Archive | Environment

Smith skips the “however” in OECD environmental review

Environment Minister Nick Smith’s take on an OECD report on New Zealand’s environmental performance is that it says we are doing well. He skipped the word “however”, which makes frequent appearances in the OECD’s press release and the report.

All up, it’s a constructive report, as you would expect from an OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development) unit headed by Dr Smith’s predecessor from the 1990s, Simon Upton.

Simon Upton.

Mr Upton was elected to Parliament as a National MP in 1981, when he was 23, and was appointed to the Cabinet in 1990, holding the portfolios of health, the environment, and research, science & technology. As environment minister he shepherded the Resource Management Act into law in 1991, and he was responsible for establishing the Crown research institutes.

When he resigned from Parliament in 2001, he went to Paris to chair the OECD’s Round Table on Sustainable Development, and in 2010 he was appointed head of the OECD’s environment directorate, based in Paris.

For yesterday’s release of the organisation’s environmental performance review of New Zealand, he was back in Wellington. That much was acknowledged by Dr Smith but, for the rest, his response to the constructive review was a glib use of the kind references in the report.

Nick Smith.

Dr Smith said the review “highlights New Zealand’s green credentials and the strong progress we have made over the past decade, as well as the challenges we need to address. This report highlights that New Zealand fares well in terms on environmental quality of life. We have good air quality, an exceptionally high proportion of renewable electricity, easy access to pristine wilderness and an advanced & comprehensive natural resource management system.

“This report shows how far we have come over the past decade. We introduced environmental pricing on waste in 2009 and on greenhouse gas emissions in 2010. We have introduced new national policy statements in areas of freshwater management, urban development & coastal management, as well as national environment standards on air quality. We have also made important institutional changes with the creation of the Environmental Protection Authority, new laws regulating activities in New Zealand’s huge EEZ (exclusive economic zone) and the new Environment Reporting Act 2015.

“We also concur with the OECD assessment of New Zealand’s future environmental challenges of climate change, freshwater management, biodiversity, reducing the complexity of urban planning & transport funding reform. This report reinforces the importance of the significant work programmes the Government has under way in each of these areas.

“This environmental report card will help us sharpen our future direction & environmental aspirations, as well as learn from the experiences of other countries. I thank the OECD reviewers & the examining countries of Australia & the UK for their contribution to this thoughtful report.”

Report reflects Upton’s constructive criticism

Many New Zealanders opposed to giving greater sway to environmental care in the 1990s regarded Mr Upton as a jumped-up little squirt. What he did was back his views with a formidable breadth & depth of information, and he looked for the positive & constructive.

That’s reflected in yesterday’s OECD review, which was worked on by over 30 OECD people.

Heading the project was a Canadian, Nathalie Girouard, who worked on economic policy & country studies when she joined the OECD in 1993 and co-ordinated its green growth strategy for 5 years, and research was led by a Russian who gained his master’s degree in environmental management in Amsterdam and is now a US citizen, Eugene Mazur, a policy analyst involved in various environmental performance reviews since 2003 (his next one is on Estonia) and spent 14 years on environmental policy reform in countries of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus & Central Asia.

If Dr Smith can get his RMA reform, the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill, through Parliament in the final session of Parliament before the election – on the slimmest of majorities as his only support at the moment is the Maori Party – economic factors will carry as much weight as environmental.

That makes plenty of sense in many circumstances, but it would be very easy for the economic to quickly dominate the environmental assessments: concrete over the more hypothetical. The debate that has followed the 23 February announcement of the Government aim for 90% of rivers & lakes to be swimmable by 2040 is evidence that this government doesn’t rate the damage from high levels of nutrients entering waterways as highly as the public response suggests it should.

The OECD press release out yesterday began: “New Zealanders enjoy a high environmental quality of life & access to pristine wilderness. However, New Zealand’s growth model, based largely on exploiting natural resources, is starting to show its environmental limits with increasing greenhouse gas emissions & water pollution.”

Cleaning up lakes has been on Dr Smith’s agenda since National returned to power in 2008. The national policy statement for freshwater management was published in 2014 and the “swimmable” declaration was made a month ago.

OECD criticisms

Mr Upton said when he presented the report in Wellington: “While the country only accounts for a tiny share of global emissions, the review finds that intensive dairy farming, road transport & industry have pushed up gross greenhouse gas emissions by 23% since 1990. Despite generating 80% of its electricity from renewable sources, among the highest in OECD countries, New Zealand has the second highest level of emissions per gdp unit in the OECD and the fifth highest emissions/capita.

“Having largely decarbonised its power generation, New Zealand needs to ensure its climate policies are effective in curbing emissions in all sectors, notably transport & agriculture. This means strengthening the emissions trading scheme and ensuring sectoral policies are aligned with the need for a low emissions transition.”

Agriculture accounts for 49% of emissions – the highest share in the OECD – and the report suggests they should be incorporated into the emissions trading scheme or alternative measures developed to counter the pressures of farming: “The use of environmentally related taxes, charges & prices should be expanded.”

“Growth in intensive dairy production has increased the level of nitrogen in soil, surface water & groundwater. The nitrogen balance (the difference between nutrients entering & leaving the system) increased more than in any other OECD country from 2000-10.

“Aware of the need to safeguard water quality, New Zealand has begun a process of freshwater policy reforms with a clean water package of proposals in February that address some of the OECD recommendations. Further government support is needed to assist local authorities with setting rigorous goals and to speed up implementation.”

Urban planning

The review also looks at New Zealand’s fast-growing cities and suggests that a simpler urban planning system, less restrictive land use regulations and better co-ordination between land, transport & infrastructure planning could help ease the pressure. It adds: “Car ownership in cities is high and many vehicles are old & emission-intensive. Current vehicle standards & taxes do not sufficiently encourage a shift towards cleaner, more efficient technologies.”

The report says New Zealand should consider more systematic use of pricing instruments to achieve urban policy objectives. It said water charges had helped cut consumption, but legislation prevented use of volumetric charges for wastewater services, road tolls & congestion charges.

The report said there was wide scope to make better use of pricing instruments to encourage efficient land use: “Development contributions (levied to finance infrastructure) do not reflect the true cost of providing infrastructure to a specific area. This makes inefficient and use artificially cheap and potentially accelerates urban sprawl.

“Limited distinctions between development contributions across building types & characteristics – eg, size or energy efficiency – translate into weak incentives for developers to build high performance buildings or low impact infrastructure.

“Financial contributions (levied to reflect costs of development on the environment) are often charged at a fixed rate, rather than being based on the marginal environmental damage of development, and the Resource Management Legislation Bill proposed to remove them entirely.

“Property taxes (rates) are mostly levied on the basis of capital value rather than land value, which may favour greenfield over infill developments insofar as they are permitted.”

The report also advised changes to infrastructure funding policies: “Expansion of pricing instruments would also diversify funding options available to city councils. Many councils need significant investment to accommodate population growth, including in water & wastewater, roads & public transport infrastructure.

“The central government finances about half of local roads or public transport, but entirely finances state highways. This creates incentives for local government to opt for state highway over local road & public transport solutions.

“Funding heavily relies on property taxation (general rates), which implies large cross-subsidies from the general public and weakened incentives for councils to accommodate growth, as infrastructure investment may lead to a higher tax (rates) burden on the community.

“User- & beneficiary-based funding, eg through road & water pricing and better targeted development contributions, would reduce the burden on the public budget. At the same time it would contribute to better demand management and more efficient use of land & resources.

“There may be room for the tax system to capture windfall gains accruing to landowners from infrastructure improvement (eg, betterment levies) and rezoning land for urban use (land value capture) to pay for required infrastructure.”

The OECD’s recommendations on this segment include:

  • giving more attention to spatial planning, while simplifying infrastructure & transport planning requirements
  • broadening the scope of the national policy statement on urban development capacity to encourage good urban design outcomes & principles for sustainable urban development, and
  • facilitating a change to land use plans to reduce the scope for vested interests to thwart development of wider public interests.

One recommendation less likely to go down well is to repeat the Auckland super-city experiment, with adjustments, in other urban areas. For that to succeed, Aucklanders will need to be convinced that the value of amalgamation has exceeded its downside.

OECD NZ environmental performance review 2017
2014 OECD report: Do environmental policies matter for productivity growth? Insights from new cross-country measures of environmental policies
4 March 2017, Government release: River & lake targets need to be practical
25 February 2017: Conservation & environment science roadmap announced
23 February 2017: Claims of lowered water standards wrong
23 February 2017: 90% of rivers & lakes swimmable by 2040

Attribution: OECD report & release, ministerial release.

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Bennett progresses climate change talks with China

Deputy Prime Minister & Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett said on Friday China & New Zealand had experience & expertise to share about responding to climate change.

“China is a key player in the global response to climate change, and the implementation of China’s commitments under the Paris agreement will be critical for its success,” she said.

Chinese official Zhang Yong & NZ Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett.

Mrs Bennett was speaking after meeting China’s top official for climate change, Zhang Yong, vice-chair of the National Development & Reform Commission, in Wellington for the first ministerial dialogue under the NZ-China climate change co-operation arrangement memorandum, signed by the 2 countries’ leaders in 2014.

Mrs Bennett said: “Mr Zhang’s extended visit to New Zealand so soon after the Paris agreement entering into force underscores New Zealand’s standing within the international climate change community and the prospects for greater bilateral co-operation.”

She said the dialogue built on positive discussions she had last November with senior Chinese representatives at the COP 22 climate change negotiations in Marrakech.

During his stay, Mr Zhang is meeting Auckland Council, visiting the Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre in Palmerston North, the Forest Research Institute in Rotorua and Te Mihi geothermal power station north of Taupo.

Attribution: Ministerial release.

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More consultation on hazardous substances changes

The Environmental Protection Authority plans to release documents over the next 3 weeks on proposed changes to management of hazardous substances.

The rules that govern the use of hazardous substances in the workplace are moving from the Hazardous Substances & New Organisms Act, administered by the authority, into a new Health & Safety at Work Act administered by WorkSafe.

The authority has run consultation on the changes in June & August, and said yesterday it would be seeking submissions again this month. It’s issuing 4 consultation papers covering:

  • classification, labelling, safety data sheets & packaging for hazardous substances
  • forms & information in hazardous substance applications
  • import certificates for explosives, and
  • hazardous property controls (to be released after the first 3 documents).


Changes to how hazardous substances are managed

Attribution: Authority release.

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Government announces Enviroschools contract & new strategy

The Government announced a new contract yesterday to support Enviroschools for the next 6 years and a new strategy for environmental education for sustainability.

Environment Minister Nick Smith & Associate Conservation Minister Nicky Wagner said the Toimata Foundation’s $11.4 million contract would support the Enviroschools & Te Aho Tu Roa programmes in early childhood centres, schools & kura.

Dr Smith said: “Education is a powerful, long-term tool for improving how we care for the environment. If people feel connected to nature and understand the problems of species loss, water pollution, waste & climate change, they will make better choices during their lifetime.

“Enviroschools has already involved more than 100,000 children, 9000 teachers & 85 partner organisations. This new contract will ensure the growth of the programme and also puts a stronger emphasis on science connections. We want schools engaging with their local science community, with the programme linking to the National Science Challenges and supporting A Nation of Curious Minds.”

Ms Wagner said the draft national strategy released for public feedback would be a framework to engage & connect people to their environment and to their community: “It encourages collaboration between a wide range of stakeholders to support projects & initiatives to advance social, cultural, environmental & economic sustainability in New Zealand.”

National strategy for environmental education for sustainability (Eefs)

Attribution: Ministerial release.

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Tracking ideas Sun3Apr16 – Red Hook, city travel

Red Hook’s path to an unswampy future
Getting around the best way you can

Tracking ideas is a Bob Dey Property Report section devoted to ideas on property questions such as urban strategies & design, many from overseas but with relevance to Auckland.

Red Hook’s path to an unswampy future

This item is local as a study in how New York neighbourhood Red Hook is starting to deal with bad weather – the kind that brought Hurricane Sandy in 2012, might revisit with another hurricane or might swamp, through rising seas, what used to be a swamp.

I also throw in – in case the New Yorkers want some more constructive ideas – some of the change occurring in Auckland.

Chemical company BASF organised a case study last year on low-lying Red Hook, Creator Space New York City, but also wanted to find solutions relevant to coastal cities globally.

Hurricane Sandy put much of Red Hook under water and set back years of redevelopment. The questions arising at the BASF event included: “How can we preserve Red Hook’s unique character & quality of life while also promoting its economic growth and safeguarding it against future floods? How can measures taken in Red Hook serve as a model for other cities?”

Ideas included green corridors, a coastal park, establish “a centre for job training & human services”, rethink the district’s public housing, and inspire change with a model city block.

The most glaring omission is this: Make it a place you want to be.

This one idea, I think, is the crucial one changing Auckland (downtown so far, but it’ll spread), and one which I think many critics of Auckland Council’s role in organising change don’t understand. The visible signs are streets that are friendly to walk, an atmosphere that’s receptive to inner-city residents, shops that are intended for city residents and the business & education communities, precincts that are becoming communities.

Another question, as much for Auckland as for Red Hook, is who the “you” above is. Do you remake a neighbourhood for existing residents or reshape for new ones?

A cover photo on the BASF study prompted me to look more closely at what I thought were wharves lined with cars – ha! the South Brooklyn marine terminal, just like Auckland – and I landed on a story about the disappearance of waterfront jobs from New York’s smallest container terminal, which a century ago was the busiest freight terminal in the world, so far not displaced by anything else.

In a way, that aerial view of the Red Hook wharves offers Aucklanders an idea of what might occur here with wharf extensions – or what might be a future if reclamation was reversed.

Planetizen, 29 March 2016: Saving coastal cities from climate change
BASF: Co-creating solutions for urban neighbourhoods in coastal cities: A look at Red Hook
Jordan Fraade in Next City, 26 May 2015: There’s money hiding in New York City’s waterfronts

Getting around the best way you can

City travel is changing everywhere. On a VerdeXchange panel in California, Lyft transport policy manager Emily Castor said: “The more viable it is for people to live here without owning a car, the more likely it is that they’re going to use Lyft frequently in combination with transit & other modes. We need to look at how we can create this robust ecosystem together.”

Planetizen, 29 March 2016: Creating an urban mobility ecosystem helps public & private actors
The Planning Report, 16 March 2016, edited discussion: Public & private pros opine on how ‘choice’ impacts urban transport

Attribution: Planetizen, The Planning Report, BASF, Next City

Regular leads: Planetizen

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Council backs status quo as its unitary plan mediation position

Auckland Council decided yesterday to reject a staff proposal to abandon or downgrade 10 of the volcanic viewshafts around the region, as a council position in mediation at the unitary plan hearings.

The council’s Auckland development committee had before it a proposal to remove 5 viewshafts under the proposed unitary plan and to downgrade 3 others from regionally significant to a new category of locally significant. Changes to height controls would obscure 2 others.

Landscape architect Stephen Brown, who presented an expert group’s evaluation to the committee, said the evaluation of all 87 viewshafts had taken 4½ months, and the panel of experts was divided at the end of it. He said some wanted another 20 viewshafts removed from the list.

Some submitters on the proposed unitary plan – notably Housing NZ – want almost all viewshafts to go.

Expert conferencing on the viewshafts finished on Monday and the council’s plans & place general manager, John Duguid, said the next mediation stage would be on 5 April. Hearing of submissions on the viewshafts resumes on 9 May, and the panel is scheduled to release its decision in August.

Planning consultant Peter Reaburn said in his report to the committee that, last August, the committee had supported a review of the criteria in the proposed plan for regionally significant views and the development of criteria for locally significant views, and had also supported reviewing the impacts of the viewshafts on development.

Back in the Town Hall to discuss the council mediation position yesterday, there was hardly a murmur in favour of abandoning any of the viewshafts, although some were already compromised.

Instead of supporting the staff recommendations, the committee agreed to reconfirm the council’s current position on volcanic viewshafts & height-sensitive areas, with only Cllr George Wood opposing retention of one viewshaft, of Mt Eden from a point on the Southern Motorway.

The viewshafts have been in council planning documents for 40 years, preventing developments from rising within them. However, Mr Brown said some views had been obliterated, some obscured by vegetation and there was a compelling case for deleting the shaft from the motorway.

Independent Maori Statutory Board member Liane Ngamane tried to get an understanding of how Maori values were assessed – and Mr Brown said it was “a purely technical analysis”, that the expert group hadn’t been asked to “go beyond the visual” and “the focus was not on values which we didn’t have the expertise to assess”.

Ms Ngamane: “Do you accept that that may not be consistent with the Maori relationship?”

Mr Brown: “We didn’t have at that point anybody with expertise on Maori values.”

Albert-Eden Local Board chair Peter Haynes and Orakei Local Board deputy chair & mayoral candidate Mark Thomas gave brief presentations to the committee.

Mr Haynes: “What is the one physical feature that distinguishes Auckland from every other city in the world? It is located on a volcanic field. Auckland in that respect is totally unique. Calling these maunga outstanding natural features is an understatement.”

He said the nature of the evaluation was solely related to the economic value of these maunga in development terms, presenting the shafts only as a cost, and commented: “Undermining volcanic viewshafts is a very quick way of undermining pursuing United Nations natural heritage status.”

He said the new maunga authority (Tupuna Maunga o Tamaki Makaurau Authority) opposed any reduction of the viewshafts.

Mr Haynes questioned the distinction of local significance: “You either protect viewshafts or you don’t. I’ve learnt that restricted discretionary [planning status] doesn’t give you any protection at all. That’s tantamount to no protection at all and it would only be a matter of time before such viewshafts are lost.”

Link: Committee agenda

Attribution: Council committee agenda & debate.

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Ministry releases aids for ETS review submitters

The Ministry for the Environment has released 2 technical documents to help submitters on the second phase of the emissions trading scheme (ETS) review. Submissions close on Saturday 30 April.

Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett said today: “If New Zealand is going to take the next steps to tackle climate change, we’re going to have to see more investment in tree planting and big emitters making a greater contribution to our efforts.

“The ETS is a key tool to drive these changes, and this second phase of the review will ensure it is fit for purpose to help New Zealand achieve its ambitious 2030 target.”

Forestry technical note
Operational matters technical note

Attribution: Ministerial release, ministry website.

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Government issues 3 papers, and council to debate response on emissions trading

The Ministry for the Environment has released 3 technical documents on removing the emissions trading scheme 1-for-2 transitional measure at various carbon prices, and managing the costs of removing that transitional measure.

Auckland Council has produced a draft submission on the Government proposals which will debated by the council’s Auckland development committee on Thursday.

Submissions for priority issues close with the ministry on Friday 19 February.

In the first report, the NZ Institute of Economic Research modelled the economic impact of removing the transitional measure, where emitters pay the cost of one unit for 2 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Canterbury University’s School of Forestry produced the second report, outlining different ways the forestry sector might respond to various carbon prices.

The Ministry for the Environment produced the third report, with quality assurance by Martin Jenkins. It’s an evaluation of the scheme’s performance against its short-, medium- & long-term outcomes to develop a greater understanding of its impacts.

Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett said on Friday: “Following on from the Paris agreement on climate change, the Government is focusing on ensuring our domestic settings are in the right place to help New Zealand meet our 2030 target. The ETS is one of our most effective tools to tackle climate change domestically and we are keen to hear a broad range of views about its effectiveness & impact.”

Auckland Council’s proposed submission says the council is responsible for a region that produces 27% of New Zealand’s gross greenhouse gas emissions. It wants the agricultural sector included within the scheme’s scope “to remove an unfair cost burden on other sectors of the economy”. The council says this is the third review of the scheme in the 7 years since it was introduced, and the final form needs to provide certainty: “Ongoing changes weaken Auckland businesses’ ability to effectively plan for the future.”

The council’s answer is full submission from 2017, not one for 2, “so polluters take full responsibility for their emissions”.

The council has also linked this response to a review by the Electricity Authority on implications of evolving technologies for pricing of distribution services (consultation closes Monday 4 April). The council says the 2 consultation processes need to be co-ordinated, so outcomes sought by the Electricity Authority don’t undermine the objective of the emissions trading scheme review.

NZIER, Economic impacts
Forestry School, Afforestation responses
Ministry for the Environment, Evaluation report
Auckland Council committee agenda, proposed submission
Electricity Authority, consultation on default distribution agreement

Attribution: Ministerial release, ministry, council agenda

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Council to join C40 global climate change network after tight vote

I asked on Monday: “Why would a city that’s proven incapable of explaining its scientific ingenuity want to join an international organisation which demands innovation as an entry card?”

But, in my usual attempt to be in a multitude of places at once, I didn’t hang around at yesterday’s meeting of Auckland Council’s Auckland development committee to see how the debate would go on the council’s membership of the international C40 Cities climate leadership group.

A vote on membership was deferred in March when it looked like it might be defeated, and yesterday it was carried on a 9-7 vote.

C40 is a network of cities around the world working together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions & climate risks. Membership would enhance knowledge-sharing & research.

Earlier stories:
12 October 2015: Why aim high when we’re just fine on low?
16 March 2015: Council holds off joining international climate group C40

Attribution: Council committee agenda, council release.

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Why aim high when we’re just fine on low?

Why would a city that’s proven incapable of explaining its scientific ingenuity want to join an international organisation which demands innovation as an entry card?

New Zealand has a minister of economic development, science & innovation among other things, Steven Joyce, who is determinedly pushing for New Zealanders to rise above being a nation of commodity traders. And Auckland Council’s founding planning statement, the Auckland Plan, is filled with aspirations to treat the environment better.

Whether it be from climate change or other scientifically mappable causes, large chunks of Auckland’s coastline are being scoured out. As a centre of bubbling property values, it would be handy for Auckland to have some idea about how much of this increasingly expensive land will remain above the tide in 10 or a hundred years.

All these are reasons for Auckland to be a centre of inquiry into climate, sea & atmospheric change.

And, if that’s the case, Auckland Council’s membership of the international C40 Cities climate leadership group should be a given. But it’s not.

The proposal for membership was put to the council’s Auckland development committee in March, but a decision was deferred when it looked as though a majority was going to reject the invitation. Cllr Christine Fletcher said on that occasion the report supporting membership of C40 was silent on the costs: “I think the business case hasn’t been well put. I would certainly like a lot more business information and it hasn’t been put forward today.”

Chief sustainability officer John Mauro returns this Thursday with another shot at membership, but with little more to convince doubters of its value.

C40 membership is free and direct costs are low, but to rise from observer to innovation status after the first year Auckland would need to produce some innovative research.

In his background report for Thursday’s meeting, Mr Mauro has pointed to likely accelerated implementation of the low carbon Auckland action plan as a benefit.

This was likely to mean easier identification of future emissions reductions, and associated cost savings, he said. “For instance, over the past 4 years, Auckland Council has saved or avoided at least $1.5-$2 million/year from reduced energy, waste & water use. While the council will be continuously seeking savings & emissions reductions, they will become more challenging to identify & implement in the future.”

Over the 7 years to 2018, he saw council savings of $12.7 million from sustainability measures. From there, Mr Mauro moved on to the potentially big positive: “Sharing best practice & innovation ideas with C40 cities will assist in identifying & achieving such savings which, consequently, have corresponding emissions reductions benefits.

“Strategically aligned international partnerships like C40 can be useful tools to drive implementation of the Auckland Plan & low carbon Auckland.”

Among specific benefits he saw for Auckland: “Access & collaborate with a global network of technical advisors with expertise to design & implement climate programmes & high-impact projects. Access a vast array of research with potential for peer-to-peer exchanges……

“Membership is meant to unlock ideas, innovation & best practice that lead to emissions reductions & cost savings to the council.”

Unlock ideas? That should have been top priority for the super-city council when it was formed in 2010, but to do so requires advanced thinking on things like providing infrastructure more imaginatively & efficiently across old boundaries. There is some evidence of advanced thinking, but it hasn’t been paramount.

The legacy Auckland City Council had a fine example of this 10 years ago, when boffin & one-term councillor Richard Simpson tried to explain some of the benefits of bringing the Digital Earth summit to Auckland – not just as a one-off, but if Auckland seized the opportunity and made itself a centre of expertise & foresight.

Mr Simpson co-founded New Zealand’s first 3D computer graphics firm, Cadabra, and expanded the business internationally. In 2012, he co-authored the world’s first manifesto of the digital earth, virtual nations, data cities movement to apply post-Google Earth (environmental simulation) technologies to the challenges of planning & managing the Earth’s resources to accelerate climate change solutions.

But 2½ years ago he left Auckland to become chief executive of SIBA (the Spatial Industries Business Association) in Queensland.

He says of that organisation: “Our members are significant producers, managers, innovators, users & adopters of spatial information & technologies. They are pioneers, providing inventive, value-added services to governments, business & industry and they range in size from large local & international companies & organisations to small- to medium-sized enterprises, many with 10 employees or less.”

In a presentation in 2005, he said the challenge for New Zealand was “to be a benchmark for sustainable practices”. From the 2006 Digital Earth summit, alone, he said some of the world’s top thinkers would go to speak at Auckland’s tertiary institutions, while the add-ons of future summits plus an international centre would brand the city as a place of foresight: “It could be a Club of Rome or a Davos (both economic summits) and brand Auckland. This is the extreme of technology, a mega-project.”

Auckland opted for the one-off.

Earlier stories:
16 March 2015: Council holds off joining international climate group C40
6 July 2005: Simpson the boffin councillor sets path for Auckland to become high-flying technology conference site, with a benchmarking brand

Attribution: Council agenda.

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