Science deniers lurking on NZ internet - environmental watchdog

The country's top environmental watchdog has issued a warning of the danger of science denial in New Zealand.

The Environmental Protection Authority in its 2016/17 annual report said scepticism about experts and opposition to bureaucracy are key pressures faced by environmental regulators.

"New Zealand has its share of science deniers whose opinions are reinforced and nurtured in the unmoderated milieu of the internet," the report says.

The report references the Trump administration. The US president is a climate change sceptic, and while he has not followed through with his campaign pledge to dismantle the Environmental Protection Authority, he has issued executive orders that limit its functions.

The report says New Zealand is not immune to the global phenomenon of scepticism of science and the role of experts.

"We have our share of science deniers, who oppose fluoride, 1080, vaccinations, glyphosate, genetic modification and much more," the report notes.

Former Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says the EPA's concern is a valid one.

Dr Nick Smith, former environment minister
Dr Nick Smith, former environment minister Photo credit: Simon Wong/Newshub.

"There's an undercurrent in New Zealand when it comes to issues of 1080, genetic modification and, on the opposite environmental end around climate change, of wanting to rubbish the mainstream science," Dr Smith says.

"I think it's just so crucial for New Zealand that prides itself on its clean, green brand that we make those decisions off the basis of the very best science."

Dr David Parker, Environment Minister.
Dr David Parker, Environment Minister. Photo credit: Getty.

Environment Minister David Parker says science is too easily derided by "people who present crank views".

One factor that contributes to the spread of science denial is Google and Facebook taking traditional media outlets' advertising revenue, he says.

"The money for journalism is not as deep as it was. That's one issue," he says.