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Opinion: We love us some science (as long as it supports our vested interests)

The darndest thing keeps happening in New Zealand. I don’t know if you've noticed.

1 NEWS Columnist Dita DeBoni Source: 1 NEWS

Every so often, a group of highly regarded researchers comes out with some pretty solid, compelling research suggesting that there are big problems with the way the natural environment of New Zealand is being managed.

I don’t know if ‘managed’ is the right word exactly.

Perhaps what I’m trying to say here is that frequently, research shows that handing over the control of our natural resources to large industries – industries that quite often have ministers on speed-dial – leads to a higher chance that natural resource will be exploited for profit, and that situation courts environmental disaster.

When said disaster eventuates, one of the most common reactions amongst both Government and lobbyists protecting said industries is to trash the science behind such findings.

Look, call me a conspiracy theorist if you want. Perhaps that’s true.

The study also exposes deliberate fish dumping and a culture of misreporting. Source: 1 NEWS

It’s just that this week, when I read about the fact that half the fish caught in our waters go unrecorded - either not declared or dumped out to sea – and that reports done within the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) had stated the same thing (and never seen the light of day), I thought to myself, “oooh, here comes a good science trashing by seafood industry lobbyists and the Government!”

I was not disappointed.

The Government’s Nathan Guy questioned the science, as you’d expect, calling himself “sceptical” of the claims and stating New Zealand had the best marine management system in the world.

Just to clarify, he’s sceptical of claims made by a collaboration of 400 international and local researchers over 15 years using stock assessment reports, peer-reviewed literature, unpublished reports, and information obtained under the Official Information Act, as well as 308 confidential interviews with industry experts and personnel with first-hand knowledge of fishing and reporting practices - combined with official catch data.

All of it painting a picture that was “hopelessly biased” according to Tim Pankhurst, the man paid to represent the multi-million dollar seafood industry.

The same industry that has been dead against proper laws to regulate the use of slave labour on foreign-owned fishing boats in our waters, and the same industry agitating against any kind of ocean sanctuary around the Kermadec Islands.

An industry with many big business names that have forged close relationships with lawmakers, allowing them to have an active role in shaping their own business environment.

It’s a pattern we’ve seen before so it should not come as too much of a surprise.

We were told that scientists warning of our polluted waterways were full of baloney, essentially, as well as being politically motivated. That the country’s top scientists working as the Royal Society of New Zealand to produce reports on climate change, warning of serious problems if we do not move to a low carbon economy, provided merely a “useful resource” upon which to move at some imaginary future date.

A prediction: the findings of these scientists, and many others, will be taken seriously at a future date when industry finally wakes up and realises it's overfished our oceans to depletion.

Please note that it may be before, or after, our waterways become almost completely polluted, our rivers run dry, our ozone layer is completely etched away, our skin cancer statistics go off the charts, and we need to buy back our own clean drinking water at a substantial mark-up from China or America.

Hopefully science will then save us from certain doom.