If you think Donald Trump’s interference with, and denial of climate science is outrageous you will be shocked at the disturbing level of Ministerial interference under the previous government around the publication of a Ministry for the Environment expert coastal hazard and sea level rise guidance report for councils. Publication of the report was delayed for 364 days due to Ministerial meddling. Reporter Eloise Gibson from Newsroom has exposed “an almost farcical series of false starts. Many dates were penciled-in for the launch of the Guidance and then abandoned as it became clear – sometimes only a week or so beforehand – that ministers would not support the plan.”
I began looking into when the latest Guidance would be released to local authorities back in December 2016. Indications from the Ministry for the Environment website where that the release of the report was imminent. In fact, the report was initially scheduled for release in September 2016. In June 2017 I stumbled on a Waikato Regional Council website where a PowerPoint presentation was inadvertently published which summarised the key elements of the guidance. The New Zealand Herald ran that story. Subsequently, in the lead up to the election, the Greens published a leaked version of the report.
As the Newsroom story makes clear, Minister Nick Smith poked his political unscientific nose into the process. Smith insisted that the guidance report be referred to Cabinet, against vehement opposition from the Ministry’s climate change director and a current National Party MP Lawrence Yule, who was then President of Local Government NZ. Smith never presented the report to Cabinet before the election.
Smith has to take the blame for the year-long delay and the fact that this allowed Councils such as the Thames-Coromandel District Council to make some really dumb decisions to approve risky coastal subdivisions and other developments on low-lying land near the coast using the outdated guidance from 2008.
We poke fun at Donald Trump for his climate science denial and his ridiculous statements that global warming is a Chinese hoax. We cringe at the way in which he has tried to censor climate science reports on federal government websites.
The sad reality is that Ministers under the previous National Government are just as culpable. Nick Smith’s main concern was for wealthy coastal property developers and landowners rather than for Councils who were crying out for the latest guidance to be released, and potential purchasers of coastal land who were left in the dark about the risks from rising seas. Looking for a New Zealand Trump-like anti-science clown beholden to wealthy vested interests? – Here’s looking at you Nick.
For more on three dodgy Thames Coromandel coastal developments see Eloise Gibson’s reporting here –