NZ’s Environment Report Highlights Accountability and Impact

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Climate Adaptation New Zealand spends $2 billion annually on the environment

A report released by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Simon Upton, investigates the country’s environmental reporting, research, and investment.

According to the report, the government spends over $2 billion each year on the environment, and this spending should provide results in terms of how it is making a difference in the environment whether it is making a difference.  

The RNZ article, “Concern over value for money of govt’s $2b annual spend on environment“, mentions that “links between data, research, and money thrown at environmental problems were thin, lacking transparency and governed by short-termism, the report concluded.”

“Government agencies were focused on measuring performance by output, rather than actual outcomes, which the report said was a shortcoming which made it difficult for Parliament and the public to hold the government to account.”

The report breaks where the $2 billion+ annual budget and what government agency it goes to:

  • Department of Conservation (DOC) – $370.4 million
  • Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) – $0.2 million
  • Inland Revenue (IRD) – $1.4 million
  • Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) – $9.3 million
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) – $ 502.8 million
  • Ministry for the Environment (MfE) – $853.3 million
  • Ministry of Justice (MoJ) – $78.1 million
  • Ministry of Transport (MOT) – $0.5 million
  • Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) – $650.1 million
  • Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) – $3.7 million
  • Statistics New Zealand (Stats NZ) – $51.6 million

The above figures represent the environmental expenditures from the government’s agencies to achieve environmental outcomes:

  • Improving the country’s biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, and resilience at $613.3 million,
  • Improving the country’s coastal and marine environment, including sustainable management of resources at $108.9 million.
  • Improving the country’s land and freshwater, including sustainable management of resources at $287 million.
  • Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of institutions designed to manage human environmental interventions at $491.7 million.
  • Reducing waste and pollution at $247.0 million.
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions at $815.4 million.

The report says that these environmental expenditures are a means, not an end. While ministers tend to use government spending as a substitute for how much is being done to fix environmental issues, the lack of information makes it hard to judge whether the spending has made a difference or has improved environmental conditions.

Members of Parliament should be able to hold the government on behalf of the public to account when it comes to the outcome of the above environmental spending or outputs. The report says that Parliamentarians are often not provided with a sense of the impact that individual agencies have on environmental outcomes or even a general sense of progress.

The report states, “Outputs are the goods and services the Government funds agencies to deliver. These could be as different as policy advice to ministers or grants to hapū. Outcomes are the desired state, condition, or change in the environment, for example, improved mauri, water quality, or a halt in biodiversity decline”.

And for the parliamentarians to hold the government accountable, they “need to know to know about the range of long-term environmental issues (such as climate change or biodiversity loss) that the Government could prioritise, which of those issues the Government is spending money on and what effect that spending is having.”

Public accountability is the report’s central theme, and having it means that there should be transparency and clarity on what the agency aims to achieve. Decisions should be made based on adequate information.

The report’s recommendation includes the following:

  • Governments actions should invest more in environmental information and data, clarity about why governments or agencies are prioritising specific environmental issues and not others,
  • Transparency on the environmental outcomes the government is aiming for, what it is doing to achieve them, and how much it is spending on it,
  • A method to assess the effectiveness of the response and actions.
  • And that members of parliament and the citizens can hold governments accountable for their decisions.

The wise use of financial resources is crucial in implementing efficient and successful climate adaptation and mitigation plans and programs.

You can read the entire report by clicking on the link below.

Environmental reporting, research and investment: Do we know if we’re making a difference?

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