Reflecting on 25 years in the Environmental Sector

We have so much to protect in New Zealand, and in the wider world – we are all so linked in so many ways.

After 25 years in this field I am convinced that we can have good, sustainable business expansion with a high level of environmental protection. We need both in NZ. We need people to be able to provide for themselves and their families with some pride in their achievement. But we cannot afford to let the strained status of our natural environment degrade any further – and we have to claw back some of the damage already done.

Our ‘clean and green’ is unfortunately a bit dirty and brown. We can’t afford to fool ourselves.

In IWS’s area of environmental interest – land and water protection in the industrial sector – I feel that our Nation's various ‘authorities’ have not been able to get people to really understand the link between industry and pollution. The cumulative effect of urbanisation, and industrial intensity, is not to be underestimated.

The environmental risks associated with:

  • That final stormwater drain from the site, that leads directly to the natural environment
  • The issue of tracking on the truck wheels around or off site is an issue
  • That leaking chemical that really does need to be stored properly
  • That gear being cleaned outside,

…are not front of mind at many industrial sites. But the little things do count.

Concrete Manufacturing modified

I am often reminded by industrial site operators, who can feel a bit under siege at times – that the major roads must also have an impact – ‘and what is happening about those?’. We must be aware that this is being addressed as new road and subdivisions are constructed or upgraded. The Councils are, by and large, addressing this matter at a road and property level. Notwithstanding that, two wrongs don’t make a right. However all sectors need to play their part.

At recent environmental conferences the link between human (physical and mental) health and environmental health has been discussed. While I spend a lot of time in the outdoors I had not strongly made this link myself. But I see (in my middle age) that this ‘healthy environment – healthy people’ statement is so true.

What will we say to our children, and perhaps to our grandchildren, if we fail here? How will our community afford to sort things out in one to two generations?

So I encourage you and your staff to really think about the issue of industrial environmental pollution and its long-term ramifications. Build this recognition and action into your business practices, and talk about its importance at staff meetings. There will be a lot of simple procedures that you can develop – and these can be backed up with some checklist-type records. There may be a few more complex issues to sort out – such as stormwater treatment – but a practical way to do his can be found.

We are here to help you – and, no, I don’t work for the Inland Revenue Department…