The Government is struggling to justify its water policy as its guesses around costs are increasingly at odds with expert estimates, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller and Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson say.
“While Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor stated in Parliament the cost to farmers of meeting the Government’s proposed new water policies would be just one to two per cent, LandCare has estimated the drop in farm revenue for a case study catchment would be more likely to fall between seven and 46 per cent,” Mr Muller says.
“An AgFirst report, commissioned by the Ministry for the Environment states shifting to a five metre fencing setback on a Waikato Bay of Plenty dairy farm will come at a cost of 40 per cent of earnings over a ten year period.
“Both Local Government New Zealand and LandCare report that over half of the Waikato-Waipa catchment and almost 100 per cent of the Clutha catchment would need to be converted to permanent forestry to achieve the policy’s bottom lines.”
“Environment Minister David Parker first seemed unaware of these estimates, dismissing them as nonsensical scaremongering. Today he claimed that they were wrong, despite the report being linked on the consultation website,” Mr Simpson says.
“Farmers are rightly feeling confused and worried. Mr Parker assured New Zealanders ‘Trust me, I know what I’m doing’, but he has released 2,000 pages of technical reports with various costs and impacts. The suggestion that the reports don’t all apply just adds to the confusion.
“The LandCare report clearly states that the substantial costs incurred by farmers may drive farmers to change their land use or shift their employment to non-agricultural work all together.
“Releasing 2,000 pages of material during calving and lambing is not fair on farmers. Ministers need to extend the consultation period to twelve weeks and provide clearer analysis of what the impacts of the proposals will be.”
The proposals in the Government’s Freshwater Discussion Document released today are short-sighted and will severely limit our most profitable sector, National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“While we encourage the constant improvement of our waterways, many of the changes proposed will have perverse effects on our primary sector and the wider economy.
“Despite David Parker making freshwater a key part of his election campaign, it’s taken two years to finally see some proposals.
“The Essential Freshwater proposals will limit the flexibility of New Zealand farmers to adjust to market conditions and change their land use. The effects of this would be far reaching and could restrict farmers from innovating, which is one of New Zealand’s key advantages.
“Water is a both a critical strategic asset and a source of recreation in New Zealand, and we all know it must be abundant, healthy, clean and cost effective.
“National established a comprehensive National Policy Statement whilst in Government and worked alongside our primary sector to clean our waterways, which have been steadily improving, as shown by the Government’s own data from Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA). This is a major achievement of our farmers but not a story David Parker wants to tell.
“The primary sector has already taken responsibility for water with dairy farmers fencing off over 98 per cent of waterways and spending over $1 billion in environmental investment over the last five years. National applauds these efforts while acknowledging there must be more done.
“This document will only add to farmers’ and growers’ uncertainty as there is still no clarity as to what might be coming down the pipeline for them. And further tinkering with the RMA will do nothing for public or business confidence.
“The Government is taking a complex issue that requires a measured, science-based approach and is instead proposing we hamstring our most profitable sector, which accounts for 60 per cent of our exports. We all want improved water quality but this drastic action will smash the economic engine of our country.”
The Minister for Climate Change needs to come clean on where the revenue generated from the Emissions Trading Scheme is going, National’s Climate Change spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“Funds collected by the Government from the emissions trading scheme have ballooned up to $420 million this year, compared to just half a million dollars the previous year.
“Prior to the election James Shaw was vocal about how this revenue should be used to implement tax cuts, stating that ‘every single Kiwi over 18 will also get a $250 dividend bonus at the end of the year based on the carbon tax revenue.’
“When questioned in Parliament today his tune changed considerably, stating that the money would be held as an asset on the Government books.
“This doesn’t wash. The Government is planning to introduce an emissions trading auction scheme, meaning they will continue to use the ETS to raise hundreds of millions each year. They need to explain where this money will go and how it will be spent.
“New Zealanders are paying about five cents on every litre of petrol to the ETS, but they’re not seeing any of it back, let alone where it’s going.
“As usual this Government is failing to deliver on its promises, and this money now looks like it will get sucked up into the Government’s excessive spending on things like fees free, Kiwibuild and Shane Jones’ slush fund.”
It has been revealed the Government ignored official advice from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) when setting the methane target for the Climate Change Amendment Act Bill, National’s Climate Change spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“Briefings obtained under the Official Information Act show that MPI advised that a reduction of 25 per cent would represent a realistic emissions reduction that can be achieved with technologies currently under development and avoiding significant land use change.
“Anything further would come at significant cost and moves into the realm of far more speculative technological advances.
“National has been strongly opposed to the onerous and poorly researched target of up to 47 per cent in the Climate Change Amendment Act Bill, as we believe it will have perverse effects on the primary sector, and that targets should be based on solid scientific reasoning.
“The Minister of Climate Change has said that the briefing provided ‘bad advice’, but in reality it is just another example of him only listening to advice that suits his narrative.
“Previously he has dismissed reports from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment on the methane target, and he refused to listen to the Climate Change Chief Executives Board, who advised him that the methane target should be given to an expert group such as the Climate Change Commission.
“National accepts the need to reduce emissions and support global efforts to do so, but we must also be aware of the potential costs and ensure decisions are backed by solid scientific reasoning.”
Government members of the Environment Select Committee have today voted down the opportunity for a one month extension to the Zero Carbon Bill process, which would have given New Zealanders more opportunity to be heard, National’s Climate Change spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“This piece of legislation is important and people deserve to have their say. It has already had over 12,000 submissions and 1,500 requests from the public to appear in front of the Committee. The current timeframe affects the ability to hear and consider these submissions.
“A one month extension would have meant there was still time to enact the Bill by the end of 2019, but would also have given the Select Committee the time to properly assess the many submissions.
“Now there is going to be a truncated regional Select Committee programme, with as few as two MPs present at times. An extension is needed to allow the Committee time to properly hear regional submissions.
“Regional submitters are concerned by many parts of the Bill. The methane target of a 24 – 47 per cent reduction goes beyond what many believe farmers can achieve, and forecasts of over a third of pasture being converted to pine for forestry offsets have caused alarm.
“The Government has claimed their priority is to inform the public of the ‘just transition’ to lowering emissions, but by not allowing the Bill to be properly considered they are doing the exact opposite.
“It appears that this Coalition Government is so concerned with being first, fast and famous on the matter of climate change they’re failing to consider the impacts the Bill could have on everyday New Zealanders.”
Today’s NZ Initiative report confirms so-called ‘Fair Pay Agreements’ will be compulsory, centralised unionism by stealth, National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“Fair Pay Agreements will force all workers in an industry to go into union negotiations if just 10 per cent of workers in the industry are in favour. Let’s be clear, that is compulsory unionism by stealth.
“This will be a return to 1970s style National Awards. They didn’t work then and they won’t work now. Changing the name won’t change the fact they are bad for the New Zealand economy.
“The Government and its working group have tried to justify the need for these compulsory, centralised Fair Pay Agreements on four claims: a falling share of income going to labour, rising income inequality, a race to the bottom for wages and low productivity.
“The report clearly shows these claims are either blatantly false or that Fair Pay Agreements will not fix them.
“The share of income going to labour has not declined since the 1991 labour reforms. Income inequality has not risen in three decades. And there has not been a ‘race to the bottom’ for wages, in fact, every single income decile has had real wage increases since the 1991 reforms.
“New Zealand’s low productivity pre-dates the 1991 labour market reforms and is a symptom of other problems, Fair Pay Agreements will not fix this. Even the OECD in its recent report on our economy confirmed this.
“Business confidence is already at 10 year lows. This Government’s bad policies and decisions have dragged business confidence back to the lows we saw in the depths of the Global Financial Crisis. The threat of this will do nothing to help confidence improve.
“Labour wants higher union membership because the unions are the largest funders of the Labour Party.
“The Government needs to dismiss this wacky idea. It is becoming increasingly clear these changes will cause a boom for unions but will damage New Zealand workers and businesses. New Zealand needs a flexible labour market that respects individual rights to negotiate contracts and doesn’t require compulsory unionism by stealth.”
The Labour-led Government needs to quickly rule out compulsory unionisation which is being proposed by its mates, National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“The idea being proposed by academics and a former Labour Party president that workers should automatically be signed up to the union and have to opt-out if they don’t want to be is just a sneaky way of making trade union membership compulsory.
“Professor Mark Harcourt and former Labour Party President and MP Margaret Wilson have been working on this since just after the Labour Government came into office. They say they have had meetings with senior Government Ministers about their plan.
“Business confidence is already at 10 year lows. This Government’s poor policy making decision has dragged business confidence back to the lows we saw in the depths of the Global Financial Crisis. The threat of this will do nothing to help confidence improve.
“Labour wants higher union membership because the unions are the largest funders of the Labour Party. This would be a return to compulsory unionism.
“If this Government is serious about improving business confidence, it will rule out this proposal.”
Retailers will still be allowed to sell heavier grade, more environmentally-harmful plastic shopping bags despite the Government’s plastic bag ban because of a loophole in the regulations, National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“It’s another example of the Government not delivering on its promises. They like making grand gestures but are hopeless when it comes to the detail.
“Documents from the Ministry for the Environment, supplied to me under the Official Information Act, show the Government was warned back in March that its ban doesn’t cover so-called ‘emergency style’ plastic bags made from 55 micron LDPE plastic.
“An example of these are the green and white bags that were being sold for 15c at Countdown supermarkets. They are actually more harmful to the environment than the single-use bags that have been outlawed.
“These bags are exempt because they can be reused 20 times, but officials told Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage back in March that they shouldn’t be. They said plastic bags should be able to be reused at least 55 times to pass the multi-use test.
“Officials warned Ms Sage that most people would not hold on to these bags for reuse, and many would end up in landfill. But rather than get tough with retailers she chose to just cross her fingers and hope they don’t start using these heavier plastic bags.
“Countdown won’t sell their emergency bags from July 1, but Foodstuffs are apparently working on a heavier grade version of their own. If more retailers follow their lead it will see even more plastic enter our landfills and marine environment.
“We need to reduce the amount of plastic in our lives, but Ms Sage clearly doesn’t have the mettle to make this happen.”
Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has opened up the possibility of collective bargaining to all contractors following changes made to the so-called ‘Hobbit Law’, National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“The Government is intent on giving more power to unions and this is just another example of that. Introducing collective bargaining to contractors will remove the flexibility for both workers and businesses and further lock up our labour markets.
“Labour promised to repeal the so called ‘Hobbit Law’ within its first 100 days, but realised it was a sensible and pragmatic solution. Now 18-months later it’s decided to make onerous changes to keep its union mates happy.
“The screen industry brought in $3.3 billion last year and creates 30,000 jobs. By caving into the unions, movie makers are more likely to head offshore, that means less money for our economy and fewer jobs in the film industry.
“New Zealand has a reputation for making great films. The industry has had huge benefits for the economy and has meant more jobs for people in the industry.
“The Government put $155 million in the Budget for film industry grants, so it’s giving with one hand but deterring film production with restrictive employment laws with the other.
“National believes the best framework to increase wages over time includes flexible labour markets, respect for the right of individual workers and businesses to agree to their own terms and allows workers to negotiate their own contracts based on productivity or experience.”
The Minister for the Environment needs to step in and provide tangible Government support for the West Coast landfill spill, says National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson.
“So far the Government haven’t done enough to address the issue, and ten weeks on we’re continuing to see tonnes of waste spewing into the Fox River and washing up on the coast in what has been described as the biggest environmental disaster since the Rena oil spill.
“Despite the magnitude of the situation Environment Minister David Parker has palmed the job off to Associate Minister Eugenie Sage, but she is failing to make any headway into what is becoming an increasingly big issue.
“The job has been left to a handful of dedicated volunteers who are trying their best to clean up but are lacking resources. The local Westland District Council have already spent more than a million dollars but can’t fund further work. They need serious and urgent Government assistance.
“If a disaster of this magnitude was taking place in a less remote part of the country there would have been a huge public outcry for action already. The Government is taking an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach that’s entirely unacceptable.
“My colleague based in West Coast/Tasman Maureen Pugh has started a petition calling on the Government to address the situation, and I encourage you to sign it by following the link on my Facebook page.
“This is a Government that often tells us how much they care. Now it’s time for them to walk their talk and do something meaningful to help the people of Westland, New Zealand and our environment.”