NZ Needs An Environmental Protection Agency
Macraes Mine: New Zealand Needs An Environmental Protection Agency
Forest and Bird says that the GRD Macraes controversy shows that New Zealand needs an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect New Zealand’s clean, green image and make it a reality. A report recently released by the Ministry for the Environment indicates that the “clean and green” image is worth hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars to the New Zealand economy.
“No single agency is currently charged with protecting New Zealand’s “clean green” environment,” said Eric Pyle, Forest and Bird’s Conservation Manager. “With the clean green image rapidly becoming critically important to New Zealand’s economic prosperity, it is important an agency has responsibility for maintaining it as a reality.”
“The Department of Conservation does not have responsibility for maintaining this image. Regional councils are responsible to local communities, not the national good – you could have a situation where a development is beneficial to a region but is detrimental to the country as a whole,” said Mr Pyle. “Also, regional councils may not have the capacity to deal with complex risk, like risk from dam failure and impacts of toxic leachate.”
The Macraes case highlights issues of national good versus local short-term gain, the capacity of regional councils and the lack of an agency that takes a national view. “The West Coast regional council did grant resource consents to the Macraes mine, but this mine may not be in the national interest, because it could damage New Zealand’s clean green image,” said Mr Pyle. “We also question the capacity of the local regional council to deal with a problem that may only become apparent in decades to come, possibly well beyond the 35 year term of a resource consent.”
“This Macraes decision should have originally been made in a national context rather than a regional one,” said Mr Pyle. “At present no agency is taking this national view. An EPA would be better placed to make judgements about these kinds of proposals than regional councils and the Department of Conservation,” said Mr Pyle.
“The Government should investigate establishing an EPA. This Macraes issue highlights the need for an EPA,” said Mr Pyle.