Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Laws mean nothing unless they are enforced

Why is our environment degrading? One of the reasons is that our compliance and enforcement of environmental law is a bit shit:

Agencies tasked with enforcing environmental laws are "chronically under-resourced" and struggle to do the job effectively, according to new research.

Research by the Environmental Defence Society (EDS) released on Tuesday found widespread problems with the enforcement of New Zealand's environment laws, particularly within agencies such as the Department of Conservation (DOC) and district and regional councils.

Compliance, monitoring and enforcement (CME) work was the "poor cousin" of the policy and planning cycle, it said, and routinely under-resourced.

The resulting impact was poor record-keeping, a lack of staff, limited oversight and political pressures affecting decision-making.

There's plenty of the latter going on in my local council, with the council retaining political control over prosecutions meaning that no-one ever get prosecuted. Throw in an official policy of allowing non-compliance, and of warning before inspections, and the result is no incentive for farmers to obey the law. Which means dirty rivers.

This has to change. Laws mean nothing unless they are enforced. If we want clean, swimmable rivers, the first step is to make our central and local government agencies actually enforce the law against polluters. And if Ministers and councillors don't want them to do that, we should sack them and replace them with people who do.