Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Role of eco watchdog reduced

Dr Jan Wright. Photo / NZPA
Dr Jan Wright. Photo / NZPA

Independent environmental watchdog Jan Wright has expressed surprise that she will no longer be in charge of a report card on the health of New Zealand's environment after the Government reneged on an election promise and reduced her role.

The National-led Government was accused of creating a conflict of interest by giving the responsibility of State of the Environment reports to the Secretary for the Environment and the Government Statistician.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) had been proposed for the role in 2008 to make sure that the crucial checks on the environment were completely independent of government.

The commissioner will instead provide expert opinion on the three-yearly reports, which were designed to measure the health of New Zealand's air quality, climate, freshwater, marine and soil.

Dr Wright said her role was never set in stone, but the Government's change was a "bit of a surprise" because she had been preparing for the job for years.

"It's been in party policy in two elections and I had always been expecting it ... but I was also aware that it might be changed in some way."

She questioned whether the reports were now completely independent. "A Government statistician is a different kind of independent. What the statistician will do is say the data you are using is correct and accurate, but there is that issue of what data do you use and what is the purpose you have in doing this report?"

- NZ Herald

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