When it comes to the Government and the Green Party, it’s not a common occurrence to see the two agreeing on policy relating to the environment. But a proposal put forward by environment minister Nick Smith yesterday, to move national environmental reporting to the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE), seems to have struck a harmonious chord with the Green Party. The announcement was made at an event in Wellington to mark the 25th anniversary of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.
The proposal would mean the PCE would be responsible for providing independent reporting every five years on issues that include water quality, air quality, coast and oceans management, waste and our native plants and animals.
In releasing the discussion document on the proposal, Measuring Up: Environmental Reporting – A Discussion Document, Smith acknowledged that Enzed’s clean and green brand needs to be strengthened and the way to do that is through independent and nationally consistent reporting on the state of the environment.
"We are the only OECD country not required by law to produce independent state of the environment reports, yet we more than any depend on our natural environment for so much of our wealth and economic success,” he said.
Other proposals mentioned by Smith include amendments to the Resource Management Act to improve the consistency of environmental monitoring across regions for national reporting. The move, said Smith, would enable the PCE to rank lakes and rivers from the cleanest to the dirtiest and identify which are improving and which are deteriorating.
But while the Green Party has welcomed the news, co-leader Russel Norman said shifting national environmental reporting to the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment was actually proposed by the Greens back in 2008 after the 2007 State of the Environment Report had been censored by having its final chapter suppressed.
“The 2007 State of the Environment Report was written by the Ministry for the Environment, which suppressed the thirteenth and final chapter because it made the politically unpalatable assertion that pastoral land-use intensification was 'arguably the largest pressure today on New Zealand's land, freshwaters, coastal oceans and atmosphere. The thirteenth chapter only saw the light of day when the Greens released it,” he said.
Norman said the public deserved to be told the truth about the state of our environment even when it was politically inconvenient for the Government of the day. He said the Green Party looks forward to “engaging with the Government in a cross party way on this proposal”.
Meanwhile environment spokesperson for the Labour Party, Charles Chauvel, said Labour is willing to consider supporting this proposal because, if done well, it could “complete Phil Goff’s original vision for the office 25 years ago – as one of ‘environmental auditor’”.
He added that the Labour Party would want the new system to be conferred by legislating for a truly independent, nationwide, regular reporting framework and that details of the new role need to be negotiated with other parties.
You can check out the discussion document, Measuring Up: Environmental Reporting – A Discussion Document, here.