New Zealand Good on the Spin, Fails on the Delivery: Human Rights and the Environment


hobbit land

One of the images New Zealand likes to portray abroad

In today’s press there are two examples of how New Zealand is good at promoting its image, but it fails when required to actually deliver on the details. In other words the country’s mythology doesn’t live up to the daily realities.

Here’s the problem. Too much mythology is used to promote New Zealand as a desirable place to live and do business with. For example, migrants often complain about “bait-and-switch” tactics being used to attract them. Here’s two examples of that culture, some may call it “Orwellian,” in practice.

Some people are able to see through the veil though. The British press famously in 2013 slammed New Zealand for it’s 100% pure bullshit: New Zealand’s green claims are pure manure: Country’s food scares and poor environmental record at odds with ‘100% Pure’ slogan.

First up today, we take a look at NZ’s human rights record. Using the recently released report Fault Lines: Human Rights in New Zealand, authored by human rights lawyer Sylvia Bell, and Professor Margaret Wilson with funding from the New Zealand Law Foundation.

Fault lines in our human rights reputation

Margaret Wilson

Law Professor Margaret Wilson, co-author of a new study showing New Zealand’s reputation as a leader of global human rights is at risk.

“For a nation that prides itself on its human rights record, New Zealand is coming up short. A report released today says serious fault lines are developing and that the country’s reputation as a global human rights leader is at risk.

University of Waikato law professor Margaret Wilson, human rights lawyer Sylvia Bell and research leader Professor Judy McGregor from AUT (a Waikato alumna) carried out a three-year study of the six major human rights treaties that New Zealand has signed since the 1970s and found that we’re better at talking about human rights than walking the talk and implementing our promises made internationally.

Professor Wilson says they carried out the research because it was important to know whether ratification of the treaties made a difference to the fulfilment of human rights in everyday life, and in many cases it’s not.

Where we’re falling behind
The report, titled Fault Lines, shows we’re slipping behind in areas such as child poverty, gender equality, systemic disadvantage of Māori, and the rights of disabled people to challenge the State.

Professor McGregor says we keep telling the United Nations we were the first to grant women the vote, but we still don’t have equal pay for women or pay equity for carers. “Nor do we have adequate paid parental leave, and we continue to suffer completely unacceptable levels of violence against women. We say how good we are, but the reality is we’re in trouble.”

The report suggests New Zealand needs to take urgent remedial action to retain its point of difference as a human rights leader. It is also critical of the level of MPs’ understanding of human rights treaty obligations.

The researchers talked to people involved in the treaty reporting processes and those who report to the United Nationals treaty committees. They analysed judicial use of the treaties and from that have developed a framework to encourage future evaluation of treaty recommendations.

Ongoing impacts
Professor Wilson says they want the research to have long-lasting effect.  “We want it to be used by other stakeholders to measure new and future treaty implementation and success. Having a framework will also assist with timely reporting, and the databases we create could be used to ensure continuous co-operation between the state and NGOs.”

The six international human rights treaties New Zealand has ratified are:

* The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

* The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

* The Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

* The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

* The Convention on the Rights of the Child

* The Convention on the Rights of All Persons with Disabilities.

The New Zealand Law Foundation funded the research project.

Read Fault lines: Human rights in New Zealand online.”


Second, and this one is a doozy,  New Zealand’s government has decided to exclude emissions from ‘environment reporting.’  What is the carbon footprint of that leg of NZ lamb you’ll be eating this Easter?

In 2012 New Zealand was emitting 76.0 millions tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, the majority of it from agriculture, and removed only 15 millions tonnes of it.



In 1990, New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions were 60,641.4 gigagrams carbon dioxide equivalent (Gg CO2-e). In 2012, total greenhouse gas emissions had increased by 15,406.5 Gg CO2-e (25.4 per cent) to 76,048.0 Gg CO2-e. The four emission sources that contributed the most to this increase in total emissions were dairy enteric fermentation, road transport, agricultural soils, and consumption of hydrofluorcarbons.

In 2012, net removals under Article 3.3 of the Kyoto Protocol were 14,968.6 Gg CO2-e from land subject to afforestation, reforestation and deforestation. ” Source

The single largest environmental challenge of this era is limiting climate change caused by CO2 emissions, how strange is it then that New Zealand has decided to omit emission data from its environmental reporting.

Ministers exclude NZ’s greenhouse emissions from ‘environment reporting’

Russel Norman MP on Monday, March 30, 2015 – 15:26

The National Party Government has today revealed that the national environmental report topics for this year will, incredibly, exclude New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions, the Green Party said today.

“The topics, vetted by the Minister for the Environment and the Minister for Statistics, are supposed to give New Zealanders a clear picture of the state of our environment, but by omitting greenhouse gas emissions, it conveniently glosses over the problem of New Zealand’s contribution to climate change,” Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman said.

“New Zealand’s Environmental Reporting Series: 2015 Topics and Provisional Statistics, which was released this morning by MfE and Statistics New Zealand, is intended to investigate the impact of human activities on the environment, so it’s a glaring oversight not taking into account greenhouse gas emissions.

A report on environmental indicators that omits to mention New Zealand’s greenhouse emissions is ridiculous.

“Ministers are presumably hoping that by not reporting the 20 per cent surge in net greenhouse emissions under this Government, New Zealanders might not notice that we are on a crash course with climate change.

“At present, the Environmental Reporting Bill, which is due to be reported back from select committee, says ministers can choose the topics for the environmental indicators reports. This is Orwellian manipulation of what should be independent reporting, and is why the Greens don’t support the bill.

“The manipulation of topics in this way shows how the Government can shy away from topics that are controversial or politically inconvenient. This is a fundamentally flawed way for a government to operate, and doesn’t represent the interests of New Zealanders,” said Dr Norman.

You may also be interested in our Wiki PageHype, Spin and Restriction on Freedom of Information. The page is about spin, the deliberate withholding of information and other misleading  hype and propaganda about New Zealand.

This can range from myths perpetuated by  ‘100% pure’ slogans to ‘least corrupt country in the world’ statements, to significant restriction on the type and nature of information that is released to the public… read on

Also, read articles tagged Mike Joy for some background about NZ’s appalling environmental performance.