New Government Must Respond to Tides of Change
Yesterday on St Francis Day, Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand published its fourth annual State of the Environment for Oceania report, Turning the Tide. Launched at Te Ngākau Tapu Church in Porirua, this year’s report focuses on our changing relationship with the ocean.
There are moments in history when events coincide to produce an unstoppable momentum. Now is such a time. New Zealand’s next government – of whatever hue – must respond to these tides of change. In her presentation to gathered tangata whenua, local dignitaries, partners and supporters, Director Julianne Hickey commented on Caritas’s hopes for the next Government’s stance on environmental issues,
“For our forthcoming Government and for their opposition we’re asking for stronger environmental policies and frameworks that will consider the full scope of environmental degradation and its effect, particularly on the peoples of Oceania. We also ask that due diligence is given to research and particularly to the voices and the wisdom of indigenous peoples across our land and across Te Moana-Nui-a-Kiwa.”
Mrs Hickey referred often to the Pope’s writing on the environment, “Pope Francis in Laudato Si’ said we need to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress, and the human meaning of ecology. Both local and international policies need to address our throwaway culture and create pathways towards sustainable ways of living”.
Chapter three of Turning the Tide concerns proposed offshore mining and drilling in Oceania. Caritas Papua New Guinea partner, Patrick Kituan, reflected on the legislative process around this, “Where the full impacts of new environmental activities are unknown, the precautionary principle and protection of the environment must take priority”.
In her speech Mrs Hickey asked, “for a moratorium on all seabed mining because we need to ensure there is adequate research behind environmental related decisions and informed consent from communities prior to any activity, exploration or otherwise”.
The report also highlighted signs of hope such as the establishment of a new solar and wind power project spearheaded by Caritas in partnership with: New Zealand company, Powerhouse Wind; the Bishop Koete Rural Training Centre, Solomon Islands; and the New Zealand Government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The Rural Training Centre had previously spent a sizable percentage of its budget on diesel for electricity. Now the clean energy is powering the entire facility both day and night.
Julianne Hickey also spoke about the findings of the report as part of the Icefest Public Lecture series in Christchurch yesterday afternoon. She said, “We have one global ocean and we need to be conscious of ways in which our relationship with water in Oceania may affect wildlife in Antarctica, as well as life elsewhere”.
Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand will join the international Caritas delegation at the 2017 United Nations Climate Conference in Germany, which is being chaired by Fiji. Mrs Hickey will present the findings from Turning the Tide there and says,
“it is an opportune time for Oceania’s voices to be heard loudly and strongly. Representing Caritas Oceania, we will be taking these voices from our region and we will hold governments accountable. We will reinforce our call for stronger action on Sustainable Development Goal 14, to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources”.