Environment groups line up to slag government on water conservation

It seems the Environment Minister is getting short on friends.  As posted on Scoop Thursday:

Five leading environmental and outdoor recreation groups said today that the Government legislation on water conservation orders passed yesterday under urgency has sent a torpedo into the Government-backed national forum working on water management reform.

The groups said the Government’s legislation to replace Environment Canterbury includes provisions that reduce the statutory protection of iconic rivers, opening them up for dams and irrigation use.

And surprise, the government didn’t even keep its own water collaboration group in the loop.  From the background notes:

Environment Minister Nick Smith said on 8 June 2009: “Today’s announcements are about Government setting the direction of water reform and setting up a process with stakeholders and Māori to develop solutions. This approach reflects a new style of collaborative environmental governance outlined in National’s 2006 Bluegreen vision document and 2008 election policy.”

A huge raspberry to all involved, including that sorry lot, the BlueGreens.

“The Land and Water Forum has been the best environmental and governance initiative of this Government to date, but that is now in jeopardy following this major breach of trust from the Government,” Environmental Defence Society (EDS) chair Gary Taylor said.

The five groups – EDS, Ecologic, Fish & Game, Whitewater NZ and Forest & Bird – said it is hard to see how the forum can continue as a collaborative and trusting process after yesterday’s law change.

“Changing the rules for water conservation orders was not needed to fix any problems at Environment Canterbury. This Bill was used as cover to smuggle in a change in the law equivalent to allowing mining in national parks,” Ecologic executive director Guy Salmon said.

Yes, even long-time BlueGreen Guy Salmon has spoken out in no uncertain terms, adding “The Government cannot ask stakeholders to behave in a collaborative manner unless it is prepared to behave in the same way itself”.

What a double, stripping local democracy from Canterbury residents and trashing water conservation in the same bill.

This charade was passed in time for April 1st.  I wish it was just a bad joke.

Really Nick, even shouting “April Fool’s” right now would be forgiven.

Hat tip: greenfly

UPDATE: Rod Oram states here this morning that Canterbury’s dairy population has increased some 60.5% since 2002 according to the Creech report. That’s 239,000 cows, or 47% of the herd growth nation-wide in just 8 years. It’s easy to see why a coup was needed to ensure the diary industry can continue to meet it’s absurd growth targets, leaving Canterbury residents to drink shit or sea water.

UPDATE 2: More from an angry Guy Salmon here.

11 Comments Posted

  1. This grieves me.
    Why the hell do we keep doing this to our country?
    Can’t win with the left, can’t win with the right.
    Sometimes I wish I could stop giving a sh!t.

  2. Swampy – your assessment is very accurate. Behind all of this sits plans to establish the EPA – Salmon and his Bluegreen plotters have been lauding the system for years now, though recent developments must have Guy spitting.
    The possible fate of our regional councils is an issue worth following and keeping in front of us here, Swampy. Any news you post will be eagerly read buy me (at least).

  3. Guy Salmon’s group was part of a process that aims to restructure the role of all regional councils. The gist of it being that the environmental functions would be taken over by the new EPA with the rest being handed over to territorial bodies.

    Smith’s law change is obviously an interim step towards this new goal of taking over the water and more substantive legislation will follow in due course, but there is absolutely no urgency or justification for National’s raid on our water resources sneaking it through under urgency with no public consultation.

    There is obvious need for change at the regional level of local government as there is far too much unnecessary politics, deputy chairwoman Kane being a prime example.

  4. There must be some basic flaw in the Hurunui irrigation/power scheme proposal, for the government to use such muscle to ensure it goes ahead.

    After all, this is the same ECan which approved the Opuha dam: why not Hurunui? The consent process was well under way.

    The answers lie in the water conservation order and the quality of the proposal. Scrap the WCO, and remove serious public scrutiny – bingo! Dam whatever you like.


    The ironic thing is that the Resourse Management Act was drafted by Simon Upton of National.

    The RMA was essentially a conservation piece of legislation that the conservationists in E-can were trying to faithfully uphold.

    The Key government has just betrayed the integrity of it’s own legislation and those trying enforce it.


    ‘Good governance never left Canterbury as no regional council meeting ever broke apart’ says Rick Tindall who was a E-Can councillor. He said that eight out of fourteen councillors were new and things were improving including an auditor Generals ruling over conflicts of interest December 2009.

    Rick just circulated the e-mail this afternoon. It would be great to see it on Frogblog as it would be giving the public an inside perspective.

  6. The government seems to be trying really hard to not get a single vote in Christchurch and Auckland urban areas… I hope they succeed…

  7. “Today’s announcements are about Government setting the direction of water reform”

    Indeed, Nick, you snake. Indeed.

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