16 August 2011

Parliamentary update August 2011

Dr Jan Wright, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment 

Tēnā koe

The first quarter century 

This coming Thursday (18th) there is a function at Parliament to mark 25 years since the Environment Act made its way through the House, and established the role of the Parliamentary Commissioner of the Environment. 

In the course of preparing for this celebration I looked back over the history of the office and the parliamentary debate surrounding the legislation creating it. I was particularly struck by the strength of the political consensus it drew. Phrases used in debate as it progressed illustrate how that legislation still operates today: ‘watchdog’, ‘environmental auditor’, ‘independence’, ‘Parliament’s person’, and ‘without fear or favour’. All Members of Parliament are invited to join me, my staff and other guests from 5pm on 18th August in Parliament’s Grand Hall. I hope you can make it and I look forward to seeing you there.


As you may know, I released my report on 1080 in June. The report was nearly a year in the making and concludes that stopping the use of 1080 would result in tragedy for many of our native species.

 During the course of my investigation my staff and I met with many people from both sides of the 1080 debate. I was determined to get to grips with the science around 1080, the way it is used, and the issues this use has created.  I decided that the best approach was to ask the question “what would a (almost) perfect pest control method be like?” against which 1080 and other pest control methods could be tested.

 As I have frequently remarked, I was surprised at how well 1080 could control the possums, rats and stoats that are doing such damage to our great forests. There may be an alternative to 1080 at some time in the future, but until then we must continue to use, and indeed increase the use of, 1080. Our birds and bush do not have time on their side.

The full report is available here

Smart Meters and the smart grid

Last week I told the Commerce Committee that an ongoing failure to be smarter with how we manage electricity will have significant costs for the environment, consumers and the economy. I had been invited back to the Committee to give an update on developments since the June 2009 report on smart electricity meters. 

My main concern is that although smart meters don't need to be identical in every respect, some standardisation is urgently required. But with current developments we will have households in some parts of the country with really smart meters and households elsewhere left with dumb meters. 

We standardised electricity voltage, frequency and the three pin plug for obvious reasons and we need to see standardisation of smart meters. 

With electric cars coming on to the market and more generation of renewable energy, our entire electricity grid needs to be a lot smarter. Smart meters are one important component of a smart grid.

My full submission to select committee is available here.

Lignite - mining brown coal 

In my last email update I anticipated briefing the Local Government and Environment Committee on my lignite report. That is now due on Thursday 18th August. In the meantime I have spoken on the matter several times including at the Victoria University Coal Symposium  video of this speech is available here.