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Ministry stands by decision to drop conclusion chapter

Media release: 11 February 2008

The Ministry for the Environment is releasing the draft conclusions chapter of the state of the environment report Environment New Zealand 2007 to provide transparency around its content.

Todd Krieble, General Manager Reporting and Communications, says the Ministry stands by its decision not to have a conclusions chapter in the report.

“The decision was made to let the facts in the report speak for themselves. The substance of the draft conclusions chapter is contained in the Minister’s foreword to the report, the separate summary document, and throughout the report itself.”

“The pressures on the environment from intensification of land use and agriculture are widely covered in the report. They were highlighted in a summary of key findings when the report was released, and reiterated publicly at the launch event in January,” Mr Krieble said.

“We made it clear then, and I will make it clear now, that the report identifies some serious pressures on New Zealand’s environment. Land use intensification, both urban and rural, is one of those, along with household consumption, transport, energy use and waste.”

Mr Krieble says the original project scope for Environment New Zealand 2007 did not include a conclusions chapter. Well into the process, the team preparing the report drafted a conclusions chapter to help readers understand its complex content. 

But a peer review of the draft conclusions chapter by central government agencies and regional councils made clear that it qualitative content was not in line with the factual nature of the report, he says.

“A cardinal sin of environmental reporting is to let comment and qualitative analysis go further than can be supported by the facts.”

Within three weeks of the peer review, a decision was made by the Ministry to take out the conclusions chapter. This happened well before the report was shown to Cabinet in October.

“No Ministers saw the draft conclusions chapter. Nor was it distributed to any group associated with the agricultural sector. It was sent to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s peer reviewers. From March 2007, early drafts of all chapters were given to peer reviewers, solely to check that the Ministry’s use of facts supplied to it was correct. That is standard professional reporting practice,” said Mr Krieble.

“The Ministry looks forward to the discussion about what the facts in this report mean for New Zealand’s environmental management.”

The draft conclusions chapter is available at:  http://www.mfe.govt.nz/environmental-reporting/soe-reports/enz07-draft-conclusion-chapter.html