The Government’s $1.1 billion idea of redeploying people into environmental jobs is great in concept but difficult to turn into reality, National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“It’s a struggle to get Kiwis to take well-paying jobs in the horticulture or farming sector, so convincing people to become rat-catchers and possum-trackers in the numbers the Government is hoping for will be an enormous challenge.
“It’s all very well allocating the funding, but there’s no detail on how the job numbers will be achieved and this Government has a poor track record of delivering on their big policies.
“The $1.1 billion for 11,000 jobs means they’ve allocated $100,000 per job. There is no detail about how much of this is going to workers on the ground doing the environmental work and how much of this is going to added bureaucracy in Wellington offices.
“This is similar to Budget 2018 where $100 million was allocated to setting up the Green Investment Fund to create new green investment and jobs. But two years later not a cent has been invested and the only jobs created are for the highly–paid executives administering the fund.
“This announcement has all the hallmarks of being the Government’s environmental equivalent of Kiwibuild, a great slogan with no idea on how they’ll achieve it.”
For the first time in many years there will be no emergency rescue helicopter stationed in Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula this summer, Coromandel’s MP Scott Simpson says.
“This is a huge slap in the face for locals and the hundreds of thousands of visitors here over the summer peak.
“We’ve been completely let down by the Labour Government who promised there would be no reduction to rescue helicopter services for the Coromandel Peninsula, but here we are this summer without a much needed machine and crew based in Whitianga.
“Local people are feeling angry and vulnerable at what is their busiest time of year.
“Health Minister David Clark gave assurances last year services would not be reduced, but now the Coromandel Rescue Helicopter Trust’s community funded and purpose built hanger in Whitianga is empty.
“Lives are at risk. Instead of having a fully trained flight crew with paramedics and a rescue helicopter here over the summer peak, we’re being told machines from as far away as Tauranga, Hamilton or Auckland may be deployed if there is a need.
“That’s very cold comfort to car accident victims, heart attack patients or others on the Coromandel Peninsula who may need urgent and quick access to a rescue helicopter.
“The people of Coromandel have always given generously in fundraising efforts to support a locally based service over the summer. To have it ripped away by a heartless, uncaring Government is insulting and potentially life threatening.
“David Clark needs to take a break from his holiday and issue an instruction to have a helicopter re-located back to Whitianga this week.”
Businesses will be disappointed that the Government has cynically dumped such a substantial Emissions Trading Scheme Discussion Document in the lead up to Christmas, National’s Climate Change spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“This is a wide-ranging document with some potentially costly proposals that businesses deserve to be adequately consulted on.
“Releasing it days before Christmas and with a submission period over the summer is a cynical move and suggests the Government does not want to hear feedback.
“National takes a bipartisan approach to Climate Change and supported the establishment of an Independent Climate Change Commission (ICCC).
“It appears the Minister is trying to get out ahead of the ICCC and influence the setting of carbon budgets. Decisions like this are what the ICCC is for and it should be allowed to make its own deliberation.
"Changes of this sort are a quick and rude awakening to businesses making decisions about capital investments in energy. They will add substantial costs and these will be passed on to the consumer.
“This is poor process but sadly unsurprising from a Government who has not given New Zealanders anything but uncertainty and broken promises for Christmas.”
Eugenie Sage’s proposed six-fold increase in the levy rate for landfills will not only cost households more but lead to more illegal dumping, National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
The plan was a key policy in the Government’s Waste Discussion Document released today.
“The proposal will have perverse outcomes on both the environment and New Zealanders’ back pockets,” Mr Simpson says.
“Fly tipping is already a huge problem in New Zealand, and knee jerk price hikes like this will only make it worse.
“Sadly people will realise it’s cheaper and easier to dump their rubbish over a bank or into the bush rather than paying the exorbitant fee to use their local tip.
“People in some parts of the country are already paying close to $200 per tonne at their landfill. This will only drive the price even higher.
“Meanwhile expanding the number of landfills to which the levy applies is a belated follow-through on plans National had already announced in Government.
“Eugenie Sage should be investigating practical ways of addressing our waste problem like waste to energy systems used in other countries. Instead she seems happy to indulge her ideological preferences and hit the tax button.”
While it’s positive to see the farming sector partnering with Government, it’s concerning that Labour has given itself a legal backstop to bring agriculture into the ETS as early as 2022, National’s Climate Change spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“National has a clear criteria that would need to be met before we’re comfortable with agriculture entering the ETS or a similar pricing mechanism. There needs to be science-based mitigation options available for farmers that don’t lead to herd culling and decreased food production.
“National supports farmers farming their way to better environmental outcomes and knows that on-farm improvements are more effective than taxes.
“We’re already the most efficient food producers in the world and if we force food production offshore then we will only be raising emissions globally.
“New Zealand would have the only farmers in the world to be a part of an ETS. It’s important we are not put at a disadvantage to our international competitors or we risk losing our valuable market share to a less sustainable producer.”
National has concerns with the Zero Carbon Bill as reported back and we have outlined the changes we’d like to see, National’s Climate Change spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
National seeks the following changes to the Zero Carbon Bill:
- That the target for biological methane reduction be recommended by the independent Climate Change Commission.
- That the Bill make clear the stated aim of the Paris Agreement is for greenhouse gas reduction to occur in a manner that does not threaten food production. Currently the Bill cherry-picks from the Agreement.
- Strengthen provisions that consider the level of action being taken by other countries and allow targets to be adjusted to ensure we remain in step with the international community.
- That the Bill ensure the Commission consider economic impacts when providing advice on targets and emissions reductions.
- That the Bill ensure the Commission consider the appropriate use of forestry offsets, and have regard for the carbon sink represented by tree crops, riparian planting, and other farm biomass.
- That emissions budgets be split between biogenic methane and carbon dioxide as recommended by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.
- That the Bill include a greater commitment to investment in innovation and research and development to find new solutions for reducing emissions.
“These changes would improve the Bill and ensure it is in line with National’s climate change principles of taking a pragmatic technological and science-based approach.
“National believes the Bill will negatively impact the New Zealand economy and increase costs to Kiwi families and businesses while slowing GDP growth. We think those negative impacts should be made clear to New Zealanders.
“The changes we are seeking would ensure incentives drive the right long-term change and that the wider impact on economy, jobs and incomes are fully factored in. We need to protect everyday New Zealanders as our emissions reduce.”
The Prime Minister’s Green Investment Fund appears to be doing the complete opposite of investing, with not one cent allocated after 17 months meaning it will lose money, National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“Despite their being no tangible investment from the fund, taxpayers’ money is still being spent with absolutely no return.
“The fund has operating costs of $5 million a year, but is only expected to return $3 million annually. It’s bizarre that a fund expected to lose $2 million a year is considered a good ‘investment’ of taxpayers’ money by this Government.
“James Shaw said the fund would be ‘a commercially focused investment company which will work to invest with business to reduce emissions while making a profit’. But all it has been so far is a drain on taxpayers with nothing to show for it.
“Despite failing to invest a single dollar in 17 months, the Green Investment Fund is holding a glamourous cocktail function next month at the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts, paid for by the taxpayer.
“The Green Investment Fund is yet another case of this Government failing to deliver on its promises, and is so far a complete waste of taxpayers’ money.”
Today’s announcement that investigative work has begun on developing a container deposit scheme is underwhelming and has taken too long, National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“Rather than implementing a tangible scheme that is actually going to address our rubbish problem, The Government has instead set up yet another working group, this time with local councils being contracted to do the work for them.
“National proposed a Container Deposit Scheme in our Environment Discussion Document earlier this year, and when the Minister was asked if she supported it then she said it was not one of her priorities.
“While it’s good the Minister has realised we were correct, it’s disappointing she is only just starting work on it now.
“National supports the implementation of a container deposit scheme to address our mounting landfill issue, but we would actually do the work to execute it in a timely manner, rather than contracting development work on it out to another working group, and in this case two councils.”
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.”