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.


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:


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.

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