Environment Minister a no show at Freshwater Conference

Rural Exchange 24/02/2018

Cleaning up New Zealand’s rivers was one of Labour’s key campaign promises leading up to the 2017 election.

So when Environment Minister David Parker didn't show at last week’s National Freshwater Conference, some organisations took notice.

Megan Hands from LandSavvy joined Rural Exchange to discuss Mr Parker's absence and the key takeways from the conference.

The two-day Wellington conference featured both sides of the freshwater clean-up debate, with the “best and brightest scientists” discussing collaborative planning and science-led policy for better freshwater management.

"He was on the bill, he was meant to be there. The Minister for Environment who we heard a lot on this leading into the election didn't come," Ms Hands told RadioLIVE. 

The panel included economists from Wellington and the Waikato Regional Council to discuss the water tax, an economic instrument that has yet to be publicly discussed as a potential solution to manage resources in New Zealand.

Before the election, the Environment Minister had criticised National for defending water polluters not explaining how they would fund freshwater clean-up for future generations.

“After nine years of worsening pollution and no action, New Zealanders deserve a responsible conversation on how we repair our rivers and lakes for future generations,” Mr Parker said in a Labour press release.

Labour had stated that its clean-up efforts would respect iwi interests in water. Ms Hands explained that the issue was indeed brought up at the conference.

"We discussed the tax/royalty option and the implications for Iwi, but in pretending it's off the table, but we know it's not," Ms Hands warned.

Ms Hands believes that collaborative planning from all parties to draw the line the sand and measure and monitor the freshwater management progress can lead to good science-led policy.

"Is it appropriate to wait for the science to be perfect, or just long as we are trending in the right direction and tackle the issues as they come,” she said. 

Listen to the full interview with Megan Hands above.

Rural Exchange with Hamish McKay, Sarah Perriam and Richard Loe, 5-7am Saturday and Sunday on RadioLIVE with Carter’s Tyre Service. Click here for all the ways to watch and listen.