Thursday, June 11, 2009

A policy of murder

Before the election, I noted that the environment was an rea where we had a clear policy choice between the parties. That seems to be coming true in spades. Not content with gutting the RMA to remove any local say in development, National is now moving on to some of the few concrete environmental standards we have, announcing a "review" of air quality standards to see if they are "realistic". Which means weakening or delaying them.

Why is this a bad idea? Because our air quality is shameful. Our annual environmental report card for air quality paints a dismal picture, with only 42% of (monitored) national airsheds meeting the annual standard for PM10 (small particulates), and monitored airsheds in the South Island almost always in violation of the standard.

This isn't just an amenity issue - that pollution kills people. A report [PDF] for the Ministry for the Environment in 2007 found that air pollution kills around 1100 people a year. It also makes people sick, causing an estimated 1,500 extra cases of bronchitis and related illnesses and 700 extra hospital admissions for respiratory illness. The average cost of this death and illness is estimated at over a billion dollars a year.

By weakening or delaying those standards, Nick Smith is ensuring that that annual toll will continue. He is planning to let 1100 of us die unnecessarily every year for the greater profit of National's donors and cronies. This is a policy of murder, pure and simple, and Smith and his Cabinet colleagues should be held to account for it.