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Gary Taylor - "The Canary In The Mine"

The Environmental Defense Society's long time President - Gary Taylor has for long been the 'canary in the mine' for New Zealand's environmental dangers - generally long before they have become obvious to the rest of us.

I will not bother to detail here his myriad accomplishments, and victories on the environmental frontline - just to point out that once he was regarded by the establishment as a 'radical' - whereas now he is recognised (and often feared!) by Government and and the courts as the voice of reason, and moderation.

His address to the Tourism Export Council in Te Anau last week contained some stark warnings for those who are most involved in promoting the industry, and who have generally been content in the past to sit back and leave it to the NGO's like the EDS and Fish & Game to shoulder the 'heavy lifting' when it comes to defending our resources against unbridled exploitation that often constitutes a threat to the interests of tourism.

"Addressing 250 delegates at this year’s sold out Tourism Export Council conference in Te Anau, Taylor said that the sector which relies on New Zealand’s natural assets should be much more actively involved in their protection.

He pointed to examples of the conversion of the Mackenzie Basin to intensive dairy farming and the expansion of aquaculture in the Marlborough Sounds as two examples where the EDS had been active in fighting environmental damage which is also damaging to the tourism proposition.

He said: “There is a clear business risk for the sector that need addressing and these examples show why advocacy through formal and proper channels is so important.

He added: “There is a big job of advocacy that needs to be done to protect the international offering on what your business depend, and it is effectively being done by the voluntary sector.”

“We have been working hard to protect the value proposition that you present and we need you to engage and bulk up environmental planning. There will no longer be a free ride for tourism.”

His basic message was the free ride for the tourism industry is over, that the 250 delegates would be wise to devote resources to the advocacy role, and 'get aboard' in terms of understanding just which side of their bread is buttered. Sitting on the sidelines is no longer an option.

One can see the issues to which he was drawing attention starkly represented in our own District where industry representatives have barely distanced themselves from the devleopment at all costs option, and never mind the consequences.

The forestry, dairying and aquaculture industries are not isolated from these remarks, and it is high time our tourism sector recognised this and got aboard with those who are seeking to moderate the effects of the headlong development that was promoted by the previous Leach administration.

Gary Taylor may have been a thorn in National's side, but we would be a great deal worse off if it were not for him, the EDS, Forest & Bird, and Fish & Game. The vast resources of the tourism industry can no longer remain isolated from actions that are designed to protect their interests as much as any other.

Witness Ruataniwha!




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