Submission: Annie Westbury
I am Annie Westbury and am studying at the University of Otago. I’m in a Political Environmental paper and have been asked my opinion on the Environmental Bill issue. The Environmental Reporting Bill came about for the sole purpose of introducing a regime, which requires mandatory environmental reporting that would be run and legislated by the government. This entailed that there would be six monthly reports and three-yearly substantive reports that would describe the state of the environment. The Green Party policy was in favour of the bill when first read, but issues arose when discovering what the context of the bill was. In addition it appears fairly unhelpful and is poorly written. The faulty bill only allowed the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment to report on data others have collected which in turn gave the majority of power to ministers and politicized the environmental reporting.
I support the intent of the Environmental Reporting Bill to require regularly scheduled environmental reporting independent of the government. However, there are enough flaws in the bill as written that make it close to impossible for New Zealand to make any advances in maintaining a cleaner, greener environment. It makes sense for a country like New Zealand to prioritize environmental issues and require accurate reporting in order to impact the following: ecosystem integrity: public health: economic benefits derived from utilising natural resources: culture and recreation.
(Environmental Reporting Bill, 189)
It will raise awareness on how New Zealand may want to change the way the country as a whole looks at and treats the environment. It helped recognize that the laissez-faire approach we take towards nature must cease and we must recognize nature and its changing systems. It seems to be a step forward towards an independent, and regular, reporting system on the state of the environment. Many would support the purpose of the bill in the context that it would create a “national-level environmental reporting system to ensure reporting on our environment occurs on a regular basis and be trusted by the public as independent, fair, and accurate.” (Mackey, Moana). There isn’t much history of environmental reporting in New Zealand and the two national State of the Environment reports were a decade apart, the first in 1997 and second in 2007. . The bill’s reporting system will not achieve what many thought it should, especially considering the aforementioned environmental issues, as well as the fact that most would agree that the required oversight is far from independent of the government. In this submission I will go into depth on how the clauses 13, 17, and 3 could be enhanced and changed to make a clearer understanding of what the bill should be doing.
This clause is intent on improving the criteria for selecting indicators that will be reported. The report gives this duty to the Government Statistician after consulting the Secretary of the Environment. The criteria to be used are almost laughable and definitely embarrassing as they ‘follow what he or she believes to be best practice principles and protocols.’ Rather than use such a subjective measure perhaps more objective criteria be used. In 2009 Statistics NZ issued their 2009 Framework for Measuring Sustainable Development and looked at sustainable development as a starting point for selecting indicators that would be able to measure progress in this area. The major focus was environmental responsibility, economic efficiency and social cohesion. There were 12 criteria for selecting their indicators and it appears that at least three of them would make sense for environmental reporting, all of which are objective and lead to a diagnosis of environmental health.