May 17, 2010

New Zealand Herald Opinion Piece

Government needs more consistency in environmental management.

by Gary Taylor

How well is the government managing environmental issues?

Let's start with mining.

Clearly Ministers have badly misjudged the public response to their proposals to open up highly valued conservation land to mining. It is now in fast retreat mode and the chances of mining in National Parks, on Great Barrier Island or on the Coromandel Peninsula any time soon are remote.

Proponents of mining, who lobbied government for the changes, have become so desperate as to draw fallacious comparisons between hard rock mining and a building excavation site in Ponsonby.

The stridency of the advocacy for mining Schedule 4 land, including that from the Minister of Energy and Resources, polarised the discussion from the outset. There is now a risk that mining everywhere has been demonised and will face huge community backlash. The environmental movement, forced into reactive mode, has become highly energised and its cause embraced by thousands of New Zealanders including National members and supporters.

It isn't the first misjudgement of public sentiment on an environmental issue by this government.

The sacking of the regional council and weakening of river protection measures in Canterbury have been hugely controversial there and show no signs of abating. The same resentments about a heavy handed approach felt nationally about mining are being replicated in Canterbury about water management. The prospect of "mining" our protected rivers for irrigation is hugely controversial.

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