with Mike Chapman
Three groups are often involved in change. Those that talk about it; those that make rules to try and get it to happen; and, in the minority, those that actually do the change.
The time, energy and resources that change require usually fall disproportionately on the minority who actually do the work.
When it comes to massive, whole-of-country change, all three groups must work together. It cannot be left to the minority to shoulder in isolation. The whole country needs to work together.
Responding to climate change and improving freshwater quality are prime examples of whole-of-country change. These are not rural problems – they are New Zealand-wide problems – and everyone in the country needs to do a lot more.
Urban water pollution is one of the biggest issues that needs to be resolved. While councils have been good at imposing rules on the rural sector, they now need to take their own medicine – and face up to the fact some of their operations are a major pollution cause.
This pollution affects farming and growing when it is downstream from the urban centre. It’s been easy to blame the rural sector for the dirty water coming from urban New Zealand because it is very visible. But now is the time to stop finger pointing. We must sit down as one and do what is required to improve freshwater quality. We all want to achieve further improvement but to achieve it, we all need to make significant changes.
The other telling factor is that improvement will not happen overnight. For a long time, the rural sector has been working hard to improve water quality. Progress has been steady but it is clear that more needs to be done.
To make significant progress in both the urban and rural sectors we need new techniques and ways of growing our food and living in our cities. It is not as simple as buying an electric car and planting more trees. As a nation, we need to be investing in research to find new ways to improve freshwater quality and mitigate climate change. This research will require significant investment and it will take time to adopt and implement.
Time for united action
The targets and timeframes that will be agreed for the whole of New Zealand – both urban and rural – need to be realistic and start the journey. Unrealistic goals will achieve nothing except frustration and anger – they will not achieve the outcomes we all desire.
At the same time, we need to be able to grow enough fresh, healthy food to feed ourselves and to export, so we can pay for new infrastructure, healthcare and housing, while permitting urban and rural businesses to operate profitably.
Successful, whole-of-country change is not a case of a lot of people talking up the problems and others imposing unworkable rules. It is now time for the talkers and rulemakers to join with the rural sector in facing up to the fundamental challenges. The time for blame, talk and impossible rules is over. Now is the time for united action: let’s together solve the nation’s problems and respond to the challenge of change.