Our wetlands are in a critical state. People have witnessed alarming anomalous decreases in residential bore water levels, and are now being forced to restrict their water use as never before. Meanwhile, industrial horticultural, agricultural and other operators are still granted permits to exploit our precious water for products exported for private profit, despite ordinary citizens loudly condemning decisions that fail to give effect to the precautionary principle in a time of obvious environmental decline (and now climate emergency). With ordinary folks warning of this dire water situation years ago, Councils had sufficient notice to forcefully act to protect citizens’ and environmental rights and interests.
Councils argue that within the constraints of law and regulations, they did everything they could have. I, for one, imagine a different scenario. For starters, Councils could have more urgently lobbied central Government to create a fit-for-purpose legal regime that ensured strict compliance with the precautionary principle and prioritising the human right to water in decision-making, while forcefully advocating rapid transformation to a regenerative Aotearoan economy (rather than an economy that’s violating environmental limits and accelerating social collapse).
After years of calling for councils to do this (and being ignored), many would be forgiven for concluding that councils don’t feel they have the mandate for such high level campaigning, they don’t have the imagination or courage to do it, or they simply can’t find the energy. Regardless, one can easily see why citizens’ trust in decision-making institutions continues to dwindle, while correspondingly their interest in citizens assemblies and other ‘alternative’ people-based models is on the rise. Conventional decision-making systems are abysmally failing civil society, impotent to deliver the one over-arching outcome we’ve created them for: to protect citizens’ basic rights to security, freedom and wellbeing.
Realising this catastrophic failure, the populous will wake up to the fact that government has lost its social license to operate. When this critical mass of collective consciousness happens, some level of rebellion (going by historical records) tends to ensue. As a final last resort ‘systems reboot’ for a regenerative nation in an Age of climate emergency, I accept its imminent arrival. But, like many others, I feel anxious about the pain and suffering which will undoubtedly happen during such a transition. I sincerely hope communities develop in time the extraordinary leadership and cultural fortitude it will take to wisely and compassionately navigate us through this difficult period ahead.
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