NZ’s Environment Protection Measures are Failing Dismally

by Andi Cockroft, chairman Council of Outdoor Recreation Assns of NZ

Do we have toothless tigers and pedestrian politicians protecting our environment?

If media reports are to be believed, the environmental watchdogs EPA and likely its predecessor ERMA have never brought a single prosecution.

In ten years, it seems the EPA may have issued a couple of abatement notices, but that is the sum total of the cost of billions of dollars in using this bureaucratic shambles. It has achieved virtually zero in its ten-year existence.

Formed in 2011, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) describes its role as “protecting the environment and the people who live and work in it, for a better way of life”.

The figures don’t lie – it has been a complete and total failure.

Just a trio of examples – about a toxin virtually every other country will not use –  such as 1080 being buried on Stewart Island or transported the length of the country to the Marton landfill. Or the abandoned warehouse full of 1080 left to rot after a flood. 

But the so-called watchdog agencies such as EPA and Worksafe stood lamely and silently by and did nothing.

Sham of a Court

ERMA, of course, was responsible for the 2007 diabolical “kangaroo court” inquiry and reassessment of 1080. The inquiry requested by the two biggest poison users the Department of Conservation and Tb-free OSPRI predictably adjudged 1080 as safe. 

Since the green light by the inquiry for the ecosystem poison, there has been a dramatic escalation in its use aggravated by more and more relaxed controls over its use. For example, it can now be dropped into waterways completely at odds with the manufacturers’ warnings and with no requirement to seek resource consent nor public comment. National’s so-called environment minister Nick Smith seized sole ministerial approval of 1080, snatching it from local councils and denying the public any say about proposed drops.


We see more and more catastrophes affecting our environment, from rock-snot to nitrate pollution through to dried-up flows and seasonal algal blooms. Not to mention dead, toxic rat carcasses washed down the Buller River from a Lewis Pass 1080 aerial drop and washed up on beaches on the West Coast. The carcasses retaining 1080 were lethally toxic to any wildlife whether native gulls and terns or people’s dogs

Yet what have these incredibly expensive bureaucracies in the form of EPA and ERMA actually done about any of these issues? Why do governments blindly give them so much money when they do precisely nothing with it – other than enjoy lavish expensive lunches and business-class junkets?


The NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers has done some brilliant research on nitrate levels in rivers, highlighting alarming levels of contamination – a job that either EPA or the Department of Conservation should be doing. After all rivers, streams and creeks are habitats for not only trout and salmon but native fish too, the latter which DOC has direct responsibility for. . Yet Federation volunteers with minimal funds have shown the lethargic bureaucracies just how it should be done. Frankly, EPA and DOC have abdicated responsibility. Where are the politicians and ministers who should be holding them to account for gross dereliction of duty?

Canterbury Water Woes

Regionally Environment Canterbury (ECAN) in Canterbury struggling with an environmental disaster in its waterways many that are high in nitrate levels and most with depleted flows due to the National government’s state grab on ECAN facilitating the unbridled expansion of corporate dairying. The Key government should hold its head in shame and particularly its environment Minister Nick Smith who spearheaded the undemocratic state seizure of a democratically elected council.

But then Labour the Green Party and NZ First at the 2017 election promised to start a tangible clean-up of rivers. Instead, there has been intangible rhetoric and virtually no action.

ECAN has granted so many permits to take water that the Canterbury Plains and its underlying aquifers are slowly and inexorably drying up – and unless it stops of course the situation will only worsen.

Recipe for Disaster

Add to that the massive overloading of dairy farms with thousands of cows all urinating over the lands that leach into already depleted rivers and you have a recipe for disaster that many predicted and forewarned ECAN about – but were ignored as part of the John Key Government-led myopic push for ever more and more dairying.

Overseas purchases of lands for the introduction of huge monoculture of both pines and grapes have created their own environmental issues with significant impacts especially during clear-felling pine logging with heavy sediment-loaded run-off, slash in times of flood and highly acidic soils that are now rendered useless for anything else.

Fat Fibs

New Zealand is not “Clean and Green” nor “100% Pure.” Both are lies.

National PM John Key was challenged in an interview on the UK’s BBC’s “Hard Talk” about the mistruths. Flustered, the normally shrug-it-off then Prime Minister performed abysmally.

And he got a knighthood for his underperforming role as Prime Minister.

Which brings us to the present. 

Labour has had four years to honour its 2017 election promise. Does it want to be ranked equal with the likes of John Key and Nick Smith for environmental irresponsibility and utter failure?

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11 Responses to NZ’s Environment Protection Measures are Failing Dismally

  1. Dave Rhodes says:

    Godzone also has major problems with Fish Farming, both salmon and shellfish. Disease and effluent discharge are among the small problems. A high fatality rate sees many tonnes of Salmon dumped at landfills.
    Now we hear that expansion into new areas is needed – the old ones now so badly depleted it’s time to move on.
    And of course add to the potential issues associated with trout farming – if that ever comes to fruition it would only be a matter of time before natural stocks are decimated either by disease, interbreeding or poaching for profit.
    Put a price on trout and you open the floodgates.

  2. Fred Thornton says:

    Very well spoken. Successive governments let bureaucrats get away with doing nothing.
    I find it ironic Fish and Game is under review by the Minister of Conservation, i.e. the department. Yet DOC is the agency which should be under review and scrutinised closely for its failure. Cave Creek was just the start of incompetence.

  3. Charles Henry says:

    So what does the EPA actually do? With a mess like this left to the local Regional Council to deal with…
    Abandoned toxic waste will take two years, $3m to clean up

  4. Alan+Rennie says:

    DOC wrote the HEALTH and SAFETY Plan for the tour company and White Island , why not ?
    This brings DOC DEATH tally to 42 Humans killed since DOCs inception, -NOW 43 DEATHS ——————————————–Department Of Coronavirus { DOC,} must be isolated, any one dealing with these. people must take all precautions to take evasive action and report any sightings of their green and white wheel nut loose vehicles to police . Stay well away from any of these green uniformed Coronavirus INFFECTED PESTS .

    THEY will be ,and are a threat to all KIWIS and our environment .

    IT is your responsability to share this FAR and WIDE to eliminate this deadly threat

  5. Carcass says:

    Trout farming is the most dangerous threat to our wild fish stocks in rivers and lakes through disease.

  6. Stewart Hydes says:

    Mother Nature is doing her best to relieve our environment of its single biggest curse .. humanity.
    Her latest attempt at a solution? .. Corona Virus.
    “The system” needs a big clean out. Environmental mismanagement here in Godzone is achieving the unthinkable .. taking something that was Clean, Green and 100% Pure .. and turning it into a cesspit of degradation .. water quality, and native biodiversity being two glaring examples.
    ERMA and EPA are just two examples of government departmental incompetence.
    Native biodiversity is a classic case .. DOC quite correctly jump onto the international bandwagon of biodiversity loss. On a planet where 96% of mammalian biomass is now either human, or the animals we farm .. there’s been a 60% reduction in wildlife since 1970 .. and a 75% collapse in insect biomass in the past 25 -30 years .. this is absolutely the right thing to do. But in a classic case of turning silk into a pig’s ear .. instead of leading salvation .. instead, they take the lead in accelerating biodiversity loss .. spreading thousands of tonnes of a WHO Class 1A ecotoxin, across millions of hectares of otherwise pristine bush and backcountry. Unbelievable.
    DOC should be renamed .. as the Department of Accelerated Biodiversity Elimination.
    We need a system reset.

  7. Emily Sharp says:

    Oh well spoken Stewart! DOC should not only be renamed but put under a stern review, its priorities redefined and bureaucrats culled. Yet I believe they (whoever they are?) have renewed the current director general of DOC’s contract for anther three years.

  8. Alan+Rennie says:

    Govt funded science is always screwed , because if the scientists dont give the answer that govt want, you are gone,
    This has taken 60 yrs for Govt to admit it ,Please dont buy into what you are told by Govt Depts
    And 1080 an A1 toxic poison in our water
    “….Finally confirmation from landcare after a lengthy OIA request, that their TLM005 step does NOT contain the sonification cell lysis step.

    This is why Nick found 1080 in the samples. He busted the cells open to look. DOC never does.

    Conclusive proof that DOC’s 1080 test is inadequate.

    cell lysis is all important. This means breaking open of cells, which is where 1080 and fluorocitrate are found in a well washed subject.

    Ozawa & Tsukioka (1987) define the GC method used to identify 1080
    Ozawa & Tsukioka (1989) defined the cell treatment method used to create the samples. They used ‘sonication’ – ultrasonic shear – to break open cells.

    Landcare, however used a _modified_ version of the Ozawa method, which uses centrifuging as a lysis stem. Centrifuging is considered the least effect cell lysis method, less effective than even sonication.

    Nick’s method found 1080 because it was able to look into cells..

    Alan Rennie
    12:22 PM (1 hour ago)

    to me

    The court, if satisfied that a nuisance exists on the premises, or that, though abated, it is likely to recur, may by order—
    require the owner and the occupier to abate the nuisance effectively:
    prohibit the recurrence of the nuisance:
    both require the abatement and prohibit the recurrence of the nuisance:
    specify the works to be done in order to abate the nuisance or prevent its recurrence, and the time within which they shall be done.
    The guts of this case will be application to The NZ Govt to cease and desist from further poisoning and thereby changing our biota and ecosystem
    The Govt maintain that we need 1080 poison to stop TB spread by possums, ABSOLUTELY NO SCIENTIFIC PROOF THAT POSSUMS GIVE BOVINE TB TO CATTLE

    This can’t be stressed often enough.
    NO scientific proof of TB transmission to cattle.
    NO known mechanism of TB transmission to cattle.

    As long ago as 2007 research scientist M.L.Jarman, commented, “There is no evidence of any possum giving Tb to a cow. Researchers have had trouble getting possums to give TB to each other.”


    “While much has been made of the issue of possums transmitting bovine tuberculosis (Mycobacterium bovis) to domestic cattle there is still no empirical evidence that this has ever happened and no known mechanism of transmission (Coleman & Cook 2001; Nugent et al. 2015). Nevertheless, mathematical models have been used by the Animal Health Board (now known as TbFree NZ) to guide poisoning operations on a massive scale (Nugent et al. 2015). In 2015, 10.5 million hectares were under vector pest control targeting possums, typically aerial 1080 poisoning at five-yearly intervals, to keep possums below a critical density assumed to prevent Tb transmission (Nugent et al. 2015).”
    Section 5, ‘© Dr J.C. Pollard 24 August 2016 Aerial 1080 poisoning in New Zealand: Reasons for concern

    Hunter’s explanation ‘a fabrication’ →
    OSPRI – An Empire Built on a Fallacy?
    Posted on 12-06-2020 by Guest
    Back in 2016, the late Bill Benfield, then co-chairman of CORANZ, was interviewed about OSPRI-formerly the Animal Health Board – whose designated task is to make New Zealand cattle and deer herds, Tb free. His excellent, perceptive views based n research, are produced here – still very relevant

    A Wairarapa conservationist has challenged the role of OSPRI (former Animal Health Board and now Operational Solutions for Primary Industries)) saying it was founded on a false belief. He termed OSPRI “a parasite on farmers and the tax-paying public”.
    Bill Benfield, author and conservationist, said New Zealand had wrongly built up a pest management industry based on the false belief that possum spread bovine Tb. That fallacy was exposed in the House by Minister of Primary Industries Nathan Guy on 12/6/2015, when he advised New Zealand First MP Richard Prosser as follows :- the scientific uncertainties associated with determining the source of infection at the individual animal level and the resource required to do so mean that it is not considered an efficient use of time and resources to routinely make such a determination.” i.e. There is no epidemiological evidence linking possum to Tb in cattle, and OSPRI is not looking for it!
    He said fallacies had continued to be spawned by bureaucrats and spun out to the public in press releases that were “simply propaganda.”
    NZ Tb-free
    “New Zealand is Tb free by world yardsticks but even today OSPRI spins the line about the bovine Tb threat,” he said.
    Bill Benfield explained the world standard for a country to declare “Tb free” is 0.2% for Tb infected herds and 0.1% for infected cattle.
    “Recent information obtained by NZ First MP Richard Prosser showed New Zealand rates of Tb infection in cattle were slight, i.e. 0.0019% average over the last nine years. It is so far below that required by world standards for a Tb free declaration – that New Zealand must be one of the world’s most Tb free countries”.
    Bill Benfield said it raised the question whether OSPRI had a continuing role in New Zealand’s agriculture.
    Instead of celebrating New Zealand’s Tb-free status, OSPRI remained in denial and state their aim was total eradication of Tb and publicly advising they have achieved further funding from the Minister of Primary Industries. More cynically, said Bill Benfield it was probable OSPRI want to preserve its existence and jobs, funded for by taxpayers and farmer levies?
    “If that is their ploy, I think sooner or later, farmers and taxpayers and the Minister of Primary Industries are going to see through this charade and want it stopped,” said Bill Benfield.
    The operation of OSPRI was being run by a company with a multimillion dollar turnover, based upon a simple assumption, that Tb infected possum spread Tb to cattle.
    “Even from the first discovery of Tb in possum near Westport in the late 1960s, no-one ever seems to have questioned whether the possum infected cattle, or cattle infected the possum, the default position has always been that it is possum that have infected the cattle. What probably began as a few civil servants getting some money from the then Ministry of Agriculture slowly morphed over time into a part of a growth program in the ministries bureaucracy.”
    This changed in 1993, when the Animal Health Board (AHB) was created. It was set up as an Incorporated Society whose primary function was to carry out the National Pest Management Plan (NPMP) for bovine Tb using powers granted it by the 1993 Bio-Security Act. By the later part of its existence, it was being funded to the tune of around $80 million a year, made up from farmer levies, taxpayer and ratepayer contributions.
    Richard Prosser
    Questions in Parliament by NZ First MP Richard Prosser to Minister of Primary Industries Nathan Guy revealed possums have negligible – virtually zero – infection rates. Of 9830 possums autopsied last year, none had Tb.
    Bill Benfield said OSPRI was still conducting Email campaigns claiming that nearly half of all Tb infections in cattle are caused by possum.
    He lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about false advertising by OSPRI. The complaint initially failed by a majority decision, but was upheld on appeal OSPRI’s claim that possum are a significant cause of Tb in cattle has been disallowed. However it was not enforceable in law and OSPRI was continuing to make their claims and have arrogantly said they would continue to do so.
    Bill Benfield said the more he researched detail, the more bizarre the deception became.
    “In the preparation of the appeal, it was also discovered that OSPRI’s science provider, Landcare Research, has for years been liberating large numbers of deliberately infected possum in the wild,” he said.
    Impossible Dream
    In any case total eradication to a zero incidence of disease is impossible. For that reason the World Organisation for Animal Health, an affiliate to the UN, sets the world standard for a country to declare “Tb free” at 0.2% for Tb infected herds and 0.1% for infected cattle.
    “What zero means is the impossible dream. It is like “infinity” – where is infinity? Where is zero? Like infinity, how do know you’ve reached it? Do you have to go on forever, even after 2055, seeking a holy grail of zero, which is what OSPRI spokespersons want. More cynically, OSPRI wants jobs for years, paid for by taxpayers and farmer levies?” he said.
    Footnote: (1) Bill Benfield was co-chair of CORANZ (Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations of New Zealand). Bill Benfield’s research and writing were set out in two books “The Third Wave” and ”At War with Nature” published by Tross Publishing, Wellington.
    (2) OSPRI blessed by the Department of Conservation, carries out widespread and regular spreading of 1080 poison

  9. Greg Kemp says:

    Are New Zealand’s scientific experts really dead – or just resting?

    From TheSpinoff

    The row over Jacqueline Rowarth’s strange suggestion that the Waikato River is one of the world’s five cleanest reveals a need for more scientists to be heard in public, not fewer, writes Shaun Hendy.

    In post-Brexit Britain, failure to heed the warnings of economists on the risks of leaving the EU has spawned many a thinkpiece on the death of the expert. Indeed, experts might be forgiven for ending it all after a British scientist who pointed out that the moon causes the tides was called out by a UKIP MP and accused of fear-mongering. Britain may have once ruled the waves, but now finds itself ruled by folk who find waves a little bit confusing.

    Here in New Zealand, we know full well that the tides are caused by the decision of the previous Labour government to extend daylight saving. And with minds untroubled by tidal forces, Kiwis have had time to contemplate a deeper question:

    Why are our rivers full of shit?

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