Towards a Sustainable New Zealand: Overview paper

Date: March 2007
Reference number:
POL (07) 84

Office of the Minister for the Environment

The Chair

Cabinet Policy Committee

Proposal

1. This paper sets out the broader context for the recently announced package of sustainability initiatives, and describes how the package will be managed across government and with stakeholders. The package is to serve as a rallying point for further action on moving central government, local government, business and individuals towards sustainability.

Executive summary

2. On 12 February 2007 Cabinet agreed to the further refinement and development of a package of sustainability initiatives which were announced by the Prime Minister on the following day: household sustainability, business partnerships for sustainability, waste management and minimisation, towards a carbon neutral public service, enhanced sustainable procurement, and eco-verification. This paper is an overview of another six papers that set out more detailed descriptions, implementation proposals and timelines for those initiatives.

3. The package of initiatives announced in February 2007 was developed as an environmentally focused ‘call to action’ to build on the existing high profile of issues such as climate change, encourage behaviour change and engage New Zealanders in the government’s aim of making New Zealand the first truly sustainable nation. The initiatives sit alongside much other existing work to promote sustainability, and the overall pursuit of sustainability remains at the heart of the three themes of economic transformation, national identity and families – young and old.

4. Cross-government processes have been put in place to lead the package of initiatives and monitor coordination with related work. Communications plans will be put in place to ensure the government’s message on sustainability is coordinated and clearly articulated. Partnerships with stakeholders will also be central to the success of the package, and stakeholders will be consulted on the development and delivery of the initiatives.

Background

5. Cabinet agreed on 12 February 2007 [CAB Min (07) 4/1A] to the refinement of a set of sustainability initiatives based on:

a. sustainable households

b. business partnerships for sustainability

c. towards a carbon neutral public service

d. enhanced sustainable procurement, and

e. waste minimisation and management.

6. After consideration of the Cabinet paper, the eco-verification aspects of the sustainable procurement proposal (expanding the government-owned Environ­mental Choice product labelling scheme and establishing a database of reliable ‘green’ labels, standards and services) were separated into a new initiative.

7. The Prime Minister announced the key aspects of the six initiatives in her Statement to the House on 13 February 2007, as well as other closely related matters such as changes to the Ministerial fleet, the biofuels sales obligation, work on energy policy, broadband strategies, and reinforcing and celebrating our national identity. These announcements sit alongside a wide range of sustainability-related work already being done across the whole of government in the areas of climate change, energy, transport, waste, freshwater management, land management, marine, air quality, and so on. There is also work underway on environmental monitoring and reporting.

8. These initiatives build on the principles and the work of the Sustainable Development Programme of Action (SDPOA), a three year programme established in January 2003 to ensure that sustainable development concepts underpinned government activity, and that government decisions ensured the well-being of current and future generations. The SDPOA operated under the ‘Brundtland’ definition: “sustainable development is development which meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. This approach requires looking after people, taking the long-term view, taking account of the social, economic, environmental and cultural effects of our decisions, and encouraging partici­pation and partnerships. While the SDPOA ended on 30 June 2006, its approach continues to guide the development of policy within the sustainability sphere.

Comment

9. The package of sustainability initiatives set out at paragraph 5 was developed in the context of the government’s aim to make New Zealand the first truly sustainable nation, and the need for long term sustainability strategies to meet the challenges New Zealand faces in the 21st century.

10. The initiatives serve as the next step towards those longer term goals. The primary purpose of the package is to be the public rallying point for the sustainability drive, and to create an environment that encourages a change to more sustainable practices in New Zealand households, communities, businesses, local authorities and central government. The initiatives demonstrate government leadership and create a sense of urgency and priority.

11. I believe that the New Zealand public is ready to respond to a call for action. A Herald-Digipoll survey in January 2007 found that 78 percent of respondents believed they need to make lifestyle choices to reduce global warming. A February 2007 Management Magazine-ShapeNZ survey found that 63 percent of business decision-makers surveyed expect ‘green consumerism’ to have a significant effect on the way New Zealanders shop in the future.

12. There is still much more to do to push New Zealand close to true sustainability. Sustainability is central to, and underpins, all three themes of economic transformation, national identity and families – young and old. These three themes remain the means by which, in the longer term, sustainability will be built into the economy and society to position New Zealand as an innovative and sustainable nation, with sustainability at the heart of our identity. We will need to identify and pursue any systemic changes to the way our economy or society functions as part of the wider work programmes under these themes.

13. While the package of initiatives is centred on environmental sustainability, there are strong connections to economic and social sustainability and the package offers considerable co-benefits in those areas to New Zealanders. The package, especially the business partnerships for sustainability and sustainable procurement initiatives, is designed to support economic transformation and business competitiveness as well as improving New Zealand’s environmental performance.

Relationships between the six initiatives

14. The six initiatives in the package are united by some common themes and approaches, including:

a. Government leadership through making its own activities more sustainable, leading a call to action to move New Zealand to a more sustainable way of life, and providing the groundwork for New Zealand to prepare for a changing future.

b. Promoting behaviour change by providing information and help to business, communities and individuals on both how to be sustainable, and the benefits and opportunities from being sustainable (lowering household/business bills, market opportunities).

c. Recognising good work already being done in communities, local government and business, with government providing impetus to fuel that good work, forge connections, and help to spread best practice more widely.

15. There are strong partnership elements throughout the package. The waste initiative will rely on partnerships with local government, waste management businesses and manufacturers. The households and business partnerships initiatives include joint development and delivery of messages and resources, which should help those programmes to identify the best ways to encourage behaviour change and reach the broadest possible audience. Those two initiatives intersect further in that the resources developed for households will also be useful for most small businesses (especially those not targeted by sector strategies under the business partnerships initiative).

16. The three government leadership initiatives – carbon neutral public service, sustainable procurement and eco-verification – are all based on government leading by example and ‘walking the talk’. They will also work in tandem to push sustainable practice throughout the core public sector (and eventually the wider state sector) in a cost-effective way, by encouraging a greater emphasis on environmental standards (while ensuring that all purchases are still fit for purpose) and on the whole-of-life cost of assets, goods and services.

17. Those three initiatives also use the government’s purchasing power to drive sustainability into the wider New Zealand economy, as the target agencies spend about $6 billion per annum on goods and services. Directing this spend­ing towards suppliers who can verify their environmental credentials, and providing more government support for the verification process, will grow the domestic market for these products and help New Zealand producers to access similar markets overseas. It will also help businesses and individuals to find sustainable products and verify the environmental claims of suppliers.

Governance and coordination

18. New governance arrangements have been put into place to ensure coordination of the six initiatives, and of policy formulation across the whole package and more generally.

19. A Sustainability Chief Executives’ Group, convened by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) and including the State Services Commission, Treasury, Ministry for the Environment (MfE), Ministry of Economic Development (MED), and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, has been formed to:

a. provide leadership of the government’s sustainability programme

b. oversee delivery of the six initiatives

c. monitor progress and points of connection with all sustainability related initiatives (e.g. climate change, energy, water and land)

d. ensure coordination of sustainability issues with the three government themes as appropriate, and

e. liaise and communicate with other chief executives.

20. Inter-agency implementation groups have been set up for each of the six workstreams, to be convened by MfE (household sustainability, waste and carbon neutral public service) and MED (business partnerships, sustainable procurement and eco-verification). Sector reference groups (see paragraph 31) will also assist the lead agencies with further development of the initiatives.

21. The inter-agency groups will focus on further refining the proposals, helping the lead agencies to scope out work programmes, and setting up and delivering the specific commitments set out in the accompanying six papers. The make-up of these groups varies depending on the nature of each initiative and the degree to which the initiative and its deliverables will benefit from cooperation from and coordination across agencies outside MfE and MED. In some cases (e.g. the public recycling bins) the primary implementation partners lie outside central government and the relevant sector reference group will play a more significant role in developing and delivering the initiative.

22. MfE will also lead the development of indicators and reporting for the six initiatives, in close consultation with MED, Statistics New Zealand, Treasury and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority. More details are set out in the six initiative papers, which describe data requirements and the aspects of the programmes that are to be monitored by the lead agency. This monitoring will be used to assess performance, reinforce and learn from successful actions and programmes, and contribute to work to engage the public on sustainability.

23. This work will in turn contribute to reporting on national environmental and sustainability indicators. The OECD is working on internationally comparable sustainability indicators, but these are not expected to be available until about 2009. Statistics New Zealand, MfE and the Ministry of Social Development are examining what these will mean for New Zealand.

Communications and stakeholder engagement

24. The nature of the sustainability package as a ‘call to action’ for New Zealand, and the strong partnership aspects to many of the initiatives, mean that close relationships with stakeholders and an excellent communications approach are vital to successful delivery. The partnership approach draws from and builds on the approach taken previously under the Sustainable Development Programme of Action, and has been shown to help government to develop robust proposals and resilient outcomes.

Communications planning and coordination

25. The success of the sustainability package will be measured by its ability to encourage sustainable behaviour and practices across New Zealand, which means that the messages being delivered by government need to be coherent, consistent, and reinforced. MfE will lead the preparation and execution of a whole of government communications plan to support the initiatives and related work areas such as climate change adaptation and the Sustainable Water Programme of Action.

26. MfE will work to ensure that there is a good overview and coordination of communications and opportunities across the whole of government. For example, MfE is working on key sustainability messages that can be used in communication opportunities across government (such as Ministerial speeches and press releases). To coordinate the use of these messages on suitable occasions, MfE is also developing and maintaining a sustainability calendar of events, with information gathered from across government.

27. Some centralised coordination is needed because of the wide range of departments and agencies with sustainability initiatives. The current lack of coordination risks inconsistencies, mistiming, and duplication of effort. MfE’s work in this area will also help to support the delivery of clear messages internationally, and my officials are already working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to ensure consistency.

28. MfE and other agencies will also need to work together and with stakeholders to identify, publicise and support examples of good practice across New Zealand. This will help to emphasise that the sustainability focus is for all of New Zealand, not just government, and to build on the current momentum in the community around these issues.

Stakeholder relationships

29. Cabinet agreed on 12 February 2007 that local government would be invited to participate in refining and delivering the initiatives. Local government is a key partner because many councils are already active in the sustainability area, because they have the ability to reach businesses and households, and because of the nature of the services they provide. I have met with Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) to discuss the waste initiative, senior officials have had some initial contact with LGNZ and the chief executives of regional councils on the package as a whole, and LGNZ will be invited to join some of the inter-agency groups.

30. Ministers and senior officials will continue to discuss sustainability issues through our existing channels for engagement with local government, which include:

a. the Central Government/Local Government Forum (Cabinet Ministers and the National Council of LGNZ)

b. the Chief Executives Environment Forum (regional council chief executives, LGNZ and central government chief executives), and

c. LGNZ zone meetings (all councils within a region, central government senior officials also attend)

31. More targeted interaction with stakeholders is needed for most of the six initiatives. Sector reference groups made up of local government representatives (particularly from city and district councils), business and/or other stakeholders will be established for each initiative as required, to help to refine the initiatives, test the proposals against the objectives, and advise on any issues that may be raised for their sectors. Further details are given in the papers setting out each initiative.

Early progress and related initiatives

32. More detailed work programmes, implementation plans and timelines will be set out in the Cabinet paper for each of the six initiatives. In some areas, work on the initiatives or closely related work areas has already taken place or become visible since the Prime Minister’s announcements.

Early progress with sustainability initiatives

33. Government agencies continue to develop resources that assist or encourage individuals and households to make sustainable choices. In the last month or so new consumer advice on solar water heating and the ‘Low Carbon Diet’ campaign on lowering transport emissions have been launched. The household sustainability programme will ensure easy and integrated access to these types of information.

34. A series of free seminars to show businesses how sound environmental practices are also good for business began on 1 March 2007, hosted by the Ministry for the Environment and Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce. Eleven seminars will be held over the next few months throughout the lower North Island and upper South Island.

35. In February the Prime Minister opened the Awapuni Recycling Centre in Palmerston North, which is an example of the type of top quality local government waste facility that the waste initiative aims to encourage. I have also recently announced that the government will be working with local government and industry to stop plastic packaging being dumped into landfills, and have reiterated the expectation that councils will implement high quality household recycling processes.

36. Government agencies are also progressing with the government leadership aspects of the package. Some examples are:

a. By mid-March 2007, eight government vehicle fleet audits had been completed (VIP fleet, CYFS, Internal Affairs, Housing NZ, Fisheries, Education, National Library and NZ Defence Force). These examined nearly 9000 vehicles and identified potential savings of 10,000 tonnes of CO2 and 5.5 millions litres of fuel over a three-year period.

b. The Ministry of Education has recently committed to develop an environmental rating tool for schools that is specific to New Zealand conditions and ties to the curriculum.

Related initiatives

37. Consultation meetings on a suite of five climate change and energy policy papers took place throughout the country in February and March. To prepare New Zealand for climate change, the government is partnering with the Institute of Professional Engineers, local government and the insurance industry to help advisers and decision-makers in these sectors and professions to increase our sustainability in the face of the expected greater variability in our climate. The government’s consultation document on climate change and sustainable land management outlines proposals for partnering with the agricultural sector.

38. To reduce the impacts of climate change the government has decided that, post-2012, the cost of greenhouse gas emissions should be factored into the decisions of producers and consumers across the economy. The favoured method is a price-based measure. Introducing a price on greenhouse gases will provide an incentive to move significantly towards sustainability. It will have significant co-benefits of improved water quality, reduced flood damage and landslips, improved air quality, improved human health, improved energy security and a more competitive economy. Cabinet will make decisions on the climate change policy package over the next few months.

39. A number of new government investments in research in sustainable energy technologies have also been announced recently, which demonstrate practical partnerships with business and industry:

a. $2 million contribution to the establishment of the New Zealand Clean Energy Centre in Taupo.

b. $1 million investment in Scion’s assessment of the risks, opportunities and the potential for production of heat, power and liquid transport fuels from crops and other plant material (biomass).

40. In mid-March, Environment Waikato adopted new rules to cap the amount of nitrogen leaching from rural and urban properties into Lake Taupo, and to reduce manageable discharges in the lake’s catchment by 20 percent over 15 years. The discharge reduction work is being conducted through the Lake Taupo Protection Trust, which recently received $81.5 million from central govern­ment, Environment Waikato and the Taupo District Council. This links closely to the Sustainable Water Programme of Action’s work on water quality and allocation.

41. Under the communications plan that is being developed, MfE will work with other agencies to ensure that communications on initiatives such as the above are coordinated and promoted under the sustainability banner.

Resourcing

42. In the first instance, the agencies involved in implementing the package of sustainability initiatives will seek to meet costs through realignment and internal reallocation. This reflects the high priority of sustainability across government. For example, the Ministry for the Environment has already reallocated significant resources to the six sustainability initiatives, will be restructuring its work programme for 2007/08 to prioritise the delivery of the initiatives and other government priorities, and is likely to downscale or defer some work which is not closely connected. MfE will also be realigning priority areas for the funding it administers (such as the Sustainable Management Fund) to support community activities that contribute to a more sustainable New Zealand.

43. Some additional resourcing will, however, be needed to meet costs that cannot be absorbed, and to give some initiatives the necessary urgency and visibility. Budget bids have been prepared and funding is being sought for the six initiatives through Budget 2007. The success of the package also relies on sustainability becoming a priority issue across New Zealand, not just within government. The package requires enough resourcing to enable government to reach households, businesses and local government with a sustainability message, and to encourage and support behaviour change in those sectors through practical measures.

44. As far as possible, agencies have assessed the quantifiable benefits expected from these initiatives (e.g. savings on energy bills across government from the sustainable procurement and carbon neutral public service initiatives) as part of the development of these bids.

Consultation

45. DPMC, SSC, Treasury, MED and MAF have been consulted on this paper, and their views are reflected.

Financial implications

46. The Minister Responsible for Climate Change Issues and I are seeking a total of up to $27 million over three years across several Votes to deliver on the six initiatives and develop a monitoring and reporting regime. This is being pursued through Budget 2007 processes under the Economic Transformation theme, and further details are given in the six initiative papers.

47. Some parts of Stage 2 of the carbon neutral public service proposal cannot yet be costed due to a lack of robust information on greenhouse gas emissions across the whole public sector, and the need for further decisions on the final composition of an offset portfolio. For this reason, some funding for the latter stages of the carbon neutrality programme may be sought in a later Budget.

Human rights

48. There are no inconsistencies with the Human Rights Act 1993.

Legislative implications

49. There are no legislative implications in this paper. The associated waste paper sets out the matters to be pursued through the Waste Minimisation (Solids) Bill, a Member’s Bill currently before Select Committee, or through other legislation.

Publicity

50. As outlined in paragraphs 25-28, MfE will work with other agencies to develop a communications plan for the package of initiatives and related sustainability work, to ensure that publicity around sustainability has a consistent message. This will include the announcement of greater detail on various aspects of the package over the next few months, especially in conjunction with Budget announcements in May 2007.

Recommendations

51. The Minister for the Environment recommends that the Committee:

1. note that this is the overview paper for a suite of six papers setting out implementation plans for initiatives agreed by Cabinet on 12 February 2007 [CAB Min (07) 4/1A refers] including:

1.1 household sustainability programme (MfE lead);

1.2 business partnerships for sustainability (MED lead);

1.3 waste minimisation and management (MfE lead);

1.4 towards a carbon neutral public service (MfE lead);

1.5 enhanced sustainable government procurement (MED lead);

1.6 enhanced eco-verification (MED lead);

2. note that this package of initiatives is a next step towards the longer term goal of a truly sustainable New Zealand, and sits alongside a much broader work programme contributing to sustainability that will be further developed and refined;

3. note that sustainability underpins the three themes of economic transformation, national identity and families – young and old;

4. agree that the three themes remain the means by which a more sustainable New Zealand will be pursued in the longer term;

5. note that the common themes across the six initiatives include:

5.1 government leadership through a call to action and changes to government’s own practices;

5.2 encouraging uptake of sustainable practices across New Zealand by promoting the practicalities and benefits of being more sustainable;

5.3 recognising and giving impetus to the good work already being done in communities, local government and business; and

5.3 the use of partnerships to promote change;

6. note that a Sustainability Chief Executives’ Group, convened by DPMC, has been formed to provide leadership of the package and coordinate with other sustainability issues across government;

7. direct the Ministry for the Environment to develop a whole of government communications plan to ensure the government’s sustainability initiatives are being coherently and consistently promoted;

8. note that the Ministry for the Environment, in consultation with relevant agencies, will develop and report on indicators for the six initiatives, with the lead agency for each initiative to be responsible for monitoring;

9. note that relationships with stakeholders are being established and sector reference groups will be established where required for each of the workstreams in recommendation 1;

10. note that funding of up to $27 million over three years is being sought through Budget 2007 for the six initiatives; and

11. note that there may be a bid in a future Budget to meet additional costs for Stage 2 of the carbon neutral public service programme, once costings have been better identified;

 

 

Hon David Benson-Pope
Minister for the Environment

Cabinet decisions: POL Min (07) 9/20

On 9 May 2007, the Cabinet Policy Committee (POL):

1. noted that the paper under POL (07) 84 is an overview paper for a suite of six papers to be submitted to the Cabinet Policy Committee shortly setting out implementation plans for initiatives agreed by Cabinet on 12 February 2007:

1.1 household sustainability programme (Ministry for the Environment lead);

1.2 business partnerships for sustainability (Ministry of Economic Development lead);

1.3 waste minimisation and management (Ministry for the Environment lead);

1.4 towards a carbon neutral public service (Ministry for the Environment lead);

1.5 enhanced sustainable government procurement (Ministry of Economic Development lead);

[CAB Min (07) 4/1A]

1.6 enhanced eco-verification (Ministry of Economic Development lead). This initiative was separated from the sustainable procurement initiative referred to in paragraph 1.5 above after Cabinet’s decisions on 12 February 2007;

2. noted that the package of initiatives referred to in paragraph 1 above is a next step towards the longer term goal of a truly sustainable New Zealand, and sits alongside a much broader work programme contributing to sustainability that will be further developed and refined;

3. noted that sustainability underpins the three themes of economic transformation, national identity, and families – young and old;

4. agreed that the three themes remain the means by which a more sustainable New Zealand will be pursued in the longer term;

5. noted that the common themes across the six initiatives include:

5.1 government leadership through a call to action and changes to government’s own practices;

5.2 encouraging uptake of sustainable practices across New Zealand by promoting the practicalities and benefits of being more sustainable;

5.3 recognising and giving impetus to the good work already being done in communities, local government and business; and

5.4 the use of partnerships to promote change;

6. noted that a Sustainability Chief Executives’ Group, convened by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, (with the Ministry for the Environment, Ministry for Economic Development, the State Services Commission, the Treasury and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry), has been formed to provide leadership of the package and coordinate with other sustainability issues across government;

7. directed the Ministry for the Environment to develop a whole-of-government communications plan to ensure the government’s sustainability initiatives are being coherently and consistently promoted;

8. noted that the Ministry for the Environment, in consultation with relevant agencies, will develop and report on indicators for the six initiatives, with the lead agency for each initiative to be responsible for monitoring;

9. noted that relationships with stakeholders are being established and sector reference groups will be established where required for each of the workstreams referred to in paragraph 1;

10. noted that funding over four years has been obtained through Budget 2007 for the package of sustainability initiatives referred to in paragraph 1, and that funding for some aspects of the waste initiative will be provided through Ministry for the Environment baselines for 2007/08 with additional funding to be sought by the Minister for the Environment in a future report;

11. noted that there may be a bid in a future Budget to meet additional costs for Stage 2 of the carbon neutral public service programme, once costings have been better identified;

12. noted that the Minister for the Environment indicated that consultation will not be required with the government caucuses or with other parties represented in Parliament.