Environmentalist Professor Bruce Clarkson throws hat in ring for regional council

Waikato environmentalist Professor Bruce Clarkson is taking a crack at a regional council seat, saying he’s concerned the current council’s conniptions mean it’s not really focused on the job.

The 73-year-old – raised on a Taranaki dairy farm – has been living in Waikato for the last 30 years after an earlier stint in the region.

During an interview on his standing for the Hamilton constituency, he shows off the 0.4 hectare gully at the bottom of the garden, where tūī, pūkeko and ruru roam, taking pride in the efforts he’s put in to restore it.

Gully restoration and development of the Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park near the zoo are two things Clarkson is well known for.

The Waikato University academic believes he has highly relevant skills and knowledge to bring to the council table, including in the areas of biodiversity and biosecurity, transport and economic development, which he sees as connected.

He is concerned the council is not operating to its full potential because of “a lack of a collegial approach to things”.

Noting some of the clashes between councillors over the latest term he feels “they’re not achieving the full potential for the region because they’re not really focused on the real job”.

On the argy-bargy, he said: “I don’t think the standard’s high enough … it’s diminishing their ability to do the things they should be doing.”

Key issues, including biodiversity decline, had slipped off the radar and he felt he could help the council with a clearer focus on sorting problems out.

Clarkson said he put so much effort into restoration work “basically because our environment is in such a parlous state”.

Hamilton and its surrounding basin had one of the worst records nationally for protecting and restoring natural ecosystems.

“There’s only 1.6% left in the Hamilton basin of what used to be here” in terms of native forests and wetlands.

Getting elected would provide a platform to do more to mitigate the problems, said Clarkson, who’s been involved in getting Hamilton city to commit tens of millions of dollars to restoration work.

On whether people might be scared he’s not business-friendly enough, Clarkson points to a track record of work in various fields and notes “the economy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the environment”.

“All of the primary production in the Waikato is dependent on a high quality environment … you look after the environment, you’re also looking after the economy.”

Credit: Stephen Ward, Stuff.co.nz