The Sustainability Council backed today’s call by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment for a review of the capacity within government to implement its proposed Sustainable Development Strategy.

“Government’s declared aim of making New Zealand ‘a world leader in sustainable development’ is an excellent benchmark” said Council chair Sir Peter Elworthy.

“Designing and implementing the programmes to bring about such a fundamental shift is going to require a great deal more analytical resource within government. The capacity is just not there at present” he said.

“To some extent capacity can be lifted by integrating functions that are currently scattered across the government sector” he said. “Such integration would also address the need for a lead agency with sufficient in-house expertise to act as a centre of excellence on sustainable development issues”

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment recommended in a report released today that government “identifies the capacity and capability issues associated with implementing sustainable development”. He was referring in particular to Government’s announcement in August 2001 that it was working on a sustainable development strategy for New Zealand.

“The Sustainability Council has been very encouraged by the Government’s commitment to a Sustainable Development Strategy” said Sir Peter. “Perhaps even more significant is the Cabinet’s agreement that the principles of sustainable development should underpin all government’s economic, social and environmental policies.”

“These commitments are in marked contrast to the poor progress made on sustainable development initiatives by previous governments since the 1992 Earth Summit, as documented by the Commissioner’s report” said Sir Peter.

Government plans to announce further details of its strategy at the World Summit on Sustainable Development to be held in September. “Now that the political will is there to implement sustainable development principles, it is a matter of assembling the necessary resources to ensure that the strategy can be put into effect” said Sir Peter.