Greens say 'clean green' image is tweaked

The Green Party is blaming powerful lobby groups and government departments for a chapter critical of intensive land-use being pulled from a report on the environment

Greens co-leader Russel Norman today released a previously unpublished chapter from the State of the Environment report.

The 13th chapter was originally intended to be published as part of the report but was pulled some time towards the end of last year.

Dr Norman said the chapter was leaked to the party last year but the significance was not understood until the publication of the full report.

The chapter, which Dr Norman released to media in Auckland today, pointed to industrial dairying as the largest cause of environmental decline in New Zealand.

"The chapter says that land-use intensification, particularly pastoral land-use intensification, is `arguably the largest pressure today on New Zealand's land, freshwaters, coastal oceans and atmosphere'.

"Remarkably, there were four chapters on pressures on the environment in the published report, but land-use intensification is not one of them...

"The published report was toned down to avoid pointing to the real causes."

Dr Norman called for the Government to explain why the chapter was pulled and what lobby groups were involved in pressuring the Government into not including the chapter.

He said the most likely reason why the chapter was pulled was because all those with vested interests, including lobby groups and other government departments which were involved in producing the report, would not like the warnings it contained.

"It wasn't just the Ministry for the Environment, there were other departments involved, who would have a vested interest in telling the whole story - particularly around this incredibly important industry called dairy."

Dr Norman said the chapter held warnings of the threat to New Zealand's economy because of the country's environmental performance.

"We know there are powerful lobby groups who have had an enormous influence on the Government."

The Greens co-leader singled out the road and farming lobby groups and said they both had reasons to not want to have a "strident chapter" in the report.

"They may have found it too embarrassing because it makes recommendations to do things that they're not currently doing."

He stopped short of saying the lobby groups had too much influence over the Government but said they had "enormous influence".

Dr Norman said it was extraordinary that despite the report referring to the pressures on the environment, there was no chapter on land-use intensification.

The omission of the chapter highlighted the need for any similar reports to be "at arms length of the government of the day".

"We think it is essential in order to protect the integrity of future State of the Environment reports they need to come under the direction of an independent person."

Dr Norman said the obvious person would be the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, who reports to Parliament

The Ministry of the Environment defended the removal of the chapter from the report.

Todd Krieble, general manager for reporting and communications, Todd Krieble, said the edited material contained policy recommendations, but the report was supposed to be a technical report which would be used to develop policy later on.

"The cardinal sin of technical reporting is to over-interpret the data," he said on Radio New Zealand.

"What we've done is made sure that the passages that got beyond what the facts would support were removed.

"It's a technical report, and we have a strong discipline of making sure that we do stick to the facts."

- NZPA

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