Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New Zealand's Environmental Title: Post Copenhagen 2009

In October 2008 New Zealand was awarded the International award for Responsible Tourism and at the recent 2009 Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards Whale Watch Kaikoura was the overall winner, and also won the 'Marine Environment' category. This is a big deal, sadly despite the efforts of the tourism industry, it has largely gone unnoticed.

Part of the Helen Clark legacy was to leave us well positioned on the way to becoming a sustainable country.

We have wandered off this trail with the current administration. However all is not lost.

Professor Harold Goodwin who awarded New Zealand this award visited here in July this year.

When I raised the concerns that others in your feature have mentioned he was confident that we could maintain this status if we worked on sustainability.

Fortunately for New Zealand, the tourism industry, Qualmark with its environmental grading system, ECCA, and our national airline Air New Zealand which has a Qualmark Enviro Gold rating, all carry the flag towards a sustainable nation.

Even a small company like Whale Watch Kaikoura alone has a turnover of NZ$10 million annually and carry 100,000 passengers a year on this environmentally enlightening journey.

They are among the hundreds of tourism businesses that have been assessed for a Qualmark enviro grading are in the forefront of this movement. The Great Ponsonby Arthotel is proud to share with them a prestigious Qualmark Enviro Gold standard rating.

Nick Smith is out of touch by rating New Zealand as a nine. No one believes this. What he lists as achievements are really a work in progress, the question being only timing regardless who was in government

The last twelve months with biodiesel being scrapped then reinstated at the cost of real investment which had been committed, the proposal of opening up national park for mining, moving away from mandatory control over light bulbs and water use in the name of personal freedom is Nick’s legacy to date. In short a giant step backwards.

The defacto Minster of the Environment is Air New Zealand chief, Rob Fyfe who courageously has stood up for carbon reduction and for investing in alternate fuels which we can grow on sewage. This is responsible commercial and social leadership. Surely this is the leadership the government should provide?

When Norman Kirk refused to raise the level of Lake Manapouri in 1972 this decision positioned New Zealand well. Not only do kiwis enjoy this wilderness and some us celebrate this as our great environmental victory it is it also produces tens of millions every year in foreign exchange. This is not the only environmental victory in NZ, in fact there are many, but it is the largest and significantly the most internationally recognised and celebrated.

If John Key was unable to stand up at Copenhagen and re-establish our credentials on green issues that would have served New Zealand well. Perhaps if he had future historians may judge him to be in the same league as Kirk. Though the verdict is far from out this will be some challenge but let’s be optimistic. He is well aware of the challenges that face our exporters and economy. The losses this year of Hoki contracts in America and the United Kingdom because they can't be sustainably fished is surely a warning to us all.

Two issues that should be understood this year is the huge impact peak oil will have on our economy and the effect that global warming will have on our Pacific neighbours and in turn New Zealand. Interestingly in the recent rally for the planet the Tuvaluan community were aware and they made their presence known in Copenhagen as well. Congratulations are due to them.

We must recognise that these issues are real. Sadly we are not talking about them.