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Environmental Imperatives Still To Be Taken

Environmental Imperatives Still To Be Taken To Heart Says Parliamentary Commissioner

ENVIRONMENTAL sustainability exists more in the minds of New Zealanders than in their actions, says Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Morgan Williams.

Presenting the inaugural Lincoln University State of the Nation's Environment address last night (Wed.21.7.99), Dr Williams said there was a "disjunction" between environmental desires and behaviours.

"Improving the ecological sustainability of our society ultimately requires major changes in hearts, minds and behaviours, but the paradigm shift has not yet happened.

"While New Zealand is very effective on the international stage and on the whole we're seen as being a good global citizen, are we taking environmental sustainability to heart at home," he asked.

Presenting figures from a Waikato survey showing that 89 percent of New Zealanders thought that the balance of nature was delicate, Dr Williams said that obviously there was a "fair bit of consciousness out there" about the environment. Unfortunately the same survey revealed that only 18 percent aspired to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.

"At one level the shift that needs to take place is a personal one, while at another level it's collective," he said.

"As individuals many of us are very supportive of `walking more lightly on the planet' but when we act together we are extraordinary consumers and waste creators."

Dr Williams felt New Zealanders paid insufficient attention to the country's environmental advantages and the way they could be strategically built on for social and economic advantage.

His own list of recommended changes and actions needed for getting New Zealanders to take environmental sustainability to heart included education; the development of some high profile measures ("and not just in the biological area"); new partnerships ("we're not going to get there by individual action alone"); working with tangata whenua more effectively; and targeting the many regulatory, institutional and mindset barriers hindering change and new ways of doing things.

Dr Williams said that pivotal to all this was "where business goes" and he pointed out that 75 percent of the capitalisation of New Zealand's stockmarket was owned by citizens in other parts of the world.

"I'm not being judgemental about that, but we certainly have to factor it in when we're considering our future. We are inextricably part of the global economy."

END....

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