National’s top five conservation achievements are part of a new dance called the Blue Green Spin, one step forward, a quick twirl and three steps back:
1) National has created seven new marine reserves and we now have 9.5% of our territorial seas brought into reserves and sanctuaries (one step forward). Quick twirl. The Government has opened up much of our territorial waters for oil exploration, including our Maui's Dolphin sanctuary. Michael Field's book The Catch reveals the need to properly manage the fishing industry to stop the human and environmental exploitation currently occurring (three steps back).
2) 2500 km of a national cycleway have been completed and $100 million proposed to accelerate cycling in urban areas (one step forward). Quick twirl. The NZTA has only a small handful of people employed to support cycling. The Government is continuing with their $13 billion motorway development and the amount being spent to support public transport is a tiny fraction of the transport budget. We are well behind Europe with our support of cycling in our urban areas and even in the car dominated US many cities have introduced safe cycling routes (three steps back).
3) Spending $30 million on the use of 1080 to control pests in over a million hectares of conservation land (one step forward). Quick twirl. It is just a pity that the ongoing work of the Department of Conservation has been greatly limited by huge budget cuts. The $30 million spent on pest control should be regarded in context of around $70 million cut from DoCs budget since 2008 and the hundreds of DoC employees losing their jobs. Simon Bridges has been enthusiastically opening up huge conservation areas for mining exploration without any appreciation of the areas involved (three steps back).
4) The Government is spending around $6.5 million a year over the next four years to support 'community led' conservation around New Zealand (one step forward). Quick twirl. New Zealand has one of the highest levels of volunteering in the world but there is growing concern that the Government is relying too much on good will and dedicated people who put the environment and the welfare of others before themselves. The founder of KidsCan, Julie Chapman, has voiced concern that she was having to do what the Government should be doing. The $27 million to be spent encouraging volunteers to do conservation work will be replacing, to a large extent, the $70 million cut from employing properly trained people. Those volunteering feel passionate about what they do and will be working long hours doing unpaid work at what can be a personal cost to themselves (three steps back).
5) $350 million being spent on cleaning up waterways and $100 million to retire land next to important waterways (one step forward). Quick twirl. Fresh water quality is actually declining according to most scientists and more is being spent on expanding dairy farming, the leading cause of much of our water pollution. We are growing our dairy herds faster than we can manage the environmental effects. Considering the average dairy farm is now worth around $10 million, $100 million won't retire a lot of farmland (three steps back).
The Blue Green Spin is a backwards moving dance that causes all those involved to run out of space and eventually have their backs against the wall. It looks attractive for a time but quickly ends when there is no more room for movement. There is no recovery when our Maui's Dolphins become extinct, important conservation land is permanently damaged through mining and our native fish are lost forever. It costs much less to say no to environmentally damaging industries than spend huge amounts to try and repair the resulting damage afterwards. I, for one, don't want to dance to this National Government's tune.