The Environmental Protection Agency hearing into seabed mining for phosphate on the Chatham Rise is exposing questions about uncertainty - many big unknowns, including whether the applicant has done its job. If environment groups win this battle, what does it mean for the wider war?
Out on the Chatham Rise, the ridge jutting into the waters off Christchurch and extending out beyond the Chathams, Chatham Rock Phosphate has a mining permit and is now seeking EPA approval for its project to mine phosphate for fertiliser, at depths untried anywhere else in the world.
There's plenty of evidence that more farm production could actually help, not harm, efforts to protect the environment
New Zealand's future depends on production and protection - but the latter is not necessarily the same as preservation. These 'P-words' are getting as muddled as the 'E-words' of expertise, experience and enthusiasm.
Economics and environment are also part of that picture.
Proposed planning reforms have been heavily contested by environmental, community, legal and professional organisations around the country
Environment Minister Amy Adams recently released the Government’s proposed changes to the principle planning legislation in NZ (the Resource Management Act 1991).
Putting a price on something ... usually, the first step to selling it off, or compensating for its loss. Pricing nature is on the agenda in Wellington this week.
Think about the things that are everything to you: a child, love, the air you breathe, your life.
What price would you put on those things? How do you value them? Could you express the value in dollar terms? And the answer’s pretty obvious.
The court with “the potential to affect New Zealanders’ day-to-day quality of life more than any other court in the judicial system” is on the ropes. The RMLA speaks out
Yesterday, thanks to footwork from the Resource Management Law Association, the rumour of recent weeks was confirmed.
Cabinet papers did exist, it appeared, confirming that Ministerial consideration was being given to doing away with the Environment Court.
New Zealanders have been asked to think about our constitution - what it is that makes us or, as one judge described it, “the mirror of a nation’s soul”
Constitutionally, New Zealand is in a very sad minority.
Government's gathering pace, in a way that ought to give us all serious pause - because it rips apart more than our constitutional fabric.
“New Zealand is a remorselessly democratic country.” -- Geoffrey Palmer
In 1977, 341,159 New Zealanders joined the petition of Gwenny Davis to Parliament.
Government gets bolder. Meanwhile, Forest & Bird Ambassador Sir Alan Mark launches a public appeal for a Wise Government Response to five crises confronting New Zealand
Styled by participant Gareth Renowden as 'a loose affiliation of New Zealand’s great and good', really, it’s 'people like us'.
Look deeper into RMA reforms and you might find it's more exciting than you think: an Environment Minister taking her axe to urban trees, and the latest in a series of “democracy deficits” - this time affecting Auckland
Wake up, New Zealand. Yo, Auckland!
I want you - the 87 percent of you who live in a city or town in New Zealand - to have a think about trees. What do trees mean to you?
Gwynn Compton's open letter to Gareth Morgan, PR lessons to be learned from failing "quite comprehensively", and a nice response from Tom Cox
In the end, when the dust settled, leaving Gareth preening and Bob Kerridge licking his wounds ... there were these. Three thoughtful, balanced pieces, among the best reading (and writing) you'll find.
The symbolism of the Rainbow Warrior's return to her spiritual home.
As the sun rose on 2013, the new Rainbow Warrior sailed for New Zealand: first stop a tribute to her sister ship, sunk in Matauri Bay.
It’s time for the Rainbow’s return, because 2013 marks another time of defiance, a fight for our country’s soul.
What does activism mean? How do we reconcile ego and eco, in 2013? And - with apologies for existential crisis - what exactly is my job?
“I don’t do much about climate change, but I’m a member of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and I do my recycling.”
2012 in review: text of my piece for the Resource Management Journal on the changing legal landscape, and writing loudly on the political wall
All over the country, on land and at sea, the legal landscape is changing. In pursuit of balance, the National government is rewriting laws that have sustained and built our environment.
The results are good - in parts. Other parts so deeply undermine the precarious balance so far achieved, that they compromise the whole.
In 2012, National Ministers’ environment choices left us 100% poorer - or pooer, in the case of our impure, faecally-contaminated rivers
Three years ago, new to the job, Trade (and former Conservation) Minister Tim Groser said our brand would be built on “world class environmental standards”:
My response to Straterra's Chris Baker, whose comments framed an earlier piece in the New Zealand Herald. In fact, 69 percent of New Zealanders agree: conservation is at the heart of what it means to be a New Zealander (DOC, 2012).
“The misinformation advanced by parts of the community, however well-intended, does not help informed debate on our economic future.”
Middle Earth, as my colleague quipped: it’s like that’s what we’re aiming for, one massive hole in the ground. Our legal landscape is changing, with mining in view. It’s not just the EEZ, or the RMA, or the Crown Minerals Act - it’s all of them. The ground is shifting under resource management.
Piece by piece, the National government is rewriting laws that have built our environment. The Crown Minerals Bill completes another piece of the picture - it shows why promises made were false - but that Bill is only an example of the government’s wider work.
Even more significant than the government's former ideas about mining our national parks, a long-awaited government advisory group report would spell disaster for the Resource Management Act if it were implemented
Proposals are afoot to change the way things are managed all over the country, where New Zealanders live every day. That means changes to planning and decision-making about everything that is built, or not, as the case may be. The changes proposed are big, and they’re being dressed up and glossed over like a pig in a bit of lipstick.
What the Ministerial amendments proposed to the EEZ Bill tell us about RMA reform plans - or, how a few lines on a page could change New Zealand's natural world
In the world blissfully inhabited by Phil Heatley, as described to an appreciative Straterra audience (including me) last week, some people always say “no”: “no” to that mine or this road, irrigation here, the subdivision over there.
On chooks, the planting of blossom trees, and building an ecological movement from the ground up
And so it begins: the garlic’s up; every day there’s a small fresh egg, or sometimes two. The old plum trees, which are always first - they know they’ve not much time left, perhaps - have a frisson of white.
The Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill, currently passing through its remaining stages in Parliament, helps Big Oil less than you might think
The Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill, known as the EEZ Bill, is among the most important pieces of legislation being progressed by John Key’s government. Forest & Bird, and everyone who cares about our marine environment, wants to support it.
In which the government invites anyone who can pay enough into our offshore marine environment. The Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill does not "protect and preserve" the environment. It states its price
TAG Oil is very excited. It wants to turn the East Coast of the North Island – “literally leaking oil and gas”!! – into the “Texas of the south”, hosting thousands of oil wells.
All of the government’s signs are pointing the same way: relocating conservation and the Department of Conservation within the “natural resources” sector, the better to “streamline and simplify” its activities
Last year we learned that the Conservation Minister and the Energy and Resources Minister would both decide about giving access to conservation land for mining. One has an interest in the minerals beneath, the other in the land and the creatures who live there, on behalf of us: the public, the land holders.
In preference to weeping, I try to count conservation blessings, and plan my new career as a lobbyist
Although a National government has been returned, in a way Kiwis did “vote for Nature” as Forest & Bird's election campaign asked. The prospects for Nature in the next three years are bleak, but all is not lost. A battle or two might be won by lobbying.
The fight over the different kinds of wealth on the “impoverished” Denniston plateau is about more than just Denniston. Chances are, it could finish in the Supreme Court
Last week the West Coast Environment Network, Forest & Bird, and others filed appeals against the resource consent granted three weeks earlier, to coal miner Bathurst Resources.
Twelve months in prison for clubbing to death 23 seals, injuring others, leaves nobody with anything to celebrate.
Yesterday, a Marlborough teenager was sentenced to two years in prison, for battering 23 seals and pups to death with a steel pole.
In which I introduce myself to Forest & Bird ... but since it all started here on Pundit, here's the scoop ...
My mother emailed me about the Forest & Bird ‘Bird of the Year’ competition. “I voted for the Fairy Tern,” it said.
“Was that the little lady so cleverly disguised as shells?”
“Yes,” came back her reply, “and she didn’t have many votes”.
A short correspondence, in which my mother explains, in a handful of words, why she is a conservationist.
Are national parks the things we have when we can’t find anything else to do with them? The Denniston mining proposal is like the Schedule 4 mining proposal, with bonus snails
The Denniston plateau, which is near Mount Augustus, has its own population of threatened giant snails.
Denniston is not a national park. It is not in Schedule 4. It is conservation land, that should have been part of a national park, the Kahurangi National Park. That status was withheld, because of the coal beneath.
It would be ironic if, in the end, it was lawyers who saved the world while I was out, tree-hugging and tweeting
This week I farewell my day job, my life’s work, and the law. A colleague, one of my bosses, came to say goodbye. He paced, and looked at the floor; I knew something weighty was on his mind.
Mark Lynas suggests we should, in our God-like way, try a little geo-engineering. It is, after all, an emergency. If there is a God, he could be some distance from Mr Lynas, because that’s not what ‘dominion’ means
Mark Lynas, author of The God Species, had an opinion piece in the Dominion Post last Thursday July 14, 2011 which I’ve copied at some length here, because it isn’t online.
Fonterra is helping dairy farmers write good farm stories: tales that start with basic effluent compliance, and could end in best sustainability practice and bridging the gap between conservationists and farmers
Emma Parsons herself is a dairy farmer’s daughter; her Dad is well-known for his on-farm environmental work. The land on the other side of their creek is farmed the usual way.
We stand on an economic cliff, at the edge of the physical world. Scientists explain why technology won’t help
“When the old map makers got to the edge of the world, they used to write, ‘beyond this place there be dragons’.”
Our native forests and the creatures that live in them are in retreat, says the PCE; commerce is a lesser evil than rats, stoats and possums. Barbeque sacred cows, says DOC. Just uphold the law, says Green MP Kevin Hague
Joe Harawira says Maori honour the natural world, for its mauri, mana, and tapu. So, he says, do the Federated Mountain Clubs, whose conference he is addressing -- although many of the delegates are silver-haired and white, and few raise their hands, when he asks who understood the karakia.
Environment Minister Nick Smith has finally confirmed that New Zealand will have environment protection law covering our massive offshore exclusive economic zone next year – but deepwater drilling will start before it’s in place.
Nick Smith plans to introduce his Exclusive Economic Zone and Extended Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill to Parliament next month, and says it will come into effect
Climate scientist James Hansen and Solid Energy chief executive Don Elder debate how to secure the future of coal, New Zealand, and the world
Dr Hansen wants coal left in the ground, to save the world, for future generations. However, it is Dr Elder's job to dig it up, to grow the cake: most of the world, he says, which is poor, has a right to a share of our wealth (and we can get richer, too).
Prince Charles – unwilling to let his son steal the whole show – almost atoned for a lifetime's embarrassing blurts and blunders, when he aired his passion for agri-culture, not agri-industry. Maybe he shouldn't be put out to pasture, just yet – or is that in fact where he belongs?
HRH the Prince of Wales
In which my musing, about what would make a good life, is helped along by a good list. It sounds a lot like New Zealand
“I’ve never lived in a commune, there’s no nakedness, I’ve never cleaned my sheets in the river using stones,” Fitzsimons told Next magazine earlier in the year. David Suzuki, more alarmingly, called txting and iphones “unnecessary toys”.
If I were a politician, I’d campaign on four social, economic, and environmental issues — not necessarily in that order
Were I a politician, I’d campaign on the cost of living: a social issue.
“Domestic life in the past was smelly, cold, dirty and uncomfortable, but we have much to learn from it … When the oil runs out, I think our houses will become much more like those of our low-tech, pre-industrial ancestors.”
At new year, in spring time, and on Anzac Day, my calendar clocks another year, and I resolve to start again, again. This blog is not immune to it: it’s time for a change, because we know everything we need to, about National’s green blues
“This article is a stub. You can help [Wikipedia] by expanding it.”
In 2004, the Nature Heritage Fund funded DOC’s Crystal Valley purchase, because of its outstanding conservation values. Last week DOC agreed to give part of the Valley, freehold, to Porter Heights Ski Field, to build an alpine lodge. What’s changed?
Crystal Valley’s conservation values have not changed, although there is some dispute about whether, paradoxically, conservation might be improved, by getting rid of it.
Putting Solid Energy’s own definition of sustainable business practice to the test, on the ground in Southland
Last month CEO Dr Don Elder told a select committee all about Solid Energy’s definition of sustainable business practice:
High country farmers and Ministers are defending private property interests in the Mackenzie Basin, while speaking the language of collaboration and trust — with a capital T
At the recent Bluegreens forum, under the title “MP proposes collaborative approach for the Mackenzie”, National Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean talked abo
In which Solid Energy defends its lignite proposals before a Parliamentary select committee, defines sustainability loosely, and fails to define some other things at all, except the megabucks
I sat in on Parliament's financial review of Solid Energy yesterday, and heard CEO Dr Don Elder tell the committee that his company — whoops, our company — meets New
I plant little trees. My neighbours cut big ones down.
I am standing in my kitchen, cutting peaches and plums into jars. The peaches are golden, derrières. The plums are black bleeding hearts.
To help the government’s goal of “building infrastructure for growth”, the foundations of the Resource Management Act are being quietly reviewed, without a scrap of evidence that infrastructure is being impeded by the current law
The headline bits — the Environmental Protection Authority, freshwater management — of ‘phase two’ of the Resource Management Act (RMA) reforms are good. There are some other bits.
Nick Smith’s announced that some highly-polluting airsheds will be allowed until 2020 to meet air quality standards, costing something in the region of several hundred lives, but saving jobs — and why I think this is okay
About as many deaths as lung cancer. Four times the road toll.
The last New Zealand Waste Strategy had 30 targets. A 2009 discussion document proposed 14. The new strategy has … none
The new New Zealand Waste Strategy: Reducing Harm, Improving Efficiency is 12 (recycled, chlorine-free) pages long.
Species ranked ‘nationally critical’ are dying in our fisheries. Legislative fixes have twice been voted down by the National party
Peeing off marine science and conservation was the lesser evil, it seems.
Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee, and his colleagues, have work to do, according to an offshore petroleum environmental assessment, showing big gaps and serious risks in our regulatory practice
Gerry Brownlee presided over a small flurry of offshore petroleum exploration permits in the last 12 months.
Delegates came home upbeat from the Cancún climate talks, although the Copenhagen Accord texts were hardly altered by the Cancún Agreements. Were there good reasons for optimism? Or were the “rounds of cheering and applause,” “at times near euphoria,” psychological symptoms of something else?
Adrian Macey says it’s far too soon to analyse the meaning and import of Cancún. Mr Macey is a highly regarded diplomat. I am a lowly blogger: a marginally less considered, cautious breed. Here goes:
The metaphorical Pike River post-mortem has started, without waiting for the Royal Commission and others’ findings, in some defiance of the truth, and the incendiary risks
Sometimes there are no words. And yet, columns must be written, inches and airtime filled, any kind of resolution sought for those who must carry on. Inquiries must be launched and action taken, on behalf of those who cannot.
Two offshore spills in less than a month – but New Zealand is still drifting in a policy and legal vacuum when it comes to deepwater oil prospecting and production
Kapiti coasters like to think of their home as Nature’s Coast – an endless strip of sun-scorched, dark sand in summer, a windswept tumble of driftwood in winter, stretched between the sharp, steep slopes of west coast North lsland hills that almost stumble across a ribbon of railway, highway and houses and into the heaving
David Suzuki says by ignoring warnings of over-consumption and its dire consequences, we are following 99.9999% of our fellow animal species to extinction; and the Greens convene a cross-party economic conference, populated mostly by Greens
David Suzuki chuckles, remembering a sign he saw on a shop door (“no animals allowed”) and parents’ reaction when he told their children that’s what they are: just animals. “Boy, were they pissed off … we don’t like to be told that,” he comments dryly.
When global crude oil sources are ranked and graphed by size and production cost, lignite coal is among the biggest, the most expensive, and the last one on the list. Lignite and Solid Energy need peak oil; it’s a lifeline for them, not a threat
Solid Energy and the mining industry would like you to believe lignite will “cushion” ordinary New Zealanders against oil price shocks. There’s heady talk, of diesel fuel self-sufficiency, and a bit of mildly misleading talk, about “keeping prices at today’s level”.
DOC’s Director-General has a new ‘bluegreen’ conservation vision: follow the money to business partnership, because the country’s broke, and along the way further downsize his own little threadbare empire. What kind of Chief Executive is this?
“If we were truly successful I think the taxpayer funding of the protection of New Zealand’s biodiversity would be minimal,” says Al Morrison.
Solid Energy wants to open up ‘new energy’ and other things: lignite resources, public debate, the company’s own mind, apparently. Shame those dangerous radicals don’t have much to say worth hearing. Shame if they had to be booted out, for asking the wrong questions
“This is not a forum for interest groups to represent their position on wider issues, nor is it appropriate to use this meeting to make political points.
As Convention on Biological Diversity parties meet to hammer out new resolutions, having failed on most of the old ones, UK paper the Guardian is compiling a list of action points, and demanding, you know, action
But to make this campaign work, you have to get behind it. That means pestering your MP, bothering your environment minister, demanding that your government stops hiding behind platitudes and starts talking about specifics.
In the latest skirmish, the Mackenzie cubicle dairy applicants — or, as they prefer to say, ‘covered farms’ — have turned an apparent setback into a tactical mini-triumph
The Environmental Defence Society was “gobsmacked” on October 1. A fortnight later, when I catch up with its chairman Gary Taylor, he’s still carefully choosing his words.
Greenpeace’s old mojo, zooming about in front of Japanese ships, was getting a bit tired; anyway, they’re constructive parties to the anti-whaling talks now, implicating Fonterra in rainforest clearance instead
Last month, Greenpeace barricaded Fonterra’s Auckland corporate headquarters.
Farmers and conservationists agree, the Mackenzie must be saved. In simple terms, the question is: should it stay brown, or turn green? Farmer Richard Peacocke and Forest & Bird discuss
Richard Peacocke is becoming a familiar face.
“Wild kelp harvest is native forest logging of the sea”? Or just like “mowing the lawn”? It had marine science and conservationists in an uproar today, so what’s it all about?
Phil Heatley likes picking seaweed. So do I.
In a whipping wind, against a rising tide, I choose the nicest pieces, the prettiest colours, as many shapes as I can find. In my mind, I am composing a sea vegetable salad; actually, I’m making liquid fertiliser.
Forest & Bird delivers a lesson in economical resource use — simplifying and streamlining, if you will — that doesn’t involve balancing the environment and the economy; and a reminder of the conservation job, put on ice for a quarter century
As the flagship Resource Management (Simplifying and Streamlining) Amendment Bill proceeded in 2009, Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee was at odds with his government, pursuing economically-inefficient resource management, in his ill-advised grab for Schedule 4.
We waited and, in one sense, wasted decades, scientifically establishing carbon emissions, and their effects. Now its about sequestration, on and in the ground: a different issue, yet the same
Science told us the risks of climate change. We needed it, to explain how nature works, in a way that no one can observe.
Now, it joins the race for good solutions. Where the science is disputed, as it is on soil carbon, is there time left to explain everything, paper by paper, and peer-review? And yet, there’s no time, either, to waste on crackpot theories.
Papers show an official abundance of caution persuaded New Zealand to downplay soil as a carbon sink, instead of bringing it into the ETS, as a carrot for farmers
You know the old cliche, about wood, and trees.
Lord Stern's visit to New Zealand last week didn't upset any apple-carts, but it again raised the question of whether or not New Zealand's ETS is a world leader
Let's cut through the shilly-shallying and be clear about this. New Zealand's emissions trading scheme is a world leader...
The calls to save New Chums Beach risk snatching defeat from the jaws of conservation victory, by romanticising pristine examples. Surely we can do better
Around 9,200 of Close Up-polled viewers (92% of almost 10,000 txtrs) said they wanted special protection for beaches like New Chums. As do I.
In which, after two months chasing High Country Ministers and their officials round in a circle, I realise they’re telling me something after all
Having run around government agencies for nil result, and ended up about back where I started, I’m afraid that this circumlocution is officials’ own special way of describing a big fat ‘zero’.
Meridian is sticking to the letter of resource management law. It risks big power generation decisions being made, at big environmental cost, without full cost-benefit analysis
Environmentally-friendly renewable power generation is environmentally ugly, too.
Mr Brownlee may have dug a big hole for the mining industry, by eyeing up Schedule 4. Conservationists' price: a better Schedule, and a higher test for mining access rights
Mr Brownlee says he now has a mining “mandate”. This is another example of political misjudgement. He thinks the Schedule 4 debate is finished. Environmentalists have hardly started.
Turning the draft energy strategy upside down, to shake some ‘step change’ out of it
Dear Gerry. I keep writing to you. You keep ignoring me.
Does this government’s ‘developing country’ shtick, or our luck in being small, give us the moral authority to dine richly on oil and coal?
Gerry Brownlee’s reminiscing, about old boyhood days. Shame, when the best you can offer your country, after nine years’ Opposition thinking time, is a 1965 policy.
DOC papers released to me, under the OIA, show Meridian deleting key email to pre-empt its release, and slowing down DOC decision-making
So, the Pork Industry Board decides the Official Information Act kind of sucks.
Land Information New Zealand is a bit of a misnomer: the information, when I asked them for it, seemed in short supply. But inadvertently, they explained quite a lot
“Tenure review of Crown pastoral leases … is the largest single process for the assessment and alienation of Crown-owned land in New Zealand,” Cabinet was told in 2009.
Coal-to-liquid fuel feasibility studies are underway for lignite, the dirtiest coal, as the coal industry tries to dig itself out of a hole
Coal badly needs a new mojo, as Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee once recognised, and hasn’t since been allowed to forget.
In which policy makers try to grow the economic cake, but end up eating it instead, leaving us with some little brown crumbs …
Tenure review is an arguably fatally flawed review of the Crown pastoral land asset.
Intensive farming development of the Mackenzie district is a failure of law and policy, and ecological disaster on a colonial scale
The “Crown Pastoral Land Act” is my new favourite title on the statute book — a window to a high country world.
Why do some vegetarians claim moral superiority over meat eaters?
A while ago on Facebook, my online equivalent of the officewater cooler, someone asked this question (I've probably changed the wording):
It’s time for tree planting, picture-painting, and the annual garden bird survey
Sometimes I find it in books, sometimes in the garden; always, I find it by chance.
New Zealand’s biofuel market is, apparently, a model of sustainability and transparency; it might be our route to fuel independence. Fitzsimons’ Bill to regulate it looks likely to be rejected
Biofuels are a bit of a yawn, but wake up!
The US government can barrel oil giant BP into stumping up $28 billion to clean up the mess created by its disastrous deep water oil drilling operation in the Gulf of Mexico – but could you see that happening here?
Don’t worry, citizens. It will be at least 18 months before anyone starts deep water drilling on the floor of our extensive offshore continental shelf.
As the United States shuts down deepwater oil drilling to get it back under control, New Zealand opens the door. Gerry Brownlee may not get much more mining on the conservation estate, but he can get it off-shore. How good is that?
Australia’s ICJ proceedings look like the latest high stakes manoeuvre in a diplomatic poker game with Japanese whalers
Where there are lawyers, there will be argument.
Material for the International Whaling Commission’s next meeting, published on its website, answers some domestic questions and shifts the IWC focus from whaling to whales
“Everyone will be grumpy, even if the package succeeds which is most definitely not assured.” — Sir Geoffrey Palmer 
Notes from Kate Wilkinson’s recent talk to a Christchurch tramping club raise real questions about the job she is doing as conservation minister
Note: This post has been edited to reflect questions about the source material.
Extinguishment of Hurunui litigation rights recalls the Foreshore and Seabed Act, and it is breathing life into the embers of green activism
The damned Hurunui has lit a fire that will not be put out…