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Towards Sustainability: Environment 2010 and the Green Package

As can be seen from the above, there is a multitude of activities underway to address many environmental issues. Although this is to be encouraged, there is a need to co-ordinate efforts and direct activities for maximum effect, and to ensure effort is being applied to the issues of most concern. The Environment 2010 Strategy (E2010) is the first comprehensive statement of environmental priorities and strategies ever developed by a New Zealand government. The Strategy was released as a discussion document in October 1994, and, after many rounds of consultation, was published in September 1995 (Ministry for the Environment, 1995a). It is an overarching umbrella for resource management that does not change responsibilities, but will help focus priority effort. It aims to guide the development of environmental policies and priorities of Government, local authorities, resource users and community groups up to the year 2010. The E2010vision is of: a clean, healthy and unique environment, sustaining nature and people's needs and aspirations. The goals and action agenda focus on eleven priority issues :

  • managing our land resources-maintaining and enhancing our soils, so that they can support a variety of land-use options;
  • managing our water resources-managing the quality and quantity of all types of water to meet the needs of people and ecological systems;
  • maintaining clear, clean, breatheable air-maintaining clean air in parts of New Zealand where it is already clean, and improving its quality elsewhere;
  • protecting indigenous habitats and biological diversity-maintaining and enhancing New Zealand's remaining indigenous forests, and other indigenous ecosystems; and promoting the conservation and sustainable management of the diversity of plants and animals;
  • managing pests, weeds, and diseases-to protect the diversity of plants and animals in ecosystems, to protect human health, and reduce risks to the economy;
  • sustainable fisheries-for the benefit of the fisheries resources and all New Zealanders, including for commercial, recreational and customary use;
  • managing the environmental impacts of energy services-to manage sustainably the environmental effects of producing and using energy services;
  • managing the environmental effects of transport services-to provide for transport services while protecting the health of the environment and humans;
  • managing waste, contaminated sites and hazardous substances-managing waste and hazardous substances, and cleaning up contaminated sites, to reduce risks to environmental and human health;
  • reducing the risk of climate change-to help address levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and to meet New Zealand's international obligations under the Framework Convention on Climate Change;
  • restoring the ozone layer-to help achieve its full recovery, and constrain peak levels of ozone destruction, by phasing out imports of ozone depleting substances and limiting emissions of imported substances.

E2010 was developed to complement the Government's economic growth strategy which was released in June 1993 as Path to 2010. Path to 2010 and its updates, The Next Three Years (June 1994) and New Opportunities (1996), identify the Government's two key strategic priorities as maintaining strong economic growth and building strong communities and a cohesive society. E2010 's vision is placed firmly within this wider strategic context. Its effective implementation is dependent on four key conditions: a competitive enterprise economy', effective laws and policies, information, and social participation.

E2010 's agenda for action requires the integration of environmental, economic, and social policy (to address all aspects of sustainability), making sure laws are effective for achieving sustainable management, developing codes of practice, guidelines and standards, promoting environmental education, and developing the means to monitor and assess decisions on resource use. It also aims to ensure that people have the opportunity to participate, individually and collectively, in making decisions that affect the environment.

Although E2010 provides an initial strategic framework for addressing sustainability issues, it does not presume to set priorities among the eleven areas of environmental action described above. Evaluation and monitoring of the strategy are necessary precursors to identifying future priorities for action. Monitoring is important to ensure that E2010 goals for environmental improvement are being met, to judge the effectiveness of actions chosen in response to those goals, and to provide for consistency in reaching those goals.

The Ministry for the Environment's National Environmental Indicators Programme plays a significant role in this respect. The programme will identify and develop environmental indicators which will be used to assess the 'health' of the environment in the same way as blood pressure or pulse rate can be indicators of human health. This first State of the Environment Report also plays an important role in the monitoring process. It formally reports on characteristics and trends in the New Zealand environment, collating information collected throughout New Zealand. The Minister for the Environment intends to revise the Report every four years, so that it will help highlight trends for use in developing and refining environmental policies beyond 2010.

In addition to measures at the domestic level, international organisations monitor New Zealand's environmental performance. New Zealand submits reports to the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development on measures that implement Agenda 21 (see Box 4.3)-many of which are identified in E2010. It also provides information and support for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's regular reviews of the country's environmental performance-the latest of which was released by the Minister for the Environment in November 1996. Monitoring by international bodies helps place E2010 goals and actions in an international environmental context.Their feedback helps the Government review the Strategy and adjust priorities.

Local government has the opportunity to build E2010 into their annual planning processes, and into their plans and policies on the environment. Chief executives of central government departments have been asked to take into account relevant goals of E2010 in their annual planning. In addition, the annual Government budget cycle provides an opportunity to consider environmental strategy in the broader context of the Government's overall strategy and priorities. One of the Strategy's architects, Environment Minister Simon Upton, has stressed that E2010 can be put into operation only as central government, local government, Māori, industry, non-government organisations, communities and individuals translate the vision, principles, and goals into specific policies and action plans.

While the Environment 2010 Strategy gives the longer term direction and context for environmental policies, the particular focus at any time will reflect short and medium term priorities that are identified as critical steps in achieving the overall agenda. The Green Package announced in the 1996 Budget represented the first attempt at Government level to prioritise actions the Government needed to take in the medium term to implement E2010 goals. It provided $110m additional funding over three years for addressing aspects of the eleven priority issues in E2010. From the many competing interests for funding under the Package, Ministers chose those that will have the most wide-reaching effects on different sectors, and that address the most pressing problems most efficiently. The Package focuses on four broad strands:

  • better environmental information;
  • more sustainable resource use-especially to implement the Government's Sustainable Land Management Strategy, and to ensure sustainable management of fisheries resources;
  • less pollution;
  • reducing the risks to plants and animals posed by pests and diseases.

In early March 1997, the Coalition Government committed itself to fund a 'Green Package 1997' under the 1997 Budget. This will allow the Coalition Government to put in place further measures to achieve key priorities for environmental protection identified in its Coalition Agreement of December 1996. The Green Package money helps to ensure that E2010 's vision can facilitate ongoing, effective and informed environmental decision making.