"New Zealanders are exposed to hazards from many sources – human-made and
natural – in food, water, soil and air.
Although risk assessment and management procedures try to account for hazards
in a systematic way, they often overlook risks arising from incremental and
seemingly insignificant environmental changes. But over time, or when
aggregated, incremental changes can lead to significant impacts on human health
Incremental changes in our environments can evade regulation if their effects
are slow-burning, uncertain, or there is a time lag between cause and effect.
The proposed replacement of the Resource Management Act 1991 improves on past
practice by enabling councils to take an adaptive approach for situations where
there is likely to be a “significant change” in the environment.
However, given the requirement for significant change, it is hard to see how
these provisions could be used proactively to manage incremental changes.
In risk assessment practice, it is typically assumed that risk is static,
inputs are constant and the conditions remain the same during the period for
which predictions are made. Climate change projections, for example, are rarely
included in the risk assessment of current climate-related hazards. But by now
we all know that future climates will not reflect current conditions.
When the consequences of incremental changes could be severe, we cannot afford
to ignore them, even if we are uncertain of their impact. We urgently need a
new paradigm for anticipatory, agile and adaptive risk management to include
cumulative effects from incremental changes and multiple activities."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics