28 April, 2008
Protecting our environment now and in the future
Environment Minister Trevor Mallard's welcoming speech to the Sir Peter Blake Youth Environment Forum, Ministry for the Environment, Wellington
Good morning everyone. It gives me great pleasure to join you this morning and to welcome you to Wellington for the start of the fifth Youth Environment Forum. Many of you have travelled a good distance to be here today and it’s great to see so many vibrant minds coming together to share and discuss issues of environment and sustainability.
As global citizens, and as New Zealanders, we are all affected by environmental issues.
Environmental sustainability is a challenge that can be met by the right people who have the right will. As young people, I am sure you’ve been told you are the future. Well, you are also the present. You all play a crucial role in protecting and caring for our environment now and for generations to come.
This forum has seen a huge number of young, passionate individuals volunteering their efforts in caring for the environment. Previous delegates have been involved in various environmental projects within their communities, and some have even been Green Ribbon award winners. These outstanding young individuals have shown that one person can make a difference to the environment.
And none of you would be here today if you didn’t share this same commitment and dedication.
One of the greatest things this forum offers is a platform from which youth can voice their opinions. Young people can sometimes feel like they are not involved enough in decisions about the environment, and the forum provides a chance to give politicians, business and the general public the youth perspective on environmental issues.
Imagine the impact if all New Zealanders chose one new sustainable thing to do – that would be more than four million active changes to New Zealand’s sustainability. Relatively simple actions like choosing to walk, cycle or take public transport rather than the car; and choosing to turn off the lights and computers when you have finished are small, but when added up over the years and across many people the differences for the environment can be huge.
Being sustainable is fundamental to good environmental management. It’s about development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Around the world, governments, businesses, households and individuals are striving to incorporate sustainability into their plans and every day actions. The Labour-led government recognises that New Zealand’s future prosperity depends on long-term sustainable strategies for the economy, society, environment, culture and our way of life. For us to remain a viable and prosperous nation in the future we must be sustainable and we all have a part to play in this.
Last year, the Prime Minister announced her aim for New Zealand to be a truly sustainable nation. We have developed a strategy and plan of action that addresses the emissions of greenhouse gases across industry, business and in our homes.
On June 5 New Zealand is hosting World Environment Day. This is a great opportunity for New Zealand to showcase the positive things we are doing nationally, regionally and internationally to promote sustainability and reduce the impacts of climate change.
Councils, businesses, communities and schools around the country have displayed huge interest in World Environment Day 2008. The Labour-led government has provided funding for 118 projects taking place throughout New Zealand and I encourage you all to get involved with the events happening in your region. You can see what's happening on the calendar at www.world.environment.govt.nz for New Zealand World Environment Day events.
Over the next week, you will all have the opportunity to participate in projects that focus on sustainable land and use, as well as household and tourism sustainability. All these projects will have the aim of recognising how we can live more sustainably to maintain economic growth without damaging our environment or quality of life.
My wish for young adults like yourselves attending this forum is that you will be inspired to come up with your own ideas to contribute more actively to help New Zealand achieve environmental sustainability. I am positive the networking and sharing at this forum will provide you with the chance to meet some great people, make new friends and challenge your thinking. It will also help you spread the word and encourage others to follow your lead.
Managing environmental issues is a complex business where the issues and solutions are rarely black and white, but it is extremely encouraging to see young people like you, the leaders of tomorrow, with such a strong understanding of the issues facing this country. It is your energy, enthusiasm, commitment and leadership to tackle these issues at your school, in the community, regionally and nationally, that helps make a difference.
Thank you again for your enthusiasm and passion in making a difference not only for your local environment but for all of New Zealand. On that note, I wish all of you a very fruitful and interesting forum.