Sustainable Development Programme of Action

  • Marian Hobbs

The government today released its programme of action for sustainable development in New Zealand.

Environment Minister Marian Hobbs said the programme provides a set of guiding objectives and principles to policy and decision making across the government sector.

"We have agreed that growing our economy is vital for the social growth of New Zealand," Marian Hobbs said. "The more money we earn, the better education and health services we can afford.

"But the growth we have must be sustained over a number of generations. Therefore, we need to plan for that growth so that we don't add to our problems.

"Partnership is at the heart of the government's approach, because we recognise we cannot achieve sustainable development on our own. We are inviting other sectors and enterprises to share the path to our common future."

The initial focus is on water quality and allocation, energy, sustainable cities, and child and youth development.

"These issues must be addressed otherwise they will impede New Zealand’s long-term sustainable development," Marian Hobbs said. "Clean abundant water has long been a key element of economic prosperity. We must ensure the delivery of energy services to all consumers efficiently, fairly, reliably and sustainably. Cities are the engines of economic growth where 85 per cent of our people live and work. They must support social wellbeing, quality of life and cultural identities. Ensuring the wellbeing of children and young people benefits New Zealand as whole, including a skilled workforce, healthy population and capable parents of the next generation.

“The focus on sustainable cities, for example, illustrates the importance of all levels of local and central government being much better co-ordinated in their actions, and thereby avoiding costly planning mistakes.

“The sustainable development approach will be embedded in the public sector and we will be looking for concrete action in each programme area.

"The programme highlights the importance of thinking differently and taking into account the economic, environmental, social and cultural dimensions of issues when we are making decisions.

"We must learn to create opportunities for 'win-win' results. That is, that we improve economic performance as well as enhancing the environment and the way we live.

"We also expect central government agencies to develop new ways of working with local government, business, Maori, the community and voluntary sector on sustainable development."

The Cabinet is driving the sustainable development initiatives and has given ministers specific responsibilities for the Programme of Action:

  • Marian Hobbs, water
  • Pete Hodgson, energy
  • Marian Hobbs and Jim Anderton, sustainable cities
  • Steve Maharey, child and youth development.

Sustainable Development for New Zealand – Programme of Action builds on work for last August's World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg and recent strategies for biodiversity, energy, waste and other issues and the new local government legislation. This gives local authorities a mandate to take the lead in achieving sustainable development locally. It also takes into account the report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment on sustainable development.

The Programme of Action is the third document issued by this government to focus and reorient government policy and decision-making and processes. The others were Growing an Innovative New Zealand (the Growth & Innovation Framework) and Key Government Goals to Guide the Public Sector in Achieving Sustainable Development.

Click to download a PDF file of the Programme of Action.

31 January 2003

Sustainable Development Programme Of Action
Questions and Answers

What will this programme of action achieve?

There will be greater integration across the government sector when policy is being developed. Too often key perspectives are an'add-on' to policy rather than being fully integrated from the beginning.

What will it mean in practical terms?

We've got a big work programme ahead of us. For example working on better ways to conserve and allocate available freshwater, addressing the quality of drinking-water through legislation and standards, involving all 'stakeholders' in overcoming the threat to Lake Taupo and similar 'iconic' water bodies. We want to develop an Urban Design Charter, develop environmental standards (eg air and water quality, noise and waste). Child and youth development means improving living standards, health, access to quality early childhood education.

How will you ensure the programme is implemented?

Four ministers have been appointed to drive the initiatives. There will also need to be significant leadership from chief executives to ensure sustainable development is at the core of all government policy.

How did the government come up with the four priorities?

We needed to give a practical expression to sustainable development. The four priorities all need long term planning, they are cross cutting and they each have significant impacts in their own right. Water quality and allocation is urgent. Our cities increasingly are driving economic growth but facing problems. We want them to support and promote residents' wellbeing. Renewable energy is a perfect example of sustainability with gas supplies running out. We have an ageing population and must ensure the younger generation have the skills to prosper as they grow older. The entrepreneur of 2015 (or school dropout) is right now in their formative years of development.
How will the government make cities more sustainable?

We will work collaboratively with local government. One of the first actions will be to meet with the metropolitan mayors in the first part of this year to form new partnerships.

We will develop a New Zealand Urban Design Charter, working with local government, design professionals and organisations with cultural, heritage and environmental interests.

We will work on developing environmental standards on air and water quality and noise and waste.

We will also tackle the social aspects of sustainable cities such as improving housing and improving participation of young people in education, training and employment.

If these are the government’s priorities, what about other issues?

The focus on water, energy, sustainable cities and child and youth development does not limit the application of the sustainable development approach. The principles set out in the Programme of Action apply to all policy and decision making.

What's the connection between the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg and this Programme?

The Programme of Action picks up issues significant for New Zealand’s sustainable development. Initially these will be water, energy, sustainable cities and child and youth development. The World Summit focused on poverty, water, energy and trade. The Programme of Action highlights child and youth development because our young people need the qualifications and skills to give them a share in our future. Access to water is already an issue in some parts of the country. This will become a barrier to sustainable development unless we find ways of addressing the economic, environmental, social and cultural issues that this raises. There are pressures on our energy resources. New Zealand played a significant role at the World Summit in promoting the use of renewable energy sources. Our Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy is giving effect to commitments we made at the World Summit.

Does the Programme of Action pick up the recommendations in the report of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment?

The Programme of Action takes into account the PCE’s report. For example he strongly supported the development of such a plan. He also commented that economic growth should not dominate such programmes. We recognise that growing our economy is vital for the social growth of New Zealand.The more money we earn, the better education and health services we can afford. But the growth we have must be sustained over a number of generations. Therefore, we need to plan for that growth so that we don't add to our problems.

Isn’t there a clash between the government’s priority for Growth and Innovation and sustainable development?

No. Economic growth through the Growth and Innovation Framework is the government's goal and sustainable development is the way in which we will reach that goal. The Sustainable Development Programme of Action and the Growth and Innovation Framework support each other. We are talking about the quality of growth.

What is the connection between sustainable development and the new Local Government Act?

The Local Government Act 2002 involves the community in setting patterns for growth, working with central government.

How do other sustainable development initiatives from government, like waste management and biodiversity, oceans policy and climate change relate to this new Programme of Action?

The Programme of Action represents a new approach. Earlier strategies had a relatively narrow focus, even though they were based on sustainable development principles. The Programme of Action signals that the government now intends applying the sustainable development approach across the government sector and to all policy and decision making. It is the first step in this process and focuses on four areas. Over time, the sustainable development approach will be infused across the public sector to become the normal way of working.

How does sustainable management under the Resource Management Act relate to sustainable development?

The RMA focuses on avoiding adverse environmental effects, in other words, sustainable management. The sustainable development approach has much wider objectives in that it aims to deliver the best decisions and outcomes for the economy and the environment, as well as for the social and cultural interests of New Zealanders. Because it takes this broad approach, and also involves consideration of the long-term effects of decisions, decision makers, communities and others must consult more broadly and find more comprehensive solutions to problems. The issues highlighted in the Programme of Action, such as water quality in Lake Taupo, show their complexity, but also the potential benefits of finding better solutions.

How does this Programme of Action reflect Maori aspirations?

Sustainable development is about the economic, environmental, social and cultural consequences of decisions and means the government will also work in partnership with appropriate Maori authorities in development decisions that affect them.

What progress is there on sustainable development indicators?

The Government Statistician published Monitoring Progress towards a Sustainable New Zealand in August 2002. This was an experimental report and will form the basis for further work on a set of sustainable development indicators. These indicators will provide us with a more broadly-based measure than GDP, and will inform the develop of future programmes of action.

When will the report on population be released?

About mid-February. It is currently being printed.