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April update: Healthy environment, strong economy

The Canterbury Mayoral Forum has urged care in when and how the Government’s freshwater reforms are implemented.

The Forum has written to the Minister for the Environment and the Minister of Agriculture explaining that it does not want economic recovery from Covid-19 to come at the expense of further degradation of our natural environment. But on the other hand, work to restore the environment needs to happen in ways that also support economic recovery.

The mainstay of Canterbury’s economy is the primary sector and food manufacturing. The primary sector will be doing some very heavy lifting for New Zealand’s economy over the next couple of years. So the Forum has offered to help the Government implement its freshwater reforms in ways that balance environmental, economic, social and cultural wellbeing.

In our changed context, the Forum has recommended that the Government:

  • proceed with the proposed National Environmental Standards for Freshwater and stock exclusion regulations, and lower transaction costs, particularly for local authorities as environmental regulators
  • phase implementation, prioritising catchments that are most at risk
  • allow councils to continue progressing existing freshwater plans without having to re-visit these – and encourage those councils to accelerate work to contribute to economic recovery
  • apply limits for Dissolved Inorganic Nitrogen and Dissolved Reactive Phosphorus only to catchments where there is strong evidence that they are material drivers of ecosystem health and where, therefore, regulation will yield a measurable benefit
  • work with the local government sector to phase and prioritise the proposed monitoring programme, focusing on the measurement of attributes that will make the greatest difference to the health of specific waterways or waterbodies
  • support local government to keep improving water quality through non-regulatory means that also contribute to economic recovery – for example, our work in riparian planting and stock exclusion, tree planting for erosion control, pest control and developing and enhancing wetlands.

The Canterbury Mayoral Forum wants our region to come out of the Covid-19 crisis stronger and healthier as a region – environmentally, economically, socially and culturally.

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