Evidence given to the Environment Select Committee from the Department of Conservation (DOC) today just goes to show the deeply divided factions occurring within the Coalition Government, National’s Fisheries spokesperson Gerry Brownlee says.
“Speaking at DOC’s annual review, the Director General Lou Sanson was asked what input his department has had on the new Government’s decision to firstly postpone and then, this week, cancel the introduction of cameras on fishing boats.
“Mr Sanson and DOC have always been spirited advocates of on-board cameras as one of the best practical measures needed to protect our declining marine bird species.
“He told the committee that DOC ‘absolutely’ maintains its position that cameras on fishing boats are essential if we are to reverse the decline in the sort of seabird species we see in our waters.
“It’s therefore quite extraordinary that his Minister, Eugenie Sage, has so quickly and thoroughly distanced herself from Stuart Nash’s decision to cancel the roll-out that the National Government initiated.
“It doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to work out that Mr Nash is being leaned on by Coalition partner, New Zealand First.
“I’m surprised that as a junior Coalition partner, the Greens have allowed themselves to be side-lined in this way,” Mr Brownlee says.
The Government’s last minute announcement of a change in the Mānuka honey definition puts one of New Zealand’s iconic export industries at risk, National’s Food Safety spokesperson David Bennett says.
“The repeated changes and subsequent confusion around the definition and test for Mānuka honey are extremely unsettling, and indicate that the Minister has no idea what he is dealing with,” Mr Bennett says.
“This uncertainty has flow-on effects for not only the industry but also exporters and consumers. With only a week until export requirements come into force, the industry is still in the dark.
“Overseas markets are looking to New Zealand to provide a credible and robust definition for Mānuka honey and all that we have so far are a series of failed attempts and back-tracks.
“Yesterday in the House I asked the Food Safety Minister which of the two standards released by MPI outline the accurate test for Mānuka honey, and he said that they both did.
“The definition put out this week only requires one microgram of the 2MAP marker per kilogram, whereas the first definition that was released in December required that the honey had five micrograms of the marker.
“The Minister also indicated that he had carried out “lots” of consultation with the industry around the December test. However the industry tells me that this is not the case. The dropping of legal action after the Minister reverted back to his pre-December test further proves that.
“I’m calling on the Minister to give the industry some reassurance and confirm a test and standard for Mānuka honey once and for all,” Mr Bennett says.
Suggestions that the Prime Minister’s ill-advised interference in Australia’s handling of illegal asylum seekers has led to a spike in such activity is further proof she should take more care with her remarks, National’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Gerry Brownlee says.
“The Prime Minister has repeatedly criticised the Australian Government for the way it handles people trying to reach Australia illegally, and advocated for those asylum seekers to be resettled in New Zealand.
“While this is a long-standing offer, the Prime Minister’s grandstanding not only affected our relationship with our closest ally, but has also reportedly led to more attempts by asylum seekers to reach Australia, and also to target New Zealand.
“This is a dangerous journey which has cost lives, and one the Australian Government, supported by New Zealand has worked hard to discourage – and been effective in doing.
“It is also a very difficult issue for Australia to manage, which is why the Australian Government has so clearly, and fairly, resented Ms Ardern’s comments.
“Her insistence that Australia allow New Zealand to handpick 150 asylum seekers who meet UN refugee status, while Australia handles the rest, on top of the message this sends to human traffickers and those desperate to attempt to reach Australia, shows a disregard to the complexity of the problem.
“New Zealand should be supporting efforts to help curb such dangerous attempts, not helping to promote them and the Prime Minister needs to be more aware of that.”
The Government’s foreign home buyer ‘ban’ is fast unravelling, with Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters confirming that Singaporeans may be exempted, along with Australians – begging the question which country is next?
“The Government has repeatedly claimed foreign buyers of New Zealand houses can be banned without breaching any of our international agreements. Then on Wednesday, following objections raised by the Singaporean Government, it admitted it would breach the NZ-Singapore Closer Economic Partnership.
“And yesterday Mr Peters confirmed the Government is in fact working on an exemption for Singapore.
“The question now has to be asked, which country will need to be exempt next? And if we refuse an exemption, what impact will that have on our important international relationships?
“For example, we are currently upgrading our FTA with China. Will our largest goods trading partner accept being told that our Government will treat Australians and Singaporeans differently in New Zealand than Chinese?
“This is a confused Government desperate to ram through desperate concessions agreed in its coalition talks. It continues to treat our international relationships with contempt. It needs to start thinking beyond tomorrow’s headlines before it does real damage.”
National Party Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Gerry Brownlee has urged the Prime Minister to concentrate on getting her own government in order, rather than continuing to interfere in the domestic politics of our neighbours.
“The Australian Government is again having to defend its approach to dealing with illegal asylum seekers after Jacinda Ardern used a meeting with the Australian Opposition Leader to force the issue back onto the Australian political agenda.
“New Zealand has a long-standing offer to take 150 refugees but it is up to the Australian Government to take that up. The Australian Government is aware the offer is there, and is clearly frustrated by Ms Ardern’s repeated attempts to embarrass it into accepting it.
“While we should always be able to speak frankly and raise concerns, Ms Ardern should be giving more consideration to the difficulty of dealing with issues like asylum seekers, and asking herself whether her approach is in the best interests of New Zealand and New Zealanders.
“What might further frustrate the Australian Government is being lectured to by a Prime Minister whose own Government continues to lurch from shambles to shambles.
“We are entering another week of Parliament with little of Labour’s own legislation up for debate and the Government preparing to rush through laws under Urgency to take away $1060 a year from someone on the average wage.
“The Government continues to break its promises and to find itself unable to explain to New Zealanders its policies and direction.
“With business and farmer confidence dropping significantly, the Prime Minister should focus more of her attention on getting her own Government’s affairs in order before telling other leaders how to run theirs.”
Recreational fishers will be relieved to hear that Stuart Nash appears to have completely rejected the recommendations of a report that would have brought onerous compliance costs on them, National’s Fisheries spokesperson Gerry Brownlee says.
The public policy think tank, the New Zealand Initiative, yesterday released the findings of a five year study into the state of New Zealand's recreational fishing sector.
Among its recommendations are imposing a licensing regime on recreational fishers, introducing a registration system for boats and requiring recreational catch reporting.
“The Minister has gone from a reserved positon on the report last night, to being unequivocal today and rejecting most of its recommendations.
“In answering my questions in the House today, the Minister provided welcome confirmation that recreational fishers will not be required to get a license to catch a fish in the marine environment, they will not have to register their boat, and will not have to report their catch.
“Now that he has clarified the long held positon (as outlined in the report) that recreational fishers “will have priority status where the abundance is insufficient to support both commercial and non-commercial fishing” the question arises; will he move to compensate commercial fishers for reduced total allowable take in over-fished areas? And, who will pay for the compensation now that he’s rejected all the recommended revenue streams recommended in the report?
“These questions will give the Coalition something to think about. As usual, there are a number of conflicting positions between the Greens, Labour and New Zealand First.
“For example, the Minister recently announced he would put a stop on the roll out of digital monitoring on commercial fishing vessels. He’s obviously under pressure from New Zealand First and their supporters yet one of the recommendations we see here in this report is to improve data collection on these fleets.
“Forgive the pun, but Stuart Nash is literally floundering. Just last night he had no answers for recreational fishers, now he’s got to find some for the commercial sector.”
After five years of work led by the previous National Government with the United States, the world’s largest Marine Protected Area in the Ross Sea region of the Antarctic has today come into force, National Party Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Gerry Brownlee says.
“The Ross Sea is one of the world’s most pristine natural environments and the Marine Protected Area will help to safeguard this,” Mr Brownlee says.
“The previous National Government played a leading role in intense negotiations to get the unanimous agreement of 24 countries and the European Union to establish the Marine Protected Area.
“This significant achievement represents a major contribution to global marine protection. We fought hard for it because National is committed to protecting our environment for future generations.
“It’s a shame the new Government won’t continue the work we’ve done to establish New Zealand as a world leader in environmental and marine protection and create the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary.”
National Party Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Gerry Brownlee condemns North Korea continuing its Nuclear Weapons and Ballistic Missile Programme, despite UN sanctions.
“The South Korean news agency Yonhap has confirmed a missile has been launched by North Korea and landed in Japan’s territorial sea.
“This latest launch reinforces North Korea’s belligerent attitude to the many affected countries’ concerns over escalating tension.
“North Korea’s action is unacceptable, and I call on the Government to continue the condemnation of these activities.”
National Party Foreign Affairs spokesperson Gerry Brownlee says reports that an Iranian diplomat delivered what was effectively a hate speech at an Auckland mosque in June raises questions as to why Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters hasn’t already required the withdrawal of the diplomat’s credentials and his removal from the country.
“Diplomats have a privileged position in most societies, allowing them to best represent the relationship between the country they’re from and the country they’re posted to,” Mr Brownlee says.
“Inciting racial tension by making anti-Semitic statements is the antithesis of that important role, regardless of the context or setting in which the comments were made.
“Racial Disharmony offences under the Human Rights Act are quite clear, and a complaint has already been made to the Human Rights Commission over these offensive comments.
“As Foreign Minister Mr Peters should act without hesitation by requiring the offending diplomat to leave the country.”
Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee has today announced a further $700,000 of support to Vanuatu for communities impacted by the evacuation from Ambae.
“More than 10,000 people are in temporary accommodation following a precautionary evacuation from Ambae Island due to the volcanic activity,” Mr Brownlee says.
“We are continuing to work with the Government of Vanuatu and other partners to support the response.
“New Zealand will provide up to $600,000 for New Zealand non-government organisations to work with partners in Vanuatu to provide on-the-ground assistance for communities impacted by the evacuation of Ambae Island.
“We will also make an additional $100,000 available to support the Government of Vanuatu’s response effort.
“This will bring our total contribution to $1,370,000 and builds on the technical assistance and supplies we have already provided,” Mr Brownlee says.