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Environment reporting must be independent from Ministers

20 February 2014

Ministers need to be hands off for environment reporting to be independent

National has broken its 2011 election promise to have fully independent state of the environment reporting, the Green Party said today.

"In 2011 the National Government promised to have the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) independently report on the environment every five years. Now the PCE will only have rights to comment on the data that others have collected,” said Green Party environment spokesperson Eugenie Sage.

“New Zealand’s independent environmental watchdog, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, should be in charge of our environmental reporting, not Ministers.”

Ms Sage was responding to the Environmental Reporting Bill which was introduced to Parliament today. The Bill makes environmental reporting the responsibility of the Ministry for the Environment with the Government Statistician collecting the data and the Parliamentary Commissioner having a commenting role on the report.

“The Government has retained the power to determine what environmental data is collected and thus can deliberately not collect data which it knows will paint a poor picture of our environment,” said Ms Sage.

“If the reporting is to have any integrity, Ministers need to be hands off in terms of what indicators are used and what is monitored.

“The Green Party will be seeking changes to the Bill to provide more transparency and independence in decisions about what indicators are monitored.

"You don't get to mark your own test in school, and the Government shouldn't be allowed mark its own report on the environment.

“We have a history in New Zealand of governments seemingly manipulating environmental reporting for political means.”

Ms Sage explained that the Ministry for the Environment suppressed the thirteenth and final chapter in the 2007 State of the Environment report because it made the politically unpalatable assertion that pastoral land-use intensification was 'arguably the largest pressure today on New Zealand's land, freshwaters, coastal oceans and atmosphere'. The thirteenth chapter only saw the light of day when the Green Party released it, Ms Sage said.

“The National Government is breaking their promise to have fully independent environmental reporting because the Government is keen to cover up the environmental degradation that it has overseen,” said Ms Sage.

"The public deserve to be told the truth about the state of our environment, even if it is politically inconvenient for the government of the day.”

Reference:
2011 National Party policy on state of the environment reporting

ENDS

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