Environment must be centre of all future plans

Environmental sustainability is no longer a ‘nice to have’ – it is now a ‘must have’ that needs to be embedded into decisions about New Zealand’s future, say experts in a new report.

The Environment is Now is a new paper produced by Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures, a think tank and research centre at the University of Auckland.

It says New Zealand needs a common vision to achieve greater economic, social and environmental sustainability that has aligned goals and activities across Government, industry, iwi and communities.

“We need to protect our critical asset and the lifeblood of both our economy and our wellbeing – the taiao – our natural world. This means that as government, businesses, organisations and individuals contemplate how they will operate in a post-COVID world, the environment needs to be placed as a central concern, not on the margins,” the paper says.

Written by Dr Anne Bardsley, Sir Peter Gluckman and Sir Christopher Mace – with input from 14 industry and academic experts – the paper is the fourth in the Future is Now Conversation Series, which consider how New Zealand can build a sustainable and resilient society after Covid-19.

“There is both a need and opportunity for a substantial reset that puts the environment front of mind for the benefit of all of Aotearoa New Zealand,” says Dr Bardsley.

“We need to have critical conversations about our collective future and pursue changes that will enhance our resilience and sustainability as we look to recover and rebuild.”

The paper covers the role of Government and the post-Covid-19 stimulus strategy and outlines environmental priorities.

It also offers several recommendations such as re-orientating New Zealand towards sustainable tourism and exploring the potential of ‘Brand New Zealand’ being linked to environmental labelling and product tracing, while also reflecting the uniqueness of our land and people and a holistic approach to sustainability.

The paper also calls for the establishment of a Sustainability Commission or Environmental Forum as an independent body to ensure a wide range of voices are heard, and that innovative ideas are coordinated, in pursuit of the long-term vision in a process that is removed from short-term political cycles.

“It would need to be a collaborative and co-ordinated effort that includes local communities, iwi/Māori, the private sector and other organisations working together towards commonly accepted long-term goals,” Sir Peter says.

“We will need new structures to move from aspirations, to implementation and policies that will address the game-changing shifts that are needed.”

He believes we need to continually evaluate our progress, address our knowledge gaps and seek innovative solutions.

“Done well and with a broad consensus, this can take Aotearoa New Zealand ahead on a positive and healthy path.”

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