July 30, 2008

ES Takes Reporting Seriously

BILL ENGLISH's comment on Wednesday (July 23) on the need for Environment Southland to better report all of the monitoring we do on the rivers of Southland says more about Bill's level of contact with Southland than the way we provide information to the region.

We take our reporting far more seriously than any government department.

It has taken 15 years for the Environment Ministry to come up with a "State of the Environment" report for the nation when we have been producing them for years. Politicians are great at telling us what to do but rather reluctant to lead by example.

Environment Southland produces a comprehensive set of report cards each year on all of the key natural resources under our care in Southland and also on all of the topical issues such as didymo.

We send 250 copies of this set of report cards to interested parties and distribute hundreds more over the year. We spent $258,000 on communicating with the public last year. All of our information is also accessible on our website.

We have a weekly newsletter in two community newspapers, several other publications targeted at specific audiences and we advertise extensively in print and radio.

We have two fulltime environmental education officers working with schools in particular and several staff working fulltime with farmers on achieving best-practice farm management. We have a whole team working on policy development.

We have farmer liaison groups advising us of the latest initiatives from within the farming industry and working with us on policy development and monitoring.

We also need to make it clear that we are not here just to protect the environment. A major part of our work is to ensure that farming, industry and communities gain the greatest value possible from the natural resources of Southland without destroying them.

A key task is actually to protect farmers' property rights in the form of access to usable water. If farmers were left to enjoy unrestrained use of the waterways and aquifers the resource would be rapidly destroyed and farming would be destroyed with it. We have to ration water use and also to ration use of the capacity of water to sustain degradation across all activities in the region within the constraints of maintaining a viable ecosystem.

Most of our pollutants are also not contaminants but wasted resources. Loss of nutrient and soil fertility to waterways not only damages the value of water but represents lost economic value to the farmer. The rules we impose endeavour to shepherd industries to best practice in the long-term and that in the long run protects a farmer's asset value as well as protecting the environment we all live in.

Ciaran Keogh Chief executive, Environment Southland

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