11 Dec 2008

Ministry briefing raises issues of climate, water

6:11 am on 11 December 2008

Climate change and water head the list of critical issues that the Ministry for the Environment has highlighted in its briefing paper for new ministers.

As the Government prepares for a review of the emissions trading legislation, the Environment Ministry has reminded it in its briefing document that New Zealand's commitments under the Kyoto Protocol have not changed.

The protocol requires New Zealand to reduce green house gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2012, or pay penalties. Those emissions are currently 25% above the target.

In its focus on water issues, the ministry warns fresh water quality is declining, especially in rural lowland rivers, streams and ground water where there is intensive land use.

The report also points to the squeeze on water resources and growing difficulties with managing water allocation.

It says readily accessible water has now been fully allocated in some regions.

The paper warns that economic development will be stifled unless ways are found of reallocating water to higher value uses.

The Ministry for the Environment says changes in land use, especially from forestry or dry stock farming to dairying are also being made without effective plans for dealing with the impact on waterways.

It identifies a 35% to 40% decline in relevant research capacity in the past decade as one of the obstacles to finding solutions or helping central and local government with decision-making on water issues.

The ministry also agrees with other government departments and with the new Government itself, on the need for further changes to the Resource Management Act.

These include streamlining decision making for priority projects, simplifying the resource consents process and strengthening the role of central Government.