Warnings on New Zealand's environmental performance this week mean the intergenerational debate just got real in an election year, Alex Tarrant says

The intergenerational debate got real this past week.

The key focus: Our environment. And how policy actions (or inactions) now are set to cause a load of grief for future generations who don’t have a voice at today’s table.

The OECD kicked off, deep into Nick Smith’s 22. Its latest report into the state of New Zealand’s environmental policies was about as pretty as the aftermath of a Queenstown free-camping site.

New Zealand’s economy is at its environmental growth limits. We need to start thinking about a different growth model that would raise productivity and reduce environmental pressures.

The problem: while GDP growth has outperformed the OECD average recently, this was mainly down to record inward migration and the fact that we’re all working longer hours for not much more output.

Our pricing signals are not producing sustainable growth. Agriculture should be included in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), and NZ should consider pricing water (properly). “It’s not rocket science,” OECD Environment Director Simon Upton said.

And we need to do more to clean up our act other than just trying to make ourselves feel good by purchasing ETS credits in a dodgy international market place. New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP are the second highest in the OECD – behind shale-heavy Estonia.

In short, something needs to change.

Environment Minister Nick Smith fielded the ball, but wasn’t in the mood for possession football and kicked for touch.

There was no way this National government would even consider adding Agriculture to the ETS. The result would be devastating in that farmers would cull stock and be hit financially just as they were exiting the downturn in commodity prices.

That’s a fair point, but begs the question: What is the government going to do about the OECD’s warnings? While Smith indicated that he might consider new environmental taxes (the OECD said we’re below average on this front), he still showed little sign of being at all keen on the idea.

Boston on a rampaging run

The OECD report and Smith’s responses to it seemed to put Victoria University Public Policy Professor Jonathan Boston in a mood.

In a rampage down the touchline, Boston fended and trampled his way towards the government’s posts. Child obesity, imprisonment rates, educational outcomes, income inequality, Treasury’s living standards framework; Tony Underwood stood a better chance.

In fairness, Bill English’s Social Investment ideals are intended to tackle many of these social issues, at least once the government gets around to increasing spending on certain initiatives rather than the ever-present cut backs. I’m told work is ramping up on this front.

But social issues aside, Boston’s run (and the symposium as a whole) came back to one key issue: what will the environment look like and will future generations be fielding a hospital pass?

Agreeing with a point raised by former Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer at Vic’s Intergenerational Governance Symposium in Parliament’s Banquet Hall, Boston denounced efforts by successive governments on positioning New Zealand to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Yes, Parliament last year ratified the Paris Climate Change goal of net zero emissions by 2050. But on current trajectories we look very far off from getting there.

Light at the end of a long, uphill tunnel

Among other things, Boston had bemoaned the growing dearth of cross-party political agreements on major cross-generational issues. But he might have been heartened by a report released by a group of 35 MPs across the spectrum with some suggestions of how New Zealand could meet the Paris goals.

The Vivid Economics report prepared for the GLOBE-NZ committee of MPs was sobering reading for anyone thinking we could muddle along on environmental issues. There will be unborn generations now who will decry why their elders did not act, given the warnings were so stark.

Imagine if New Zealand’s renewable power generation grew by 75% over the next 30 years, 85% of our vehicle fleet was electrified, targeted breeding, new feeding regimes, precision farming and methane inhibitors were introduced and forestry expanded by half-a-million hectares while livestock numbers remained constant.

On the face of it, that sounds like a bunch of work. In truth, it wouldn’t even start to cut the mustard.

Hard choices need to be made

Try something a bit more like this. By 2050:

Coal electricity generation: Zero; Gas generation: Down 73%; Hydro: up 21%; Geothermal: up 161%; Solar: Up 21,000%,

Dairy livestock: Down 20%; Diary livestock productivity: up 25%; Dairy emissions inhibited by new vaccines: Down 30%; Dairy emissions inhibited by selective breeding: Down 15%. (Similar numbers for beef and sheep)

Farmland: Down from 12.4m hectares to 10.6m, while Forestry rises from 1.7m hectares to 2.9m and some livestock farming is replaced with Horticulture.

Those are just some of the shifts (on top of vehicle and train electrification) that would be required to get our greenhouse gas emissions on a trajectory to net zero by sometime in the second half of the century.

Not by 2050 like we’ve agreed to, but by sometime after that. The problem? (other than short-term politics):

“[This track] is heavily reliant on a series of technological advances whose feasibility and costs remain uncertain and which, if they fail to materialise, would make this scenario high cost or unattainable.”

Translation: That’s going to be bloody tough.

So another track was suggested. This basically required a shed-load more farmland to be converted to planted forests (as well as the renewables targets, some livestock productivity growth and electrification).

Sound easy? There’s a catch:

“the substantial change in land-use patterns implies significant social and environmental challenges. Socially, it would imply profound changes to rural livelihoods and New Zealand’s rural economy.”

That, in a nutshell, is the challenge. A big challenge.

New Zealand’s primary sector and rural communities will be in the firing line. And just remember – this government in 2012 encouraged the primary sector to try and double its exports by 2025. The rest of the economy needs to cushion the impact. Any financial pain needs to be spread.

If we’re going to get anywhere near the Paris goals, if we’re going to get anywhere near ensuring the environment looks remotely like how Parliament has agreed it should by 2050 and future generations are not left to make even more drastic changes than the ones outlined above, then tough decisions need to be made. Now.

Any ideas?

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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Well, one thing is glaringly obvious where the environment goes, and I do not mean just New Zealand either, is that there are far too many humans already on this little planet. Sort that, and we begin to sort the rest. Our choice is to get stuck in now by making very serious inroads into the current birth rate or leave it till the situation is unbearable and we resort to the old tried and true, widespread war, taking out much of our population and the populations of many other species along the way getting to that point.
We ARE at a tipping point, the Great Barrier Reef is beginning to die, the largest living thing on the planet! You can argue about climate change and whether or not we are to blame, contribute a bit, contribute a lot, or are completely innocent, but surely, taking the low road on this is not a stupid idea.
Capitalism is going to have to go, sorry folks, but it's raisson d'etre is to extract, consume, pollute, enrich some and impoverish others. It requires never ending growth in order to survive, the planet now needs no more growth in order to survive. With what needs to be done, capitalism is no longer fit for purpose.
Sounds harsh? It is. But then doing nothing is going to deal to us pretty harshly as well.

One idea that could go a long way to helping. Se up an environmental form of the reserve bank. This would be made up of scientists and completely separate from the government. They would set up realistic environmental limits that we were allowed to operate in.

Yes. It was called the Gold standard.

Come on PocketAces you are just advocating for a transfer from private people to yourself and those within your group.

As long as people see private enterprise as a resource and create financial extraction methods to transfer then the system will have issues.

People will be rolling in their graves reading what you have written!

I am not really advocating anything, all I am doing is seeing how things could go in a different world from what we have now. On examination, a world where human labour is essentially redundant, things will have to change and that is how I see it. I don't care who is rolling in their grave, most of them would never have foreseen such a prospect.

Environment Minister Nick Smith fielded the ball, but wasn’t in the mood for possession football and kicked for touch.

There was no way this National government would even consider adding Agriculture to the ETS. The result would be devastating in that farmers would cull stock and be hit financially just as they were exiting the downturn in commodity prices.

Says who in what market?

.... The WTI futures curve, for example, has found an eerie sort of stability pegged at around $55, with mild backwardation in the middle. That suggests, strongly, oil investors don’t expect oil to go much above that level for quite some time. With the familiar “hook” in the front end of the curve, the risks remain still to the downside. Read more

NZ: Try using your vote this year environmentally instead of financially.

How? Where is the blue-green option? Rather than the red-green option we have now?

So you are looking for a government who pushes for a "small efficient government" that is "business friendly", but also looks after the environment. Sounds like the first two is completely at odds with the latter. Maybe that is why there is no blue-green alternative.

My point is you will have to choose. Financial expansion, or environmental responsibility.
Previous generations went to war and died for our current lifestyles. The least we could do is forgo some financial expansion to insure the health of our future generations.


Good question.
We had National touting more resource exploitation as our economic saviour - deep sea oil, national parks minerals, more dairy, more fish and so on. Turns out there's been no deep sea oil found, the rivers and land are choking, dying from dairy pollution, we're already overfished with some populations in full blown collapse and the national parks mining plan strongly rejected with good reason. Pretty much a complete flop for that cunning plan in other words.
The objective when they came to power was a doubling of exports by 2025 but we've still got a continuation of 45 years of current account deficits and a degrading environment stretched to the limit just to stand still. All we've had is a property ponzi scheme juiced to the limit with cheap money and nearly half a million more people.
The emphasis on farming/mining/fishing was dangerously overdone IMHO and wrongly diverted attention from the real issue: the tragic export under performance of our major cities. Japan has a similar land area to us and, with almost 130 million people, 27 times our population. They have 68% of their land in forest against our 38%, a higher standard of living and consistent current account surpluses. The real difference is that their cities are producing goods and services that the world is happy to pay for.
Does any political party have a realistic long term vision that will deliver a healthy environment and healthy economic fundamentals? The Auckland "mowing each others lawn" type of economy can only run so far without something to pay for the petrol.

Agree 100%, The answer for New Zealand needs to be higher value products. As well as commodities, raw produce will never provide the standard of living that we currently enjoy long term.

Without going into detail about what I do for a living, it is suffice to say, I have an in-depth knowledge of the New Zealand technology sector. It is very small, and struggles to retain the true talent. Years ago we would hear of the brain drain. It's is still alive and well, I am sorry to say. In terms of high skill technology workers. Unfortunately the opportunities just aren't available here.

I personally feel a larger central government drive would help, people often fail to remember that alot of the other countries that are very successful, have in the past or currently invested heavily to make this happen.

Think South Korea, Japan, Untied States, and the various strategies employed. For example the US has created an ecosystem, largely through it's military funding, which provides the basis for it's innovation, now the entrepreneurs probably have a larger share, but the skills, and infrastructure were available because of the history of technology investment.

Technology investment often doesn't pay off in the near term, and that is not something most investors are interested in.

I would add that it seems that the current approach of making debt cheaper is not providing any true value.

Cool thanks for the link

"The answer for New Zealand needs to be higher value products" but we're shipping raw unprocessed ancient swamp Kauri to China, just as fast as we can dig it out of the ground. That was sanctioned at the highest levels of government with Judith Collins' husband on the board of directors of Oravida. We've allowed Synlait to achieve vertical integration in the milk production business. They don't have to buy value added products from us anymore, they can ship raw milk solids to China for processing to value added products.

One of the best, most succinct and accurate explanations of the mess we're now in. Nice work David George.

All this is true.

But you still have numpties yelling "vote National to keep house prices going up!" because they seemingly can't see beyond their own nose.

So the solution is just more of the conventional economic growth model only with a change of goods and services for sale? The economic growth model and environmental protections appear to be almost mutually exclusive.

What new products and services do we offer or do we just compete against Japan? Or China? Do we increase our population to 130 million? What about the resources required - do we just export the environmental degradation like everyone else?

What if it's time to not only think entirely outside the box but to actually step outside it? NZ with its natural environment is in the perfect position to be an entirely self sufficient country. Maybe the importing and exporting of stuff needs to become secondary and we focus on providing for the needs of our citizens first?

What if the objective of money and monetary wealth is now outdated and this story needs to be redefined? Unfortunately it may require the economic apocalypse to achieve this.

There is no such thing, that is why, it is an illusion.

Excellent post. The world is well past any reasonable capacity to carry humans. We can do zip about that. But thinking locally, New Zealand could establish our own local target for total population.
My vote is we have a smaller population than we have now.
You might think I propose that for environmental reasons - and that's so.
But I also believe it would have huge positive effects on incomes, personal incomes security, and social progress.

Which of these are using this strategy successfully ? Wouldn't we just have a rapidly ageing population with all the costs that brings, but lower national income? If it works as you want, wouldn't that just boost some individuals now, but burden them impossibly in the medium term?

It is not total population control you need, but for your idea to work it needs to ensure the median age does not rise. How do you achieve that? Exiling those over a certain age?

None of that matters in the age of robotics, technology and mechanization

So DC we have to constantly introduce a new supply of folk with their energy and resource. (that group of younger working people that brings the median age down) and keep on doing it because in your view the whole thing will break if we don't.
My questions are -1. how doubt is that different from a ponzi scheme ? - 2. How do you expect that not to have the classic end of a ponzi scheme - 3. If your approach works for now. Do you believe it can continue forever ?

DC. That's a great link you posted above. But you should have looked at it all. I think the point is well made that stable population is not the automatic disaster you think it.
(apology for the long paste in)

“ …… The effects of a declining population can be adverse for an economy which has borrowed extensively for repayment by younger generations. Economically declining populations are thought to lead to deflation[citation needed], which has a number of effects. However, Russia, whose economy has been rapidly growing (8.1% in 2007) even as its population is shrinking, currently has high inflation (12% as of late 2007).[46] For an agricultural or mining economy the average standard of living in a declining population, at least in terms of material possessions, will tend to rise as the amount of land and resources per person will be higher.
But for many industrial economies, the opposite might be true as those economies often thrive on mortgaging the future by way of debt and retirement transfer payments that originally assumed rising tax revenues from a continually expanding population base (i.e. there would be fewer taxpayers in a declining population). However, standard of living does not necessarily correlate with quality of life, which may increase as the population declines due to presumably reduced pollution and consumption of natural resources, and the decline of social pressures and overutilization of resources that can be linked to overpopulation. There may also be reduced pressure on infrastructure, education, and other services as well.
The period immediately after the Black Death, for instance, was one of great prosperity, as people had inheritances from many different family members. However, that situation was not comparable, as it did not have a continually declining population, but rather a sudden shock, followed by population increase. Predictions of the net economic (and other) effects from a slow and continuous population decline (e.g. due to low fertility rates) are mainly theoretical since such a phenomenon is a relatively new and unprecedented one.
A declining population due to low fertility rates will also be accompanied by population ageing which can contribute problems for a society. This can adversely affect the quality of life for the young as an increased social and economic pressure in the sense that they have to increase per-capita output in order to support an infrastructure with costly, intensive care for the oldest among their population. The focus shifts away from the planning of future families and therefore further degrades the rate of procreation. The decade-long economic malaise of Japan and Germany in the 1990s and early 2000s is often linked to these demographic problems, though there were also several other causes. The worst-case scenario is a situation where the population falls too low a level to support a current social welfare economic system, which is more likely to occur with a rapid decline than with a more gradual one.
The economies of both Japan and Germany both went into recovery around the time their populations just began to decline (2003–2006). In other words, both the total and per capita GDP in both countries grew more rapidly after 2005 than before. Russia's economy also began to grow rapidly from 1999 onward, even though its population has been shrinking since 1992-93 (the decline is now decelerating).[47] In addition, many Eastern European countries have been experiencing similar effects to Russia. Such renewed growth calls into question the conventional wisdom that economic growth requires population growth, or that economic growth is impossible during a population decline. However, it may be argued that this renewed growth is in spite of population decline rather than because of it, and economic growth in these countries would potentially be greater if they were not undergoing such demographic decline. For example, Russia has become quite wealthy selling fossil fuels such as oil, which are now high-priced, and in addition, its economy has expanded from a very low nadir due to the economic crisis of the late 1990s. And although Japan and Germany have recovered somewhat from having been in a deflationary recession and stagnation, respectively, for the past decade, their recoveries seem to have been quite tepid. Both countries fell into the global recession of 2008–2009, but are now recovering once again, being among the first countries to recover.[48][49]
In a country with a declining population, the growth of GDP per capita is higher than the growth of GDP. For example, Japan has a higher growth per capita than the United States, even though the US GDP growth is higher than Japan's.[50] Even when GDP growth is zero or negative, the GDP growth per capita can still be positive (by definition) if the population is shrinking faster than the GDP.
A declining population (regardless of the cause) can also create a labor shortage, which can have a number of positive and negative effects. While some labor-intensive sectors of the economy may be hurt if the shortage is severe enough, others may adequately compensate by increased outsourcing and/or automation. Initially, the labor participation rates (which are low in many countries) can also be increased to temporarily reduce or delay the shortage. On the positive side, such a shortage increases the demand for labor, which can potentially result in a reduced unemployment rate as well as higher wages. Conversely, a high population means labor is in plentiful supply, which usually means wages will be lower. This is seen in countries like China and India.
Analysing data for 40 countries, Lee et al. show that fertility well above replacement and population growth would typically be most beneficial for government budgets. However, fertility near replacement and population stability would be most beneficial for standards of living when the analysis includes the effects of age structure on families as well as governments. And fertility moderately below replacement and population decline would maximize standards of living when the cost of providing capital for a growing labour force is taken into account.[51]
A smaller national population can also have geo-strategic effects, but the correlation between population and power is a tenuous one. Technology and resources often play more significant roles……..”

Touché KH. Thanks for posting that, I was thinking along those lines myself. There is no real requirement today for a continuously (rapid or immigration driven?) rising population and the result for an isolated resource dependent country such as ours is usually negative. We had one of the worlds highest standards of living when our population was half it's present level. Micheal Reddell has convincingly demolished a lot of the myths around ever growing population. https://croakingcassandra.com/
A large part of our economy is now services (we don't even produce much in the way of clothing or footwear or most machinery for example) and much of these services are nice to haves but not really adding to our standard of living in any material way. If we had a larger proportion of elderly to care for we can easily afford it just as we cared for our youngsters during the baby boom years when the dependency ratio was very high. We might not be able to afford so much professional sport or dog groomers though. Seven aside rugby has a higher productivity in any case and the other eight could easily find a worthwhile career in aged care!
However our debt based money system is a real problem. It's requirement for continuous expansion can't work in a steady state economy. It's a beast that requires feeding with ever increasing bets on the future and is clearly unsustainable in even the medium future. A global pandemic with even a modest 20% mortality would likely destroy it, modern civilisation and TWAWKI.

thanks David. I was particularly struck by the line in the paste that said:
" .....The effects of a declining population can be adverse for an economy which has borrowed extensively for repayment by younger generations .... "
What I get from this is that the demand for ever increasing population is not created by the needs of an ageing population but rather by the borrow and hope spending spree we have been on.
Solution. Stop the wild spending and lumping of debt onto future generations.

If your parents or grandparents took your credit card and went on a spending spree and expected you to pay for it it'd be fraud. Although part of our current public debt is Christchurch rebuild so we're all paying that off for a long time to come.

Great post there KH. I particularly like the bit about GDP per capita going up when population declines and GDP stays constant.

I have never trusted the simplistic demographic argument about ageing being a big problem. It's just too helpful to the bank friendly thought process of the pathetic economists who didn't see the last crisis coming. Their arguments are all based on the work of Ricardo who was the bank lobbyist of his generation. "Debt doesn't matter" is their cry.

These are all problems for future society, boy are those guys screwed! It's quite funny that the prevailing trend on tough issues (economic issues, energy policy, environmental protection etc.) has been to say they'll be our childrens problems. Sadly when it's come to leaving the means to reach solutions (research and development, technology, sustainable development) we have not been nearly so forthcomming in leaving such a legacy to our descendents.


... you're not wrong there , Squishy ... those guys living in the future are seriously screwed .... the Gummster is damned glad that I only live in the here and now , and not in the future ...

But , is it just me , or do others also believe that in the general election Nick Smith is shaping up to be one of NZ Labour's greatest assets ?

... you just gotta wheel the dude out into full view of the TV cameras , and everyone in the nation immediately gets a mental image of " Doofus " at the sight of him ... ... and then , to make matters infinitely worse , he begins to speak ...

There's no doubt about it , thanks to the blithering dithering Gnats , the future is not what it used to be ...


Back when I was a Mini Gummi Bear , a jellified little urchin ... back when the dinosaurs roamed the planet , and Sir Keith Holyoake ruled New Zealand ... it would have been utterly unthinkable , absolutely abhorrent to contemplate , that our children could not swim in our rivers , that some lakes would be so toxic that even dogs would die if they drank as much as 2 teaspoons of the water therein ...

... shame upon us ... SHAME !

In the name of productive farming , we have polluted our environment to such a degree that other producers of primary products - even the French - , ought to hold us in contempt and derision ... we have fallen a long way from our lofty perch as a clean and green producer of quality foods for the world ... we have become a bulk milk powder producing factory for the children of China ....

... enough is enough ... we need to clean up our act , we need to take responsibility for the " 100 % Polluted " state of our nation , and get our house in order ... the only way to get water ( or any other natural resource ) treated with care and respect is to place a price on it ... we all need to pay for our water usage ....

I'm personally doing my bit , by drinking my whisky neat ... no added water .... HIC !

Gummy, remember think big and Muldoon? The idea that government could step where private enterprise was too scared to go.

Well we did it again, this time MPI decided to double production from agriculture by 2025. No one told them that producing more of something often lowers the price. Unfortunately the geniuses in Brussels had the same idea, as did most of Sth America and the rest of the third world. Then you get to add the technology advances like driverless tractors and GM and it's one hell of a mess.
Landcorp jumped on board and went from 1800 cows in yr 2000 to 77,000 and no one asked if the milk had a market, I mean holy sh*t lactose intolerant Asia will eat so much it's a no brainer.
So today we have advances in farming allowing cheap grain based fish food

Cargill nailed it, fish is going to get cheap, like pork and Chicken,



Sth America is increasing grain production at %26 over last year, the world is facing a mountain of food, advanced economies are turning to technology like robotic milking machines, Russia has those Chernozem soils and is growing 70 million tonnes of wheat. Production increases are way above demand, so it's cheaper for longer- rinse and repeat.

We will be cutting numbers we just wont do it without a fight, one we can never win with present mind set.

We have a problem thats huge.



Fermentation sourced protein for aquaculture - that's the kind of thing we need to be doing. Especially seeing as fish sourced in the pacific ocean might become less economic if people become scared of Cs137 contamination.

Here are the pre Fukushima 2004 baseline levels, and here's a web page showing what things look like in 2015.

Here's an idea - Upton should do something productive with his time. NZ already has the highest % of protected land in the OECD - "Protected areas were well above international targets though, with large areas protected under the most stringent international protection categories, the report said." OECD can come and bleat when when the rest of the members meet our protected land benchmark.

Java, slightly smaller than the South Island, 140 million people - 1.5% of our land area urbanised - oh the humanity!

You can cram as many people as you like into as small a space as you want, standing room only even, but every one of those people still needs "x" amount of land somewhere in the world growing his/her food. Can't imagine it would be that great a life to be frank. Why do you think we should have more and more people on the planet, given the mess we have managed to make of it so far? I hope it is not because of religion.

I personally don't understand why people compare NZ population Density to other places in the world. Most of them are undesirable places to live, after all there is a reason the person making the comparison lives here instead of there...

What, you mean Bangladesh doesn't sound so great a model to copy?

Bangladesh is fine, if you want to cap all USA expectations of being Grate Again,...it is the TOP of Trump's Agenda to bring all jobs that fit his bonce, back to the USA to fit his new image.

I prefer being poor in New Zealand. It is the Land of Milk and Honey. Plenty for all, but a tad more expensive of late as we sit in the middle ..somewhere...in the vast blue ocean of rising seas and prices.

Pockets I never mentioned cramming more people in - I was just highlighting how we punch above our weight when it comes to our proportion of protected land and the stringent conditions it is managed under compared to our finger pointing OECD peers. Your chicken little fantasies aren't based on fact. There is plenty of land globally, not just in NZ, and the more amd more people meme is over.

" It's all thanks to a powerful combination of female education, access to contraceptives and abortion, and increased child survival.

The demographic consequences are amazing. In the last decade the global total number of children aged 0-14 has levelled off at around two billion, and UN population experts predict that it is going to stay that way throughout this century. That's right: the amount of children in the world today is the most there will ever be! We have entered into the age of Peak Child!"


"Sunshine and seawater. That’s all a new, futuristic-looking greenhouse needs to produce 15,000 tonnes of tomatoes per year in the South Australian desert.

It’s the first agricultural system of its kind in the world and uses no soil, pesticides, fossil fuels or groundwater. As the demand for fresh water and energy continues to rise, this might be the face of farming in the future.

An international team of scientists have spent the last six years fine-tuning the design – first with a pilot greenhouse built in 2010; then with a commercial-scale facility that began construction in 2014 and was officially launched today."


"While most of the world’s seaweed is collected in the ocean, Seakura organically grows the vegetable in controlled pools using purified Mediterranean seawater. On Seakura’s farm just north of Tel Aviv, the company produces seaweed with greater nutritional values than seaweed grown in the ocean – year-round."


Alternatively we could do a whole lot better with regard to protection of what's left of our natural environment if our cities were more competitive/innovative/productive.
Our lowland forest reduced to scattered remnants, prime fish species reproductively extinct in large areas (crayfish and Hapuku in the Hauraki Gulf for example), numerous bird and plant species in danger and our rivers a national disgrace. Here's a glimpse of your future Profile, Auckland 2100: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/gallery/2017/mar/02/plast...

Excellent posts, David George. We have a relatively highly educated country with a small population. We might think of it as an intelligent micro-environment. And yet we appear willing to be led by the nose by politicians, governments and ministries whose very few, threadbare, ideas belong a century ago.

The old question, cui bono?, 'who benefits'? is the one that needs asking and answering. We can point, I think, to the two greatest influences in New Zealand political life as being the agricultural lobby, led by commodity dairying, and, secondly, many of the population, home-owners, appear contented as long as there's house price inflation. It appears that our politicians have these two powerful constituencies in mind before any others. Both of these are determined to protect the status quo come hell or high water. And immense private indebtedness, thus the 'health' of the financial system, underpins both. In such an environment new ideas gain little purchase. The present is all that counts.

Such a situation has no need for credible political leadership. What it demands are feel-good soothings. And this is what we have had, and accepted, government after recent government. It will take, I suspect, a very large shock to things - such as I can't easily imagine - before there is any serious consideration given to the shape and quality of our future economy, environment and society. In the meantime, we prepare ever-enlarging problems to our children.

Those powerful agricultural and housing constituencies that have ended up with "Protected areas were well above international targets though, with large areas protected under the most stringent international protection categories, the report said." Rather weak constituencies given that outcome.

" In countries like Poland, Germany, Slovenia and the United Kingdom, the majority of protected areas are
nationally designated under IUCN category V, which is primarily concerned with landscape
conservation, whereas Estonia, Finland, Sweden and the United States have a notable amount
of near-pristine wilderness." Who comes out tops for categories the categories that matter - strict natural reserve, national park and wilderness areas - little old NZ. Hardly a feel good soothing and nothing to feel guilty for the children about.


Be very wary about those reports Profile. The so called marine protected areas are not what many would imagine, they are not marine reserves as you might think. In fact a mere 0.3% of our waters are reserves; the so called "marine protected areas" are a fudge so we can look like we're doing something but offer little or no genuine protection at all. We are being lied to. Again.
Have another look at that graph you linked to - our land based protected areas are a disgrace as well with "strict natural reserve" with what looks to be comprising only one or two percent of land area. Not to say the other countries are doing that well either. I think we can all agree there is plenty of room for improvement with human effects and extinctions increasing at an alarming pace.

"Internationally, scientists say that at at least 20% of marine areas should be protected as marine reserves. To prevent the collapse of heavily fished species, scientists recommend that 50% of their habitat must be protected. New Zealand currently protects less than 1% ( 0.3%) of its waters through marine reserves (the most effective marine protection tool) – we need MORE protection. Forest & Bird has a goal of protecting 30% of our marine environment."

David I didn't mention marine - I was referring to the all powerful agricultural and housing lobbies that have lumped us with all this proteced land. How you got on to marine and extinctions from that I don't know. Just accept the fact we have a lot of protected land compared to anyone else so we can wring our hands a little less and not fret for the children so much.

Splitting hairs on the strict natural reserve front? The combination of this category, national park and wilderness areas beats anyone else on that chart other than Iceland. Our protected areas are a disgrace? I would beg to differ. Though I accept that for a small vocal % of the population nothing will ever be good enough when it comes to the "environment".

Thanks for the forest and bird plug.

Thanks Profile, I was referring to the link you put up from the OECD which was equally related to marine and terrestrial environmental and the need to be clear that reserves and "wilderness areas" (which includes plantation forests for example) are vastly different in terms of protection. I'm sure you'll agree that we can't claim any moral high ground given the level of extinction and on going pollution and habitat destruction.
I don't understand what you mean by "the all powerful agricultural and housing lobbies that have lumped us with all this protected land", can you explain.

Pristine wildernesses in places you have mentioned would include bears, wolves, perhaps tiger, wisent, tarpan and maybe even the odd aurochs or two among many other species we have seen off or are about to.

Workingman, thank you for a good state of the play analysis.
I think we will see at the next election how the status quo is fareing, there is obvious discontent on this blog aimed at the landowners and the farmers, and some politicians ready to exploit it.
On the surface we are a passive lot but occasionally get riled like french nuclear tests or controversial rugby tours, who'd a thunk it.

I think, positivelywallstreet, that we have created a capital gains economy. Whether in farming or residential housing (which are the two leading political constituencies; one via active lobbying, the other via every focus group), our supposed wealth creation has come to depend on capital gains. And maintaining this capital gains economy - the introduction of new money from anywhere possible - is now the political priority. It is short-term thinking that brought us to this point. It is short-term thinking that runs our present politics. Aside from this need for new speculative or investment capital, the future doesn't get a look in.

Part of our colonial past is our obsession with commodity trading, that is the link I believe we need to break...in our heads.
It will be painful, may require medication.
Consider Nokia who i believe were a logging company that believed they could build cellphones.

Well they don't build phones any more, an example also of how quckly complacency can lead to collapse.