16 February 2010
Taupo - the first one plan
A controversial scheme to reduce the amount of nitrogen entering Lake Taupo is seen as a precedent for other regions where land use practices are environmentally unsustainable. The PR lessons are spelled out in Protecting Lake Taupo - the Strategy and the Lessons - a report by Sue Yerex, a Lincoln University Kellogg scholar.
Lake Taupo is one of the country's greatest tourist and recreational assets. To keep it that way, a scheme has been put in place by Environment Waikato (EW) to reduce the amount of nitrogen entering the lake by 20 per cent by 2020.
Getting agreement from the government and major stakeholders was far from easy. Even now, three years after it became law, the scheme is highly controversial.
Farmers in the catchment now need a resource consent to farm, a total heresy to Federated Farmers. In fact it's not all that bad for individual farmers, most whom appear to have had their nitrogen emissions ‘grandfathered' at close to business-as-usual levels. The big losers are owners of undeveloped and forested land who are pretty much locked into their existing low-emission land uses forever, a situation they see as extremely unfair.
Because the Taupo scheme is the first of its type in New Zealand it is seen widely as a precedent for other regions where land use practices are environmentally unsustainable. The lessons, positive and negative, are spelled out in Protecting Lake Taupo - the Strategy and the Lessons - a report produced in July 2009 by Sue Yerex, a Lincoln University Kellogg scholar.
Although it's a gold-mine of information, the report has not been widely circulated. After sitting in our in-tray for six months, it is now well-thumbed. Here are some PR lessons WHAM takes from it.
For regional councils:
Taupo farmers had no inkling that their activities might be affecting the lake until EW told them at a public meeting that they were ‘responsible for polluting the lake'. This bombshell affected the self-image of those involved and was responsible for much of the media flak that followed.
For land owners:
With the Taupo scheme, neither Environment Waikato nor Ministry for the Environment officials bothered to pass on the forest industry's concerns - which meant the minister felt she had been gazumped when, just after the ink had dried on the relevant cabinet papers, forest owners told her about their concerns in a public forum.
Please note that these lessons are based on WHAM's interpretation of the report. The author may not agree with all of them.
In addition, the report has many comments on RMA policy and the mechanisms used to reduce the nitrogen emissions in the catchment. These are beyond the scope of this article.
For a hard copy of the full report, send a cheque for $15 to Sue Yerex, RD 1, Turangi 3381. For a PDF of the main body of the report, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Trevor Walton