Environment Commissioner sends ‘please explain’ note to Government

Press release - June 29, 2016
The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has sent a ‘please explain’ note to the Government over its woeful record on climate change, rivers and oceans.

Dr. Jan Wright has released her commentary today on the Government’s 2015 State of the Environment report – Environment Aotearoa 2015. It shows that on almost every measure possible, our environment has gone from bad to worse under John Key’s Government.

Greenpeace New Zealand’s Executive Director, Russel Norman, says Dr Wright has now formally asked the Government to explain how they plan to respond to the worrying findings in the report.

“The PCE is asking a pointed question on behalf of all New Zealanders: Now that we have some of the statistics on the growing disaster on climate change, freshwater, oceans, and biodiversity, what will the Government do to actually turn it around?,” he says.

“The problem we have is that government policies on many of these issues actually make things worse.The current policy of subsidising massive uneconomic irrigation schemes, for example, increases climate pollution and water pollution simultaneously.”

Government subsidies for oil, gas and coal also increase climate pollution, Norman says.

He’s pleased to see some difficult questions posed to the authors of the 2015 State of the Environment report in Dr Wright’s commentary.

“She asks why NIWA statistics on water quality were blended together in a way that could hide the terrible pollution in our rivers and aquifers,” he says.

“It appears the Government authors of the report had been combining data from monitoring sites in the high country where the water is pristine, with data from increasingly polluted lowland rivers, to make it inaccurately seem overall that there was no trend in water quality decline.”  

Norman says it’s “not good news for New Zealand” when it comes to reporting on water quality, the 2015 State of the Environment report is no better than the last one, which was published in 2007.

Controversy surrounded the 2007 report after it was revealed that the Ministry for the Environment had suppressed a chapter on water quality from the public, a chapter which Norman then released after it was leaked to him.

“Until we have a State of the Environment report which is genuinely independent of Government, issues like these will continue to dog the reporting. It is good to see that as a start, the Parliamentary Commissioner Dr Wright is asking some of the hard questions.”