If you are concerned about the fact that 49% of New Zealanders live in areas where the quality of the air is dangerous because of avoidable particulates – submit by Friday this week on Nick Smith’s proposed changes to air quality standards!
The Government is proposing to lower and delay air quality standards, which will result in lost lives and billions in lost productivity due to health impacts.
Nick Smith claims that these changes will save hundreds of jobs, because the standards as written would force regional councils to decline resource consents to existing and new polluting industry in areas where the air quality breaches the standard. He says that this is about equity – in other words, it’s not fair for industry to not be able to contribute to the poor health and premature deaths of as many people as domestic heating and vehicles currently do.
Now, it is fair enough to recognise that shutting down industry in 2013 will not actually clean up our air or fully address the problem. But lowering and delaying the standards, including removing industry restrictions, also won’t do anything to improve the quality of our air and avoid billions in health costs.
This Government has a habit talking about “balancing the economy and environment”, which they see as a black and white trade off. Either you can have clean air OR jobs, but not both. The Green Party knows this is a false dichotomy – a smart economy will bring us real prosperity, which means jobs that don’t compromise clean air. As my grandmother used to say, you haven’t got anything if you haven’t got your health.
There is a much better way to address the problem of requiring that consents be declined without just giving industry free rein to pollute for another 5+ years. Option 3 considered in the discussion document would enable the implementation of the standard in 2013, while creating a mechanism for polluting industries to pay their fair share through an offset scheme that would reduce emissions from home heating and vehicles.
This is not the preferred option, although there is no argument in the discussion document to explain why it doesn’t meet the policy objectives – namely cleaning up our air in a fair and equitable manner, without unduly costing jobs.
You can voice your concern about the changes proposed in the discussion document by submitting ASAP. Your submission must be received by the Ministry for the Environment by 5pm Friday 9 July.
The Ministry for the Environment has provided a (pretty lame) online submission form that allows you to make some simple limited comments on the proposal. Otherwise you can send more detailed comments by hard copy to the Ministry for the Environment.
The main point to make is that you do not support lowering or delaying the standards, which both of the preferred options do. We recommend you support the possibility of Option 3, which retains the standard but introduces additional flexibility for regional councils and industry.