All six pillars (social, economic, cultural, health, safety and environmental) that underpin the sustainability philosophy have to be considered collectively for New Zealand’s long-term prosperity and sustainability.
The environmental pillar consists of natural resources such as air, land, water and biota which are available to human through three different choices of use, development and protection. These choices we make have to be considered carefully in the context of other five pillars (social, economic, cultural, health and safety) and our future generations in mind.
When we make our choices (e.g. use) and perform an activity, adverse effects on the environment is likely. If we can avoid adverse effects that will be a perfect outcome. Is it easy to avoid an adverse effect, no matter how minor it is?
If we use an essential resource such as water (e.g. washing) there may be adverse effects (e.g. discharge of wastewater) on the environment.
If we develop a natural resource such as water for electricity generation there may be adverse effects (e.g. drowning of land that could be available for other use).
On the other hand, if we protect it from any human use (apart from using it as a visual amenity) there may be adverse effects on consumptive water users such as irrigators or urban dwellers who could have benefited from the abstraction of the water.
Therefore avoiding adverse effects altogether within the environmental management context and providing for the five non-environmental pillars appears to be impossible. This is why the RMA provides the three pathways of avoid, remedy and mitigate to sustain all six pillars.
Are you aware that under the RMA (section 17 of the Act) every person lives in New Zealand has the duty to avoid, remedy and mitigate adverse effects? It is very practical and sensible for the RMA to require this because sustainable management of our natural and physical resources is actually a collective effort from all of us.
What can you do to make New Zealand a leading sustainable country at present and into the future?
As mentioned before for our actions to be effective collective effort by all of us is required to ensure New Zealand is a sustainable country. Every one of us has a role to play.
Sustainability is not a task or slogan just for ‘green’ minded people. ENVIROKNOWLEDGE® believes that sustaining our country is everyone’s responsibility and we should all be involved to make our country more prosperous, healthy, safe, knowledgeable and popular in a positive sense. There is no good timing as such to begin or finish such an awareness in yourself. It is expected at all times.
Our contribution to sustainability does not necessarily require you being engaged in a major project or a group activity or having to make some financial contributions. Your contribution could be as little as making attempts to reduce your environmental footprint (i.e. energy use, resource use, waste, pollution etc.). You will be amazed by the numerous benefits significantly outweighing the inconveniences or expenses you are likely to incur when making your steps towards sustainability!
The subsections below attempt to provide advice for a range of key activities in NZ.