Environment data gaps no basis for current policy swings, Feds says
7 November, 2019
The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s pointed criticisms of the data gaps and inconsistencies in our environmental reporting system are endorsed by Federated Farmers.
“In his report, released today, Commissioner Simon Upton uses phrases such as ‘huge data gaps’, ‘cobbling together what we have at hand’ and ‘tinkering with and repackaging old information’,” Feds environment spokesperson Chris Allen says.
“His commentary is exactly consistent with concerns Federated Farmers first expressed to the select committee in 2014 when the environment reporting legislation was being developed, and on a number of occasions subsequently.”
Big policy swings are underway – most recently on freshwater – yet the Commissioner’s report makes it clear they are not founded on robust, consistent and reliable national data.
“Not having perfect data is not a reason for doing nothing, and farmers, community groups and many others continue to strive and invest in reducing our environmental footprint,” Allen says
“But the inconsistent and incomplete data that the Commissioner likened to ‘flying blind’, and warned could be ‘costing us dearly in terms of poorly designed policy’, is not a sound footing for some of the policy swings underway that farmers are so concerned about.”
Mr Upton is not the only independent expert to warn us about our environmental reporting system. In September, the Office of the Auditor-General said in relation to freshwater: “Decision-makers do not have the information they need to prepare a national approach or long-term strategy to address this significant environmental issue.”
Like Commissioner Upton, Federated Farmers wants to see priority given to the things that matter the most, in the places that matter, and at least cost, Allen says.
“Our message to government is to work out the current state of pressures and trends grounded in accurate science and monitoring data, decide the values the community needs to meet, and then the policy of how we get there. That’s the best approach.
“An immediate focus in the short term would sensibly be the national priority catchments – the exemplar and at risk catchments that the Ministry for the Environment is identifying.”