Environment

Report: RMA dysfunctional. Thanks to Peter Dunne, it will remain so

The Resource Management Act, a law I consider to have been political sabotage by Simon Upton before he minced off to warmer climes, isn’t fit for purpose. When there are show trials against those who held up progress in New Zealand then it will be Simon Upton found guilty of holding up progress the worst.

The Resource Management Act isn’t effectively protecting the environment and pressures will increase as the population grows, a new research report says.

The research, the first of its kind, was commissioned by the Employers and Manufacturers Association, the Property Council and the Council for Infrastructure Development.

It was conducted by the Environmental Defence Society.

The just-released report says the RMA has jurisdiction over many of the impacts of human activities on New Zealand’s fragile ecosystems, exceptional landscapes and unique wildlife.

“It has largely failed to achieve the goal of sustainable management,” it says.

“A lack of national direction has limited the potential of the resource management system to effectively and efficiently achieve its environmental goals.”

The report says the challenges are far from dissipating.

Read more »

Research confirms Rena disaster was mostly harmless

Research into the long-term effects of the Rena wreck has found some of the biggest ongoing risks are attributable to unexpected sources – including the clean-up effort itself.

Nearly five years after the container ship ran aground off Tauranga, a series of papers published in the New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research looks at the lessons learned.

A lead researcher, Waikato University marine ecologist Phil Ross, said the biggest threat was initially thought to be the oil, which coated rocks, beaches and birds.

However, thanks to a massive effort by thousands of people – heralded as the first-ever effective volunteer response following an oil spill – this risk was quickly dealt with.

So if not oil, what is the real threat of the Rena?

In the rush to get salvage vessels to the site, the authorities neglected to do the usual biosecurity checks, and belatedly discovered six foreign pest species on the hull of a barge brought over from Australia.

It was “just lucky” none of the pests established themselves, because they would have created a much bigger environmental problem than the oil itself.

“The legacy of the ship wreck wouldn’t have been the oil or the other contaminants – it would have been these invasive species that would have been here for ever, because once they got established in Tauranga, they would have spread around New Zealand.”

If you’ll excuse the nautical pub, that’s a bit of a red herring.  The vessel clearly was already visiting our waters and ports, as do many others, so the risk of these species coming here via the Rena is just completely overstated.    Read more »

Media bias on environmental reporting

There are reasons almost every day to believe the media are biased and only really interested in sensationalism, controversy and negativity.

Here is an example.

A few weeks ago The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment released a report that included some criticisms of farming and its effects on rivers.  It was negatively slanted and demanded greater action.  There were a couple of articles that followed that repeated the criticisms and together they got extensive coverage in all media with readers chipping in with negative comments.

Yesterday the Sustainable Dairying Group released a factual report on how things were going down on the farm – progress on making our waterways even cleaner than they are now.  It is useful to remember that a few years ago the OECD tested 90 rivers in its member countries and New Zealand had three rivers in the top four for cleanliness – the Waikato, Waitaki and Clutha – all in intensive dairying areas.

The latest report should have been headlines in every media outlet.  Why?  Because of the vast number of improvements achieved, because of past criticisms that got headlines and because it is a great story of Kiwi effort and innovation.

Here are a few compelling stats:    Read more »

Tagged:

Face of the day

ADREES LATIF/REUTERS Pope Francis: "A selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged."

ADREES LATIF/REUTERS
Pope Francis: “A selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged.”

Christians are getting slaughtered in new and terrible ways and the head of my former religion is worried about the ‘ rights ‘ of the environment?

Pope Francis declared on Friday (Saturday NZ Time) that the environment itself has rights and that mankind has no authority to abuse them, telling world leaders at the United Nations that they must take urgent action to halt the Earth’s destruction from the “selfish and boundless thirst” for money.

-Stuff

 

Politicians and main stream media are losing their audience

Now this is a fascinating poll result out of the states.  How much do people care about Climate Change, and the environment in general compared to 15 years ago?

ferweewqfw

Read more »

Lessons for Auckland from Sao Paulo

São Paulo is in trouble this week as it looks likely to be dangerously close to running out of water to supply its residents.

It’s the 12th biggest city in the world and a place smart growth advocate’s like to tout from time to time of our intensive cities can work.

Except it has a big problem.

The city of Sao Paulo is home to 20 million Brazilians, making it the 12th largest mega-city on a planet dominated by shortsighted humans. Shockingly, it has only 60 days of water supply remaining. The city “has about two months of guaranteed water supply remaining as it taps into the second of three emergency reserves,” reports Reuters. [1]

Technical reserves have already been released, and as the city enters the heavy water use holiday season, its 20 million residents are riding on a fast-track collision course with severe water rationing and devastating disruptions.

But this isn’t a story about Sao Paulo; it’s a report that dares to point out that human societies are incredibly shortsighted and nearly incapable of sustainably populating planet Earth. In numerous regions around the world — including California, India, Oklahoma, Brazil, China and many more — human populations are rapidly out-growing the capacity of their local water systems. Even though keeping populations alive requires food… and growing food requires water… almost no nation or government in the world seems to be able to limit water consumption of local populations to levels which are sustainable in the long term.

Read more »

Is Labour changing its policy on Climate Change now?

Labour has said that climate change is one of the biggest issues facing New Zealand.

They also say repeatedly that the government’s solution or policies on climate change aren’t bold enough and that New Zealand must do more and that National is sitting on its hands while the world burns.

New Zealand’s carbon emissions are about 0.15% of the world’s emissions yet Labour says we must do more, set an example for the rest of the world and if we do that then other countries will lift their game

It appears though that their policy on climate is dead in the water.

Why?

Well because it fails their own logic argument.  Read more »

The problem with ‘ethical investing’

Yet again the Green party is lecturing us on ‘ethical investing’.

Can anyone see a problem with that?

The Green Party has called for the New Zealand Superannuation Fund to quit its investments in companies producing fossil fuel.

The fund’s chief executive, Adrian Orr, said it took the issue of climate change seriously and expected its exposure to fossil fuels to fall over time, and investment in renewables to rise.

“But a simple divestment call? The world is just not that straightforward,” he said.

The fund, set up by the previous Labour Government to partially pre-fund future New Zealand Superannuation payments, had $676 million invested in companies directly involved in fossil fuel production as of last June. That represented about 2 per cent of the fund’s assets.

Greens co-leader Russel Norman, in a paper released yesterday, makes an ethical case for not investing in companies whose activities are literally fuelling potentially catastrophic climate change.

He also points to a financial risk of stranded assets, citing analysis by the International Energy Agency and other bodies that the world’s coal, oil and gas companies already have in their proven reserves at least three times as much carbon as can be burned without exceeding the internationally agreed target of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.   Read more »

Guest Post – Phil Hayward on Auckland and the RMA reforms

by Phil Hayward

The Auckland Unitary Plan Submission process is underway and we should soon know whether it is a charade with outcomes pre-determined and impervious to evidence. The usual suspects are also claiming once again to be able to “debunk” the latest Demographia Report on housing affordability, and even the government is embarrassed over the dismal ineffectiveness of its trumpeted “Housing Accords”.

My previous essays on this forum could usefully be read or re-read now by anyone interested in this subject.

The prevalent mythology is that Auckland already sprawls too much at low density, already has built too many roads (and that is why it is congested), is letting the floodgates re-open too much towards more new sprawl and not enough new intensification (60% of growth to be via intensification is the plan), the ramp-up in building now is major, and intensification will provide for affordability.

In fact, Auckland is around 3 times as dense as Boston, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Nashville and dozens of other US cities; is the second densest city in the Anglo New World after Toronto (pop. 6 million); is one of the densest first world urban areas of only 1 million people; is close to Amsterdam’s density and is denser than Lyon, Marseille, the Ruhr Valley and many urban areas in France and Germany, especially those with around 1 million people or less.

We have never actually had US style low density sprawl; very little of our suburban development was ever even ¼ acre sections. That always was a “dream” for most, and now nearly every such section has already had townhouses built on what was the backyard. In the USA, suburbs are common with minimum lot size mandates of 1 acre to 4 acres.  

Michael Bassett and Luke Malpass (NZ Initiative) “Priced Out: How NZ Lost its Housing Affordability” (2012) show that NZ and Auckland were during the period from the 1960’s to the 1980’s, building as many as twice as many new dwellings as now. Most of that was greenfields suburban development, albeit at considerably higher density than US-style sprawl. We now have congestion problems because there was inadequate planning of road capacity, not because we did the roads we did.

I have estimated from TomTom Traffic index data and Google Earth imagery, that Auckland has 1/3 the highway lane miles and 1/5 the arterial lane miles of Indianapolis, which has a similar population. Indianapolis in the TomTom Traffic Index, scores a congestion delay of 15 minutes per 1 hour of driving at peak (other comparable US cities are similar) versus Auckland’s 45 minutes. Of course its house price median multiple happens to be stable at around 3 as well, in spite of being truly low density, unlike Auckland.   Read more »

Dodgy ratbag council still failing to hold another dodgy polluting council to account

This is ironic, the Central Hawkes Bay District Council is still in breach of sewage discharge permits more than 10 years after the issue was highlighted and despite stringent testing and more than $6 million on a new waste treatment system.

Worse still it is the Hawkes Bay Regional Council, who want to turn the Tukituki river toxic with their own plans who are failing to hold the CHB District Council to account.

The Central Hawke’s Bay District Council is failing to clean up its wastewater plant which now breaches resource consent and discharges dangerous levels of bacteria into rivers.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council resource-use manager Wayne Wright said the results were in and the facility had shown no improvement after testing was conducted on December 18 last year. “This means CHB District Council is now non-compliant with its resource consent.”

Last month Hawke’s Bay Today revealed a HBRC report which showed “serious concerns” with the redeveloped $6 million wastewater plant.

The study found, despite the recent upgrade, that harmful bacteria and wastewater were being released into the Tukituki River at unacceptable levels. HBRC said “urgent action” was required after raising concerns the nutrient Amm.N and SRP and E.Coli bacterium had now exceeded the limits.

Resource consents regulating the discharge of wastewater from the plants were changed on October 1, 2014, and required a significantly higher standard of wastewater.

Mr Wright said HBRC was now working with CHBDC to rectify the problem and to provide a timeframe for compliance.

Read more »