At the recent Environmental Defence Society conference, the Minister for the Environment announced the Government priorities in ‘A Way Forward for National Direction’. This sets out how specific resources should be managed to protect the environment, strengthen the economy, and enable New Zealanders to provide for their social and cultural wellbeing.
The Direction sets an indicative timetable for a range of environmental standards and policies. We have already seen the National Environmental Standard on Plantation Forestry open for consultation and comment (NB. the NZ Chapter of EIANZ made a submission on this). Others to come include changes to the National Environmental Standard for air quality, telecommunication facilities, and contaminants in soil; as well as some fresh guidance on matters such as natural hazards, urban development and aquaculture.
For aquaculture a nationally-consistent framework for the management of aquaculture space is proposed; perhaps long overdue in a sector that has had so many stops and starts in recent times. Similarly, improvements to the regulatory approach to pest control will be welcomed to avoid duplication with the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act.
Making pest control regulations more transparent can only be a good thing in helping the decline in native biodiversity. And Biodiversity returns to the agenda with the Direction indicating some (unspecified) guidance on implementation of section 6(c) of the Resource Management Act.
It is notable that this timetabled event (2016/17) includes a qualifier ‘subject to agreement on terms of reference between farmers and conservation groups’. We can only wait to see what this means but the National Policy Statement on Biodiversity certainly failed to fire, and we can only hope that this guidance comes with transparency and objectivity and is not an alternative means of re-interpreting the Act.
In contrast, and hopefully a signal in the right direction (no pun intended), is the continuing steps to improve the management of our freshwaters, in particular continued dialogue from the Land and Water Forum and Iwi Leaders. Included in the dialogue will be new requirements to exclude cattle from waterways.
It is difficult to ascertain just how well this ambitious agenda by the current government will be met. However, all of these National Directions will remain on the Chapter Agenda over the next few years, and we will make the membership aware of planned changes and what EIANZ might do to influence the outcome.