Opinion piece by;
Dr Peter Trolove
The Removal/Omission of the protection of Trout and Salmon from the Natural and Built Environment Bill.
Fish and Game are belatedly mounting a campaign to have the protection of the habitat of trout and salmon included in the Natural and Built Environment Bill.
The New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers unreservedly supports this campaign
The importance of trout and salmon to New Zealand’s environment
As well as being highly valued by a majority of New Zealanders as the main focus of our freshwater recreational fisheries, salmon and trout perform key roles as indicators of water quality, and as a focus for the preservation of freshwater habitats.
Trout and salmon serve as indicators of effective environmental protection.
Albeit through enlightened self-interest, Acclimatization Societies and latterly Fish and Game, have done more to protect New Zealand’s natural environment than any other private or public entity.
Most of our existing National Water Conservations Orders and challenges against over exploitation of water for irrigation, electricity, and other uses are due to the work of F&G or Acclimatization Societies.
Research into NZ fish diseases and management was for many years funded by anglers, (Acclimatization Societies), with later support from the Marine Department.
The (few) fish scientists at NIWA in Kyle Street, Christchurch owe their positions to the importance New Zealanders placed on salmon and trout.
Due to the foresight and sustained effort of the many volunteer New Zealanders who have served on Acclimatization Societies and F&G councils, New Zealand developed a recreational fishery that is highly valued by New Zealand and Overseas anglers.
This once outstanding fishery is visibly being lost to development and short term government policy. In the main, central and regional government see their role in facilitating the use of land and water for economic development.
F&G is the only entity that has the membership and history to advocate for freshwater environments. Largely due to being self funding F&G is a uniquely democratic organization able to act with a measure of independence.
Part 2 S.7 (h) of the RMA 1991 enables F&G to have a seat at the table when water allocation decisions are made;
The RMA 1991
The Resource Management Act 1991 gave Fish & Game a Statutory pathway to advocate for freshwater habitats for trout and salmon;
[Part 2 Purpose and Principles of the Resource Management Act 1991
7. Other Matters
In achieving the purpose of this Act, all persons exercising functions and powers under it, in relation to managing the use, development, and protection of natural and physical resources, shall have particular regard to –
(h) the protection of the habitat of trout and salmon]
The omission of trout and salmon from the NBEB compromises Fish and Game’s ability to be an effective advocate for freshwater habitats.
The inclusion of trout and salmon in the NBEA should be non negotiable.
The Natural and Built Environment Bill
The NBEB is a cynical short term response to the “housing crisis”.
It’s unstated purpose is to speed up, (in order to reduce cost), the consenting of land for housing development.
A Bill or Act designed to expand the built environment can never achieve its other stated objective of protecting the natural environment.
Such a Bill (or Act) cannot achieve this goal.
Consents essentially make land or water into a commodities that have similar rights to property. Consents are passed on with a change in land ownership.
Consents are simply a means of privatising a common.
Nobody “owns” water—until it is stored, or channelled to be used for irrigation or other purposes.
Compliant politicians create private wealth from public commons for those with the resources to influence those politicians. Whether through donations to political parties, or through the hiring of professional lobbyists, the natural assets of our country are becoming the assets of a privileged few.
The NBEA is a classic piece of short term government policy in response to a perceived crisis – it seems it is considered politically expedient for the Minister of the Environment to diminish the environment, “for the good of the people” while purporting to protect it.
Shades of the Ecan Act 2010
The justification for the NBEB is strikingly similar to the Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners) and Improved Water Management Act 2010, (Ecan Act), when John Key’s National government simply took over the Canterbury Regional Council and supported by enabling legislation, turned Canterbury into a monoculture of irrigated dairy farms. The 2008 financial recession was the driver of this constitutionally repugnant response.
The Canterbury Regional Council’s “failure” to issue the desired consents for unbridled irrigation development was used as the justification for the government’s takeover of Ecan. (Wyatt Creech’s critical report was delivered in February 2010 just prior to the Ecan Act in April 2010).
Key succeeded in his aim of increasing GDP and creating wealth for several thousand Canterbury farmers at a huge environmental cost.
Key succeeded in polluting the near pristine groundwater beneath hundreds of thousands of hectares of Canterbury farmland with pathogens from cattle faeces and nitrate.
Key succeeded in destroying the once internationally and nationally recognised outstanding recreational fisheries of the Rakaia River.
Key succeeded in destroying Canterbury’s lowland fisheries.
Key succeeded in destroying a once vast species of native fish endemic to Canterbury’s braided rivers.
Key succeeded in destroying Cantabrians’s trust in local and central government.
Ecan is now in a compromised situation in which it has issued numerous irrigation consents which it is unable to manage, monitor, and enforce. It has issued water abstraction and storage consents that has compromised the Rakaia River NWCO 1988.
Ecan’s cynical response is to seek a Declaration in the Environment Court that it is not responsible for monitoring and enforcing the Rakaia NWCO. It seems Ecan wants no part of a mess of its own making.
The Minister for the Environment began 2018 by claiming his Government had made a clear commitment to action on freshwater in the confidence and supply agreements; “There is no easy fix, because it sometimes takes many years for the pollution already in our land and water to dissipate. But we’re not going to keep kicking the can down the road and leave the hard issues for future generations.”
How will another Act that speeds up consenting processes, gives greater power to central government to determine how the natural environment is managed, predicated on non-notified hearings, improve matters?