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Vision of being world’s best at everything

by 10 Apr 2012Biodiversity0 comments

Netted and beached dolphins

Mice or Men: The test of whether the politicians of Aotearoa are mice, or man enough to stand up to the powerful fishing lobby is about to play out.

It should have happened overnight.

Dr Gareth Morgan’s Million-Dollar Mouse campaign deserved to have been over-subscribed by lunchtime the next day. After all, the philanthropist is matching contributions dollar for dollar, and so is only seeking $350‍ 000—the Department of Conservation has already committed $300‍ 000 towards the $1‍ ‍million needed to eradicate every last mouse from the Antipodes Islands.

Here was an opportunity to reassure New Zealanders that the bright new future offered by the prime minister’s beaming billboards was possible. Knock this bastard off in short order and go after the next neglected issue, and the next. Build a perception that Aotearoa is determined to not just re-brand its clean–green credentials, but to make them globally unsurpassable.

In a One News interview, Dr Morgan joked that those who despised him might contribute the most, thus obliging him to spend more. It would be fascinating to know whether the economist’s wealthy friends, and enemies, are boycotting the Antipodes Islands appeal because of his mention, in the same interview, of global warming:

The big issue is climate change, but another one is pests

More than perhaps any other New Zealander, Dr Gareth Morgan has put skin in the game responding to global warming. First he did his homework by hiring two researchers to report to him on the science supporting anthropogenic global warming, and that which failed to support it. The result was Poles Apart, an accessible, engagingly and whimsically written summary that found solidly in favour of whom the book had referred to as alarmists:

The Alarmists were right, and we should stop calling them alarmists anymore—or at least, not all of them! And further, it has to be said that only a few of the Sceptics are actually sceptics: too many are mere gadflies and deniers.

The reason the rich show such reticence to acknowledge the reality of global warming is that they generally see it as an impediment to wealth creation. While this is utterly understandable, it is hastening the rate of warming and compounding the resultant misery. Although it goes hideously against the grain, the wealthy will eventually wake up to the knowledge that this is a new world, and one that is at war with itself; chemical warfare, and that the weapon of mass destruction and mass extinctions is that otherwise life-giving chemical compound, carbon dioxide.

Poles Apart cover

Philanthropic and Unapologetic: The rich and powerful are not conspicuous amongst those urging urgent action on anthropogenic global warming, but Dr Gareth Morgan doesn’t hesitate to describe climate change as the ‘big issue’, in the context of Aotearoa’s sub-Antarctic islands. publisher Random House 2009

The war on warming desperately needs the world’s wealthy—its movers and shakers, such as Dr Morgan. In the same interview, host Richard Sainsbury mentioned:

There’s an Australian scientist Tim Flannery who said … getting rid of pests is a bigger up for New Zealand than our dairy industry or rugby.

Professor Tim Flannery is Australia’s Climate Change Commmissioner. If a more adult trans-Tasman attitude prevailed, the commission would be an Australasian one, and it would be helping to raise the awareness of Aotearoa’s ruling elite to the raft of actions needed, none of which need to cost more than the currently uninformed decisions. To take Christchurch as an example, its re-building would be much quicker and cheaper west of the airport, where the land is less subject to liquefaction but even more crucially, out of reach of sea level rise—the immediate vicinity of the airport is already a success story, causing some to question the business case for re-building in the blighted central business district. Planners in Australia now take such considerations seriously, thanks to Professor Flannery’s work.

Much is made by politicians of the gap between Australia’s economic performance and that of Aotearoa. But given that such measures are poor indicators of wellbeing, New Zealanders might consider simply becoming better than Australians at everything, by being better at everything than anybody, rather than merely materially wealthier. Better at reducing crime levels, better at reducing hospital waiting lists. Better at reducing rates of recidivism, cancer, obesity, diabetes, heart failure, youth suicide, bullying, absenteeism, and carbon dioxide and methane emissions. Make it the national goal to be the best product, service, policy, lawmaker, and electoral systems provider period. Make it so that whenever a question is asked worldwide regarding almost any issue, the follow-up question is:

What do they do in Aotearoa?

In the five months since he took assumed leadership of the Labour Party, David Shearer has offered little more that be more like Finland. Unsurprisingly, the foolish characterisation of that country by the boorish Brownlee, Earthquake Recovery Minister, squashed a far more important discussion. For Aotearoa to become a better place, the people, and their politicians, need to share a vision of what that is. The National Party’s vision is the failed one of an unfettered free market with its supposed, but never delivered, trickle-down to the dispossessed. The Green Party is gaining traction—17% in Roy Morgan’s end-of-March survey—by emphasising green growth, and will probably succeed in assisting Labour limp back into office. But Labour, polling 30.5% clearly doesn’t deserve to lead a government, any more than do National and Act to the right, which collectively only polled 44.5%.

Aotearoa didn’t throw off the shackles of the two-party system simply to settle back down into a two-coalition system. The default form of coalition government should be grand coalition. The only justification for excluding parties from governments is where they overwhelmingly affront the electorate. The Greek neo-Nazi party, Golden Dawn, is currently polling 3%, sufficient to give it seven seats in the 300-seat ‘reinforced proportionality’ electoral system—though ‘rorted proportionality’ might be a more accurate term; reminiscent of the cynical supplementary member system that abjectly failed to fill New Zealanders with confidence last year, despite enjoying prime-ministerial endorsement.

Set net ban map

World’s Smallest Set-Net Ban Extension: The urgently needed interim extension to the existing set net ban must surely be the least politicians can do to protect the world’s smallest dolphin. Map Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and Mahurangi Magazine

Political parties should compete, but not along the same tired lines of the past, pretending that every initiative of the opposing party is a diabolical error. More productively, they should compete to be the party that makes the best contribution towards Aotearoa becoming the best. Legislation to comprehensively protect Maui’s dolphin from extinction should receive the unequivocal support of every party. Instead, there is every possibility that measures outlined in the report Interim Set Net Measures to Manage the risk of Maui’s Dolphin Mortality will be watered down to pander to the politically powerful fishing industry lobby, which attacks anything that gets in the way of unbridled profits. The industry’s website is awash with the tactic of doubt-casting that was first developed to protect the tobacco industry, then famously adapted to cast doubt on anthropogenic global warming:

Like all New Zealanders, the fishing industry is concerned about the low numbers of these dolphins. That’s [why] we’re calling for carefully considered and effective management measures and to be aware that there may be other factors at play including pollution, disease and natural predation.

In stark contrast with such weasel words is the concise language of the venerable Naturschutzbund Deutschland:

New research proves the effectiveness of marine protected areas as an effective conservation tool to protect marine mammals against fisheries bycatch. Yet, the dolphin species that was studied to provide this landmark result continues to decline due to lack of protection.

When a 113-year-old German nature and biodiversity conservation organisation with a membership of nearly half a million is concerned about the impending extinction of the Hector’s and Maui’s dolphin species, it can be taken as read that Aotearoa’s international image is in serious decline. A mock funeral for the species outside the prime minister’s electoral office on Saturday focussed attention on the, . Speaking to the Mahurangi Magazine today, the organiser, former Auckland Regional councillor Christine Rose said:

The plight of Maui’s and Hector’s dolphins, which are subpopulations of the same species, is a reflection on the impasse that our current political system creates. Despite clear science showing the risks to and decline of these most lovely, small and rare of all dolphins, inadequate action is taken to preserve them for their own sake or for the good of the planet. Fish stocks continue to be plundered for diminishing returns, hauling up untold volumes of unintended by-catch—these charming little dolphins, sharks, sea birds and all other types of marine life. Politicians fail to engage with the issue; scared off by the threat of litigation from the aggressive seafood industry. Partisan politics sees respective parties falling back to defensive positions where there is no scope for constructive engagement on one of the most pressing single conservation issues of our time. Instead of bipartisan recognition of the need to save this species within its entire range, political parties talk past each other, and National in particular remains resolute in its defence of inaction, saying ‘we’re doing all we can’, which really means ‘we’re doing as little as we can get away with.’ But while the world watches our supposed developed nation drown these dolphins to extinction one by one, and sometimes four by four or more, there’s no common ground between political parties, or the parties and the fishing industry, fit to meet the challenge of extinction of our most charismatic, visible and vulnerable dolphin.

A message to these leaders: ‘There’s no un-ringing of that bell. Extinction is forever.’

The percentage of New Zealanders that would support decisive government action to protect Maui’s and Hector’s dolphins is unknown, as no polling appears to have been carried out. However, judging by the Pure Advantage poll on green growth, it is likely that a good three quarters would be supportive. With submissions closing tomorrow at 4‍ ‍pm, Avaaz has just launched a campaign inviting subscribers to email or phone the Ministry of Fisheries. Despite being only distributed New Zealand-wide, ‘Save the Smallest Dolphins’ responses are dominating those of the nearly 14‍ ‍million-strong network.

Drowning dolphins and allowing albatross chicks to be eaten alive by introduced mice is not a smart image for Aotearoa to project to the world, even if the only concern was the country’s ‘pure advantage’ marketing edge—surely politicians can find the courage to do the former, and the people the remaining $350‍ 000 to do the latter, and in the words of Dr Gareth Morgan:

Let’s just do it.


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