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Mallard: Protecting our ocean resources

Hon Trevor Mallard
Minister for the Environment

27 June 2008 Speech Notes

Embargoed until:10.30am

Protecting our ocean resources

Speech by Environment Minister Trevor Mallard to Sustainable New Zealand: Rhetoric or Reality conference of ECO (Environment and Conservation Organisations of Aotearoa), St Johns in the City Church, Wellington

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today about how the government is working to achieve environmental sustainability – an issue that has grown in importance here and internationally as the need to address climate change and other environmental pressures increases.

Environmental indicators are very important in this respect and a valuable tool as we put in place work programmes across the country and across the economy as part of our work towards carbon neutrality and a sustainable New Zealand. They enable us to track progress, to set benchmarks and to pinpoint areas where more focussed and targeted action is needed

The OECD 10 year review and report on New Zealand’s environment was released last April. This is a very thorough and valuable report and complements our own State of the Environment Report – Environment 07 - that was released in February.

Environment 07 takes the pulse of the physical well-being of New Zealand’s land, water, air, plants and animals. It measures the impact of transport, energy, waste, and our consumption on the environment. It also identifies trends in selected pressures on our natural resources.

As such this report is a hugely important resource that is New Zealand-specific and meets international best practice for national state of the environment reporting. It will be produced five yearly from now on.

Managing and reducing the waste New Zealand produces is a hot topic and we have quite a bit of work underway to address this issue.

New Zealand research which we released in February and which was based on a survey of 1000 people, found that the most popular sustainable actions New Zealanders are taking included steps to reduce waste such as recycling (92 per cent) and composting (54 per cent). The least popular actions were in the areas of transport and water use.

The government is advancing new proposals to improve waste management, including:
 the creation of a waste levy to fund projects to encourage recycling and resource recovery
 regulation to allow for mandatory product stewardship, including recognition of existing industry sponsored schemes
 Funding a network of public recycling stations under the brand name "Love New Zealand".

The primary vehicle for achieving the first two initiatives is the Waste Minimisation Bill. The Waste Minimisation (Solids) Bill is a Member’s Bill, currently being considered by parliament.

The provisions for product stewardship in the bill aim to get businesses to create their own solutions to protect the environment. The revenue from the proposed levy will be used to help communities and businesses address waste issues.

The public sector Govt3 sustainability programme is aimed at government agencies sharing their knowledge and experience of how to reduce waste, travel in an environmentally sustainable way, buy and lease buildings that reduce their ecological footprint, and use sustainable office supplies and equipment.

I've heard of some good role models emerging so far in this programme - Antarctica New Zealand reported a 24 per cent reduction in water consumption per FTE per day at Scott Base and Inland Revenue reported savings of $100,000 per annum through their energy monitoring programme. The Ministry of research, Science and Technology reported a 79 per cent reduction in their waste sent to landfill from 58.19 kg per FTE in 2006 to 11.97 kg per FTE in 2007.

It's good to see the public sector leading by example and making an effort to continually improve its performance.

The Carbon Neutral Public Service programme also complements this work – and again is designed to be useful for the private and non government sectors seeking to reduce their carbon footprints.

In April all 34 core government agencies in the programme made public their emissions inventories and plans to reduce their emissions. It was a huge achievement to have calculated the carbon footprint of the core public service, equivalent to 159,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2006/07.

This inventory provides an excellent baseline from which to track and manage emissions and secure changes in behaviour as the government builds a pathway to long-term sustainability. Six agencies have a target of carbon neutrality by 2012 and are doing well so far, with the other 28 agencies aiming to follow.
The government is also in the final stages of developing an online database to provide guidance on the eco-labels and eco-standards that are in use in New Zealand.
This will help businesses that want to trade on sustainability to know what to look for before they commit to any commercially available eco-label or sustainability programme, and it will help consumers to understand the claims behind the various eco-labels in the marketplace.

As you all know, an important part of our work programme for sustainability includes a strong focus on managing our water resource.

The Sustainable Water Programme of Action underway identifies three national outcomes for freshwater:
 Improving the quality and efficient use of freshwater
 Improving the management of the undesirable effects of land-use on water quality
 Providing for increasing demands on water resources and encourage efficient water management by all players involved.

National environmental standards for various aspects of water management have been progressively rolling out this year.

We have also put significant funding towards restoring and preserving the water quality of lakes such as Lake Taupo and the Rotorua lakes.

Progress is being made. The proportion of the population receiving drinking water that fully complies with drinking water guidelines has increased significantly, and pollution of surface waters from point source discharges has decreased due to improved management through the resource consent process.

The focus is now on managing diffuse pollution.

The National Environmental Standard for Sources of Human Drinking Water has just come into force, with a six month phase-in. This will contribute to a multi-barrier approach to keeping pollution out of our water supplies, rather than just relying on treatment at a later stage.

A National Environmental Standard for Measurement of Water Takes is currently being put into regulation, and I recently released a discussion document proposing a National Environmental Standard on Ecological Flows and Water Levels.

A cost benefit analysis on this estimates the overall benefit of this standard at between $14 and 36 million over the ten years following implementation due to reduced resource consents and regional plan processes.

You can comment on this proposal until 31 July this year.

In addition, a National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management is in development and I hope to announce a board of inquiry to manage the consultation process on the proposed statement soon.

At this point, I would like to congratulate the regional councils around the country which are beefing up their surveillance on waterways and discharges. There has been quite a few media reports of prosecutions around the country, and this is heartening to see. I hope local authorities keep it up and continue to use the regulatory tools they have been given under the Resource Management Act.

Finally, I want to talk about an area that I know is of special interest to you.

I am very pleased to announce to your conference Cabinet's decisions on safeguarding the integrity of New Zealand’s ocean ecosystems in the Exclusive Economic Zone, the EEZ.

This new regime will provide greater certainty for industries that operate in the EEZ and will help encourage investment in sustainable offshore activities. The oceans around New Zealand are a hugely important resource, and we need to prepare for new activities in the EEZ (such as marine farming, energy generation, carbon capture and storage), and fill the gaps in controls around environmental effects of activities already operating there (such as disturbance of the seafloor through mining and petroleum activities).

Where the environmental effects of activities are already regulated, they will not be covered by the new EEZ legislation.

The legislation will set out a new rules and consents regime for the EEZ.

An ‘EEZ Commissioner’ will head a new unit, housed within the Ministry for the Environment, which will process applications for consents, and manage monitoring and enforcement of the proposed new regime.

The legislation will also contain provisions that enable stakeholders to have input into decisions about activities in the EEZ, including specific processes for Maori engagement.

I would like to thank the many people involved in shaping the proposals to this stage. The proposals significantly reflect input feedback from a range of stakeholders and iwi groups – the Cabinet paper and other information can all be found at

The Exclusive Economic Zone Environmental Effects Bill is expected to be introduced by late August. Its introductory sections will link strongly to the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea and I would expect that independent expert advice would be commissioned for the creation of regulations and considering EEZ consents.

Thank you for your time. I wish you all the best for the conference and am sure it will generate great discussion and lead to more successful environmental outcomes.


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