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  • Rebbecca Page

Action for Healthy Waterways & The Climate Change and Business Conference

Updated: Nov 4, 2019

In October I was fortunate enough to attend the second day of this year's Climate Change and Business Conference in Auckland. For me, this followed closely on the heels of observing the final of the Action for Healthy Waterways consultations for the Primary Sector – held in the heart of the King Country – Te Kuiti. In polar opposite surroundings, the heart of the conversation is the same; how do we achieve a sustainable future?

As individuals and collaboratively; public and private; rural and urban; with legacy, current and future challenges, there is a Rubix cube of desired outcomes to navigate and negotiate.


Action for Healthy Waterways (Agriculture)

The National Environment Standard on Freshwater Management is a rewritten national policy statement aimed at improving water quality for rivers, lakes and wetlands within five years and fixing them within a generation. I was born as raised on sheep and beef station; later turning my hand to dairy farming so I was especially curious as to the impact the new proposals could have on our farmers. Not having been privy to earlier consultation sessions (which by all accounts had mixed results) I can only discuss my impressions of this event. The sheer number of attendees were testament to the concern within the community, with farmers from the Waikato and Bay of Plenty travelling to what for several, was their second event.

Environment Minister David Parker addressed the crowd, alongside Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor; peppering the conversation with reminders that the process was a consultation and nothing in the published proposal was a given.


Key themes formed throughout the afternoon:

· Concerns as to potential costs to farmers from the proposed regulations; both in how they with affect ongoing viability of the farms and the accuracy of the estimates that have been provided (e.g. estimates only include fencing and do not allow for lost hectarage)

· Concern regarding the detrimental impact on local communities through marginal profits being reduced further creating job losses. Generally, farmers are supportive of good environmental practice, however, the economics for those who have a minimal impact could be similar to those with a high negative impact under the current proposal.


The Climate Change and Business Conference

Once opened by Otene Rewiti, Ngati Whatua Orakei, well known and respected orator Rod Oram MC’d this two-day event. Attending the Action for Healthy Waterways event in Te Kuiti, I have relied on several accounts to get a sense of the first day which by all accounts had some heated conversations.

Rod Oram and Fiona Stephenson (Sustainable Business Network) have both provided wonderful synopsis of the event in which key themes emerged:

· The science is alarming. Many science models have underestimated the impact of climate change it will also happen sooner than many businesses and organisations are prepared for.

· Businesses preparing for climate change will fare better. The good news is, however, companies that reduce their emissions and build in climate resilience develop new opportunities. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the transition to a low carbon economy is an investment opportunity. We will have a different, but thriving economy.

· We will have greater certainty on climate policy by Christmas. Businesses were seeking regulatory certainty. Minister for Climate Change James Shaw said the ‘Zero Carbon Bill’ would be passed by Parliament in early December.

· Social licence to emit is changing Public pressure is growing for government and businesses to do more to adapt to climate change.

· SMEs need to play their part. Smaller businesses dominate the New Zealand economy, providing practical solutions to get SME’s onboard is going to be critical

· Tourism was another focus with concerns expressed around its emissions and longer-term implications for the sector.

· We should pay heed to traditional knowledge. There is a role for Mātauranga Maori in crafting our response to climate change and understanding how to live within natural limits.

· We need a just transition to a low carbon economy. The transition to a greener economy must be fair to workers in the sunset industries. It must also be used to develop a fairer economy.


There was a lot of information to take in over two days, the general sense that I came away with was one of urgency and determination. And, for me – that can only be a good thing. Common problems were identified and discussed (sometimes with some heat) but always with respect and it is with this authenticity and transparency of not having it all sorted that we can move to a better future.

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