the waste; and leachate from waste, out of water, whether it be surface, ground or coastal.

Can I say too, also Madam Speaker, that refuse disposal facilities must not be sited on areas of cultural or historical value, such as waahi tapu. That’s a no, no, but discussions with tangata whenua are a yes, yes.

The Maori Party was very happy to support the first reading of the Bill. We saw the intention of the Bill as being about protecting the environment and that the principle of reduction of waste at source was a benchmark position that could influence households, businesses and public organisations.

With the increasing strain across our environments, it is imperative

that sound waste management strategies are adopted across all levels.

Madam Speaker, the Maori Party believes in the value of principles such as whakaiti ake; whakamahi ano; whakahou; and äraitanga - reduce, reuse, recycle and prevention.

These are objectives that we can all live by.

And unlike the Emissions Trading Scheme, the original framework for this Bill, fairly and squarely, encouraged producer responsibility for waste minimisation.

It urged that organisations adopt waste minimisation plans over the next ten years, and that a central agency, theWaste Minimisation Authority, would facilitate the move to a minimal waste society.

The roles of local and regional authorities regarding waste minimisation and management would be clearly specified, and enforced through law-making and licensing provisions.

All organisations – including Ngati Rangiwewehi – would be challenged to establish objectives that are measurable and achievable; and to accord priority to purchasing decisions which decrease waste or enable recycling.

Madam Speaker, just to get some idea about the scale of what we are talking about, I thought the submission from Racheal Goddard, Environmental Manager and Environmental Lecturer, put it all in perspective. She said that:

• New Zealand is one of highest rubbish producers in the world next to the USA.

• 189,000 tonnes of plastic is dumped in land-fills each year.

• We discard 22 million plastic bags each week – that’s roughly every child, man and woman in Aotearoa chucks away five plastic bags a week, every week.

Put simply, our waste problem is huge, and growing.

We need to set manageable targets for waste minimisation, hazardous wastes and waste disposal, including paying particular attention to contaminated sides, construction and demolition wastes, and trade wastes.

Madam Speaker, although recycling is good, it requires significant energy to maintain.

A stronger proposition is to design better products for minimal waste.

By that we mean products which last, products with minimal packaging; and learning how to use resources more efficiently — to produce more, with less.

Madam Speaker, it could be as simple as doing what they do in Ireland, I understand, and Bangladesh, and South Africa – banning plastic bags.

Or it could be more of the need to educate people to purchase better and consume less.

Madam Speaker, the key to change is in understanding how we got to the point that we have, in silently melding into practices which damage Papatuanuku and the mauri or life force around us.

Environmental degradation is born from a lack of understanding and so the solutions lie in an education campaign alongside targets and measures to encourage waste minimisation and reduce waste disposal.

A critical component of such a campaign might be the active engagement with tangata whenua, iwi and hapu, or marae ohu groups. Iwi must be consulted and their views taken into account before setting targets and guidelines.

Tangata whenua could be invited to form monitoring groups.

Tangata whenua could nominate cultural advisors to assist local government in scheme formulation and resource consent projects.

The thing is, if we really do care about our environment, then we must demonstrate the care, and the respect it requires.

Ki te pai te manaaki, ka manaakitia.

But here’s the interesting thing, Madam Speaker.

While whanau, hapu and iwi are ourselves looking at natural treatment systems, at investigating future technologies, at waste reduction at source, at ‘Papatuanuku passages’ – that is using stones and rock channels and beds as a mediating force – the changes that ended up changing the Select Committee Report have reduced the ownership and the accountability of the problem.

In fact, just like the Emissions Trading Scheme – the parts that sought to incentivise behavioural change have been removed from the Bill.

SOP 150 has changed the Bill substantially – removing the waste minimisation plans of organisations, abolishing the Waste Minimisation Authority before it even got going, deleting the target dates for waste reduction goals.

Madam Speaker, despite significant support for the Bill from the bulk of the 316 submissions, the proposed legislation is now diluted and simplified to such an extent that there is little to object to, but equally little in it to make much of a difference.

The sad thing is that there is actually a lot of public support for this Bill which was not noted by the select committee. Government has listened to cost concerns of councils, and gone with a watered down approach which will reduce the costs and the compliance. This government is being consistent in that they will water down any legislation which takes seriously the protection of the environment.

The waste disposal levy is reduced from $25 per tonne to ten dollars. Targets and dates are taken out. Implementation and monitoring of plans is removed. Producer responsibility has now been weakened to include a measure of voluntary participation.

Mr Speaker, we believe that Maori traditions such as kaitiakitanga have much to offer in relation to waste minimisation and care for the environment.

Tangata whenua live by a relationship with the relationship which is a symbiotic one – a relationship of mutual benefit. Pou whenua, the prestige of land, depends on human activity and the environment for sustenance.

We all have a duty to protect the mauri, to treasure land, water, air, flora and fauna as nga taonga i tuku iho, treasures handed down.

Madam Speaker, the Maori Party will support this Bill at its second reading, in essence, because it’s better than doing nothing.

But we are greatly disappointed that the goal envisaged by Nandor Tanczos of a Waste Free Aotearoa by 2020 will not be greatly advanced by this Bill at this point in time.


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