Something Fishy About Nick Smith’s Game.

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NICK SMITH’S crude intimidation of the Fish and Game Council points to the bleakest of environmental futures should National be re-elected on 20 September. It is now considerably clearer than 60 percent of New Zealand’s lakes, rivers and streams that there are no serious points of environmental resistance in John Key’s Cabinet. For 20 years Smith has been attempting to convince voters that he is, indeed, one such point of resistance, one brave voice raised in opposition to the milk-before-water lobbyists of Fonterra and Federated Farmers. Now we know that it is not true.

Smith’s threats to “tweak” the legislation establishing the Fish and Game Council, is all of a piece with this Government’s proven impatience with all forms of institutional dissent. It will not, it seems, be happy until all of the official checks and balances to unbridled executive power have been neutralised.

Unless it is absolutely forced to (as in the case of Environment Canterbury) the Government’s strategy is not to make this suppression of dissenting voices explicit. Its preference is rather to intimidate these legislatively mandated watchdogs into silence. This can be done in two ways. Either by appointing new and more malleable individuals to quasi-governmental boards and councils, or, by stripping those bodies invulnerable to ministerial manipulation (like Fish and Game) of all their effective regulatory and/or advisory powers.

To casual observers it will appear as though nothing has changed, because all the institutions created to permit democratic participation in the management of irreplaceable public resources will still be in place. But they will be looking at a regulatory ghost town. Behind the fading signage, nobody will be home.

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A succession of National Party ministers have perfected this process by using the Department of Conservation as their guinea-pig. Since 2008 John Key’s government has systematically starved “DoC” of the resources needed to properly manage and protect the vast estate it administers on the public’s behalf. Constant restructuring has allowed the Minister’s hand-picked managers to purge Conservation of its experts and visionaries, wipe clean its institutional memory and leave in place only those willing to make the best of a situation which long ago made the transition from bad to worse.

Smith calls Key’s administration a “Blue-Green Government”. But the veteran conservationists, Guy Salmon and Gary Taylor, who established the original blue-green political party, the Progressive Greens, , would almost certainly disagree. Much has changed since the early 1990s when a much younger Nick Smith and his fellow “Brat Packers”, Bill English, Roger Sowry and Tony Ryle, first entered Parliament.

Back then it was still possible for a National Party Environment Minister, Simon Upton, to seriously pursue the idea of a Carbon Tax. Over the past twenty years, however, the ideological and political consolidation of Neoliberalism has transformed the natural environment into the single biggest obstacle to continuing capitalist growth.

Neoliberals quickly grasped the deadly threat the science of ecology posed to the re-emergence of laissez-faire capitalism. In Marxist terms, the planet’s finite capacity to absorb the deadly externalities of carbon-based industrial civilisation constituted “the final contradiction”. Capitalism must either be tamed, or it and the civilisation which created it will perish.

Rather than accept this last, irrefutable, existential challenge to Capitalism, however, its defenders opted for the politics of outright denial. Climate change “scepticism” is, however, only the tip of a rapidly melting iceberg when it comes to the political and cultural consequences of Neoliberalism’s refusal to face the facts of anthropogenic global warming.

Resisting “the final contradiction” requires neoliberalism to destroy the rationalist and scientific foundations of the industrial civilisation upon which it stands. This can only be accomplished by undermining the public’s faith in the scientific method and investing all opinions – no matter how absurd – with a spurious equivalence. Evidence-based decision-making, which former National politicians like Simon Upton accepted as the sine qua non of competent and rational governance, is being supplanted by ‘evidence’ commissioned and purchased on the open market from ‘experts’ who specialise in telling Capitalism and its political agents exactly what they want to hear. (Alister Barry’s documentary film, Hot Air, shows how the Carbon Lobby and Federated Farmers utilised this technique to delay and/or defeat every attempt by successive New Zealand governments to combat climate change.)

The politics of denial also requires the complete hollowing out of those state institutions deliberately constructed to collect evidence from those individuals and groups best placed to provide it. Institutions – like Fish and Game – whose democratic composition protects the processes of gathering evidence from those with a vested interest in suppressing information antithetical to their purposes.

When it comes to the Department of Conservation, Nick Smith and his colleagues know they have nothing to fear – as the censoring of the evidence Doc’s scientists had gathered about the ecological effects of the proposed Ruataniwha Dam made clear. But Fish and Game and uncooperative Regional Councils, these still have an evidential sword to draw in defence of Mother Nature.

Shut them down.

16 COMMENTS

  1. I use to feel sorry for Nick once. He always reminded me of someone a bit down on their luck. He has this constant bloke with a drinking problem look about him. Who after a hard night out on it, comes home feeling a bit hungry, goes to the fridge, opens the door only to smack his head as it swings out – and he has stayed like that ever since.
    Now I don’t feel sorry for him anymore, and I still think he looks permanently like a soak with a head injury.

    • The only way I can see that anyone could have come up with that description is via personal experience – no-one could have made that up. LOL

    • Seems he’s also a liar; I have just heard on Radio NZ Morning Report that seven people at the Fish and Game meeting have collaborated what Mr. Haines said occurred despite the minister’s denials.

  2. A very sound summation Chris of a very big problem. The neoliberal economic paradigm is to view the environment as a subset of the economy, whereas the reality is, that it is the other way round.

  3. A clear analysis and worrying for that. I think that the Nats’ use of “Blue-Green” is somewhat unfortunate and could be a small stick to beat them with: blue-green in sense of ‘blue-green algae’ or Cyanobacteria. Often a toxic scum in waterbodies and watercourses. Their policies seem “blue-green” too.

    Cheers,

    Sandhopper.

  4. Never trust that man, Nick (the Dick) Smith, I’d say.

    National want to “tweak” many laws, rest assured, it will not stop with the RMA, the Social Security Act, Privacy Act and what else there may be, that is why it is SO DAMNED IMPORTANT, to stop them from getting a third term in government.

    They have done more than enough damage during the 6 years they have had in government. People need to wake up, and realise, these political bully boys will cause irreparable damage for generations to come, if they get voted in again on 20 September.

    This country needs a government that cares for the future, and that prepares New Zealand for an economically, socially and environmentally sound and sustainable future.

    Kick “Nick the Dick” out with the rest, thanks!

    • Totally agree BUT unless the new government puts things right when they get the chance then the current clowns will just take up where they left off when they themselves get back in. I’d even go so far as to say that if the current clowns knew that their ‘reforms’ might be scuppered they wouldn’t be so brazen in the first place.

  5. The trouble is there are far too many people out there who allow themselves to be soothed into thinking that degradation of the environment is either not happening or does not matter all that much or just plain refuse to see what is happening before their eyes.
    They will continue to vote for the smiley, wavey (rapidly turning into sneery, bully) guy.

  6. This can only be accomplished by undermining the public’s faith in the scientific method and investing all opinions – no matter how absurd – with a spurious equivalence.

    The left’s obsession with cultural relativism and identity politics has contributed just as much to this end.

  7. Nothing should be left to Nick Smith to handle.
    He was kicked out of ACC, where he initiated policies to harm those NZers who were already harmed because of their ‘accidental’ injuries, or who were victims of violent and sexuall violent crimes.

    That’s the sort of character he has. He is just another of the psychopaths in John Keys family of psychopaths and sociopaths.

    He cannot be trusted with anything. He has ‘his’ agenda to service.

    Be gone Nick Smith. You are a psychopathic blight on humanity.
    I live in his electorate. National will not win this electorate, so who really cares what he has to say about anything – as long as he doesn’t touch anything between now and the election.

    Opinion and belief.

  8. This is absolutely spot on Chris. The other neoliberal tactic was to go for broke on the issue of mining in National Parks so that when they backed off from this they could appear ‘Blue-Green’ and then action their original agenda which was to get stuck into the rest of New Zealand’s protected areas.

  9. Look at the Conservation Boards who make decisions on how DOC land is managed
    the govt are stacking them full of corporate directors…
    what place to they have on those boards? their first priority is to return a profit to their companies….
    their agenda is to undermine DOC’s ability to resist commercial organisations from establishing themselves on DOC land….
    Kate wilkinson sacked a board member who published their finding against supporting the routeburn tunnel after she ignored their recommendation, the tunnel flew in the face of the fiordland and aspiring national park management plans…. Nick smith went ahead and gave serious consideration to the tunnel , not to mention the monorail…. those proposals should never have got anywhere near that final stage of consideration… National are a conservation farce

  10. A good indicator of a person is what their workmates think of them … I hear that he’s a STINKER of a person to work with .

  11. I can understand Nick’s frustration.

    He and many others have worked hard over the last few years to create a collaborative approach to water quality monitoring and improvement involving all the major players. For the first time ever we have a national water quality standard – a thing the Clark government tried to implement for 10 years and failed.

    Then along comes Fish & Game with some simplistic advertising slogans to snipe at and undermine all the hard work.

    Are these these people really worried that Nick is going to allow a reduction in water quality or do they just feel threatened that he’ll undermine their comfortable little sinecure?

  12. NAct are clearing the decks to allow the full implementation of the TPP and TISA which I guess we will be signed up to licketysplit. There won’t be ANY room for conservation or nature in a world controlled by these agreements. I bet it’s really pissed John Key et al off that the TPP has met so much resistance in the States. Notice NO ONE in the mainstream media is talking about these terrible agreements, or bothering to do some proper journalism and find out what they will do to the 99%.

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