19 August 2011

Government is about allocating resources. Politics is the art of allocating those resources in a way which ensures support from the community. Political parties gain popularity when their allocation priorities reflect the priorities of the community.

An interesting commitment made yesterday by the Government, in what seems likely to promote its environmental credentials in time for the election,  is to follow the practice of other OECD states and legislate for the publication of an environment report.

A Ministerial statement is that “We need to strengthen the integrity of New Zealand’s clean, green brand ….we are the only OECD country not required by law to produce independent state of the environment reports…”

Of course there are other areas where a lack of interest by successive New Zealand governments marks the country out from others in the OECD.

An irony is that the reason for a ‘state of the environment’ report is to strengthen the integrity of the clean, green New Zealand brand.   But the OECD obliges its member states to have processes in place to ensure transparency in lobbying so that there is increased integrity in government and openness about the influences and interests that are served by the allocation of public resources.

To date, New Zealand is almost unique among the OECD,  and countries aspiring to become part of the OECD, in totally disregarding the OECD Principles for Transparency and Integrity in Lobbying. The proposal to legislate measures for environmental integrity rather than integrity in government may well reflect the preference of New Zealanders – of a priority for being clean and green, rather than having open government.

The OECD has instructed that a report on progress in implementing the Principles be completed by February 2013. Perhaps a focus on lobbying and how influence is exerted over decision makers will be inevitable before too long.