EDS’s Political Debate on Wednesday evening generated some heat but also shed some light on party policies for the environment and conservation. Hosted by law firm Bell Gully in Auckland and livestreamed to a large audience, Hon David Parker (Labour), Hon James Shaw (Greens), Hon Scott Simpson (National), Hon John Tamihere (Te Pāti Māori) and Simon Court MP (ACT) were questioned by EDS CEO Gary Taylor.
“The discussion ranged widely across climate change, freshwater, resource management reform, oceans and conservation,” said Gary Taylor.
“Most disapproval was generated by the ACT spokesperson who denied there was a climate emergency and said that ACT would repeal the Zero Carbon Act and do away with the Climate Change Commission. He also said that ACT supported mining on conservation land and in the ocean. ACT’s resource management policy would essentially rely on the law of nuisance instead of plans to determine land uses and provide little safeguards against biodiversity loss. The ACT spokesperson’s views on Māori matters were not supported by the other parties.
“In contrast, the differences between the other parties seemed more nuanced. However, the National Party spokesperson maintained some concerning positions. National wants to repeal the new resource management laws “before Christmas”. That approach is a triumph of retail politics over commonsense and we ask National to think through a more intelligent response in which it amends the new laws to its satisfaction rather than starting over.
“In response to questions about whether National will continue to support freshwater implementation, its spokesperson said that policy hasn’t been announced yet. He agreed that its agricultural policies did not envisage reversing the direction of travel on freshwater but suggested that some changes were coming.
“Te Pāti Māori President emphasised the need for Māori to be engaged in policy design and the urgent need to sort out rights and interests in freshwater. He was also clear that Te Pāti Māori is strong on environmental limits and targets and reinforced the need to consider ways of supporting native afforestation on Māori land.
“The Labour spokesperson brought both the freshwater and resource management reforms to fruition and did not want them to go backwards. On climate change, he said we need to be careful not to rely too much on offsets because we need to reduce our gross emissions. Labour is supportive of indigenous afforestation and biodiversity incentives which Labour’s spokesperson said could achieve positive outcomes across biodiversity, water quality and carbon.
“The Greens spokesperson was most progressive on climate policy, including bringing other verifiable means of sequestration into the Emissions Trading Scheme. He also outlined the Greens’ new oceans policy which seeks an Oceans Commission and eventually an Oceans Ministry.
“Overall, the debate was a useful insight into party differences with the key concern for the environment being the potential influence of ACT thinking in a National-led government.
“EDS is grateful to the representatives for their attendance and contributions. We do not take party political positions but leave it for voters to watch the evening’s proceedings online and make up their own minds. We do however urge everyone to think beyond the economic issues in play and consider the important environmental issues as well,” Mr Taylor concluded.
The full replay of the debate can be viewed here and can be freely used with attribution.