The demise of New Zealand’s freshwaters: politics and science

Dr Mike Joy, Massey University

2014 Charles Fleming Lecture and the RSNZ Manawatu Branch July 2014 meeting

7.30 pm Tuesday, 15 July 2014, Te Manawa – Art Gallery, 326 Main Street, Palmerston North

New Zealand’s freshwaters – our lakes, rivers and groundwater outside of the conservation estate – are in a perilous state, and given the inertia from regulators their future looks bleak. The reasons for inaction in the face of this crisis are many and complex, but in this talk I will give examples of how science has been side-lined by politics and the reality obfuscated. I will describe some of the issues around the failure to measure and account for the externalities of agriculture and industry driven by political/economic ideology and how the science is misused and subverted. At the heart of the degradation is the failure to account for the loss of our natural capital, what this has cost us already and will cost future generations if we don’t change dramatically and immediately. We now have ample evidence of increasing public awareness of issues; the need is for strong leadership to move away from short-termism to acceptance of the massive ecological debt we have run up. I suggest it is past time for scientists to come out from behind their microscopes, binoculars and computer screens and make a stand on the many environmental issues facing us.

The Charles Fleming Award for Environmental Achievement is awarded every three years in honour of those who have achieved distinction in the protection, maintenance, management, improvement or understanding of the environment. Dr Mike Joy was the recipient of the award in 2013, in recognition of the key contribution he has made to the sustainable management and protection of New Zealand’s freshwater resources.

 All warmly welcome