Fast Track RMA Covid Bill is being rushed through Parliament

The RMA Covid Bill which will take away the community input from up to 1800 projects is being rushed through parliament.  Submissions close on Sunday Night 11.59pm 21 June.

The fast track COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Bill is being put through a very short Select Committee process. Rather than allowing a month for submissions and a several month Select Committee process, the Government has only given the Environment Select Committee 8 days to receive submissions, hear submissions and report back to Parliament.

The Government’s aim is to pass the Bill by the end of June and the Act is proposed to remain in force for 2 years but there is no justification for this period.

ECO considers the Government has not justified the introduction of this Bill. It removes public input, overturns their principles of public engagement they developed for the RMA Review and the Resource Management Amendment Bill. Only ACT voted against the introduction of the Bill. National supported the Bill to the Select Committee process as did the Greens.

The Bill deprives the public of input but allows input from a limited list of organisations who will be given a very short period (10 days) on a proposal. For example only four environmental NGOs are proposed to be consulted on projects (Schedule 6, clause 17(6)):

(n) Environmental Defence Society Incorporated; and
(o) Generation Zero Incorporated; and
(p) Greenpeace of New Zealand Incorporated; and
(u) Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society of New Zealand Incorporated.

ECO can see no reason why the list in clause 17(6) is not replaced by a general provision that any person or organisation can make a submission.  Limiting the groups will only lead to further poor decision making as key information is bound to be missed as it is likely to be in the hands of local people or varied experts.  There is no requirement to consult scientific expert bodies.

The Bill is complicated legislation as it runs to 83 pages and 136 clauses and lessens environmental protections and enables fast tracking of projects with hugely damaging impacts.

The purpose of the Bill (section 4) is very employment focused:
“The purpose of this Act is to urgently promote employment growth to support New Zealand’s recovery from the economic and social impacts of COVID-19 15 and to support the certainty of ongoing investment across New Zealand, while continuing to promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources.”

Surprisingly the employment focus is lost in the decision-making clauses in the Bill. The problem for the Government is that infrastructure projects provide few jobs per dollar invested compared to many other projects or activities many that do not require RMA Consents.

The Minister for the Environment (combined with the Minister of Conservation for coastal projects) is the gatekeeper under the Bill deciding which projects get the green light and are referred to the fast track panel for approval on any designation and consent conditions. The flawed Environmental Protection Agency assists the panel. Members of the panel are appointed at the discretion of the Minister further politicising the decision making process.

The Bill lacks major transparency provisions. There is no requirement for the Minister for the Environment to publish any proposed project application for fast-tracking. The Government has refused to release the list of projects that have been applied to become “shovel-ready” projects.

The Bill is weak on climate change. It allows considerations of the impact of climate change on the project but not the impacts of the project on climate change.

The decision making provisions do not include consideration of the precautionary principle which should be standard in this legislation.

The information and environmental assessment requirements are less than those under the RMA. There is limited protection of threatened and endangered species and ecosystems.

The Minister for the Environment is the key gatekeeper for projects and also appoints the people to the decision making panels and also determines their term.  There is no requirement to hold a hearing.  It unclear what of this process is to be made public.

The Bill also put in place very limited ability to appeal to the High Court and prohibits a final appeal to the Supreme Court.  There is no ability to appeal decisions of the Panel to the Environment Court.

The Bill lists 11 projects (Schedule 2) which will be directly referred to fast-tracking panels.  These include an irrigation project near Kaikohe  (LP16) and further Auckland motorway expansion between Papakura and Drury (LP15).  There is no assessment of whether the projects will result in less greenhouse gas emissions and put us on a pathway to achieve greenhouse gas reduction targets.

The Government has refused to release the list of the other projects that might be considered once the Bill is passed or what criteria is being used to whittle down that list.  Over 1800 “shovel-ready” projects have been put up and amongst those suggested include mining projects, wetland drainage, and more roading projects.

The Bill includes a list of permitted activities that NZ Transport Authority and KiwiRail will be allowed to carry out (Schedule 4). It enables some mangrove removal and dredging, and some removal of vegetation from significant natural areas and significant ecological areas.

Given the highly truncated process for comments there are sure to be flaws and omissions in the Bill.

It has been sent to the Environment Select Committee with a report back by 29 June.

Written submissions can be made via the Parliament website, and must be made by 11.59pm on Sunday 21 June 2020.

Greenpeace has set up a page to assist making submissions

And have produced a submission guide with more detail

Mining Still threatens the Coromandel: How did this happen?


The mining industry, and their political stooges, are always shouting about ‘checks and balances’ to shut down our arguments. They claim that we are scaremongerers, making mischief, stirring – a range of derogatory, dismissive things. They are quick to point out that there are a number of ‘tests’ in the Resource Management Act (RMA) that will ensure that the environment is protected and that impacts are minimised, and that many of these will give our communities an opportunity to have a say.

There are a range of issues with this argument – the RMA has been changed beyond all recognition since its inception in 1991; public participation elements were gutted back in 2013, there is severely limited knowledge of the RMA and how it works amongst the general public, the provisions that would enable participation, more publicly available information etc varies from Council to Council – as does that Councils ability and resourcing to evaluate highly technical information… the list goes on.

All of these things add up to a huge warning – we can NOT rely on the RMA to protect the environment from mining.

Lets think now about the timeline of the exploration and now mining permit application at Wharekirauponga; lets see how many opportunities for broad (or even any, other than limited with tangata whenua) public participation and consultation there has been in this process, this process that has seen Oceana Gold invest such a significant amount of money in ‘just looking’ at Wharekirauponga – public Conservation land that’s home to several threatened species, including the worlds most threatened frog, the Archey’s frog.

To clarify, this Mining Permit Application is actually over part of two Exploration Permit areas. So where so far has the public, the potentially affected communities, the people who work in, do conservation in, tramp in, camp in, hunt in etc, had an opportunity to have any say at all? Lets take a look back…

The permit was initially granted on 22 May 2003 over 3650ha to HPD New Zealand Limited. Three years later an extension of land, followed by ‘permit dealings’ (where shares in the permit were traded amongst a couple of different companies) were all granted. Next an extension of duration, another permit for more land, another share change, two more extensions of land, another change to the shares all granted. Then finally, 2016 Oceana took over, appraisal extension of duration and change of conditions all granted and now Mining Permit application – under evaluation.

Couldn’t see any mentions of public consultation in there? That’s because, in the 16 years that this area has been being ‘explored’ for gold, there has been none (zero, nada, zip, zilch). Does that mean that there has not been any resource consents required under the RMA for this ‘little look’? No – in this case it has involved clearing multiple plots of bush in a Significant Natural Area – that is a place that is special within the district – which must require consents, it has involved proposals to relocate significant threatened species populations (which has failed in the past), it has involved requiring access to freshwater, which also must be consented.

But, we got NO say at any stage. And now, one of the big arguments that Oceana uses to pile on the pressure to let them continue, to build yet more toxic tailings, to mine and undermine public Conservation land, to question the integrity of Aotearoa New Zealand’s Government Ministers (El Salvador, anyone?!), is that they have already invested so much ‘exploring’ and that the RMA will protect the environment.

Along with the Industry at large, this company must not be allowed to get away with ‘speaking out both corners of their mouth’. Time to call them on it – they are not sustainable, they do not care for our country. They have shareholders, they want profit. Simple.

Gold mining is not our future.

Please do contact us if you would like a copy of the timeline of this permit – 16 years of the industry doing what they want without any community consultation.

Coromandel Watchdog Co-Ordinator

Court of Appeal judgement on seabed mining celebrated

A resoundingly successful win in the Court of Appeal turning down offshore seabed mining is a cause for great celebration, especially by conservation organisations. The outcome of the case fully supports ECO’s often pressed argument that New Zealand decisions on activities in and on the sea must give effect  to our obligations to “protect and preserve the marine environment” under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS, or LOSC). ECO was not a party to the appeal.

The case concerned the Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA’s) issue of a seabed mining consent to Trans Tasman Resources (TTR) in the South Taranaki Bight. This included a consent to discharge massive amounts of processed sand from a huge proposed seabed iron sands mining operation.

The case against the EPA’s consent, was taken by Greenpeace NZ, Kiwis Against Seabed mining (KASM), Forest and Bird, the Taranaki-Whanganui Conservation Board, and Ngati Ruanui Trust  and a range of fisheries interests and other organisations.

The Court roundly criticised the EPA’s Decision Making Committee (DMC) for many errors of law. Central to the case is the relationship of international law to the application of New Zealand law. In this case, the law in question is the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf Act 1994 (EEZ&CSA). ECO pushed to have international obligations including UNCLOS recognised in that Act – and in others.

We have also pressed the Ministry of Primary Industry to take seriously our international obligations relating to fisheries, and our Ministry for the Environment to recognise our international obligations relating to the environment and to biodiversity.

Justice Goddard in the Court of Appeal laid this out emphatically in the 3 April 2020 Judgement, going to the nub of the case in her first paragraph on the Reasons for the decision:

“[1] The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOSC)  [1994] provides that New Zealand has a duty to protect and preserve the marine environment. New Zealand has the sovereign right to exploit the natural resources of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) pursuant to New Zealand’s environmental policies, and in accordance with that duty. The Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012 (the EEZ Act) provides for the use of the natural resources of New Zealand’s EEZ in a manner that is consistent with New Zealand’s international law obligations, including the LOSC duty to protect and preserve the marine environment.”

The Second paragraph of the decision recognised the obligation to recognise iwi Treaty of Waitangi rights:

“[2] The Treaty of Waitangi (the Treaty) requires the Crown to respect the interests of iwi in relation to the marine environment and its resources, including (as we explain below) the kaitiakitanga relationship between iwi and the marine environment. The EEZ Act provides for decisions to be made about the use of the natural resources of the EEZ in a manner that recognises and respects the Crown’s responsibility to give effect to the principles of the Treaty.”

The judgement is clear and decisive. We expect that decision makers under the Fisheries Act, the RMA, Conservation and other Acts will now have to ensure that those international obligations are given effect in marine-related decision making.

Great credit is due to those people and organisations who took and ran this case, and particularly to Rob Enright, Duncan Currie, Cindy Baxter of KASM and Forest and Bird. It is a lighthouse case that will show the way for marine law navigation.

You can download the judgement here: CA573/2018 [2020] NZCA 86 [778 KB PDF]

Cath Wallace
ECO Co-Chair

Design Tips for an Eco-Friendly and Low – Carbon Home

Uma Campbell considers why we should build more eco-friendly homes and offers some tips on how to go about it.


Everyone dreams of owning their own home. They, of course, have a list of things that they want. However, in this day and age of environmentalism, many of us are also thinking environmentally. Whether it’s saving water, lowering our carbon footprint, becoming more eco-friendly, or other aspects, we are researching more about helping the planet in our own way. The following information will show you how you can take steps to become environmentally-friendly within your own home.




It’s no secret that discussions of global warming have increased. However, according to the New Zealand Herald, many of our greenhouse emissions come from buildings we live, and work, in. While we know that vehicle exhausts can negatively affect our environment, several people don’t realize the effect that rows of houses can have on carbon emissions.

Indeed, buildings use about one-third of the city’s energy, and they also emit as many greenhouse gases. At present demand, some estimate Auckland’s carbon emissions to increase by as much as 46 percent by the year 2025.

Increase Efficiency And Earn More Money

However, greenhouse proponents suggests that making new and existing buildings (e.g., residential and commercial) more energy efficient will help. However, we must convince developers and home builders that green is the new normal while still staying within the budget. The trick is to realize that – although the transition may be costly at first – the money you save in the long run will be even more.

Eco-Friendly House

 But, as Stuff tells us, it can be done.  Take, for example, Philip Ivanier. He was able to build his own eco-friendly house. The Glendowie property is New Zealand’s first passive house.

But, what, exactly, is a passive house? It is one that requires very little heating or cooling, and has great insulation, which moderates the temperature during the entire year. In addition, the energy use, and carbon footprint is very low.

Mr. Ivanier is from Canada. Since passive homes are not common in New Zealand, he had to get the building materials imported – something for which the Auckland Council never considered the consents. But, the materials included roof solar panels, and there is no mould or mildew. The best part is that he’ll be able to put some power back into the grid.



 As you’ve seen from Mr. Ivanier’s case, there are challenges that may need to be overcome. In fact, according to Sustainable Homes, the insulation in several of New Zealand’s buildings is quite poor. Additionally, while the energy in many homes comes from renewable energy, certain other materials, ecology, and water efficiency are not very sustainable.

In fact, only one-third of New Zealand’s homes were built after 1978, which is when mandatory insulation was enacted. So, it stands to reason that older housing may not be properly insulated. It should also be noted that only 56 homes had been accredited against the standard for other environmental issues such as water efficiency or waste. Due to recent issues such as the global financial crisis and the 2011 earthquake, it stands to reason why it has taken such a long time to fix the problems.  However, there is a solution.

Building Guide

 Despite the fact that New Zealand is not known for having eco-friendly, low-carbon, housing, you can still live sustainably. According to Building guide, there are several things you need to do. First, and foremost, consider the climate, and vegetation around you. You should use your available natural resources to the best of your ability. Using the sun for heat, and trees to cool off will reduce your need for energy usage within the home. You should also consider water-efficient, and energy-efficient, appliances.

If you’re going to use building materials, make sure they are environmentally friendly such as bamboo, reclaimed timber, and recycled metals. Doing so will allow you to recycle them as necessary.

In this modern age of being eco-friendly, and reducing your carbon footprint, necessary steps need to be taken in order to create a sustainable home. The information within this guide should help you understand its importance, and the steps you need to take in order to move forward. However, after a little time, and effort, you’ll see that the money you put into the transition will pay for itself, and eventually save you money, and reduce our impact on the Earth – our life support system.





Ross Sea: Antarctic Marine Protection Comes into force on 1 December 2017

ECO Vice-Chair and long-time Antarctic campaigner Cath Wallace previews the new protections for the Antarctic which come into force this Friday, 1st December:C Wallace


The Ross Sea Marine Protected Area (MPA) comes into force on 1 December.  The Ross Sea MPA will give varying measures of protection to an area of over 1.55 million square kilometres of the Ross Sea in the Southern Ocean which surrounds Antarctica.  The MPA includes the Ross ice shelf which would increase the MPA to nearly 2 million square kilometres.

This major gain of marine protection in the Southern Ocean was agreed at the October 2016 Antarctic marine convention (CCAMLR) meeting.  It reflects the combined efforts of New Zealand and the United States and many supporters globally.

The proposal for a series of 19 marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean was originally developed and campaigned for by the Antarctic and Southern Oceans Coalition (ASOC) with the Antarctic Oceans Alliance.  ECO is a long-term member of both organisations.  These introduced the idea of protection of the whole of the Ross Sea, drawing on science by a scientific group led by Halpern that showed it to be the most intact ocean ecosystem left globally.

The Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, (CCAMLR) embarked over 10 years ago on a process to establish a network of representative marine protected areas.  This network has so far only got two MPAs including the Ross Sea.

The Ross Sea MPA is large, though not as big as proposed by ASOC because of pressure from fishing interests and governments that did not want to protect the whole area.

Of the area protected over 1.12 million square kilometres will be fully protected from commercial fishing with the remaining protected area is designated as special research zone (SRZ).  Some areas outside the MPA are open to commercial toothfish fishing, including some that were previously not open for this purpose.

AOA01317 Antartic Report_map Ross Sea MPA

It is disappointing that so-called commercial “research fishing” has been allowed in the Special Research Zone and that the northern tooth fish spawning banks and the eastern areas of the Ross Sea are not better protected.

Another disappointment is that the new MPA expire in 35 years rather than being made permanent. Let’s hope future generations ensure that CCAMLR will recognize the value of protecting this area and will renew it in 35 years.

The Ross Sea is a special place

The Ross Sea was identified by a major international scientific study as the least modified marine ecosystem on earth. It is clearly the most important to protect.  The area includes habitat for penguins and other seabirds, killer whales, seals, many kinds of fish but particularly toothfish, and the fantastic corals, starfish, krill and bivalves, and other astonishing sea creatures that live in the Ross Sea.  The MPA will allow a great chance of surviving and functioning as an intact ecosystem with this decision.

The Ross Sea is home to 38% of the world’s Adélie penguins, 26% of Emperor penguins, more than 30% of Antarctic petrels, 6% of Antarctic minke whales, and perhaps more than 30% of “Ross Sea” type killer whales. Moreover, it has the richest diversity of fishes in the high latitude Southern Ocean, including at least seven species found nowhere else.

It is time to celebrate the combined efforts of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC), the Antarctic Ocean Alliance, and their member organisations and supporters, and the scientists, officials, politicians and diplomats for achieving a major conservation success with protection or safeguarding chunks of the Ross Sea in Antarctica.

Special acknowledgement to former Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully, New Zealand’s diplomatic team led by Jillian Dempster, and the science teams.

An essential ingredient was sustained public pressure and the tenacious work of the non-governmental organisations who launched the idea, including ECO. There have been years of effort and careful diplomacy by New Zealand and the USA to achieve the result.

Particular tributes are due to movie maker, Peter Young, of Fisheye Films, who made the Last Ocean movie which raised awareness immensely.  This result is a joint effort.

ECO’s Barry Weeber was at the CCAMLR meeting that achieved this result, and he has worked for years for this result as have many others.

This year CCAMLR Scientific Committee agreed to a substantial research and monitoring plan for the MPA.  This plan was developed through joint effort of New Zealand, US and Italian scientists.

Further proposals

Progress on additional MPAs have been very slow.  Frustratingly, the proposal from Australia and the EU for protection of East Antarctic areas again failed to gain consensus at this years CCAMLR meeting. ECO hopes that careful diplomancy will see the proposal agreed at next year’s meeting.

Further proposals are being developed.  Active efforts are being undertaken in two areas -, the German efforts in the Weddell Sea, and by Argentina and Chile in the Antarctic Peninsula.

Greenpeace has launched a campaign to help support further Antarctic MPAs, in particular in the Weddell Sea and around the Antarctic Peninsula.  Greenpeace is undertaking an expedition to the peninsula this summer which will include the use of a two-person submarine to help document these special areas.

Greenpeace was a key participant in the campaign to stop mining in Antarctic in the 1980s and early 1990s.  It operated a year-round base (World Park Base) at Cape Evans in the Ross Sea from 1987 to 1992.


Sarah Thomson legal case on climate change action: can you help?

Climate change activist Jeanette Fitzsimons summarises the findings of the legal case brought in May this year to the High Court at Wellington.  Sarah challenged the then National government’s weak climate change targets.


Many readers will be aware of Sarah Thomson’s legal challenge to the National Government’s pathetic climate change target.  Although  the judge ultimately didn’t order a review of our 2050 and 2030 targets, there are still lots of wins to celebrate. Justice Mallon’s decision says:

–  the Minister had an obligation to review the 2050 target in light of recent science—in particular, the AR5 report—and failed to do so. She confirmed that ministers, whether for climate change or otherwise, have a duty to review important, long-term decisions when the science and facts underpinning those decisions change.

– contrary to the claim by the Crown’s lawyers that the 2030 target was in the realm of policy and ‘politics’, and beyond the court’s expertise, in law the 2030 target could be reviewed by the Court.  Even though setting an emissions target requires the weighing up of complicated economic, social, political and policy factors, the courts can still scrutinise such decisions.

In the judge’s own words:

The Courts have recognised the significance of the issue for the planet and its inhabitants and that those in the Court’s jurisdiction are necessarily among all who are affected by inadequate efforts to respond to climate change

…This approach is consistent with the view that justiciability concerns depend on the ground for review rather that its subject matter. The subject matter may make a review ground more difficult to establish, but it should not rule out any review by the Court.

The importance of the matter for all and each of us warrants some scrutiny of the public power, in addition to accountability through Parliament and Elections.”

In the end, Justice Mallon declined to order a review. In part, this was because our new Government has announced it will pursue a 2050 carbon neutral New Zealand.

This decision sets legal precedents for challenging governments on many other environmental issues. Many people recognised the importance of this and contributed to the Givealittle page for Sarah’s costs. However, although the lawyers generously donated their time, there is still a shortfall of $2,355 for court costs, travel, paperwork and other out of pocket expenses.

If you can help us clear this debt and take the burden off Sarah’s shoulders, please contribute on the Givealittle site

Preparing our houses for the summer break

Uma Campbell writes about how we can be stewards for our environment and still enjoy the holiday season.  She offers us some tips…

Preparing the House for the Holidays

While much of the world might associate the Christmas season with snow and cold weather, Kiwis celebrating the holidays in New Zealand look forward to sun and balmy weather. But while you enjoy the festivities and a meal of perhaps some sliced ham, venison, roast vegetables, and white bait fritters with family and friends, you need to remain a good steward of environment.


Reduce Packaging


If you want to enjoy the festivities of the holidays while reducing the amount of waste you generate, one way to go about this is to use reusable bags as opposed to gift wrapping paper that will ultimately be discarded and clog up landfills. Avoid single-use bags — which have been the subject of much controversy in New Zealand — in favor of the reusable variety. In fact, a poll earlier this year demonstrated that 83% of poll respondents supported doing away with plastic bags, and a Waste Management Institute New Zealand study showed that around two-thirds of people would be in agreement with a plastic bags levy as long as the funds raised were sent to charities. Statistics also show that the number of plastic bags used in New Zealand is 1.6 billion a year, which works out to 348 per person annually. When you consider that a plastic bag is used, on average, for 12 minutes and that each bag requires 1,000 years to break down, you can come to see the importance of using reusable bags more and plastic bags less.

Monitor Use of Appliances

 If you will have a full house during the holidays, you might see a bit of a boost to your energy consumption due to the increased use of appliances. But even in this appliances1area, you can potentially conserve energy if you observe a few simple best practices. For instance, you should be mindful of appliances that you leave on stand-buy. Leaving appliances on standby can actually tack in excess of $100 to your energy utility bills annually. So, if you have televisions, computers, video game consoles, stereos and other such things, plug these things into multi-plug boards in order to be able to turn off everything at the same time as required. If you have installed a heated towel rail, be selective about when you actually use it. If it’s on around the clock, you could end up paying out $170 annually because of the energy consumption. Another thing to specifically pay close attention to is the second fridge scenario. Some people have more than one fridge, and this can be useful if you have lots of family and guests over for the holidays, but it could cost your $200 annually to operate it if the second fridge is non-energy efficient. It might make sense to get rid of the second fridge or perhaps to replace it with a more energy efficient one.

Water Use

Having more people over at your home during the holidays will likely result in the use of more water, and this increased use can have a dramatic impact on your utility bill. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to conserve on water during the holidays. If you reduce shower time, for instance, you can definitely realize cost savings. Consider that a quarter-hour shower costs approximately $1, and a five minute shower costs approximately $0.33. With these water-use estimates, you can get a feel for how much you can potentially save if people shave off time from their regular shower routine. When it comes to washing clothes, you can also use cold water washes rather than hot water washes. Using hot water can take up as much as 10 times more electricity than washing the same load of clothes with cold water. Also remember to wash full loads rather than partially full loads to maximize your energy use.

When the holidays come around in New Zealand this year, you can definitely enjoy the festivities while also playing your part as a conscientious steward of the environment. So, prepare your house for the holidays by reducing packaging, monitoring your use of appliances, and conserving your water use. And be sure to enjoy the festivities!


Why I love the messy and the unexplored…

ECO intern and HECUA student Elena Meth is with ECO for a few weeks starting in October 2017.

Elena wrote about what inspires her love of nature, and why getting into and truly being with nature is central to our mental health and well being.

The following is an excerpt from an essay I wrote earlier in the year in response to Richard Louv’s book on child development and environmental psychology, Last Child in the Woods. Louv is best known for his discussion of “Nature-Deficit Disorder,” a phenomenon he describes as the behavioral problems, such as Attention Deficit Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and childhood anxiety and depression, which arise from a lack of integration (not just standing around outside) with nature and natural spaces. A short summary and excerpt from the book can be found here:

In my fifth-grade year book, when asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, I responded very matter-of-factly that I would be an environmentalist in the Redwood National Forest. My teacher desperately tried to explain to me than environmentalism wasn’t a career, but I wasn’t convinced. From a young age, I had noticed rows of healthy trees being cut down in neighbors’ yards, or the way my classmates played during recess surrounded by the outdoors, but somehow not quite actually outside. At ten years old, I recognized the issue Richard Louv classifies as “Nature-Deficit Disorder” in Last Child in the Woods, and that it wasn’t just something out of which my friends would grow.

The problem was, and still is, much larger than my suburban classmates scratching bark off a tree and not understanding the ramifications; it is an issue of Louv’s described Third Frontier, that has somehow convinced adults and children alike that it’s alright to stay inside “where the outlets are” (10). One specific issue Louv raises in Last Child in the Woods that resonates with my childhood recollections, both positively and negatively, is the fostering of respect and understanding (or more often lack of) for nature during childhood years.
A major theme of the novel is the recent, and increasingly more severe, disconnect between people and nature. This problem is multi-faceted, but as Louv discusses, it can be rooted in a lack of respect for nature and natural environments.

Just like anything else, respect and understanding comes from interaction. If kids aren’t willing or able to immerse themselves in forests and fields, how are they to know what they are? The idea that kids are no longer playing outside – that they no longer want to go outside – is baffling to me. Some of my earliest memories are from walks through the park with my mother and dog, and my father taking me to programs sponsored by our local nature reserve. I don’t remember learning to respect nature because it was never an explicit lesson at my house. I grew up touching and smelling things I couldn’t understand, not jumping away in disgust.

I do not have a single experience to explain why respecting nature is so meaningful to me, rather I have a cycle of experiences. When I was five years old, my mother drove me to a place called Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve, a 134-acre reserve owned and maintained by the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania (an organization similar to Forest and Bird), only five minutes from our new house. Beechwood instantly became a magical place for me. I remember school trips and after school walks around the property where I was always allowed to explore in every way in which my juvenile self needed.

At Beechwood, no one ever told me not to touch something or to stay back because it “wasn’t safe” (except for a few poison ivy vines). Instead of saying no, and leaving me discouraged and unwilling to further explore, my parents and the educational directors at Beechwood cultivated that curiosity and explained the unknown. As we walked down hot, muddy trails in summer my camp counselors would point out interesting things along the way to enhance our natural knowledge and to keep us pokey campers moving along.

My experiences with Beechwood Farms as a child were so formative, they motivated me to go back as a high school, and now college, student and return the favor for a new generation. As an education volunteer and intern, I led the hikes I remember loving so when I was little. Being on the other side of things, I had the chance to see exactly how psychologically calculative the whole endeavor of environmental education really is.

What seemed like basic hikes when I was eight were actually carefully planned, stimulating and engaging experiences with goals to not only encourage environmental curiosity, respect and understanding, but also general curiosity for the world. Beechwood Farms is a unique place in that it is specifically maintained for educational purposes. The staff have been working for over forty years to maintain trails so toddlers can easily hike them, to provide activities to challenge young minds, and finally to establish relationships that keep kids like me coming back for years to come.

Unlike other, more wild, outdoor places, Beechwood has been so psychologically significant in my life because of the interactions between the environment and people. Sure, I have my favorite tree and path, but it’s the people who have ensured my love for the messy and unexplored that keep me coming back.

Democracy in the marine environment? Yeah right!

Opinion piece by Helen Campbell

The first shots have been fired in this government’ s plans to reduce costs and make processes easier for those in the aquaculture (marine) industry and to exponentially expand aquaculture activities and to ignore the current and future impacts of these activities on the marine environment. The cannon used for these shots is enshrined in the Resource Management Act 1991 – check out sections 360A-360C. [This was passed in 2011 and introduced the Minister of Aquaculture into the RMA.]

These sections, which enable the government through an Order In Council (an “Executive” decision), to amend regional coastal plans, by regulations, without public notification or the ability to appeal to the Environment Court, as has been in the past required by Schedule 1 of the Resource Management Act.

The National Environment Standard (NES) for Marine Aquaculture is the first salvo to be fired in a “priority” range of changes the government intends to make to the aquaculture processing regime. Still to come are proposals for industry growth outside of existing space, and/or creation of new space, which are likely to follow the same framework.

The NES deals, in particular, with reconsenting process and biodiversity matters. The proposal will replace existing regional coastal plans and change second generation plans currently under preparation. These changes will not follow Schedule 1 of the Act – that is, no public input will be possible. While the legislation states that proposed regulations “will continue to give effect” to the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement as well as any regional policy statement, it is clear that aspects for the former – such as strategic planning, biodiversity, natural character, natural landscapes and features, have only been given token if any recognition. Councils currently reviewing policy documents including regional policy statements will be required by the Ministry for Primary Industries, the Minister of Aquaculture, and the Department of Conservation to comply with the political moves, again with no notification or rights to appeal.

The proposed NES overrides the (current) 2010 New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement (NZCPS) and significant recent case law that has emphasised the importance of the objectives and policies of the NZCPS; including requirement for “appropriate activities in appropriate places”.

These legislative changes constitute a significant loss in the democratic processes that are inherent in the Resource Management Act (RMA) and will undoubtedly mean that the purpose of the Act will be undermined and that natural and physical resources, including marine ecosystems, degraded for future generations.

Issues to consider include lack of adequate information or direction on:
• Relationship between the NZCPS 2010 and the NES/regulations e.g. the recent Supreme Court case (and other decisions) emphasise the need for adverse effects on Outstanding Natural Features and Landscapes (Policy 15) to be avoided. This Supreme Court case and other case law shows that the values of landscape must be assessed as if existing structures were not in the site under consideration. This directive also relates to Outstanding Natural Character (Policy 13) and Biodiversity, ecosystems and habitats etc. (Policy 11). No existing farms, until this decision, have been assessed in accordance with this.

Strategic planning: This often is not dealt with in the planning stages; and a “strategy” the occupation of space by marine farms is effectively privatisation of the “commons”. The specific impacts of marine farming whether it is shellfish or “fed” fish is not, despite the discussion documents protests, adequately know: there is a huge “knowledge gap” which has been acknowledge by various agencies including the Ministry for Primary Industries, and proven by case law.

Policy 7 (2) NZCPS requires the identification by councils of the coastal processes, resources and values that are either under threat or at significant risk from adverse cumulative effects with thresholds (zones, standards and targets) to be set in plans (or specification of acceptable limits) to assist in determining when activities causing cumulative effects are to be avoided. These effects of course need to consider all impacts on the coastal marine area: e.g. urban activities including development, fishing and dredging, forestry sedimentation, climate change etc. as well as actual aquaculture activities including those associated with feeding and harvesting.

The “connectivity” of ecosystems within the marine environment is still largely unknown. No information on the state of strategic planning throughout NZ has been assessed by the Ministries involved in this exercise. Without this crucial information no extension in the terms of the current farms should be permitted, but should continue to be assessed as discretionary activities with public/community/iwi/scientific input.

• Adaptive management – many consents are granted with condition that allows for adaptive management: in active adaptive management, managers design practices so as to discriminate between alternative models, and thus reveal the “best” management action. This sometimes involves testing practices that differ from “normal”, in order to determine how indicators will respond over a range of conditions. In passive adaptive management, managers select the “best” management option, assuming that the model on which the predictions are based is correct. Both passive and active adaptive management require careful implementation, monitoring, evaluation of results, and adjustment of objectives and practices. Active adaptive management usually allows more reliable interpretation of results, and leads to more rapid learning.

• Existing and “deemed” permits – many consents have been granted or extended by a process that involved no public consultation either through consent applications or planning processes. Many of these decisions were made on an ad hoc basis, encouraged by the years of ad hoc consideration of how to best handle the legislation that consents should be “permitted” under. This has meant that the “appropriateness” of a particular farm in a particular site may never have ever been assessed. Much has changed in the marine environment since the 1970’s and change is the one constant that can be depended on in the marine environment. No environmental limits or “carrying capacity” of the environment has been contemplated in the NES; despite the objective!

• “Inappropriate areas for aquaculture”: The NES states that the public, once the regulations are in place, will be able to participate in 2nd generation plan changes on where councils should assign areas as being “inappropriate” for marine farming….. but if the NES is in place and councils must make plan changes that comply with the regulations then all of the existing farms will already have “restricted discretionary” status which is tantamount to being able to stay in perpetuity! No public/community involvement.

• “Certainty”: The NES has been written to provide “certainty” for the aquaculture industry and its investors, but not for the general public over an area of the public domain that cannot be “owned”. The discussion document admits that public input has been useful but then proceeds to exclude just those opportunities.

• Effects on biodiversity – “token” points relate to management practices to minimise (not avoid) “marine mammal and seabird interactions – particularly entanglement, but not habitat exclusion”! The resting, feeding and breeding places of for instance seabirds are ignored, as well as areas for fishing breeding e.g. elephant fish. All “restricted discretionary activities and Categories 3 & 4 (change to fed finfish species) only require “management practices” to minimise marine mammal and seabird “interactions” – not avoidance.

• Effects on benthos – again token words relate to “reefs and biogenic habitats” and “benthic values and the seabed” with qualifiers added such as “significant”. The vulnerability of certain areas of other areas/habitats/ecosystems is ignored.

• Ability to have “more stringent or lenient activity classification”. This statement is very questionable…. and singularly unhelpful. When and how does a council make such a decision when its” rights” have been overcome by this NES and there is no Schedule 1 process to get public/scientific input? Again the assumptions are made that plans adequately identify import “values” and “characteristics”.

• Sites of “particular importance” to the industry. No indication of what criteria will be used for identification of such sites or what rights do the public have for objection? The example given, Wainui Bay, Golden Bay has been subject to many objections over many years, is in an area of ONFL, and is outside of AMAs established in Golden Bay as a consequence of a significant enquiry and Environment Court case. An appeal against a plan change to make these a “controlled” activity – that is no decline is possible, is currently underway.

Go to for the Discussion Document and proposed regulations. Read the proposals. Submissions are due by 5pm, Tuesday 8 August 2017.

Helen Campbell is a Friends of Nelson Haven & Tasman Bay committee member with an interest RMA coastal planning issues

Fix our farming to restore our environment. An opinion piece by Derek Broadmore

Derek Broadmore was an early director of the Environmental Defence Society, a lawyer in Wellington for 35 years and Chair of both BioGro and OANZ at different times. After leaving law he concentrated on his certified organic orchard and farm in the Wairarapa. He is currently living in Auckland and consulting within the organic sector.


According to investigative journalist and author Alfred Henry Lewis (in 1906) “There are only nine meals between mankind and anarchy”. Food, with shelter, is the most basic requirement for human survival. In New Zealand the impact of food production on our natural ecosystems is the biggest environmental issue that we face but we have tended to shy away from tackling it head on. We can’t afford to continue to do that.

I have been involved, in various ways, in the environmental movement for more than 40 years. I think we have tended to regard the “environment” as our rivers, mountains, forests, lakes and coastlines. We saved, or tried to, Manapouri, Pureora and other forests, rivers lakes and wetlands. We protested against dams and tried to stop developments on sensitive coastlines. Somehow we did not get that the tracts of land that connected all these bits of the environment, farmland, were being dramatically changed.

The post second world war green revolution, made possible by synthetic chemicals, changed the way we farmed. And not in a good way. For 70 years now, orchestrated by the global chemical and seed giants and as a matter of economic survival, our farmers have had to produce more and more just to stay afloat. Chemicals and irrigation have given them the tools to do that. The assault on our soils and the degradation of our rivers happened insidiously over time, but the consequences are now obvious.

New Zealand is unusual in the developed world in that 49% of our green house gas emissions are from agriculture. They are the biggest single contributor to our greenhouse gas profile topping the energy sector by nearly 10% (NZ Ministry for the Environment NZ greenhouse gas emissions profile). We are doing almost nothing to reduce them. We have even excluded agriculture from the only (weak) initiative we have taken to meet emissions reduction targets, the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Despite our emissions profile, the climate change protest movement in New Zealand has tended to mimic the overseas protests with a focus on energy and fossil fuels. Our catch cries are the universal “divest” and “keep it in the ground”. We don’t shout “keep it in the cow” about milk, or “diversify” about industrial farming monocultures. Of course, globally, it is important to shift from a fossil fuel based energy system but in New Zealand we have a bigger problem.

It is well known and understood that conventional farming practices degrade our soils. We cannot wholly replenish those soils with chemical fertilisers. Maria-Helena Semedo the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) Deputy Director –General recently told a forum organised to mark World Soil Day that it takes 1,000 years to generate 3 centimetres of top soil and that if current rates of degradation continue, globally all of the World’s top soil could be gone within 6o years. She also said:

Unless new approaches are adopted, the global amount of arable and productive land per person in 2050 will be only a quarter of the level in 1960”.

Soil degradation through industrial style conventional agriculture is only one side of a double edged sword that is destroying our environment at a fundamental and possibly irreversible level. The other is irrigation. The demand for more and more production to stay economically viable has meant a huge and increasing demand for water. By way of example, and there are various estimates, but 1000 litres of water to make one litre of milk is an often quoted figure. Water is a finite resource. Farming in New Zealand already demands far more of it than the rest of our ecosystem can afford to give.

If the price we have to pay for our primary industries to remain economically viable is the fertility of our soils and the destruction of our rivers and aquifers then we need to change the drivers for viability. We need to find a production model that works economically at much more sustainable levels of input.

Regenerative organic agriculture does give us a model for a low input, sustainable method of food production. We can preserve the fertility of our soils and vastly reduce our demand for water and still, economically, produce sufficient food to sustain the growing global population. This article is not the place to detail the economic, environmental and health benefits (the business case) of organic food production but I am happy to do that, with the evidence, for anyone interested.

There can’t be any doubt that the greatest threat to our natural environment as we know it is climate change. If we are serious about making a meaningful contribution to the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions and, if we are serious about restoring our natural environment in New Zealand then we need to tackle the way we produce food.

ECO has done a huge amount over the years to advocate for our natural environment. I think primary production is an area that it has tended not to focus on although it has certainly been concerned about some of the consequences, particularly as they have affected water ways. It is past time to go directly to the source of the problem.

Given the importance of farming to our economy it is not surprising that environmental groups have tended to shy away from a direct attack on farming methods, focussing instead on trying to ameliorate their effects. However we will not restore our natural environment unless we effect fundamental change to our current farming methods.


ECO Submission Summary: Biosecurity 2025.

The Ministry for Primary Industries released a discussion document on directions for biosecurity in New Zealand and called for public comment.  You can read the discussion document here and ECO’s full submission on our website.

ECO reviewed and provided suggestions for the the Ministry for Primary Industries’ direction statement for biosecurity. The Ministry defined biosecurity as the exclusion, eradication, or effective management of risks posed by pests and diseases to the economy, environment, and human health. The document proposed 5 strategic directions for biosecurity in New Zealand, which are for all New Zealanders to participate in biosecurity, to invest in science and research to revolutionize biosecurity, to have free-flowing information highways, to work towards effective leadership and government, and to build a capable and sustainable workforce and infrastructure.

ECO agreed with the Ministry’s approach of widening the scope of biosecurity to include all New Zealanders. However, ECO noticed that there was no discussion in the proposition regarding who will pay for all of these biosecurity improvements and is wary of a “victim pays” approach. As a solution, ECO proposed a biosecurity import levy. ECO also noted that the document focused on plants and animals while overlooking fungi and micro-organisms which are also vital to New Zealand’s natural environment.

ECO suggested that the Ministry draws on literature and evidence about what inhibits pro-environmental behaviour in order to strategise actions that could change and harness these attitudes. On a related note, ECO was wary of the Ministry’s focus on investing in the sciences and suggested also engaging the social sciences. ECO also suggested caution regarding free-flowing information highways because many rural New Zealanders are protective of their privacy and this strategy could be interpreted as a loss of autonomy or privacy. In general, ECO agreed on all of the strategies proposed by the Ministry with some minor suggestions for improvement.

ECO Submission Summary: the Conservation and Environment Science Roadmap

The Department of Conservation and Ministry for the Environment are working together to identify the areas of scientific knowledge which will be required by government over the next 20 years for decision-making for conservation and environmental policy and management.  This is known as the “roadmap”.

Submissions from interested groups and individuals were invited and ECO made a submission in response to the government discussion paper, which is on the DOC website.

We have summarised our submission below.  The full text of the ECO submission is available on the ECO website here.

Submission Summary:

ECO provided suggestions for improvements to the Conservation and Environment Science Roadmap. The roadmap is a document outlining 12 topics related to environmental science and the ways in which the government, private sector, non-governmental organizations, and individuals can make positive decisions regarding the environment. ECO believes that regarding climate change, the listed goals are too weak and that the roadmap places too much emphasis on raising awareness. The roadmap should encourage a real programme of actions to reduce greenhouse gas emission, such as a goal to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050 rather than the proposed 30% reduction.

While ECO understands the appeal of new environmental technology, it opposes carbon capture and storage because the environmental impacts are not fully known or understood and because it could be used as an excuse to not de-carbonize the economy. ECO also criticized the overarching goal of protecting “highest priority” populations as not being ambitious enough; by referring to some species as “highest priority” it implies giving up on others and this is unacceptable to ECO. ECO also notes that it supports the inclusion of Mātauranga Māori but cautions against the vigorous assertion of Maori property rights at the expense of the health of the environment itself.

Other topics covered in the roadmap included the ecosystems and processes of freshwater, land, coastal and marine, and urban environments as well as biosecurity, and the social and economic dimensions of conservation. In general, ECO felt that the roadmap was too sensitive and had too much “spin” and could benefit from being more blunt or direct. ECO also recommended the addition of topics such as the atmosphere, environmental legal and policy research, and the study of energy alternatives.

Summary written by ECO volunteer Adena Maier

How Drones are Helping Conservation Efforts

Author Emma Mills is a wildlife enthusiast and writer who came across a site where drone footage is made publicly available, including that of nature and wildlife.  Emma considers the many uses of this drone footage for conservation and safer tourism – and what we in New Zealand can learn from it.

Could New Zealand learn something from big game conservation in Africa? Up and down the continent, governments and NGOs are working on integrating drone technology into their conservation efforts. For two centuries or more, magnificent animals such as lions, rhinos, and elephants have been hunted to near extinction levels for their pelts, tusks, and horns. Drones are now becoming part of the effort to save those still existing in the wild.

A New Tool Against Poachers

Drones combine relatively discrete movements with the ability to access difficult locations and create film footage. The main use of drones in Africa is to help protect so-called big game from poachers who want to sell body parts on the black market either as trophies or for pseudo-medical purposes. Some parts of the middle east also want big cat kittens as pets, which usually means the killing of their parents. Drones provide a flexible and easily moved means of monitoring wildlife populations and scouting for potential poachers. This allows conservationists to better deploy their police and gamekeepers to combat them.

Protecting Gamekeepers from the Animals

Big game in Africa does not know the difference between the good guys and the bad guys. Looking after, protecting, and monitoring large animals such as these is a dangerous business. Animals can be surprised, defensive, or just plain hungry. By using drones, governments have been able to monitor their movements, health, breeding, feeding, and other aspects of their lives without disrupting them, startling them or endangering gamekeepers.

Drones Promote Safe Tourism

Most people recognize drones for their ability to produce stunning aerial and sweeping video footage. This footage is not just useful for conservationists, but also in promoting ecological and ethical tourism on the continent. Wildlife videos can inspire new generations of people to help Africa’s wildlife, as seen on social video sharing sites such as YouTube and AirVuz.

What New Zealand Can Learn From This

We Kiwis may lack big cats, rhinos and elephants, but ecological conservationism is just as important to us as any other country; perhaps more so. Africa is using drones for a positive future to protect endangered species and monitor animals in remote, hard to access areas. It is also reducing the risks presented to conservationists and promoting correct tourism. New Zealand can learn from this to correctly utilize drones for less accessible areas, to maintain the integrity of easily disturbed animals and birds. However, if utilized, an impact study should be conducted to ensure the drones themselves will not disturb the animals, which some studies in America have shown.

The Environmental Impact Of Cigarette Litter

Daisy Poe from Quitza draws our attention to the immense threat to our marine environment and air quality caused by smoking and discarded butts.

Quitza is a non profit where users from all over the world support each other while quitting smoking using Quitza’s custom made social support network. Quitza combines the social support with real time progress tracking technologies where users earn awards when they reach milestones throughout their quit. These are then shared with the community for further support.


According to the WHO there are currently over 1 billion smokers globally.

Six million of those smokers will die each year from a smoking related illness.

The negative consequences of smoking range far from just the health effects on the individual. The environmental impact caused by improper disposal of cigarette butts is as large as it is concerning.

Each year 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are discarded improperly around the world. They are the single most littered item in existence, ever.

It is in our towns and cities that the vast majority of cigarette ends are discarded improperly. With the help of wind and rain they are often blown or washed into our waterways. They then either remain in our lakes and rivers, make their way to the ocean, or get washed up in our natural spaces.

While in our waterways cigarette butts can often be mistaken for food by aquatic life. If a human adult ingests a cigarette butt they are likely to have some mild health consequences such as vomiting and a upset stomach. Imagine the pain and suffering ingesting a cigarette butt would cause to an animal the size of a fish. (Symptoms include vomiting, respiratory failure, and often death.)

If the cigarette butt gets washed out of our waterways onto a riverbank or onto the beach, non marine life faces the same issue. Land animals will also mistake it for food, ingest it, and receive the same potentially lethal consequences as aquatic life.

To make matters worse, (contrary to popular belief) cigarette butts are not biodegradable. They can take up to 25 years to fully degrade. While they do so they are releasing over 4000 toxins into the soil or water that surrounds them

It would be tempting to discount this issue due to the small size of a cigarette butt. However a study conducted by SDSU found that a single cigarette butt placed in a 1 litre tank of water killed half the fish in the tank.

When we remember our initial statistic of 4.3 trillion improperly discarded cigarettes butts each year, the cause for concern arising from these toxic chemicals entering our ecosystem becomes apparent.

So what can we do to reduce the amount of harm caused to our environment by cigarette litter?


Various research organizations and public health bodies around the world have proposed a variety of solutions to this issue. However one main common solution to the issue is commonly agreed upon.


Many people are simply unaware of just how large the problem of improperly disposed cigarette litter is. They are unaware of how harmful it is to the environment.


Through education and awareness campaigns it is possible to reduce the amount of cigarette litter that is improperly disposed of, reducing the scale of the problem.


It’s time to start treating cigarette butts like the toxic waste they actually are.

Climate Change and Mitigation  –  Low Carbon Auckland

Frances Palmer considers how Auckland can move to a lower carbon future

The 2015 Climate conference in Paris generated international pledges to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. Can we do enough at the local level to achieve that goal?

The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) is a network of megacities taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These cities comprise 500 million people and account for 25% of the world’s GDP.  In 2015, Auckland became the 83rd city invited to join C40 and membership will give Auckland global access to 82 like-minded cities who are implementing innovative solutions to the climate challenges affecting us all.

Cities account for 80 per cent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  Auckland’s vision is to be the world’s most liveable city.  Auckland’s Low Carbon 2014 plan outlines short and long term goals in transport, energy, built environment, waste management, and forestry that will allow the city to reduce gross GHG emissions by around 5.3 million tonnes.



Auckland’s emission profile (above) shows which sectors need most attention.  Land transport is a major emitter and improvements to public transport networks are underway, with significant funding from Auckland Council’s overall budget. Only 10 % of Kaipataki Local Board residents take public transport to work. The Beachhaven project2 used individualised travel plans to transition hundreds from private to public transport.  There is potential for more ‘transitioning’ city-wide, as bus and rail services improve.

‘Energy’ [RE] was bypassed in Council’s ten year budget even though ‘stationary energy’  generates 30.8% of Auckland’s emissions  and the city is NZ’s largest industrial centre with industry producing 34.1% of local emissions.  ATEED (representing over 30 tourism and events companies) aims to double turnover in five years3.  If reduced emissions in some areas (eg transport and waste management) are countered by emission spikes elsewhere (eg in industry) then Low Carbon goals are stymied.   Without broad-based intervention, Auckland’s emissions could rise 46% by 2025.1

Most of Auckland’s electricity comes from the South Island. Costs are increasing and energy supplies reliant on hydropower are at risk in a warming world. The Council must urgently address local renewable energy such as solar power, and budget to implement this crucial aspect of its Low Carbon plan.

Waste accounts for just 5.9% of emissions. Better management has reduced emissions, but with 50-60% of food waste still going to landfill, there are still significant gains to be made.

Given intense pressure to increase Auckland’s housing  sectors of ‘built environment’, agriculture and forestry must be monitored, especially given current threats to areas of treasured heritage bush (local carbon sinks).

On an individual level your choices can make a difference 4

  • One return flight Europe – Auckland produces 10 metric tonnes of CO2 per passenger
  • New Zealander s emit an average 19.4 metric tonnes of CO2 /person/year (global average is

4 metric tonnes /person/year)

  • To prevent a 2 degree temperature increase requires CO2 emissions below

1 metric tonne/person/year

On a community level the upcoming Council and local board elections present opportunities to vote for people committed to environmentally astute policy. Let’s make the most of that chance.

If you are attending any meet the candidates meetings you may like to ask:

  1. Do you see LC (low carbon) as important for a liveable Auckland?
  2. What does low carbon Auckland mean to you?
  3. What are 3 top priority actions to make LC a reality this decade?
  4. What budget allocations do you estimate are required for each action?
  5. What are the key challenges to Auckland as a C40 city?
  6. Please outline your commitments and achievements in this field.

Frances Palmer


  3. Industrial Process Emissions Inventory 2011 (published 2015)
  4. Carbon Neutral by 2020: How New Zealanders Can Tackle Climate Change’,

Ed by Niki Harre & Quentin Atkinson, 2007, NZ


Reprinted with permission from Forest & Bird, North Shore Branch

Key evils of neoliberal free market economics: climate disruption, overshoot and collapse, increasing homelessness

Opinion piece by George Preddy.

George Preddey is a former atmospheric physicist (DSIR), futurist (CFF), tertiary teacher (VUW), disaster manager (MoCD), chief adviser (MoE), and international tertiary education consultant (ADB, ILO, OECD, UNESCO, World Bank).


Two contrasting colour illustrations on the back cover of the NZ Listener (July 2-8) are disquietingly reminiscent of contrasting sketches that appeared in a 1981 report on climate disaster by the Commission For the Future, 35 years ago.   These illustrations and sketches feature the Beehive as in 1981 and 2016 and as inundated later this century by rising sea levels, now unequivocally attributed by climate scientists to climate disruption.


A conjecture that CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels would cause climate disruption was published 120 years ago in 1896 by the Swedish physicist Arrhenius.  Unequivocal proof of Arrhenius’ conjecture has been provided by decades of peer-reviewed science consolidated in the fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (AR5, 2013).

A strong driver of climate disruption and sea level rise is neoliberal free market economics, in many respects an ideology rather than a science.   A truly “free market” is a myth since free trade in child labour or heroin would be unacceptable, even to economists, as should free trade in carbon.   The belief that the so-called “invisible hand” will optimally match supply and demand defies rational explanation.   There is compelling evidence that the so-called “trickle down” theory simply doesn’t work.   Indeed data recently released by Statistics New Zealand shows that the divide between the rich and the poor is growing faster in New Zealand than in any other developed country.   In 2016, some 305,000 New Zealand children are living in poverty, some in cars.

Another driver of climate disruption is outlined in the Limits to Growth (L2G) report published by the Club of Rome in 1972.   L2G describes a set of computer simulations of a future Earth.   Its business-as-usual (BAU) projection predicts overshoot and collapse of the global economy, environment, and human population from about 2020 onwards.   L2G’s central argument, rejected by most economists and politicians but self-evident to most scientists, is that growth within any closed system including the Earth’s closed biosphere is ultimately unsustainable and inevitably leads to overshoot and collapse.   L2G’s BAU projection has accurately tracked 40 years of subsequent statistical data collected by many international agencies, and accordingly should be taken very seriously.   So too should the warning of a preeminent scientist in 1954, at that time describing the existential threat posed by nuclear weapons that continues unabated today but equally applicable, in my view, to climate disruption and to overshoot and collapse from about 2020 onwards.


“We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.”

(Professor Albert Einstein, 1954)


Another indicator of overshoot and collapse is the increasing global divide between the rich and the poor demonstrated by global increasing homelessness.   This divide is growing faster in New Zealand than in any other developed country.   In his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, economist Thomas Piketty (2013) argues that the divide between the rich and the poor will continue to widen as long as political decision-makers continue to tax income rather than wealth.   According to Piketty’s reasoning, New Zealand should progressively shift from taxing income, especially of low wage workers, to taxing wealth, especially wealth derived from capital gains (currently tax-free).


Climate disruption is a compelling example of overshoot and collapse.   AR5 predicts emissions growth driven by population and economic growth (without “additional mitigating measures”) will result in a mean global temperature increase of 3.7 to  4.8 °C above pre-industrial levels by 2100, contravening the agreement among 195 nations at the 2015 Paris climate summit to limit global warming to 2°C without actually specifying any “additional mitigating measures”.   UK Met Office, NASA, and NOAA data all confirm 2015 as the hottest year on record since systematic reporting began in 1850; a new world record is likely to be set in 2016.


According to AR5 (2013), unabated emissions by 2100 will eventually cause a 2.3m sea-level rise per 1°C of mean global temperature increase.   However AR5 is not the whole story.   Radar soundings of Antarctic glaciers have revealed troughs under the ice sheet that when inevitably flooded by relatively warm sea water will trigger major ice sheet collapses sufficient to raise global sea level by at least 10m.   An improved ice sheet model in 2016 predicts major ice sheet collapse over the next few decades in response to currently predicted levels of global warming.   During the Pliocene era 4 million years ago when the planet was 2-3°C warmer than today, sea level was 20m higher, attributed largely to collapse of the Antarctic ice sheet.


The Royal Society of New Zealand recently hosted a screening of “Thirty Million”, a documentary film about the devastating consequences of sea level rise for the low-lying nation of Bangladesh over the next few decades: refer   “Thirty Million” is the number of climate refugees predicted to be displaced by sea level rise by 2050 from Bangladesh’s current population of 160 million.   About 200 million climate refugees globally are predicted to be displaced by 2050: hundreds of times greater than the current influx of refugees into Europe driven by drought and ongoing conflict.


“We have enough knowledge to act, but it is the collective acting that is required now

…If we are not careful then we will be definitely suicidal if not evil, a word attributable

to those who have the power to act and have not used it.”

(Dr Atiq Rahman, Executive Director of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies, 2016)


New Zealand’s current population (4.5 million) is 0.061 percent of the global population (7,400 million).  Its annual refugee quota of 750 was recently increased to 1,000.   In my view, the revised quota should be increased to at least 0.061 percent of 200 million over the next three decades: i.e. 5,000 annually, especially from low-lying Pacific Island nations.   Even a five-fold increase does not fully compensate for New Zealand’s relatively large per capita contribution to climate disruption nor for its evil policy choices.

New Zealand’s response to climate disruption reflects poorly on the integrity of a Government that achieved pariah status including a “Fossil-of-the Day” award at the 2015 Paris climate summit.   Its commitment to an 11% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 compared very unfavourably with the commitments of the European Union to a 40% reduction, the United States to 28%, and China to 20%.   Equally unacceptable, under current policy settings New Zealand’s net emissions are officially projected by the Ministry for the Environment to increase by 159% by 2030, not to reduce by 11% by 2030 as promised at Paris, nor to reduce by 50% by 2050 as promised by the “50-by-50” election slogan used shamelessly by National during its successful 2008 election campaign.   The National Government to date has not been held accountable for this broken election promise.

Unsurprisingly, New Zealand’s climate protection policies ranked fourth worst among 60+ countries according to a reputable Climate Change Performance Index (2015) and its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) ranked 25th of 26 countries according to a World Bank review (2014).   Accordingly, New Zealand’s ETS should be scrapped entirely in my view and replaced by:

–   a carbon budget that emphasises essential outcomes determined by robust science rather than by shonky carbon pricing inputs based on spurious and possibly fraudulent economics; and

–   an inescapable increasing carbon tax/charge applied at points of fossil carbon extraction, importation or emission and remitted in full to the public to compensate them for increasing fossil energy power bills.

Increasing homelessness is one of the inevitable consequence of a rampant neoliberal free market economy in my view.   In Bangladesh the immediate driver is sea level rise.   In New Zealand the immediate driver is property investment, often by speculators who are manifestly increasing their wealth through huge, tax-free capital gains.   The solutions to increasing homelessness, both locally and globally, in my view are for political decision-makers including the National Government to:

–   consider whether neoliberal free market economics is a fundamentally flawed ideology that may have evil consequences;

–   consider Professor Einstein’s warning about the existential threat posed by nuclear weapons that, in my view, is also applicable to climate disruption, overshoot and collapse, and increasing homelessness;

–   increase New Zealand’s annual refugee intake quota five-fold to at least 5,000 climate refugees annually;

–   accept Piketty’s rationale for taxing wealth rather than taxing income, and, having the power to act, use it;

–   enact appropriate tax regimes including a carbon tax/charge to address climate disruption and a capital gains tax to address increasing homelessness.



Teaching kids about climate change

Uma Campbell writes about how and why we must teach our children, even at a young age, about climate change:


Learning about the importance of climate change is important for every child. This may seem like a rather advanced project for kids, but there are ways you can tailor the topic to fit kids of all ages.

Why do kids need to learn about climate change at such a young age? Kids will be on this planet much longer than adults, so it is in their benefit to nurture and care for the Earth to protect it for as long as possible. Scientists believe there is still time to limit climate change to only 2 degrees Celsius, so now is the perfect time to teach kids how to live sustainably. How can you get started? Follow these tips:

Explain the tough concepts.

No matter how smart your child is, climate change is a difficult concept to understand, but there are ways to make it easier. One way is to visually show them different climate change concepts through science experiments. For example, take an empty aquarium tank and turn it upside in your backyard when it’s hot and sunny outside. Place a thermometer on the outside of the tank and one on the inside, too. Then, watch as the temperatures rise at different rates. Talk to your kids about how this is what is happening to the Earth, too. Gases (or in this example, heat) are trapped inside the atmosphere and causing our temperatures to rise as a result. When kids are able to see it demonstrated this way, they will be more likely to understand what you’re talking about.

Visit museums.

Find a museum in your area that has programmes designed to teach kids about the environment. There may be day camps for your kids to sign up for that will help them learn about the importance of saving the environment with other kids their age.

 Test their problem solving skills.

To make the concepts of climate change applicable to children’s lives, go through a kid-friendly workbook designed to teach kids about sustainable ways of living. In this workbook, children will have to answer questions such as “how would you reduce water use at your school during a drought?” or “what are the most important needs in your community involving climate change and global warming?” Tackle these questions together so you can help your kids apply what they know so far to their own lives.

Teach them green habits.

The sooner kids begin to adopt greener ways of living, the better off the planet will be, but it’s up to you to instill these habits in them at an early age. Show them how easy it is to make energy efficient choices, such as riding a bike or walking instead of taking the car when you’re just traveling a few blocks. Turning off the water as you brush your teeth and flipping the light switch as you leave a room will do a world of difference for the environment, so why not start now?



Future security priorities – military hardware or climate mitigation?

Frances Palmer from Auckland reflects on our current priorities and how little understanding there is of where the real threats are:

No military threats to our security were cited to justify a $20 billion upgrade to New Zealand’s military hardware over the next 15 years. It was stated that the last time New Zealand made such a major investment in military hardware was for the Vietnam War. Few of us want to be drawn into further military misadventures of empire. It is imperative that the world develops more humane and relevant notions of security for the 21st century – a broad understanding of causes of conflict and appropriate solutions.

Imagine how $20 billion would enhance our security if spent on health, homelessness and climate change mitigation? Evidently government doesn’t understand scientist’s warnings that climate change will become a key security issue if lip service in Paris is not matched by action. It will multiply risk for all other security issues. (Jonathan Boston) Priority investment is required now to reduce atmospheric carbon rises, which will generate disastrous impact chains on health, farming and the economy over forthcoming decades. Climate change doesn’t fit traditional definitions of ‘enemy’, but as security threats go, no other compares.  But military hardware won’t fix it.

Protest is not terrorism: the Maritime Crimes Bill

Protest is not terrorism: a ‘protest’ against Maritime Crimes Amendments Bill

Frances Palmer, ECO supporter and local environmental activist from Auckland, argues that the Maritime Crimes Bill will enhance “security” for visiting ships whilst placing our democratic rights at risk:

It’s over three decades since peace protests on Auckland Harbour and ‘water-borne’ protests like government’s Moruroa ship visits. Do New Zealanders realise that a Maritime Crimes Amendment Bill being rushed through Parliament will classify future ship-borne protests as ‘terrorism‘?

We should ‘protest’, vigorously question, any attempt to redefine ‘protest’ as ‘terrorism’. Such shifts threaten democracy, the right to express opposition to any questionable, contestable policy. New Zealanders cannot permit labels of ‘terrorist’ or ‘terrorism’ loaded with inferences of ‘enemy’ and ‘security threat’, to cynically tarnish a tradition of ethical protest crucial in our history; nor to threaten well-meaning people from exercising democratic rights to defend issues like peace, justice, human rights and the environment.

We should also protest such bills being rushed through under the radar. Inadequate public consultation is an undermining of peoples’ right to express alternative opinions from that of any government. Facilitating broad public debate should not be perceived as a security nuisance. It is democracy. It is part of what protects our society from terror or terrorism.

Perhaps the Bill aims to enhance a sense of ‘security’ for visiting warships, such as visits looming, sponsored by weapons giants like Lockheed Martin, with a weapons expo to match the merry event. Given the sickening violence we see such weapons do daily overseas, most Aucklanders would prefer to protect our well-earned reputation as a ‘liveable’ Peace City, and the real sense of security that comes with that.

What’s next for food prices?

In 2011, Time magazine ran an article predicting continued food price spikes as a result of rising population, increasing fuel costs and the increasing scarcity of water.

ECO asked a researcher, Aubanie Raynal, to analyse the article five years on to see what has happened since – are food prices still on the way up?  And what will happen in the next five years?

Here are her findings:


In his 2011 article, Michael Schuman showed how limited food production coupled with
growing population drove to food price spikes.

In 2011, the economic crisis which began three years earlier in 2008, was at its highest point with prices multiplied by two since 2005.

Schumann’s list of pressures on food prices includes:

  • More and more people to feed
  • Changes in our diet – more meat consumption
  • Higher demand on biofuel
  • Higher pressure on agriculture
  • Acts of nature
  • Irrigation, lowering of the water table

Nevertheless after 2011 we observed a drop of the food price index  in 2015 with even bigger falls in 2016.

Were Schuman’s predictions wrong? What changes / factors have driven down the prices?

According to the FAO, the decrease is mainly due to large stock and lower demand. For
example, the production of wheat, sugar and palm oil is higher than expected,
and with the slow trade activity – meaning more product for less demand – the prices are
being driven down.

For Gail Tverberg, the principal cause is what she calls the “high-priced fuel syndrome”.
Indeed, every kilogram of food is produced thanks to fuel (see Figure 3 on the Finite World link). The stabilization of the barrel price predict by analysts, due to high productivity in the USA (2), Russia and Saudi Arabia and their interest to maintain it below $100 should maintain food price stability for a few years.

Furthermore, the fuel price impacts on factors other than the direct cost of
food production. For example, the demand in biofuel is currently decreasing, which implies less land area devoted for biofuel, thus more areas for food.

If we look closer at the relation between food and fuel price we realise that their evolution
might be symmetric but not proportional. Between 2011 and 2015, when the fuel price dropped  50% the food price only dropped off 30% (3).

The difference shows that other factors are playing an important role. Eastern Asian
countries, for example, are currently switching from a traditional diet to a more Western
one. A populous country as China now consumes more meat than the USA.

The food price evolution is a complex model where economic, human and environmental
parameters are linked to each other. We have to keep in mind that the 2010/2011 food
price spike was a warning and will strike again if we do not change the way we consume,
produce and regulate the food market.

In order to avoid the same scenario recurring, the solutions suggested by Michael Schuman (to increase the investment in R&D in agriculture, to control the food market and to improve food distribution) are more than ever necessary.

‘Enjoy your dinner tonight. While you can still afford it.’


1 Editor of The Oil Drum , web article ‘High-Priced Fuel Syndrome’ Posted on September 26, 2012:
High-Priced Fuel Syndrome

2 Steve Austin, Managing editor of, web article ‘The top 6 reasons oil prices are heading lower’ Posted on May 7, 2015:

3 Tim McMahon, , web article ‘Historical Oil Prices Chart’ Posted on April 30, 2015 :
The difference shows that others factors are playing an important role. Eastern Asian
countries, for example, are currently switching from a traditional diet to a more western
one. Such a populous country as China now consumes more meat than the USA.

Biological indicators and pest control

Wade Doak of Riverlands Landcare in Ngunguru writes that it is biological indicators which are a true indicator of the success of pest control measures:

Since success implies that pest kill tallies will gradually reduce each year, surveys of these alone, which our neighbours in Riverlands Landcare Group have done for several years, are not a good basis to estimate pest control performance. Biological indicators are a sure sign of improvement. Where three decades ago I got 31 possums in one night, Jan and I have only caught four in the past eight months, and we operate on some neighbouring land too. We are across the highway from the DoC Crawford Reserve, at Ngunguru, a reservoir of pest invaders we also have to control.

Certain occurrences have set me thinking about the unexpected benefits that emerge as old, relatively recently severed ecological connections start to get mended. (Logging of native forest in past 150 years and ensuing livestock farming). Emergent biological indicators that we may notice day by day make an interesting list.

That dense grove of large karaka seedlings Jan and I found recently along the extended Kanuka/ Bittern track, (newly territory) near a never-before-sighted blooming, pohutukawa, set us thinking. It indicates a new influence from the time our neighbours began intensified pest control, with the much-reduced possum grazing and seed eating by rats and mice. (For many years, before neighbours arrived, pest control here was mainly done by the Doaks.)

Are the whirlwinds of native bees on the kanuka blooms, a species going extinct elsewhere, surviving well here because of a pest that threatens it? Or what influence assists them, absent elsewhere?

Our widespread army of giant kauri snails have radiated from a single, hermaphroditic releasee right over to the eastern Waiotoi River boundary; south out to Reggie’s; along the newly made Buffalo Track to the west and are seen as road kill on Ngunguru Highway to the north.

Further evidence is growing density of miromiro; of two quail species; and pheasants; the dramatic increase in tui and kereru; the great numbers of fantail and grey warblers, with so many migratory cuckoo of two species. Kiwi calls are frequent now, (male and female) and there are sightings and droppings around our homes. Increasing sightings of endangered pateke /brown teal, there are now 54 on Ngunguru River, and documentation of spotless crake, banded rail, fernbirds, and Australian bittern sightings, all indicate major improvements in our marshes. Weta galore of two species, rhinoceros beetles on our house walls (both are pollinators) and geckoes in our outbuildings, peripatus in our forests, so many orchid species, the list goes on….

Then there is the abundance of seedlings that now survive rats and can be dispersed by expanding numbers of birds: karaka, pigeonwood, taraire, nikau, kahikatea, rimu, miro, totara, Pseudopanax-two species, coprosmas, (several species: five common ones), mairehau, toropapa, Pittosporum umbellatum, mahoe (two species), mingimingi of two species), hangehange, nikau and veritable swards of possum-favoured kohekohe now crowd our paths. Then, the wind-blown seeds of kauri, tanekaha, towai,  kumarahou, rangiora, hebe, tree daisy (O. furfuracea) and kanuka, are spreading vigorously, uneaten by rodents. A whole grove of fragrant mairehau bushes has been found.

Lack of plant damage is further evidence: non-nibbled foliage and uneaten fruit; even fallen black passionfruit now remain untouched; we no longer see empty macadamia nut shells, tooth drilled by rats. Our auto camera once took pictures of a possum grazing tree bark repeatedly: a blackwood. Possums once stripped a single gum tree overnight and made it impossible to raise pohutukawa: now some 200 healthy plantings head skywards, many donated by Project Crimson.

No hedgehogs have been seen for ages: a nuisance in stoat traps, predators of ground bird nests. Rabbits are expanding without predation by stoats. They become mustelid bait or promote banana growth. But we still have native hawks, kingfishers and ruru as predators.

The quality of human life in our homes, gardens and orchards has increased as our forests flourish. It’s like getting rid of fleas and body lice for home owners. It is by far the best way to enhance your land; and your neighbourhood. Our Landcare project now protects 172 hectares.

Find more of Wade’s writing

Climate Change news

As ECO prepares for its annual conference in August, themed around climate change and water, we background some recent news stories on climate change issues.

Arctic sea ice falls to new low. Data published by the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre shows that the Arctic sea ice was at historic low levels in May. Retreating ice is a problem because the exposed oceans absorb more heat rather than being reflected back into space.
Snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere was at the lowest level in 50 years this April.  Read more.

Warmest autumn in New Zealand since 1938. Niwa’s climate summary for autumn shows that the national average temperature for March, April and May this year was 1.4C above the autumn average, at 14.7C. Almost every climate station in New Zealand recorded higher than average temperatures for this time of year, which is attributed to warm seas to the west, some of the warmest seen in the last 100 to 130 years.  NIWA predicts an unusually warm winter also.

Successful trials converting CO2 to rock

A paper published in Science this month reports on successful trials in converting CO2 to rock and storing it underground in Iceland. The new method trialled works by dissolving CO2 in water to create sparkling water and then injecting it into basalt rocks 550m underground.  The CO2 cannot escape into the atmosphere because it is dissolved and cannot rise to the surface.
Such capture and storage methods may have to be part of the solution, if, as appears to be the case, we are entering runaway climate change.

Methane gas emissions at US natural gas plants under-reported – cover-up alleged

A not-for-profit in the US has alleged that a senior official in the US Environmental Protection Agency engaged in a cover-up of the true levels of methane emissions from fracking operations across the United States.
Other studies have shown much higher emissions levels but the EPA reports using the Bacharach measuring device always showed the emissions as lower – which the industry has used to justify their operations. The group NC WARN maintain that the senior EPA official has led an ongoing attempt to coverup the under-reporting by the Bacharach device. Read more.


Why cigarette butts are a huge problem- and why we must do something about it.

Smokers throw their butts onto the ground and somehow don’t consider that as littering, and will do the right thing with their food wrappers or soft drink bottle – why are cigarette butts different?

The absence of bins until recently, and an established culture of stubbing out on to the street, is part of the explanation.

Butts contain a filter which is made out of a type of plastic, as well as the wrapper which is paper and will biodegrade. The plastic, in common with other plastics, takes years to degrade and then only into tiny pieces that survive in the environment.

We know from inspecting our harbours that billions of cigarette butts lie on the sea floor.  The nicotine they contain is toxic to wildlife.

By 2015, the world is predicted to be consuming 9 trillion filtered cigarettes a year.  Read about our big butt problem here.

ECO Member GE-Free New Zealand asks for your help

Claire Bleakley of GE Free New Zealand has been at the annual conference for the GM Free Alliance, a group of NGOs representing Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific. She has sent us this report:

GE free activists in New Caledonia have been very successful in stopping the importation of GM seeds into New Caledonia and they are looking to find places where they can access knowledge and seed for seed saving.

As the Pacific is being hit by climate disasters regularly it has been found that the indigenous small farmers are being hit hard.  Aid donors are giving them hybrid, often GMO seeds to plant for the next season.  When they are given these seeds they expect that these will be able to be saved and replanted, not realising that they are for one season only.   Local farmers have no concept of hybrid one- season seed growth and do not have the money to buy the seeds annually.    

Unfortunately there is no regulation in these countries relating to the importation of GM seeds and they often follow the US and FSANZ approval recommendation for GM foods. The conference decided that to combat this we would like to set up a support package that provides heirloom, open pollinate seeds to the islands in such disasters, as well as information on the differences between the various seeds. The islanders are mostly subsistence farmers who grow with the seasons and without chemicals.

If you or your organisation can help with know-how for seed saving and are willing to be be part of a New Zealand aid and response package for New Caledonia please contact Claire Bleakley on  to discuss. Thank you!

New Zealand is trending towards net deforestation

A new report from Pure Advantage says that we are not planting enough trees here in New Zealand. They quote Environment Ministry figures which show that since 2008 our rate of forest removal has been greater than our rate of forest planting.

The 2015 Environment Aotearoa report showed that between 1996 and 2015 we lost more than 10,000 hectares of native and regenerating forest cover.

Planting the right trees helps our biodiversity to recover, helps to prevent erosion and improves the water quality of rivers. And of course trees absorb CO2, helping to reduce our net emissions of greenhouse gases.

This is happening because of ongoing conversion of forestry land to dairy farming – total intended deforestation by forestry owners is estimated at 67,000 hectares between 2014 and 2025. A staggering 91% of this intended conversion is for dairying.
Read more of the Pure Advantage report here.

In grateful memory: Bob Fantl

Founding ECO executive member Robert (Bob) Fantl has died in Wellington, aged 92. He brought the New Zealand Institute of Architects to the ECO table and worked closely with Dr Ian Prior, noted public health specialist, and Sir Alan Randall, heart specialist, and others who shared his passion for the environment and mountains.

Bob was a Holocaust survivor from the Kindertransport, and lost almost all of his family in the Holocaust.  He arrived in New Zealand in 1940 and with his sister made a new life here, raising a family in Wadestown, Wellington. Bob was amongst those who founded the Wellington Architectural Centre in 1946, a year when an independent New Zealand culture established a firmer footing, of which the Centre was a vital part.  He maintained close friends in and beyond the Wellington Jewish diaspora and was part of the European cultural influx that came with that.

Bob was a co-founder of ECO – then known as CoEnCo – in 1971, and served on its Executive until 1992.  He was Chair or Vice-chair in 1985-86.  With his professional office across the corridor from the ECO office, his kindly and willing presence was always there for ECO.  His primary interests were in establishing protected areas, protection of nature from threats, and in urban and domestic architecture and design.  He was a dedicated environmentalists, skier and tramper.

In his time on the ECO executive he pushed to retain Wellington’s natural and urban heritage, including opposition to the motorway cutting through the Bolton St cemetery. He led the successful effort to establish the  Environmentalist Memorial Garden at Bolton Street cemetery in Wellington, now maintained by Wellington City Council.

ECO people knew him as a kindly, calm and deeply caring and supportive person who strove to protect the environment and to maintain cultural values in the face of Think Big and other manifestations of Philistinism.  ECO’s executive sends its love and deep sympathy to Bob’s family and wide circle of friends.   Bob will be remembered as a tireless champion for the environment and for conservation.


  • written by Michael Pringle and Cath Wallace

Geology – returning to first principles

Geologist Richie Miller says it’s time to put down the drill and return to geology’s founding principles.

Richie Miller volunteers for ECO in his spare time.

The word ‘Geology’ is derived from Ancient Greek, simply meaning ‘the study of the Earth’. True, this is a pretty broad starting point for any study, however, it is precisely this idea of investigating the Earth’s form as a whole that makes it so fascinating. Founder of the modern scientific geological principles James Hutton believed the Earth should be viewed as a single organism, a planet that for millions of years has been, and continues to be, formed by cyclical processes and interactions between land, ocean and biosphere. Geology is a scientific discipline with its historical foundations firmly rooted in a holistic approach towards the Earth. 

Sadly, the word ‘geology’ these days has often become synonymous with the word ‘extraction’. Many geologists, as I did, end up working for the mining and fossil fuels industry which in contrast to Hutton’s idea takes an atomistic approach to the Earth, segmenting and removing the parts it can sell while frequently neglecting the often devastating knock-on environmental and social consequences, both locally and regionally. Funding of universities and research institutions by this industry has narrowed the focus of geological investigation towards these extractive activities.

When I left university I went to work in Australia as a geologist for a mineral exploration company. Many students from UK universities made this journey – extraction of metals, coal, oil and gas was where the jobs were. However, it was in Australia where I saw first-hand the violence committed toward the land on colonised territory at the open-cast ‘Superpit’ gold mine (the name says it all) in Kalgoorlie. I began to let go of my prior justification for extraction: ‘we need these resources, don’t we?’. I could no longer accept the trade-off: resources at the cost of the environment and a dignified existence for those who live on the land.

I moved to New Zealand looking towards a more conservationist use for my subject. I began working as a geologist for an environmental consultancy firm with clients from the oil and gas industry. Essentially my job was to investigate land and water for pollution caused by industrial activity and assist with any clean-up if the pollution was deemed a risk to the public or the environment. This sounds like a useful job and unfortunately it is a necessary one. However, it doesn’t get to the root of the problem: why should we accept the risk of pollution to our land, water and air in the first place? Environmental consultancies do not, after all, speak out to condemn the continued extraction of fossil fuels as the major contributor to the climate change crisis because these extractors are paying customers. Fossil fuels companies, like any other business, assess risk by using profitability as a measure. If the profit out-weighs the cost of a few ‘minor’ environmental clean-ups, then it was worth the risk. If a pollution event occurs, these companies can say they had the mandatory safety control measures in place and that they will do better to prevent the same happening next time. What if next time they’re extracting or storing fossil fuels in your neighbourhood? Is that a risk that you are willing to take?

I feel that my experiences as a geologist are indicative of how the extraction industry has cornered geological investigation for their own use to profit at the expense of the environment. This starts with our educational institutions where there is plenty of evidence showing the grip the extraction industry has on our brightest scientists.

New Zealand’s Crown Research Institutes, such as Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS) and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), have commercial arms whose clients are fossil fuels companies. In November 2015 Greenpeace activists occupied NIWA’s ocean research ship Tangaroa in protest at its use for petroleum exploration surveys off the east coast of the North Island1. GNS on the other hand sells consultancy services to petroleum customers ranging from “regional assessments of permit areas right through to post drill analysis on your well”2. GNS also joined many other organisations including the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in sponsoring the 2015 New Zealand Petroleum Summit, a large get together of some of the dirtiest fossil fuels giants where they troubleshoot and discuss “petroleum investment opportunities in New Zealand”3.

New Zealand’s tertiary education is also locked in. University of Auckland’s School of Environment lists fossil fuels extractors Statoil, OMV Group and New Zealand Energy Corp within their research sponsors4. Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences offers a Masters degree in Petroleum Geoscience with a “full-time research project in conjunction with GNS Science or a petroleum company”5

The devastating effects of climate change are rapidly increasing in magnitude due to industrial pollution and the victims of this devastation are not the polluters. Endangered ecosystems are being destroyed to dig up more mineral wealth. Never before has it been so starkly clear the importance of viewing the earth in a holistic manner. We need to understand that human interference with the Earth in such violent ways has significant consequences.

Divestment in the fossil fuels industry is overdue across all our educational and research institutions. It is time for geology to put down the drill-bit, take a step back and once again recapture the holistic principles upon which it was founded.




Carbon levels unprecedented in over 56 million years

The ice in the Arctic has set a new wintertime low for the second year in a row, at 1.12 million sq km lower than the average for 1980 to 2010, reports NASA scientists.

Carbon is being released into our atmosphere at a rate that far exceeds the last known mass carbon release event, 56 million years ago. The release of carbon – the cause is not known – was at the rate of 1 billion tons of carbon a year over 4,000 years  – but in 2013 alone, humans released 10 billion tons of carbon, on top of the natural carbon cycle, and that rate continues.
Scientists have been looking for a period in our history where the release of carbon may have equalled what we are doing in the Anthropocene in order to see how the Earth may respond to current warming, but nothing comes close to the massive geological upheaval caused by human activity in the last 60 years.

The New Scientist reports on the highest ever annual rise in CO2 levels, as recorded at Mauna Loa in Hawaii in February.

Taking a closer look – DOC review of huts and tracks – what does this mean for backcountry access?

DOC is reviewing huts and tracks – taking a closer look

DOC budget cuts, and the need to protect biodiversity such as kauri, kokako and frogs, are threatening back country recreation and access.

DOC is currently undertaking a review of its 985 backcountry huts and wants to know who is using them in order to justify maintaining them.  The key to ensuring their future is letting DOC know how valued they are as a means of accessing the New Zealand back and high country.   DOC is always looking for ways to trim its budget so if we want to preserve this wonderful aspect of New Zealand life we do need to speak up now.

How we balance the competing demands of recreational users and the need to preserve biodiversity will be debated at a Federation of Mountain Clubs workshop at Waitawheta Camp, at the northern end of the Kaimai Range, on Saturday 28 May.  50% of New Zealand’s population lives north of Lake Taupo – how will they still be able to enjoy access to our great outdoors?  Join in the debate and find out more here.

ECO executive: sounds like you?

The ECO Executive has made submissions in the last few weeks on the Resource Law Amendment Bill, the Marine Protected Areas review, the Trans Pacific Partnership treaty, the Te Kuha mine proposal, the Emissions Trading Scheme Review and the Mokau mine application.

All this requires work and dedication – which your Executive is committed to.  We do however need more members on our Executive and welcome applications from suitably qualified and interested people!  Could this be you?  Please consider if you would like to step forward and offer your skills and interest to the essential work of ECO – there is no other New Zealand environmental organisation doing what ECO does.  Email the office or call us on 04 385 7545 to discuss.

Choose Clean water – petition to be presented 29 March!

The Choose Clean Water Campaign now has over 10,000 signatures and is aiming for 15,000 before presenting it to Parliament on 29 March.

If you have not already signed the petition you can do so here.

Please come along to the petition presentation event on 29 March at 1pm at Parliament.  Please come and support the petition and the Freshwater team.

The Choose Clean Water team are volunteers who have worked for the love of freshwater, and need your help to cover the costs of printing, publicity materials and a mic and speakers for the presentation to parliament. This will be around $2000.

If you can spare a little (or a lot), it is all appreciated.
Go here to donate.

Mike Joy’s book Polluted Inheritance is available on Bridget Williams Books website as a BWB text.  In this 61-page book Mike demonstrates how the intensification of dairying has degraded our rivers, lakes and waterways to an alarming degree – risking the wellbeing of future generations.  This book will make you angry – and is an urgent call to action.

We know that our freshwater species are disappearing rapidly as the Society for Conservation Biology report last year revealed.

The government recently announced further funding for three more irrigation schemes for dairying in traditionally dry areas such as Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne – at a time when dairying is weak and has a dubious future.

Three Hawke’s Bay rivers are still out of bounds to the community because of silt spilling from the Waihi Dam. Erosion, farming and forestry are all causing regular damage to Hawke’s Bay rivers.  Maraetotara Lagoon has just been ruled out of bounds to swimming due to excessive faecal matter.

Still in Hawke’s Bay, Forest and Bird are appealing a decision by the High Court which approved DOC’s decision to downgrade and swap land in the Ruahine Forest Park to provide land needed for the Ruataniwha Dam.  Even if the dam does not proceed, the Judge’s decision sets a worrying precedent for the security of conservation land in New Zealand.

Is a beautiful, clean future within our grasp now?

Chris Livesey reflects on the Paris Climate Summit (COP 21) and what has been achieved.   What does the agreement mean for New Zealand, and there is now real hope that we can avoid disastrous global warming?


Following the Paris summit there is much greater international agreement about the destination, and the destination has been much more clearly defined. Each country now has the responsibility to do its bit to ensure that, collectively, we reach that destination.

That means that in New Zealand:

  • lots of hard work is needed to develop a national transitional plan and policies that ensure that the investment needed to give New Zealand zero net emissions by 2050 (or soon after) is required;
  • government, financial institutions, businesses, unions, cities, and citizens will need to contribute to make the plan and its policies effective and socially acceptable;
  • and lots of on-going political pressure will be required to ensure that the plan and its policies are developed and then implemented.

The momentum generated by Paris must be continued.

Below are a variety of what seem to me to be important perspectives that I have picked out from the plethora of reports following the conclusion of the Paris summit.


… the Paris deal will be a success if it provides a signal to markets and investors that clean energy is the future. We’ll see if that happens …..

(Coral Davenport of the New York Times, reported by Brad Plumer, Vox)


[The Paris agreement] sent “a powerful signal” that a low-carbon future and investment in clean energy were economically viable and could create jobs, [President Obama] said.

(Radio NZ)


… it’s worth keeping these talks in perspective. The Paris agreement can support ongoing efforts to reduce fossil-fuel emissions and curb deforestation. But whether Earth warms 2°C or 2.5°C or 3°C simply won’t be decided by this deal alone. That will depend on what future policies get enacted by individual countries, on how quickly we switch over to alternative energy sources, on how technology evolves.

… the Paris agreement can only encourage countries to step up their efforts. It can’t force them to do so. That’s the hard part, the part that comes next. Further action will ultimately depend on policymakers and investors and engineers and scientists and activists across the globe …

In other words, the Paris deal is only the first step. Perhaps the easiest step. To stop global warming, every country will have to do much, much more in the years ahead to transition away from fossils fuels (which still provide 86 percent of the world’s energy), move to cleaner sources, and halt deforestation. They’ll have to pursue new policies, adopt new technologies, go far beyond what they’ve already promised.

There’s ample room for skepticism about this agreement. Countries are offering up entirely voluntary climate pledges that are, so far, awfully flimsy. … The parties have only agreed to vague feel-good goals at Paris – limit global warming to 1.5°C, have emissions peak “as soon as possible” – without a well-defined plan for how to actually achieve those targets.

So, yes, there’s a chance that the Paris deal, and the processes it sets in motion, could prove effective. That’s the risk with any treaty based on voluntary actions.

(Brad Plumer, Vox)

Progressive as the outcome is by comparison to all that has gone before, it leaves us with an almost comically lopsided agreement. While negotiations on almost all other global hazards seek to address both ends of the problem, the UN climate process has focused entirely on the consumption of fossil fuels, while ignoring their production.

In Paris the delegates have solemnly agreed to cut demand, but at home they seek to maximise supply. …. Until governments undertake to keep fossil fuels in the ground, they will continue to undermine the agreement they have just made.

(George Monbiot)

The biggest test will come in 2020 when countries are supposed to contribute new emissions-cutting plans. Will they actually do that? …….  If countries follow the Agreement and come to the table in 2020 with serious new climate efforts, Paris will have succeeded where Kyoto failed, and will establish itself as a more enduring international framework.

(Martin Levi, Council on Foreign Relations, USA)

“It’s a fraud really, a fake,” [James Hansen] says, rubbing his head. “It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.”

…. according to Hansen, the [Paris agreement] is pointless [if] greenhouse gas emissions aren’t taxed across the board. He argues that only this will force down emissions quickly enough to avoid the worst ravages of climate change.

Hansen believes China, the world’s largest emitter, will now step up to provide the leadership lacking from the US. A submerged Fifth Avenue and deadly heatwaves aren’t an inevitability.

“I think we will get there because China is rational,” Hansen says. “Their leaders are mostly trained in engineering and such things, they don’t deny climate change and they have a huge incentive, which is air pollution. It’s so bad in their cities they need to move to clean energies. They realise it’s not a hoax. But they will need co-operation.”

(The Guardian)

“Governments must now put words into actions, in particular by implementing policies that make effective progress on the mitigation pledges they have made. That is why my key message is to price carbon right and to do it now.”

(Christine Largarde, Head of the IMF; reported on Radio NZ)


“The diplomats have done their job: the Paris Agreement points the world in the right direction, and with sophistication and clarity,” [Jeffery Sachs] said.

“It does not, however, ensure implementation, which necessarily remains the domain of politicians, businessmen, scientists, engineers, and civil society.”

(reported on Radio NZ)


The most positive outcome of the Paris climate talks might have occurred outside the plenary rooms, Massey University Centre for Energy Research director Professor Ralph Sims said.

“The momentum of businesses, cities, NGOs, financiers, bankers, indeed across all civil society, in their intent to move towards a rapid transformation to a low-carbon economy was far more impressive than the formal negotiations.”

(reported on Radio NZ)

Most importantly, [the Paris agreement] sends a clear message to investors everywhere: sinking money into fossil fuels is a dead bet. Renewables are the profit centre. Technology to bring us to 100% clean energy is the money-maker of the future.

History delivers moments when the wind shifts, you can smell it in the air. The best of us harness that power, using it to fuel the new path. Like our brothers and sisters in South Africa who won legal equality, LGBTQ members in the United States who won the right to marry the people they love, Gandhi’s non-violent movement that gave birth to a new hope for India, we are on the brink of that new, sweet wind.

Let’s harness it together, let’s fly together under the sail of a common humanity, across the oceans, rivers and lakes that divide us. Let’s take the promise of right now and deliver our children a beautiful, safe, and clean future.

(The team at AVAAZ)

A renaissance in the Waikato

HECUA student and ECO intern Emily Donaldson continues her series looking at ecological restoration projects in New Zealand.   Her research is based upon the survey work undertaken by ECO earlier this year.


There’s more happening in the Waikato than just dairy farming. Two hectares of the upper Mangaiti Gully in Hamilton is undergoing a native flora renaissance in hopes of reestablishing native fauna, in turn. Through comprehensive and prudent planning, with support from the Department of Conservation, New Zealand Landcare Trust, and the University of Waikato, the Mangaiti Gully Restoration Trust wants to incite community interaction, create an education resource, form a local urban resource for recreation, and epitomize good governance.

The Mangaiti Gully Restoration Trust’s purpose, according to ECO’s 2014 survey of conservation work by environmental groups, reiterated the goals of restoration (to pre-European status), reestablishing native fauna, and sustainably collaborating with other people and organizations that share similar objectives. Weed clearing, planting, track construction, shade house extension, pest control, native species introduction, and general maintenance all contribute to this vision. Beginning in 2010, the Trust honed in on dominant canopy trees, such as the Kahikatea, Pukatea, Swamp Maire, and Pokaka found in this very wet, steep ecosystem.

Seeing as the gully is Hamilton City Council land, the council helps the resource gully restoration groups by supplying trees to plant and to fund other needs. The Trust’s expenses in 2014 were $4191, relying on 1,134 volunteer hours to achieve a commendable amount of restoration work, often during weekly “3-hour working bees.” Their blog is just as impressive as the community project, updating and detailing many of the different initiatives and species introductions, removals, and monitoring.

Check out the blog and their great photos at:

NZ Landcare Trust also featured Mangaiti Gully Restoration Trust’s work in December, 2011:



A positive bias for Bushy Park!

ECO’s intern and HECUA student Emily Donaldson continues her series looking at ecological restoration projects happening around New Zealand, based upon the survey work ECO undertook last winter.

In this article Emily reviews the sterling work being done by Bushy Park at Whanganui.

Bushy Park: Part Bush, Part Park, Part Homestead

I will admit upfront my (positive) bias towards Bushy Park Sanctuary in Whanganui. I will also add that a panel from Ecological Management & Restoration (a journal of the Ecological Society of Australia) and the Society for Ecological Restoration International deemed Bushy Park as one of the top twenty-five ecological restoration projects in Australia and New Zealand in 2009.

Our HECUA study abroad programme visited the one hundred predator-free fenced hectares this September, tramping its trails, counting kereru, checking traps, and exploring the fence line. In addition to Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari and Zealandia, this ecological sanctuary has left an indelible mark on me.

Bestowed to Forest & Bird in 1962, Bushy Park is cared for by Bushy Park Trust, enhancing native avian and endangered species populations and providing environmental education opportunities, trails for recreation, and a Homestead for entertainment and accommodations. The Edwardian-era homestead, a Category One Heritage Building registered with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, harbors twenty-two rooms and a treasure trove of Maori and other historical and cultural artifacts.

Reflecting its cultural richness and diversity, Bushy Park’s species richness and biodiversity includes bellbirds, kereru, north island robin, saddlebacks, hihi, moreporks, fantail, grey warbler, pukeko, silvereye, kingfishers, white-faced heron, and some kiwi. Giraffe weevils, glowworms, and huhu beetles also inhabit Bushy Park, residing in the diverse native bush and wetland. Stoats, ferrets, weasels, possums, feral cats, hedgehogs and rats once threatened many of these endemic species, but recently mice and rats are the main mammalian species left.

Although we only checked a few tracks, 12,000 volunteer-hours were contributed to Bushy Park in 2014, according to ECO’s environmental group survey. Running on a pricey budget of $60,000, Bushy Park appreciates all visitors, volunteers or otherwise.

Bushy Park

Habitat and bird protection, monitoring for predators, upgrading of tracks & signage, and maintenance accounts for much of the workload within the fence. With ongoing work and a long-term vision, I would love to return to Busy Park to offer a helping hand and see its progress. Its value, cultural, historical, and ecological, is irreplaceable.


Please, spend some time exploring Bushy Park online:

Support the Waitara Three

The actions by Taranaki Regional Council in holding three individuals responsible for costs incurred in a hearing, rather than the group for whom they signed on behalf, sets a dangerous precedent for the rest of country. The Council has determinedly pursued this through court action, almost certainly incurring more in legal fees than the debt they claim but they won’t release this information under the OIA unless the applicants pay $461.00 up front – applicants plural because at least eight different people have requested this information. They also refused to release the information to Radio New Zealand unless they paid for it though the sum to be charged was $81 per hour, for an unspecified number of hours.

The group involved is Friends of Waitara River – and the Waitara certainly needs friends. For a long time it was the waste disposal unit for the town’s freezing works which pumped waste down the old blood chute straight into the river (great herring fishing ground, according to older locals). While that has stopped, the river is often the receptacle for overflows from the town’s storm water and even sewage systems. Water quality in the area is so bad that there are signs warning about contaminated shellfish on the local reefs.

The group made a submission on three resource consents related to extending the time permitted for emergency discharge to the water way (emergencies are more frequent than occasional) and requested an independent commissioner to hear the consent applications lodged by New Plymouth District Council to Taranaki Regional Council (TRC). The latter council said they would charge for the independent commissioner but never gave a definite figure.

Friends of Waitara River lacked legal status at the time so their submission was signed by three members. By the time the hearing was held, the group was an incorporated society.

TRC could have decided to carry the cost of the independent commissioner, but they didn’t. They could have decided to bill the group involved, but they didn’t. Instead they deliberately and zealously set out to bill the three individuals who signed the submission. They won in court and on appeal because of the legal technicality of the few weeks between signing and when the group became an incorporated society. They were also awarded costs on the first court hearing but not the appeal.

The court did not take into account multiple failures in procedure by TRC.

  • They added a fourth consent which was much larger and more complex to the hearing on the three consents and billed FOWR for costs related to independent commissioners for that fourth consent, even though the group had not requested this.
  • They failed to provide details of costs in advance of the hearing.
  • FOWR requested AN independent commissioner. TRC had already decided to employ TWO independent commissioners and added a THIRD commissioner – billing FOWR for the additional commissioner.
  • TRC admitted in court that the costs incurred as a result of the FOWR request for an independent commissioner were around $5000, but they continue to charge them the original $12000 (plus unspecified additional costs of recovery).
  • TRC have refused to negotiate an out of court settlement. They have refused to even meet with FOWR or to permit a delegation to speak to councillors.
  • TRC even refused to receive a delegation of local kaumatua who wanted to speak to them about the actions.
  • TRC refuses to recognise that FOWR tracks its origins back to 1980 and the hearings into the establishment of the Motunui plant (now methanol but back then a Think Big flagship project turning gas into petrol) with their long sea outfall to sea. Then there was the Waitangi Tribunal hearing into discharging waste to water around Waitara in 1982. The Friends have continued in various forms, advocating for the water and the river and beach environments ever since, as well as being active in environmental projects. The issues have continued for 35 years now and so have some of the group members.

Sadly New Plymouth District Council, whose consents are at the heart of the issue, have wrung their hands in faux sympathy, nodded sagely and walked away.

All this means that three individuals are facing a bill – the exact amount of which remains unknown at this stage but is likely to be closer to $30, 000 than $20, 000.

The real danger of what the Taranaki Regional Council has done is to ensure that nobody will ever make submissions to consents again where costs are threatened. Nor is the public able to use the OIA to try and find out information. Democracy, Taranaki-style, anybody?

The clearest message to them would be country-wide outrage at what they have done and widespread support for the Give A Little page.

Please help and do not let this council bankrupt these three individuals.


Golden Bay: Beautification and Preservation of the Local Waterways

ECO intern Emily Donaldson continues her series reviewing the results of a survey ECO undertook this year into the voluntary work being performed by groups to care for our environment in Aotearoa.

In this post Emily looks at the work of a small and energetic environmental group, Keep Golden Bay Beautiful.

Freshwater quality is currently at the forefront of New Zealand environmental management and policies. ECO’s annual conference this year in August addressed dialogues on freshwater, in attempts to “navigate impasses and new approaches” on a variety of interdisciplinary topics related to freshwater. Keep Golden Bay Beautiful, based in Takaka, is one environmental group working at the ground level to improve the freshwater quality in their locale.

A litter cleanup each year garners the most volunteers and publicity for this small environmental group, a recent respondent to ECO’s survey of the work being done by environmental groups around the country in 2014. Current project sites include the Onekaka River and the Takaka River Oxbow at the southern end of Paynes Ford Scenic Reserve (public land of Tasman District Council, DOC or Land Information New Zealand), which are dependent on a network of groups and individuals and community donations and volunteers. The TDC serves as a member of the group’s parent body- Keep New Zealand Beautiful.

Keep Golden Bay Beautiful predominantly aims to restore riparian vegetation and make sure the lowland river (which has a large number of invertebrate species and fish) is protected from agricultural pollution. Restoring these targeted five hectares to their indigenous state depends on riparian planting (especially of rare species), fence mending, releasing of plants, poisoning out crack willows, spraying weeds, and preparing new planting sites.

In 2014, volunteers contributed 160 hours of their time to these projects, adding to the 20 person-days of managing and working. This conservation work and health of the local waterways are wedded to the cultural identity of the community, which celebrates new citizens by presenting a local kowhai to every child born in the Bay the previous year.

Respondents to the survey recognized their progress over the past years. The lower part of wetland area is returning to its natural gravelly bed habitat as the willows die and release all the damned-up silt. This ecological restoration, in addition to intensifying forest cover along the river, nurtures a great habitat for freshwater fish and invertebrates. The public can already see the forest margin along this waterway and the notable improvement to freshwater quality.

While citizens, environmental groups and organizations, researchers, policymakers, farmers, and other stakeholders should endeavour to improve freshwater quality at every scale of influence in New Zealand, this grass-roots work is a commendable model for others like it.

ECO will continue to cover the intricacies of freshwater quality management and policy-making and highlight conservation efforts, like those of Keep Golden Bay Beautiful.

If you want to learn more about their work, please visit:


Ecological transition in Hawke’s Bay

In this third article in a series reviewing the responses to a survey ECO undertook on ecological restoration and conservation work being performed by the voluntary sector in New Zealand, ECO HECUA intern Emily Donaldson looks at the work being done by the Ahuriri Estuary Restoration Group:

Transitioning from fresh water to open coast, estuaries support a diverse range of habitats and human activities, serving as an integral part of  our New Zealand cultural identity. The complexity of these ecological systems proffer many ecosystem services including food production, recreational opportunities, trade hubs, and processing contaminants from the land.

The intricacy of the ecological interrelationships and ecosystem processes demand comprehensive research and precautionary management. Current New Zealand estuarine ecosystems still harbour high biodiversity, despite many stressors, such as the location of most major cities near estuarine ecosystems.

Thankfully, environmental groups and organizations like the Ahuriri Estuary Restoration Group, Forest and Bird, and the Department of Conservation are looking after these critical and fragile ecosystems. Ahuriri Estuary Restoration Group aims to sustain the health of this estuary primarily through weed control and plantings, typically over about 40 hectares of the lower estuary. This volunteer group formed in 2003 after fire destroyed an area of 10 year old plantings in the lower Ahuriri estuary, working to plant native species (manuka, flax, kowhai, and more), clean-up rubbish, maintain signage and tracks, and remove many weeds, such as wattle and boneseed.

The Restoration Group keep track of some of its exceptional work; in taking ECO’s Environmental Group Survey, they contributed even more information on their commendable efforts. 300 to 600 plants are put in each year, typically in the winter. Although the group honed in on 40 hectares initially, they indicated that the estuary requires 200 hectares of attention. Devoting 150 person-days of work as well as 1,200 volunteer hours, the group is also taking on an advocacy role for conservation and restoration. The stewardship of this estuary and its tangible results were acknowledged in the survey: “The site has been transformed from a weedy area with few native plants to a well vegetated asset to the local area. Wildlife habitat enhanced and weeds reduced.”

To find out more about the Ahuriri Estuary Restoration Group, click on the following links:

Read up on the specifics of New Zealand estuarine ecosystem services at:


Rangi and Papa’s Vestibules

ECO intern, Emily Donaldson from the U.S HECUA programme, continues her review of conservation work being undertaken by the voluntary sector in New Zealand as surveyed by ECO in August this year.

In this post, Emily looks at the work of the Manawatu group Green Corridors:

Palmerston North is not only home to Massey University. Green Corridors, a voluntary group working in conjunction with Palmerston North City Council, plans and oversees the predominantly riparian planting of reserve areas to encourage native biodiversity. This peri-urban group primarily comprises working professionals with personal and work-related ties to the creation of these ecological corridors.  Ecological corridors of native vegetation offer safe passage and healthy habitats for terrestrial and avian fauna- in this context, along streams from the Tararua Ranges to the Manawatū River, (beginning with reserves in Turitea Valley and Kahuterawa Stream valleys and tributaries).

The projects are long-term, seeking to link urban, suburban, and rural areas for the benefit of indigenous flora and fauna. Successional planting and maintenance usually occurs between May and September, which will hopefully form a broad green buffer zone around urban areas. Pest control and educating the local communities on New Zealand’s biodiversity are also focal points for this environmental group.

Green Corridors calculates the costs of revegetating land on a per hectare basis. The goal is to plant 500 plants per hectare in which the cost per plant covers the pioneer plants, planting, spray releasing and maintenance in the first year and replacement plants from mortality.

$5 donations will contribute to the planting of an eco-consciously sourced native tree. As planting continues to increase on a yearly basis for a fraction of the cost it would take for Council (or any other agency) to complete, each hectare of native plants is offsetting 3,825 tons of carbon dioxide for the next fifty years.

Green Corridors was one of the eighty-one organizations which completed ECO’s Environmental Group Survey on conservation work in New Zealand. In 2014, volunteers and working professionals completed 500 work hours, amounting to approximately 62.5 person-days of work. Although 2014 expenditures amounted to $37,000, the benefits to PNCC and the local communities cover much of the cost in the long run. In the last 9 years, Green Corridors has planted over 85,000 eco-sourced native plants in fifteen hectares of gullies in the Summerhill area and 9.5 hectares of riparian margin along the Turitea Stream.

If you want to learn more about ecological corridors and its ecosystem services (pages 60-67), check out DOC’s work within the Kaimai-Tauranga Catchments:


To stay up-to-date with Green Corridors, follow them on Facebook:


Or check out their website:…/council-initiatives/green-corridors



Holding environmental degradation at bay

ECO intern and HECUA student Emily Donaldson takes a close look at the work being done by the Bay of Islands Maritime Park group.

The Bay of Islands Maritime Park, an ECO member group in Northland, was one of the respondents to a recent survey undertaken by ECO of the conservation and restoration work being undertaken by the volunteer sector in New Zealand. Bay of Islands Maritime Park is at the forefront of conservation efforts for marine environments.

The Bay of Islands Maritime Park group was established in May, 2006. Its incorporation in 2007 allowed for active working groups to apply for project funding, while bringing together small community groups in the region to develop an integrated approach to target the pressing issues facing the Bay of Islands ecosystems. Their collective mission seeks social, ecological, and economic sustainability founded on devoted community members tackling water pollution, excessive sedimentation and silt, the decline of fish populations, and other anthropogenic problems. The tangata whenua, commercial users, recreational users, tourism sector, ratepayer groups, and environmental and government sector organizations and associations collaborate to run projects and initiatives including Fish Forever, Living Waters: Bay of Islands – Wai Ora, Ocean Survey 20/20, the Seagrass Restoration Project, and marine biodiversity education for schools.

The survey response indicated that work is conducted by two different groups specifically for the islands: (1) Establishing a network of marine reserves in the Bay of Islands and (2) riparian planting and restoration at two different sites. General conservation work in 2014 included planting, weeding, marine reserve campaigning, and pest control at an expense of approximately $77,000. Some 4,000 volunteer and work hours were contributed to accomplishing these tasks in 2014. Tangibly beneficial projects comprised: restoring a wetland in Tangatapu, reducing sedimentation via riparian planting of the Kerikeri River, and working towards the establishment of a marine reserve.

Ecosystem services, highlighted by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, contribute to the wellbeing of humans in many ways. Broken up into four categories, the ecosystem services of New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone provides at least 12 regulatory services, 5 provisioning services, and 9 non-consumptive services, indicative of the significance of restoring and preserving the marine environment in the Bay of Islands. Based on global estimates, marine ecosystems may provide about two-thirds of the total value of services provided by New Zealand ecosystems annually. With coastal and terrestrial ecosystems closely linked, conservation on all fronts is imperative. Thankfully, the diligent community work fostered by this ECO member group is boosting services like the denitrification of water, food support and provisioning, and preservation of Maori traditions.

To learn more about New Zealand’s marine ecosystem services, click below:

If you want to find out more about The Bay of Islands Maritime Park, visit these websites:

Reporting on the ECO Conference on freshwater: an international perspective

Monica Giona Bucci, a PHD student at Lincoln University, attended the recent ECO Conference in Christchurch: “Dialogues on freshwater: navigating impasses and new approaches”.  Here she offers her perspective on the conference and its messages, as an overseas PhD student:

The ECO Freshwater conference was an important occasion to hear more about the social, political and ecological challenges that New Zealand, as a multicultural community, has to face and manage. Most importantly, this meeting brought to light what are the key points on a modern decisions board in which many stakeholders from different backgrounds have to be equally involved.

As an overseas PhD student this meeting was an invaluable source of information to better understand the New Zealand society and its approach to ecological issues.

The freshwater system (river and lakes) in New Zealand is under ecological threat because of the intense dairy farming industry. Dr Joy and Dr Humphrey have clearly illustrated that Nitrate leaks and pollution can cause alteration of the freshwater ecosystem such as algae bloom, E. coli infections, irregular oxygen fluctuation -which can be deadly for aerobic organism such as fishes-, blue baby syndrome – that affects primarily lower-income families.

As Al Fleming (from Healthy River) recalled freshwater health means a lot to New Zealand. “When you meet someone in Māori culture you say ‘ko wai koe’ and what that means is ‘who are you’ but if you take the translation out of it and just translate word for word it is ko meaning who and wai meaning water, so it is actually ‘which water source do you come from’“. This exemplifies how the freshwater ecosystem is important for New Zealand, hence the need to protect and manage it sustainably.

Despite several attempts undertaken to manage the freshwater ecosystem and protect its resilience capacity from modern pollutants (e.g. Treaty of Waitangi) NZ does not recognize the right to a healthy environment at national and international level. However, Dr. Duncan highlighted a key point to better understand the ongoing decision tree for the best freshwater management within the Canterbury experience, using Jasanoff’s analysis (2004). Science and politics need to find the right balance to inform and make the (local, regional, national) communities conscious enough to independently face tricky issues such as eco-management topics. Duncan analysis explained that neither the scientist nor the politician takes the final decision. The conclusive decision is discussed on a democratic and multi-stakeholders board where the last choice rests upon the community representatives. Therefore, the role of the community needs to be empowered while politics and science have to support it rather than lead the decision making process. When the community gets involved in the decision tree each component is important and needs to be encouraged. This will enable a social awareness, which bonds the community participants, helping to recognize common over personal interests. This process can potentially result in a democratic and modern way to recognize the right to a healthy environment in New Zealand.

As highlighted by Scott Pearson, some of the latest experiences of communitarian decision have been unsuccessful. Because of this, there is a need to raise social awareness, especially about the eco-management issues.  From Latin, eco means house, and as in a house, collaboration is the only way to get to achieve sustainable management for our ecosystem.

In conclusion, the social awareness of good eco-management practices is the first step towards the development of a democratic wellbeing including our ecosystem.

MPI reviews New Zealand fisheries – are we really world-leading?

Cath Wallace reviews the Ministry of Primary Industries fisheries review, currently under way  C Wallace

The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) is embarking on a significant review of New Zealand fisheries management.    In many ways a review is welcome, but ECO has difficulty both with some of the matters that have been ruled out of scope and some of the assertions that New Zealand fisheries management sustainability is not to be questioned.

Among the questions that ECO asked is whether New Zealand’s system of fisheries management really is world-leading and sustainable as the Ministry promotes.

Fisheries law in New Zealand still does not include an active precautionary approach.  Nor does it have an Ecosystem-Based management approach, the now widely accepted framework for fisheries management elsewhere.

Fisheries  in New Zealand are still impacting on many non-target species and marine communities. This includes  threatened endemic species – including Maui and Hector’s dolphins, many albatross and petrel species, and NZ sea lions.

Bottom fishing is still impacting on benthic biodiversity and we are still in the early days of implementing the current National Plans of Action on Seabirds and Sharks.  One of the major flaws of the fisheries Quota Management System is that there is little attention paid to the environmental impacts of fishing (except on the charismatic megafauna) and there are few measures in place to review or incentivise fishing methods and their imapcts.  For the most part, companies hold fisheries quota and there is rarely  attention to the methods by which it is caught and their impacts on ecosystems and invertebrates and their communities and habitats.

MPI’s director of sector policy, Jarred Mair says there will be plenty of opportunity for people to have their say throughout this process. “The first phase of the review, beginning now, is about gathering information from stakeholders and the public about what is working and what might be priorities for change.”

“We’ll then summarise what we’ve heard and bring that back for feedback in early 2016. If it is decided that change is needed, MPI will develop proposals and there will be another opportunity to have your say”.

MPI says that it won’t be looking to make changes to core elements of the quota management system. Similarly, the existing rights and interests of recreational, customary and commercial fishers, as well as Treaty settlements, are not in scope.

MPI is also reviewing cost recovery provisions in the Fisheries Act 1996. These provisions apply to fisheries research and management, and also to impacts on protected species under conservation legislation.  The provisions are in need of reform.

The current provisions have been used to restrict and limit fisheries research which is less than half of what it was, in real terms, over 20 years ago.  For most of the stocks in the quota management system, little is known about sustainable yields.  Perversely, the smaller the stock, the less the industry wants to spend on research.  Decisions can be made on information that is many years old.   Ecosystem impacts information is not routinely collected.

This could be an opportunity to achieve ecosystem-based management, proper environmental impact assessments, the precautionary principle and catch limits for the ecosystem rather than for the fishing industry.  We might even get recognition of the in-situ values of fish in the sea – performing their ecosystem functions and providing other non-market values.

It is also likely that the fishing industry will want to gain even more control over the specification, design and conduct of fisheries research, and that they will want to privatise fisheries management.  The Review includes a goal of gaining “social licence” for fishing – which could be code for legitimising business as usual.

The National Science Challenges

Cath Wallace challenges us to get involved with science challenges…C Wallace

Over the past 18 months, eight of eleven National Science Challenges have been launched by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Enterprise, MBIE.  At least five of the eleven have direct relevance to the sustainable management of our natural environment. The following information is from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) website:


The National Science Challenges are designed to take a more strategic approach to the government’s science investment by targeting a series of goals, which, if they are achieved, would have major and enduring benefits for New Zealand. The Challenges provide an opportunity to align and focus New Zealand’s research on large and complex issues by drawing scientists together from different institutions and across disciplines to achieve a common goal through collaboration.


Many of the issues facing New Zealand require new knowledge obtained through science and research. … The Challenges provide an opportunity to identify which issues are most important to New Zealand and will allow Government to take a targeted, cross-government approach to addressing them.


Each Challenge includes both new funding and funds that will become available as current MBIE research contracts mature. Relevant [Crown Research Institute (CRI)] core funding will also be invested in Challenges, where CRIs are part of a Challenge collaboration. The new Challenge money comprises $73.5 million over four years in Budget 2013, in addition to the $60 million allocated in Budget 2012, and $30.5 million per year thereafter.


The eleven research areas identified as National Science Challenges are (in order of being launched):


  • High-Value Nutrition – Ko Nga Kai Whai Painga. Develop high-value foods with validated health benefits to drive economic growth.
  • The Deep South – Te Komata o Te Tonga. Understanding the role of the Antarctic and the Southern Ocean in determining our climate and our future environment.
  • New Zealand’s Biological Heritage – Nga Koiora Tuku Iho. Protecting and managing our biodiversity, improving our biosecurity, and enhancing our resilience to harmful organisms.
  • Sustainable Seas – Ko nga moana whakauka. Enhance utlilisation of our marine resources within environmental and biological constraints.
  • A Better Start – E Tipu e Rea. Improving the potential of young New Zealanders to have a healthy and successful life.
  • Resilience to Nature’s Challenges – Kia manawaroa – Nga Akina o Te Ao Turoa. Research into enhancing our resilience to natural disasters.
  • Science for Technological Innovation – Kia kotahi maiTe Ao Putaiao me Te Ao Hangarau. Enhancing the capacity of New Zealand to use physical and engineering sciences for economic growth.
  • Ageing Well – Kia eke kairangi ki te taikaumatuatanga. Harnessing science to sustain health and wellbeing into the later years of life.
  • Healthier Lives – He Oranga Hauora. Research to reduce the burden of major New Zealand health problems.
  • Our Land and WaterToitu Te Whenua, Toiora Te Wai. Research to enhance primary sector production and productivity while maintaining and improving our land and water quality for future generations.
  • Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities – Ko nga wa kainga hei whakamahorahora. Research to develop better housing and urban environments.


The last three Challenges are yet to be launched.


More information on each of the Challenges can be found on the MBIE website.

The estalishment process to select these Challenge topics involved several phases and steps.the establishment of a panel under the leadership of Sir Peter Gluckman, Chief Governnment Science Advisor, and since then there have been three phases:

  1. Engagement with the public, science sector, and science users between September 2012 and January 2013.
  2. Analysis and prioritisation of potential Challenges by an independent panel of experts (National Science Challenges Peak Panel) chaired by the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, between February and March 2013.  A report was provided to Ministers on 27 March 2013 [PDF 484KB].
  3. Cabinet consideration and approval of the ten Challenges in April 2013, along with the decision to defer Challenge 11 for future consideration.

The origin of these challenges was the desire to establish long-term integrated research on some of New Zealand’s vital and difficult issues and to promote economic growth.


A Science Board with a mix of well-established scientists and those with close industry connections (such as Bill Rolleston of Fed Farmers) will allocate funding for this and other projects.

Applicant consortia are asked to submit a research and business plan for up to 10 years, and a detailed work programme for an initial period of up to five years. The Science Board decides the initial funding period up to five years based on the detailed work programme and may choose to stop the funding after the first 5 years.

Each Challenge has a host institution, a Challenge Director, a Manager and a Science Leadership Team who will consult with a Challenge Kahui Maori and a Stakeholder Panel.

Some of the Challenges are more developed than others – they are organized in three groups depending on their level of preparedness.

The Stakeholder panel membership varies with each Challenge.  The Sustainable Seas proposed panel includes representatives of government agencies, regional government, fishing, oil and gas, aquaculture and marine mining representatives, the tourism industry, environmental NGOs (not including ECO), and some place based community groups, an Iwi leaders Forum rep and a tourism industry representative.

There is much stress on collaborative science and on research into collaborative governance, social sciences, Matauranga Maori as well as the natural sciences.  The focus on economic growth is pervasive.  There are many environmentally important elements to the Challenges it is well worth looking at these and engaging with these processes.


Tell Fonterra To Stop Building New Coal Boilers

Despite New Zealand’s need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Fonterra is planning to burn more coal. Tim Jones from Coal Action Network JonesTimAotearoa asks for your help to stop them.  

No time to read? You can go to to and sign Coal Action Network Aotearoa’s open letter to Fonterra.

Fonterra quit coal





Many people know that the rapid expansion of the New Zealand dairy industry, egged on by global dairy giant Fonterra, has caused many environmental problems, including severe damage to many of our waterways and a major increase in agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.

But there’s something you may not know: dairy giant Fonterra is New Zealand’s second biggest coal user, burning more than half a million tonnes a year to dry milk powder. Its coal use has increased 38% since 2008.

And Fonterra is planning a big increase in its use of coal. It plants to build more coal boilers to let it dry even more milk powder.

Whatever you think of Fonterra’s economic strategy, Fonterra’s coal expansion plans have to be stopped. And that’s where you can help.

Fonterra wants to be seen as clean and green. It doesn’t want to be branded as a climate criminal. If enough of us speak up now, we can turn Fonterra’s plans around.

Fonterra doesn’t have to use coal. It could use wood waste instead.

Graphic: Action Station
Graphic: Action Station

Fonterra has just applied for consent to build a huge new milk drying plant at Studholme in South Canterbury with four new coal boilers. But there are other ways of getting the heat it wants.

In forests around the region, mountains of waste wood – branches, broken logs, prunings – are burned on site or left to rot. There are companies who collect this and supply it as fuel to industry. It is being used already in greenhouses, hospitals, schools, and other industries around the country.

Fonterra – like the rest of the world – needs to phase out coal. But the decision point is when you design the boiler. To get the best performance, and to be able to use the cheapest fuel, the boiler needs to be purpose-designed for wood.

Some boilers built in the 1970s are still being used to dry milk. Designing these four new boilers at Studholme for coal will commit Fonterra to increased coal use for at least another 40 years!

That’s why we have written an open letter to Fonterra Chair John Wilson – and why we’re asking you to sign on. Here’s what we’re asking Fonterra to do:

We call on you to commit to “no new coal boilers” – that is, to use wood waste, not coal, in the new boilers you’re currently planning, like at Studholme.

Then, we want Fonterra to commit to, and fully carry out, a programme to phase out coal boilers and move to wood waste at its existing plants as they age.

Now is the time to make a difference. The Studholme project doesn’t yet have consent so there is time to change design. The Fonterra Board meets in November.

Reflections on dairying from the ECO Conference on Freshwater

The problem with our waterways

Caroline Glassberg-Powell reflects on how dairy intensification is causing New Zealand rivers to become the most polluted in the world.

There were many themes at this year’s annual ECO conference. Perhaps the most controversial and eliciting the most outrage was how dairy intensification is causing our rivers to become the most polluted in the world. Dr Mike Joy presented on how bad the rivers are really becoming, and how governments are constantly changing the goalposts to deceive the general public. The deteriorating conditions of our rivers is impacting upon public health, as Dr Alistair Humphrey revealed, and all of this is needless given that intensification does not have a solid economic case as argued by Dr Alison Dewes. Even when the government admits there’s a problem, Al Fleming explained with his work on the Waikato, it’s still a fight.

The quality of New Zealand’s waterways is amongst the worst in the world, in no small part thanks to dairy intensification.

Before the Europeans arrived to NZ, one third of the country was wetlands.

Now, we have lost 99% of our wetlands, which means that whilst dramatically increasing our outputs into the environment, the environment’s ability to take-up and process those nutrients has all but disappeared.The intensification of dairying is putting so much pressure on our waterways that we are in a precarious position with degraded, dangerous rivers and streams which are barely safe to boat or wade in, let alone to drink or swim.

All of this is needless, given that the economic case for dairying follows the laws of diminishing returns: more inputs past a certain point do not lead to more profit. We have far surpassed that certain point, and are now crashing down the other side. Each cow produces waste equivalent to around 14 people, which means that, across New Zealand, cows are producing the waste of approximately 90 million people.


The waste has to go somewhere, and that somewhere is invariably the waterways and ground water of Aotearoa.The impacts of the waste are numerous, but sedimentation, nitrogen (N), and phoshorus (P) in particular have far-reaching consequences. When a cow pees, if the land on which it pees is not at capacity, the plants and soil are able to absorb the content of the urine. However, when over-stocked, the plants are at capacity, and the excess nutrients spill over into local waterways where they cause many problems.

The solid content of urine and faeces when in rivers cause many problems. The solids dissolve in the water and are carried along by the currents, and once the waters slow down, the sediment is deposited. Both suspended and deposited sediment cause problems in their own right. Suspended sedimentation can clog fish gills, which suffocates them. The sediment also reduces the clarity of the water, which reduces the amount of light in the river. Not only does this render fish unable to see, but it blocks light from reaching plants, preventing their growth.

Reducing plant growth decreases insect and fish levels, and reduces the number of habitable areas. Deposited sediment also reduces the number of habitable areas by changing flow patterns, blocking migratory routes, and suffocating bed life. The detrimental effects of sedimentation are also being seen in ocean fisheries, which is impacting social and economic well-being.

N and P are also impacting the health of our waterways. Since they are growth-promoters, too much N and P causes algae to bloom, which covers the rocks in slime. The slime renders previous habitats uninhabitable for fish, leaving fish fewer places to live. The fish, in fact, are doubly affected by the algae blooms. As algae intensifies during the day, the water becomes saturated with dissolved oxygen. However, at night, photosynthesis stops and levels of oxygen become extremely low, which is deadly to aerobic organisms like fish.

A healthy river has stable levels of oxygen; an unhealthy river has wildly fluctuating levels and fish are unable to survive. Very low levels of N are required to see these patterns: as little as 1.2 mg / L. The oxygen-deprived waters also promote growth of bacteria which are deadly to humans. Cyanobacteria form thick mats in the river which, when ingested, have killed dogs, horses, and humans.

When we extract this water for drinking, as many communities across New Zealand still do, we are putting ourselves at risk. In particular, new-born babies can suffer greatly from the high levels of nitrogen in the water. Foetuses have a special type of haemoglobin which binds very tightly to oxygen. When a baby is born, it takes a few months to replace this special haemoglobin, and in that time they are susceptible to blue-baby syndrome.

Their haemoglobin binds to nitrates more strongly than oxygen, which means if they consume too many nitrates, they will no longer be transporting oxygen around their body, and they die as a consequence. Breast-fed babies will not be affected, but bottle-fed babies will be. This means that babies dying from the syndrome will be disproportionately poorer, born to working mothers.

Historically in this country there have been low cases of blue-baby syndrome because of good policy on nitrate levels. However, high risk areas are now expanding, in accordance with dairy intensification, and there’s no evidence to suggest the situation is improving.

As climate change hits, increased temperatures will further promote the growth of cyanobacteria, and more dairying will of course increase these issues. E.coli. is also a big player in waterborne pathogens. It is reported that 34,000 Kiwis are infected every year, although due to lack of reporting, the true figure could be much higher.  E.coli. can put people on dialysis for life, the cost of which can be astronomical. Treatment of water, caring for people made sick from poor quality water, and generally cleaning up after cows is extremely expensive.  A recent paper published by Dr Joy and others shows that cleaning up after the dairying industry costs more than the industry adds to our GDP.

The best solution is stop intensification.  Dr Dewes presented a graph which shows government thinking to be: more inputs = more outputs = more profits. However, the environmental effects of more inputs were “managed” out of the system somehow, tapering off at around the levels we are currently at. That thinking is not based on fact, but on a flawed ideology. As land becomes more degraded, more and more inputs are required to produce outputs. If we follow the growth agenda to the letter, more and more marginal landscapes will be exploited, which will lead to further sedimentation and run-off.

This has happened in Canterbury, and now 70% of the region is classified as deteriorating. Scaling down is the best economic and environmental decision farmers can make. Yet, this flies in the face of governmental advice which is to increase intensification and irrigation in the Canterbury region. Government priorities are set by GDP, which is a crude measure of the country’s success, and is gamed for short-term growth only.

The best level of stocking for the environment and the economy is approximately 1 cow per hectare. At this level, the system can provide for itself. Any higher and we need to import masses of protein, as New Zealand currently does, and we are now the world’s largest importer of palm kernel. This offshores a lot of environmental impacts, and contributes greatly to deforestation in the developing world. It is also extremely expensive for the farmers to import, and reduces their profit margins. As it is, it’s expected that most dairy farmers are running at a loss (

Stopping the destructive import, however, will reduce GDP because the palm kernel industry will be affected. That’s but one example of the crudeness of GDP, which fails to consider regional variation. Instead of taking remedial action to address these issues, the government has reclassified what it means for a river to be “safe”. The now accepted level of N in a river is 6.9 mg / L, well above the levels at which negative impacts start to occur.  Rivers which, by all accounts, should be on the lowest grade possible under this system, are scoring excellent or very good. The classification has come in simultaneously with changes in the ways that rivers are monitored. Instead of using continuous monitoring, measurements are only taken at times of day when the oxygen levels are at their best, which  prevents us from building a realistic picture of wildly fluctuating oxygen levels.

Additionally, sites which perform badly are simply taken out of the sites which are measured. Even the measurements taken skew the results: only suspended sediments are measured, not deposited sediments. All this bad science led to the government producing a document in 2013 claiming that rivers are stable, or even improving.  On complaining to the MfE, Dr Joy was met with an adamant refusal to clarify this with the public.

Even when the problem is acknowledged, and money is provided to clean up the waterways, resistance still abounds. There has been $210m set aside to clean up the Waikato, where 75% of the land-use is dairy. However, the bar has been set very low, to wadeable, not swimmable. Lake Waikare, for example, is very shallow with high sedimentation, hypertrophic, and water clarity is 1 m instead of its recommended 1.6 m. Yet, recent discussions for a moratorium on conversion from forests to dairy has been stalled as out of the scope of the restoration. Furthermore, an index which is globally recognised for measuring the health of waterways, the macro-invertebrate index, has been denied for use with the excuse that it’s a biotic measure, not a chemical one.

The state of New Zealand’s waterways is pretty dismal. We have a government insisting on intensification, against all mounting evidence which suggests this is a bad strategy, and they continually move the goalposts to mask the very real problems that we are facing.  Ecologically, socially, and economically speaking,we are finding dairy intensification is causing very serious problems, and no amount of reclassification can change that.  Now we know that, we should stop this land conversion until we find genuine solutions to the problems.  As Dr Joy said, “you can fool yourself, but you cannot fool the ecosystem”.

By Caroline Glassberg-Powell, September 2015

No Law is Just Law if it doesn’t Serve the Common Good

Symposium on Law, Responsibility and Governance


No Law is Just Law if it doesn’t Serve the Common Good (Kapua Sproat)

Aotearoa NZ, November 2014.  Written by Betsan Martin  Betsan Martin

‘Let us turn vulnerability into value’. The Pacific region is often viewed as vulnerable and distant, and defined by isolation. Yet Peoples of the Pacific, the Water Continent, are resilient and resourceful. Drawing from traditions of engaged governance, laws oriented to collective accountability, and capability of traversing and living from ocean environments we are at the frontline of sustainable societies.  Because environment is integrated with economies, climate is at the forefront, and public trust law could pave the way for bringing responsibility back to corporates and systems of government.

The Symposium was co-hosted by UNU RCE Waikato (Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development) and Te Piringa, Waikato University Law School. Betsan Martin and Linda Te Aho co-ordinated  this multidisciplinary engagement in a proposition for the governance of water. It works with an approach of responsibility for the ecological health of freshwater, provides for commercial use, and seeks to resolve Māori and general public interests.  Betsan, Chris Livesey and Diana Shand attended from ECO.

Get on board for a moment and watch this:

Transformative Law

The direction was set by former chief judge of the Waitangi Tribunal and Judge of the High Court,  Sir Taihakurei Durie, setting out the radical orientation of responsibility for water governance developed through law of trusteeship. His proposal was developed in direct reference to the Charter for Human Responsibilities. Law of public trust in the US, and in Hawaii specifically, is the means by which waterways which were diverted for the sugar industry are being returned to their natural courses with flows which support original indigenous crops. Traditional agriculture was decimated by the industrial water regime. Hawiian legal counsel, and now academic Kapua Sproat gave a strong lead from her case law experience to set out prospects of law for public goods, including water and climate. Another law that deserves attention is the US Clean Air Act (1970), a federal law to address emissions of hazardous air pollutants. It requires the Environmental Protection Agency to give effect to the maximum achievable reduction of emissions with the use of technology. As Neetu Sharma said, law can be transformative as well as regulatory.

Pierre Calame gave fresh illumination to the philosophic, economic and policy dimensions of responsibility. Calame is President of a Foundation in France which has a leading role in working with a framework of responsibility internationally. Pierre’s presentation began with a challenge to the well-guarded belief in sovereignty with the proposition that the integrity of the biosphere is beyond sovereignty. This is not only nationally challenging – in New Zealand sovereignty has been invoked by the Crown to stifle indigenous sovereign authority and used to further the unjust imposition of British style sovereignty. In an earlier article Sir Taihakurei said

State responsibility, not the absolute power of that sovereignty implies, is more appropriate for the modern world. Indeed, if it is true that that Māori ceded sovereignty, then I think they did the best thing to give it away. It has simply been the cause of too much strife and war (Durie 1996. View Point: Taku Titiro.  He Pukenga Korero).

With attention to water and climate a starting point of policies to address pollution led into a critique of polluter-pays policies as a premise for incentivizing business, including agriculture, to manage land and water in accordance with ecological health. In reality, polluter-pays policies can simply be seen as a business cost that does not deter carbon emitting industry or other pollution producing systems. In other words, they serve as a right to pollute. For this model, regulation designed for responsibility for ecosystem health with management of inputs and incentives to optimise water bodies would be the imperative.  Pierre used the powerful idea that exchanging responsibility for money can be replaced by recognition of carbon wells, or carbon sinks, as a global commons. As such all individuals and territories would have equal quotas for emissions. Quotas would define the maximum carbon limit and be tradeable.

Water as a Public Trust

The move from ownership to stewardship strikes at the heart of the transformative proposal for water governance. Although the New Zealand government has a theory that ‘no-one owns water’, here, as in other places, water is managed under regimes of rights through allocated consents. These ‘use rights’ are effectively a form of ownership, and they do not impose the responsibilities of stewardship.  The Durie proposal for trusteeship  of water recognized Māori propriety interests and at the same time moves the issue of settlement to the arena shared responsibility for water as a common good. It inaugurates a governance regime  with responsibility  for ecosystem integrity, and has capacity to work with collaboration.  A  public trust regime would be managed through a Commission of representative trustees. A price for commercial use of water would generate revenue to be directed to land management to reduce contamination generated from agriculture, to restoration and to water conserving infrastructure.  Much of the detail is in development.

There is more magic to the Durie plan. It is designed to reconcile Maori indigenous interests as well as general interests. We don’t have borders in New Zealand, but this is a platform for cross-boundary agreement on shared responsibility for water.  Māori have had their traditional water –based food sources and authority over water taken during the British takeover, and redress is still being sought. Although there are many proposals to set standards for water, manage allocation, to settle Māori interests and even collaborative agreements for environmental and corporate interests, none are designed to reconcile different interests and claims through stewardship and responsibility.

Custodial Responsibilities and Contemporary Governance

A custodial voice is arising from the Pacific region with regards to common goods and climate justice. This is probing the traditions of the oceanic peoples which were founded on a ‘sacred balance between humans and environment where the environment was believed to be kin’.  This understanding of interdependence given by His Highness Tupua Tamasese, Head of State of Samoa, was further underlined by him: ‘it is my contention that in sidelining our indigenous reference we have made it easier to walk the path of environmental destruction’.  Tamasese spoke of bringing the values of forebears to the forefront of our minds, and re-energizing and re-casting them to suit the new global order. Tamasese drew on traditions of engaged citizen participation, the ‘Tulafono’ process for decision-making. New Zealand has examples of processes of dialogue, or collaboration, about to be legalised for fresh water, and Co-Governance arrangements for rivers and National Parks.

Climate impacts on Island nations are forcing a re-evaluation of industrial preferences.  In a move that turns vulnerability into value, the Small Islands Developing States Conference asserted the Pacific region as being on the frontlines of climate change  – because it is clear that resilience can only be achieved where economic development is aligned with environmental protection.

The Pacific is becoming known for the blue economy, with oceans as the main sources of food and sustenance and trade and connectivity across large water spaces.  The navigational skills of ocean voyaging are being re-activated as a message of sustainability.  Appropriately, just before we met for the symposium five traditional vessels sailed into Sydney harbour for the World Parks Congress.

Responsible Economic Development

Taholo Kami, Director of IUCN Oceania came to the Symposium after welcoming the vessels at Sydney, carrying a message of sustainability from Pacific navigational systems. Try a few seconds on the Pacific ocean voyage here  In December the five waka were in Auckland. Taholo travelled via Papua New Guinea where a new framework of Responsible Economic Development is being put in place. With climate change at the forefront 2015 is the opportunity for Pacific countries to take a lead in the responsibility approach for COP21.  Taholo envisages linking Pacific rim countries with Pacific Islands, which bear the risk and face annihilation from climate impacts coming from Pacific Rim economies.

Losing and Finding Responsibility

We were treated to a remarkable review of the Western legal tradition to discover the persistent thread of the concepts of duty and responsibility in law, and how these were overtaken by trade and capital interests, starting with the East India Company in 1600.  The colonisers saw the development of private property, individual political representation, and self-interest as the core of economic theory.  The accumulation of capital wealth, and even human rights, consistently privileged freedom over duty – freedom in this case meaning freedom from constraint as an incentive to market engagement. Professor Gay Morgan asked ‘ Where has the West Gone Wrong’ ? As trade and corporate industry grew from the 1700’s, gains were made for civil and political rights, but not civil and political responsibilities. Notions of collective duties were dropped and free reign was given to the individualised concept of corporate market capitalism.

Ways Forward

Activating engagement with the Durie discussion paper on water will involve seeking further commentary. Emerging issues are to work with Iwi, to seek advice from NGOs such as ECO, Forest and Bird, Land and Water Forum, and to further test the proposal with business, government ministries, and regional government agencies. Considerations of pricing, definitions of need, control of inputs from dairy and land activities and forestry, and the RMA, are all to be developed. Papers and videos will be published electronically and as a book.

Written by Betsan Martin

Thanks for commentary by Chris Livesey.  This article first appeared in ECOlink December 2014

Small Island Developing States Conference in Samoa September 2014

Betsan Martin, Co-Chair of ECO New Zealand, attended the Small Islands Developing States Conference in Apia, Samoa, on behalf of ECO. The conference was held from 1-4 September, 2014, in Apia.

Betsan reports on her impressions and learnings:Betsan Martin

This item is taking us out of our land environment to oceans and the September Small Islands Developing States conference in Samoa.

UN and global attention to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) is linked to the UN agendas of climate responsibility and sustainable development, recognizing the special case and vulnerability of Small Island States at Rio 1992 and at Rio+20 in 2012.

Betsan at SIDs, Samoa, with Ida Fuimaono on the left

Climate Change is now in Pacific Islands, it is not about the future as we commonly state. You might have thought that SIDS was a climate change negotiation conference. You might also have thought it was a renewable energy conference. You knew you were in the centre of the Pacific universe with the eloquence and hospitality, the incredible generosity which came not only from a magnificent State occasion – you felt that every village and school and church was on its toes to extend a Pacific welcome and ensure that visitors entered into the oceanic imagination and received the richness of the economy of giving at the heart of Samoa.

Rather that go with the idea of green economy for sustainable development, Pacific states prefer the ‘Blue Economy’ of an oceanic world – either way they are putting the ocean and land environment into the economic equation. Healthy oceans are essential to Island economies, as well as to the global economy.

Christiana Figueris, Executive Director of the UNFCCC said the blue economy is the only guarantee for the future. SIDS are at the forefront of the green/blue economy because they are natural resource economies. Most of the communities rely directly on fish, fruit, eggs, meat and vegetables grown in their own communities – so their livelihoods depend on healthy coastal and land management. You often heard ‘ridge to reef’ used to describe the direct effect of land use on coastal areas. If inland forests are felled the silting will destroy the fisheries.

Small Island States are at the frontlines of climate change, with their security threatened by the impacts of climate on food security, fisheries, floods and droughts and weather disasters, ocean acidification and population migration. Access to climate finance is needed to safeguard against the worst effects, and along with that to be releived of debt burdens. Climae finance will help with the costs of protecting oceans and fisheries, with water infrastructure, with agriculture and food security and with training and education to meet climate challenges.

The theme of sustainable development through partnerships made sense because Governments cannot lead development and transitions to green/blue economies alone. Business investment is need to catalyse innovation and provide expertise.

Partnerships between governments, private sector and NGO’s are vital for the management, regulation and protection of oceans and fisheries. In the world of global interdependence, Pacific Islands are seen as hampered by distance. Yet in Pacific world views, the oceans connect Islands. Oceans are an asset that bonds people together. Digital connectivity is seen as the way to overcome the tyranny of distance – that is one of the challenges of SIDS.

One idea that might sit uneasily with us, yet was proposed by Pacific leaders themselves was that Aid could be replaced by investment. Aid is often experienced as conditional and paternalistic, and susceptible to policy changes. It is not clear that investment would be fee from ‘self interest’ of investors but perhaps it was perceived as being mutually negotiated.

I went to the SIDS conference representing ECO on the IUCN Delegation, which included IUCN Oceania Director Taholo Kami. IUCN Oceania have set their course for the World Parks Congress with a magnificent vision of the Pacific navigational wakas sailing to Sydney. Here is a special link to the ‘blue’ environment

Talk of Green and Blue economies is rather suggestive of colours evoked at our election. We have to renew our environmental vigilance in our political context, and take some learning and inspiration from the sustainability initiatives and policy frontlines in the Pacific where environment is at the centre of economic development.

Betsan Martin

Co-Chair, ECO

Systemic pesticides impacts bees, birds and other species

A review undertaken by an IUCN-World Conservation Union Task Force has confirmed the impact of systemic pesticides on bee, earthworms, beneficial insects and birds.

The review was undertaken by the IUCN Task Force on Systemic Pesticides (neonicotinoids and fipronil (neonics)) showing impact on bees and other beneficial invertebrate species, and birds.

New Zealand has so far taking a rather watching brief and has not taken the precautionary action that the EU has.

“Undertaking a full analysis of all the available literature (800 peer-reviewed reports) the [IUCN] Task Force on Systemic Pesticides – a group of global, independent scientists affiliated with the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management and the IUCN Species Survival Commission has found that there is clear evidence of harm sufficient to trigger regulatory action.”

“The Worldwide Integrated Assessment (WIA) finds that neonics pose a serious risk to honeybees and other pollinators such as butterflies and to a wide range of other invertebrates such as earthworms and vertebrates including birds.” The research is to be published in the peer-reviewed Journal Environment Science and Pollution Research.

Neonicotinoid insecticides used in New Zealand include Acetamiprid, Clothianidin, Dinotefuran, Imidacloprid, Nitenpyram, Thiacloprid and Thiamethoxam.

“The authors strongly suggest that regulatory agencies apply more precautionary principles and further tighten regulations on neonicotinoids and fipronil and start planning for a global phase-out or at least start formulating plans for a strong reduction of the global scale of use.”

This is clearly a matter of concern which should cause the government’s to act.
Systemic pesticides pose global threat to biodiversity and ecosystem services
24 June 2014 | News story
The conclusions of a new meta-analysis of the systemic pesticides neonicotinoids and fipronil (neonics) confirm that they are causing significant damage to a wide range of beneficial invertebrate species and are a key factor in the decline of bees.
Concern about the impact of systemic pesticides on a variety of beneficial species has been growing for the last 20 years but the science has not been considered conclusive until now.

Undertaking a full analysis of all the available literature (800 peer-reviewed reports) the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides – a group of global, independent scientists affiliated with the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management and the IUCN Species Survival Commission has found that there is clear evidence of harm sufficient to trigger regulatory action.

The analysis, known as the Worldwide Integrated Assessment (WIA), to be published in the peer-reviewed Journal Environment Science and Pollution Research, finds that neonics pose a serious risk to honeybees and other pollinators such as butterflies and to a wide range of other invertebrates such as earthworms and vertebrates including birds.

Neonics are a nerve poison and the effects of exposure range from instant and lethal to chronic. Even long term exposure at low (non-lethal) levels can be harmful. Chronic damage can include: impaired sense of smell or memory; reduced fecundity; altered feeding behaviour and reduced food intake including reduced foraging in bees; altered tunneling behaviour in earthworms; difficulty in flight and increased susceptibility to disease.

“The evidence is very clear. We are witnessing a threat to the productivity of our natural and farmed environment equivalent to that posed by organophosphates or DDT,” said Dr Jean-Marc Bonmatin of The National Centre for Scientific Research in France, one of the lead authors of the study. ” Far from protecting food production, the use of neonics is threatening the very infrastructure which enables it, imperilling the pollinators, habitat engineers and natural pest controllers at the heart of a functioning ecosystem.”

The analysis found that the most affected groups of species were terrestrial invertebrates such as earthworms which are exposed at high levels via soil and plants, medium levels via surface water and leaching from plants and low levels via air (dusts). Both individuals and populations can be adversely affected at even low levels and by acute (ongoing) exposure. This makes them highly vulnerable to the levels of neonics associated with agricultural use.

The next most affected group is insect pollinators such as bees and butterflies which are exposed to high contamination through air and plants and medium exposure levels through water. Both individuals and populations can be adversely affected by low or acute exposure making them highly vulnerable. Then comes aquatic invertebrates such as freshwater snails and water fleas which are vulnerable to low and acute exposure and can be affected at the individual, population and community levels.

While vertebrate animals are generally less susceptible, bird populations are at risk from eating crop seeds treated with systemic insecticides, and reptile numbers have declined due to depletion of their insect prey. Microbes were found to be affected after high levels of or prolonged exposure. Samples taken in water from around the world have been found to exceed ecotoxicological limits on a regular basis.

In addition to contaminating non-target species through direct exposure (e.g. insects consuming nectar from treated plants), the chemicals are also found in varying concentrations outside intentionally-treated areas. The water solubility of neonics mean that they leach and run-off easily and have been found to contaminate much wider areas leading to both chronic and acute exposure of organisms, including in riparian zones, estuarine and coastal marine systems.

They have become the most widely used group of insecticides globally, with a global market share now estimated at around 40% and sales of over US$2.63 billion in 2011. They are also commonly used in domestic treatments to prevent fleas in cats and dogs and termites in wood structures.

“The findings of the WIA are gravely worrying,” said Maarten Bijleveld van Lexmond, Chair of the Task Force. “We can now clearly see that neonics and fipronil pose a risk to ecosystem functioning and services which go far beyond concerns around one species and which really must warrant government and regulatory attention.”

Honey bees have been at the forefront of concern about neonics and fipronil to date and limited actions have been taken, for example by the EU Commission, but manufacturers of these neurotoxicants have refuted any claims of harm. In reviewing all the available literature rather than simply comparing one report with another, the WIA has found that field-realistic concentrations of neonics adversely affect individual navigation, learning, food collection, longevity, resistance to disease and fecundity of bees. For bumblebees, irrefutable colony-level effects have been found, with exposed colonies growing more slowly and producing significantly fewer queens.

The authors strongly suggest that regulatory agencies apply more precautionary principles and further tighten regulations on neonicotinoids and fipronil and start planning for a global phase-out or at least start formulating plans for a strong reduction of the global scale of use.

First published in ECOlink

Protecting Antarctica and the Southern Ocean

Protecting Antarctica and the Southern Ocean

2013 was a crucial year for Southern Ocean protection.  In July there was a special meeting in Bremerhaven, Germany to discuss proposals to protect the Ross Sea and parts of East Antarctica.  Then in October there was the regular meeting of the Antarctic fisheries agreement CCAMLR.

The Southern Ocean and seas around Antarctica are among the most unmodified on the planet – and the last place on Earth still relatively untouched by human activity. This beautiful, icy ocean environment is home to nearly 10,000 highly adapted species, many of which can be found nowhere else on the planet. Adélie and emperor penguins, Antarctic petrels and minke whales, Ross Sea killer whales, colossal squid and Weddell seals all thrive in this inhospitable climate. Global ocean circulation is largely driven by the deep water formation around Antarctica’s coast, driving heat transfer and transporting essential nutrients to the rest of the world’s oceans.

The Ross Sea is especially important as the last of the oceans with the top predators still largely present. The risk is that continued toothfish fishing and other fishing will cause major upset to the ecosystem balance, as has happened elsewhere.  ECO is joining with other groups in the Antarctic Oceans Alliance to protect this unique and special place and other important areas of the Southern Ocean.  ECO Executive members were at last year’s IUCN Conservation Congress supporting a resolution on Antarctic protection which was passed during the Congress.

The February 2012 issue of ECOLink provides more details and explores the values and issues at stake, part of the opening of the international campaign for the protection of the Ross Sea.

In 2012 a unique portrait of the Ross Sea was shown during the film festival.  The Last Ocean, which took 6 years of effort by documentary maker Peter Young to complete.  This is a must see for all those concerned about the future of the Ross Sea and the Southern Ocean.  The film is now being shown at international film festivals.

New Zealand and the US have agreed on a compromise proposal to protect the Ross Sea.

ECO is working with the Antarctic Ocean Alliance for protection of the Ross Sea and other important areas of the Southern Ocean.

ECO is working for more progress in 2014 on the adoption of marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean, including the Ross Sea.