April 2010


The earlier article A short history of regional government in NZ contained musings about whether there might be clues in the history of regional government in New Zealand that help explain the predicament that Environment Canterbury (ECan) now finds itself in. The article failed to answer this question, but promised a future article to explore this question further. An examination of our more recent history reveals that this – at least in part, may be a product of an increasingly challenging environmental landscape outgrowing the RMA model of regional council focused on end-of-pipe, point-source pollution. (more…)

Water Conservation Orders have been in the news lately, with the passing in March of the Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Bill, which environmental and recreational groups claim fundamentally undermines Water Conservation Orders (WCO) in Canterbury, by giving the newly appointed ECan Commission the decision-making power on WCO applications, placing a greater emphasis on “sustainable management” rather than protection, and removing the right to appeal the decision (except on points of law).

So, what is the history and origins of the WCO, the so-called “national park” of rivers? (more…)

Downtown Wellington is hosting a photography exhibition by a “wildly talented” (in more ways than one) Sam O’Leary this month. Sam’s photographs of New Zealand’s wildlife and wild places will be on show from the 23 April (opening night) through to May 14 at Conservation House (Department of Conservation), Manners Street, Wellington. (Exhibition open Monday through to Friday.)

Sam’s photographs can be viewed at Sam O’Leary’s website.

Photographs (A2 size and framed in black with white matt border) will also be available for sale at the exhibition for $400 each.

As well as being a talented photographer, Sam works for the Department of Conservation, and runs their Conservation Blog.

[Photo: Green gecko in friend's garden (Wellington), by Sam O'Leary]

The recent government intervention in Canterbury, which led to the replacement of the Environment Canterbury’s elected council with government-appointed commissioners [click here to read more], has brought regional councils into the spotlight. Regional councils are responsible for the bulk of environmental management and regulation in New Zealand. But what is their history and does their history provide any clues to the plight that ECan finds itself in? (more…)

Episode 3 of the envirohistory NZ podcast series is now out. This episode explores three environmental histories – one local, one national and one international. The first story is of Wharemauku Stream, a small stream which runs through Kapiti, but which tells a story that extends beyond its geographical bounds. The second is former Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons’ review of the last 35 years and what shifts she has observed in New Zealanders’ attitudes towards the environment. The third story is of Canadian forester – Leon MacIntosh Ellis, who immigrated to New Zealand to take up the first Director of Forests position in the new colony, and shape forestry in this country for years to come.

16 April 10   Episode 3 – Three environmental histories – local, national and international (12: 35 mins)

Music creditPolly’s song by Donnie Drost, available from CCmixter.

Following on from his earlier contribution, Two decades of environmental policy – then and now, former Ministry for the Environment Deputy Secretary Lindsay Gow also shared his thoughts on the efficacy of the Resource Management Act since it was enacted in 1991, and on what tasks remain to be tackled in the area of environmental policy:

The Resource Management Act has been with us for nearly twenty years.  It was one of my biggest jobs.  I consider that, on balance, it has worked successfully.  It’s interesting to hear both pro and anti development people referring to the RMA as a legitimate means of making difficult resource decisions.

The RMA’s central notion of integrated resource management was ahead of its time in 1990.  Thanks to the establishment of regional authorities administering it on a whole catchment basis, the RMA has delivered some notable results. (more…)

The Wharemauku Stream is notable to visitors and residents of Paraparaumu alike for the fact that it runs underneath the Coastlands Mall, built in 1969 [see photo below, right]. Seeing it straightened, stripped of its indigenous ecology and thrust into such a jarring constructed landscape, many might mistake it for a man-made drain; few would be able to imagine how it might have looked in its natural state before this area was developed for farmland and settlements 150 years ago.

The source of the Wharemauku Stream is in the Maungakotukutuku valley, from where it flows westwards through the Paraparaumu and Raumati Beach areas, before reaching the Tasman Sea on the northern side of Raumati Marine Gardens [see photo below left]. (more…)

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