New Zealand Conservationists rejected internationally. ECO (NZ) and Forest and Bird in trouble with 800 other conservation organisations internationally at IUCN fora due to their extreme viewpoints through which they are unable to take any middle ground, or concede that humans have a place in sustainable use of resources. New Zealanders are passed over for key jobs as a result.

New Zealand Conservationists rejected internationally

Saturday 15 July 2000.

Press Release from Brian Swale, campaigner for sustainable indigenous forestry

New Zealand Conservationists rejected internationally

During this week while the Local Government Select Committee sits hearing submissions on the Forests (West Coast Accord) Bill, information surfaced on how New Zealanders are regarded internationally by people dealing with conservation and sustainability issues. Along with Australians, who are regarded as being somewhat more benign, we are accorded something of pariah status.

An international scientist who has many dealings with New Zealand and also 180-nation conservation and sustainability forums, told me that these days, top-class New Zealand and Australian scientists and administrators are passed over as a matter of course when top jobs are being filled, said Brian Swale.

The reason?

New Zealanders in particular are considered as being unable to find any middle ground when looking for solutions to problems on sustainability and conservation. They see only one extreme or another.

Dr Grahame Webb, Chairman of the IUCN Australia and New Zealand sustainable management specialist group, said that opposition from others of the 800 organisations in the IUCN to the extreme preservationist views of these two countries was so strong that when they tried to push their measures through, they were opposed as a matter of course. "They drive the rest crazy", he said.

I asked for examples: the three given were NZ opposition to (impoverished) African states wishing to conserve elephants, by obtaining funding through the sale of ivory; and limited harvesting of turtles by Kiribas. It had earlier been agreed that if scientific research showed that minke whale populations had recovered to an agreed healthy state, limited, monitored harvest could take place. New Zealand delegates then shifted the goal posts and NZ and Australia passed resolutions opposing any harvest.

Those are the international examples. The timely indigenous examples are of course, the blocking of the Resource Consent hearings on sustainable management of West Coast beech forest on the basis of non-science and political dogma; followed by the unjust and unjustified Forests (West Coast Accord) Bill, and even other behaviours such as the forced resignation of a company manager, arising from the Prime Minister being given a copy of his personal e-mail.

On a wider scale, this blinkered part of our national psyche may explain why the MMP electoral system is such a fizzer in New Zealand compared with how its counterparts perform in other countries.

It is somewhat ironic that the government signatory to the West Coast Accord, Mr Phil Goff, these days takes the moral high ground in respect to the Fijian coup, but his ethical standards aren't being applied to the contract he signed.

On a rugby note that may or may not be lighter, Cantabrians describe themselves as being one-eyed. Perhaps the nation as a whole should consider if this describes more of us, and ponder the implications on a range of issues (including such things as violence), requiring tolerance; and the ability to see other viewpoints and to have balance.


Brian Swale is a forestry professional who supports the practice of environmentally sound sustainable forestry.
He can be contacted at and 03-326-7447.

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