The global phenomenon of science denial and scepticism about the role of experts is alive and well in New Zealand.
The Environmental Protection Authority, in its 2016/17 Annual Report tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, 28 November, highlights opposition to bureaucracy and scepticism about scientific endeavour and the role of experts, as key pressures facing environmental regulators around the world.
“New Zealand has its share of science deniers whose opinions are reinforced and nurtured in the unmoderated milieu of the internet,” says the report.
“Protecting the environment does not mean building a wall around it or immunising it from change,” adds EPA Chief Executive Allan Freeth. “Environments are dynamic, always evolving, and the threats to them are ever-changing. We must find a balance among competing pressures in the search for a better New Zealand.
“Our decisions matter. Though they do not always meet with universal favour, our role is to work within the law and make decisions based on facts, data and science, using the expertise of our high-skilled scientific and technical staff.”
The 2016/17 Annual Report covers a wide range of activities, including:
- The reclassification of 200 hazardous substances as part of an ongoing review of New Zealand’s chemical landscape to ensure risks to people and the environment are adequately managed
- Helping kiwi families stay safe around household chemical products through a public information campaign and Facebook page that had 93,000 hits in its first year
- Working alongside Australian regulators to promote coherent regulatory practice and policy, and prioritising the formulation of consistent regulation across both countries
- Development of a Red Alert system to raise public awareness about the dangers of certain chemicals
- A nationwide series of territorial authority workshops addressing system-wide approaches to managing hazardous substances to protect local environments and communities
- Strengthening scientific leadership through the appointment of a chief scientist
- Supporting New Zealand’s obligations under international treaties and agreements, for example the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
- Providing logistical support to the decision-making process for Trans-Tasman Resources marine consent and marine discharge applications and two Proposals of National Significance – Auckland’s Northern Corridor and East West Link.
r Freeth said 2016/2017 had been a year of executing its vision to be a proactive regulator, to anticipate and lead change. ““Progress is made by those relying on close observation, good science and a generosity of spirit. Our role is to move the economy forward, while cherishing our unique environment.”