National MP Scott Simpson has written to Parliament’s Environment Select Committee requesting it conduct an inquiry into the extent of plastic pollution in New Zealand’s oceans.
Mr Simpson says one of the primary purposes of an inquiry would be to identify the sources of plastic pollution in our oceans, and the steps needed to create solutions.
“This is a pressing issue affecting oceans around the globe and, with such an extensive EEZ surrounding New Zealand, it’s important we gain a thorough understanding of how the problem currently affects New Zealand’s waters, and how much worse it is projected to become.
“The recent Colmar Brunton Better Futures 2017 survey shows 63 per cent of New Zealanders are now concerned about build-up of plastic in the environment.
“Furthermore, British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April, oceans will be on the agenda.
“A Parliamentary inquiry will be useful to the Government, NGO’s, local government and citizens and will help ensure that New Zealand can be part of the global solution.
“We need to know how New Zealand’s oceans are affected by plastic, where the plastic is coming from, and what kind of plastic it is.
“I have today written to the Chair of the Environment Select Committee and look forward to her positive response,” Mr Simpson says.
The National Party will request Parliament’s Environment Select Committee formally examines plastic pollution in our oceans, reflecting increasing international scientific and public concern about the issue, National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“Plastic waste in our oceans is a rapidly emerging environmental issue that is killing marine life and contaminating human food sources. It is deeply concerning that by 2050 it is projected there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish and it is time something more was done.
“While our contribution will be small by international comparison we must do our bit to reduce it and a Parliamentary report into New Zealand’s contribution will help us do that.
“It will show how significantly New Zealand’s oceans are affected by plastic, where it is coming from, and what kind of plastic it is which will help us tackle it.
“It will also help us build on our reputation as world leaders in ocean conservation, on top of conservation measures like the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area and National’s proposed Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, our fisheries management system and our ban on microbeads.
“And while we have continued to build our recycling infrastructure and to improve our attitudes to waste and recycling, we must do even better – focusing on improving our recycling rates and reducing our demand for plastic in the first place.
“With Parliament’s Environment Committee lacking work to do because the Government is failing to put forward any legislation, this is a real chance to make a difference in an area of growing importance.”
National MPs Todd Muller, MP for Bay of Plenty and Scott Simpson, MP for Coromandel have today launched a campaign to ensure the Katikati to Tauranga four-lane Road of National Significance proceeds as planned by the previous National Government.
“The previous National-led Government had committed to a large number of important regional highway projects right around New Zealand, including the delivery of not only the Tauranga Northern Link (TNL) and the Katikati bypass, but also a full four-lane motorway from Tauranga to Katikati,” Mr Simpson says.
“These projects would greatly improve safety and travel times, better connect our regions and boost regional economic growth. However, the new Minister of Transport, Phil Twyford, has now indicated a number of these projects are under review.
“The by-pass of Katikati was warmly welcomed locally and this critical investment must go ahead with construction of the TNL beginning this year as planned. The road must also go all the way to Tauranga because that stretch of highway is currently one of the most dangerous in the country.”
“The Road of National Significance that includes the TNL would see a continuous four-lane State Highway with wide lanes, grade separated intersections and other safety measures stretching from Tauranga to Katikati,” Mr Muller says.
“I am particularly focused on ensuring our Omokoroa community is provided with a grade separated connection onto State Highway 2, and the work has to start immediately.
“This investment is critically important for Tauranga and the wider Bay of Plenty region and the Government has wrongly thrown the project into uncertainty.
“Our local National team will be pushing the Government to commit to the project and we encourage the public to show their support and ensure our region’s voice is heard loud and clear through signing this petition.”
The petition can be found here.
As local councils grapple with the litter left behind by holiday makers the National Party is calling for stiffer penalties for people caught illegally dumping rubbish.
“Yesterday it was revealed that $2.4 million was spent among 30 local councils on clearing illegally dumped rubbish in 2016. The total cost for all 78 councils would be even higher. This is money that could be better spent on things like roads and parks for the community,” National Party Environment Spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“These councils and communities are constantly dealing with the mess left behind by those who would rather litter our countryside than dispose of their rubbish legally, with the problem particularly bad at the end of the holiday season.
“New Zealanders are rightly proud of our environment and while the overwhelming majority do the right thing, it is spoiled by those who refuse to.
“The National Party wants to find the best solutions to make sure everyone disposes of their waste responsibly, including those who fail to do so are held to account.
“That’s why I have sponsored a Member’s Bill to increase the maximum fine for those caught littering from $400 to $1000.
“We think there should be a stronger deterrent to littering so we can help councils and communities keep our streets and environment cleaner.
“This builds on National’s previous efforts to curb littering which included the ‘Do the Right Thing’ anti-littering campaign and better monitoring of littering so we knew where more effort was needed.
“Fines are just one part of the solution but, combined with working with councils and changing people’s attitudes we believe we can reduce the amount of litter left behind and ensure our environment looks better, our wildlife is better protected and our clean green reputation is upheld.”
National Party Environment Spokesperson Scott Simpson has welcomed the Government’s confirmation it will continue with the previous Government’s ban on microbeads.
“Microbeads pose a high risk to our aquatic and marine environments. They are too small to retrieve or recycle, do not biodegrade and are mistaken by marine life for food, causing long-term damage.
“The previous Government announced in August that microbeads would be banned early next year and I am pleased to see the new Government stick to that pledge.
“This ban is part of a global initiative to reduce the amount of plastic ending up in oceans, following similar initiatives in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, the European Union and Australia.
“The previous National-led Government had a strong track record of taking practical steps to improve New Zealand’s natural environment and I look forward to seeing the new Government build on those efforts.”
Associate Environment Minister Scott Simpson has congratulated Countdown and New World supermarkets for taking an industry-led response to combat the usage of single-use plastic bags.
Countdown recently announced that single-use plastic carrier bags will be phased out from their stores and online shopping by the end of 2018, and New World has today announced that they will aim to phase out single use plastic bags by the end of 2018 as well through measures such as the introduction of a voluntary 10 cent levy on single-use plastic bags.
“The Government encourages voluntary approaches by businesses and communities that promote reducing, reusing, recycling and recovering resources. Both initiatives announced by Countdown and New World highlight that industry has the ability and determination to improve environmental outcomes in New Zealand,” Mr Simpson says.
Mr Simpson has met with representatives from local government, industry, business, and communities to identify options to reduce plastic bag consumption.
“I am pleased with the progress that has been made since I became Associate Environment Minister. Typically most cost effective and efficient solutions are industry lead. These announcements show the sector can move voluntarily without the need for heavy-handed regulation.
“By encouraging behaviour change and increasing infrastructure and services to support recycling, I believe we will continue to see plastic waste minimisation in New Zealand. I encourage all New Zealand businesses to follow the leadership of these supermarkets and take up the opportunities to reduce, reuse and recycle and promote environmentally friendly behaviours.”
A business initiative that safely disposes of hazardous unwanted refrigerants has had its accreditation as a ‘product stewardship scheme’ extended by the Government, Associate Environment Minister Scott Simpson announced today.
Mr Simpson met with representatives of the Trust for the Destruction of Synthetic Refrigerants to congratulate them on the success their initiative, Refrigerant Recovery, has achieved in safely disposing of hazardous unwanted refrigerants.
Refrigerant Recovery collects unwanted man-made refrigerants from New Zealand’s refrigeration and air conditioning industries. Refrigerants from around the country are shipped to Australia where they are safely destroyed at high temperatures through a process of plasma conversion. The process is highly efficient and produces virtually no emissions.
“Refrigerant Recovery helps to reduce the risk of hazardous compounds such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) entering the environment. If these chemicals get into the environment they damage the earth’s protective ozone layer and contribute to global warming. HFCs are potent greenhouse gases that may be tens of thousands of times more harmful than carbon dioxide,” Mr Simpson says.
“By safely and sustainably disposing of hazardous chemicals, Refrigerant Recovery is helping to mitigate climate change and restore the ozone layer.”
Refrigerant Recovery is also helping New Zealand to meet its international obligations under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Under the Climate Change Response Act 1996, New Zealand has been phasing out the import of CFCs and HCFCs into the country. HFCs will be next on the agenda, and the Ministry for the Environment recently closed a consultation round on how to phase down HFCs in a response to the recently agreed Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.
In 2010, the Government accredited Refrigerant Recovery for seven years as a product stewardship scheme under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008. Refrigerant Recovery’s reaccreditation for the next seven years means that the Minister has recognised the scheme’s important contribution to reducing the environmental harms associated with disposing of man-made refrigerants.
Product stewardship describes the process by which producers and suppliers take responsibility for their products throughout their entire lifecycle, such as by reusing and recycling products.
A nationwide programme to recycle agricultural plastics and dispose of agrichemicals has had its status as a ‘product stewardship scheme’ extended by the Government, Associate Environment Minister Scott Simpson announced today
Mr Simpson met with representatives of Agrecovery to formally reaccredit them for another seven years as a product stewardship scheme under the Waste Minimisation Act.
Agrecovery collects unwanted chemical drums and containers from agricultural brand owners throughout New Zealand. The scheme is widely supported by farmers, growers, local government and agrichemical and dairy hygiene companies.
Drums are collected by contractors and reprocessed into new plastic products, such as covers for underground cables. This provides an alternative to sending drums and containers to landfill, or burning or burying them on farm.
“By providing an alternative to disposing of waste on farm, Agrecovery is preventing harmful environmental impacts associated with farm burning and burial, such as the leaching of chemicals into waterways and the escape of hazardous dioxins into the atmosphere,” Mr Simpson says.
“Agrecovery also collects and appropriately disposes of unwanted agrichemicals, some of which could cause significant harm to ecosystems were they to enter the food chain. In this way, the scheme also helps New Zealand meet its international environmental obligations on reducing and, where feasible, ultimately eliminating the release of dioxins.”
In 2010, Agrecovery was accredited by Minister for the Environment Dr Nick Smith as a product stewardship scheme under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008. This means that Agrecovery has been recognised for its work in promoting waste minimisation and reducing environmental harms from disposing of waste.
Product stewardship describes the process by which producers and suppliers of products take responsibility for their products throughout their entire lifecycle, such as by reusing and recycling products.
“Agrecovery has been achieving very pleasing results in recycling plastic and disposing of harmful agrichemicals. The scheme has recovered large volumes of unwanted products and it has built up strong partnerships within the agricultural industry. We can anticipate good results from Agrecovery going forwards.”
The next round of government’s Community Environment Fund is now open for applications, Associate Environment Minister Scott Simpson says.
"The Community Environment Fund helps community groups all over the country initiate practical programmes that will improve New Zealand's environment. If you’ve got a great idea for an environmental project and need funding support, you should be preparing your application now,” Mr Simpson says.
The Community Environment Fund empowers New Zealanders to take environmental action by funding projects that:
• strengthen environmental partnerships
• raise environmental awareness
• encourage participation in environmental initiatives in the community.
“Since it was set up in 2010, the Community Environment Fund has awarded over $12 million in funding support to more than 85 projects across New Zealand.
"The Community Environment Fund sits alongside the more specialist Waste Minimisation Fund of $13 million a year, the Environmental Legal Assistance Fund of $600,000 a year, the Contaminated Site Remediation Fund of $2.63 million a year and the Freshwater Improvement Fund.”
Applications close on 14 September. More information about the Community Environment Fund and the application form and guidance can be accessed at: www.mfe.govt.nz/more/funding/community-environment-fund/funding-and-application-process.
New Zealand has signed up to the International Open Data Charter, in a move to help drive innovation, support public accountability, and encourage engagement with government, Statistics Minister Scott Simpson has announced.
“The Government holds a vast amount of valuable data on behalf of New Zealanders. Open government data is non-personal, unclassified and non-confidential, and is freely available to anyone to use and share. Personal, confidential, and classified data remain protected,” Mr Simpson says.
“New Zealand has joined 17 countries, including Australia and the United Kingdom, in confirming its commitment to the practice of openness in government. As well as meeting increased user demand for open data to drive innovation, this will ensure we are accountable, transparent, and resilient in our use of data.”
The International Open Data Charter is a non-binding agreement with six principles and supporting actions, mandating that data should be:Always open unless there is a good reason not to be (‘open by default’) Timely and comprehensive Accessible and useable Comparable and use standardised formats For improved governance and citizen engagement For inclusive development and innovation.
“Supporting the Government priority for data, a key objective of signing up to the Charter is to ensure Government-held data is used to help achieve better outcomes for New Zealanders, through data-driven innovation, informed decision-making and evidence-based policy.”
Stats NZ, through its Government Statistician and Chief Executive, is responsible for the implementation of the Open Data Charter principles.