Environment Minister David Parker needs to learn from James Shaw’s recent charm offensive to farmers and stop beating up on them, National’s Environment Spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“David Parker’s extraordinary announcement that the Coalition Government plans to cap cattle herds in a bid to stem nutrient run-off has done nothing but further cement his reputation has a hard-line idealist who shoots from the hip and enjoys nothing more than beating up on farmers,” Mr Simpson says.
“This approach - which he began with farmers in Ashburton during the election campaign - does nothing to encourage environmental achievement or speed up freshwater quality improvements. All it does is fan the flames of a rural-urban divide.
“James Shaw, on the other hand, has acknowledging the enormous progress already made by our farmers in their environmental stewardship.
“Dairy farmers have spent $1 billion in five years on the likes of fencing and planting around waterways, culverts, bridges and other infrastructure to contain nutrient run-off.
“Could it be that Mr Shaw is becoming a practical environmentalist focused on striking the right balance between strong economic growth and responsible management of our precious environment?
“Where Mr Parker has failed so badly is in not recognising the improvements occurring because of strict regulations set by National, and administered by Regional Councils.
“The recent Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) report shows for all river water quality parameters measured over a ten year period, more waterways are improving than deteriorating.
“This is tangible proof of the progress being made and the hard work of farmers, councils and communities.
“When we came to office there were no National Policy Statements or National Environmental Standards on water quality. We invested a record $400 million in improving water quality and our regulatory framework under the Resource Management Act was on track to meet New Zealander’s aspirations for clean freshwater within a generation.
“It will be a retrograde step for water quality reform if the Government attempts to overregulate an industry that is already working towards improving water quality.
“My message to David Parker is to change his tune, and quickly. Perhaps James Shaw might be able to offer some pointers,” Mr Simpson says.
National’s Environment Spokesperson Scott Simpson’s Members Bill to toughen up the penalties for people caught illegally dumping rubbish has passed its first reading in Parliament today.
“Nothing annoys me more than seeing our beautiful natural environment ruined by the careless and thoughtless actions of lazy litter bugs”, Mr Simpson says.
“It’s far too common to see people brazenly throwing litter from moving cars to say nothing of others who dump their rubbish.
“That’s why I sponsored a Member’s Bill to ensure we have more tools to help prevent littering and keep our communities safe and clean. This Bill will increase the maximum instant fines councils can impose for those caught littering from measly $400 to a serious $1000. This will send a clear message to those who litter that it is entirely unacceptable.
“Local councils and communities are constantly dealing with the mess left behind by those who would rather litter our countryside than dispose of their rubbish correctly. 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.”
In Auckland alone, litter clean-up costs almost $5 million a year. This is money that could be better spent on things like roads and parks for the community.
“This Members Bill builds on National’s previous efforts to curb littering which included the ‘Do the Right Thing’ anti-littering campaign and funding of over $80 million to more than 130 projects through the Waste Minimisation Fund.
“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.”
The Litter Increased Infringement Fee Amendment Bill has been referred to the Environment select committee for consideration and opened to submissions from the public.
The Ardern-Peters Government’s employment law changes will cause significant problems for New Zealand’s tourism industry, National’s Tourism Spokesperson Todd McClay and Workplace Relations Spokesperson Scott Simpson say.
“The tourism sector has rightly put its hand up and said these reforms will make it harder to sustain and grow the sector,” Mr McClay says.
“In particular they have singled out the rest and meal breaks provisions as completely inflexible and unworkable.
“This is a sector made up of a huge variety of businesses that are busy at different times of the day and different days of the week. Requiring everyone to down tools at the same time is impractical for a service sector dealing with international visitors.
“It’s also telling that the tourism industry identifies that the 90 day trial changes will work in exactly the opposite direction than the Government intends,” Mr Simpson says.
“This sector, which employs over eight per cent of New Zealanders, is known for taking on young and new workers and giving them their first jobs. Surely that’s what the Government wants.
“When tourism operators say the law change will make it riskier and less likely for the operators to take a chance on people on the fringe of the workforce, they should be listened to.
“The test will be whether the Government chooses to listen, or whether they have decided they’ll ram these changes through regardless of whether they are good for our country and our workers.”
“The tourism sector is the largest export industry in New Zealand and it’s made up of a huge number of mostly small businesses,” Mr McClay says.
“If they haven’t earned the right to have their concerns acted on by central Government, then who has?”
Not one, but two, chief executives will reappear at a Select Committee this week to correct the record following inconsistencies exposed by National MPs, National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“In the same week as Radio New Zealand’s CEO and chair are being recalled to correct the record regarding the Carol Hirschfeld-Clare Curran saga, the chief executive of the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) will reappear to answer a number of questions around contradictory evidence given to the Environment Select Committee in February,” Mr Simpson says.
“At his last select committee appearance on 15 February, chief executive Dr Allan Freeth assured us there had been no discussion, questions or issues with the Associate Environment Minister, Eugenie Sage, over the Chief Scientist or over the EPA’s role, independence or expression of views.
“He said this despite Eugenie Sage later stating publicly that she had actually met with the EPA on the issue, and the paper record shows she sent emails to the EPA that were critical of the Chief Scientist.
“We also know that this issue was discussed at the first meeting between Eugenie Sage and the Dr Freeth in late November. The Chief Scientist resigned in February.
“If the EPA is to be an effective environmental watchdog, then it needs to be completely free of any ministerial interference.
“It is critical for the Government to be held responsible for its repeated attempts to cover up examples of Ministerial interference.
“It is without question that in New Zealand environmental regulatory decisions should be made on the basis of science and not politics.
“We intend to hold the Government to account for inappropriate ministerial interference in public agencies like the EPA and RNZ. New Zealand’s public sector needs scientists and journalists that are independent of the Government of the day,” Mr Simpson says.
Proposals to hike fines for littering could be a step closer following the drawing of MP Scott Simpson’s Private Member’s Bill today.
Mr Simpson says an increasing frustration at the level of litter and fly-tipping has motivated him to take action.
“The current laws allow Councils to issue infringement offences for littering, but people don’t seem to be getting the message.
“Councils need more tools to help prevent littering and keep our communities safe and clean. This Bill will see the maximum infringement Councils can impose increase from $400 to $1,000. This will send a clear message to those who litter that it is entirely unacceptable.
“By increasing the maximum fine there will be a greater deterrent for littering while avoiding using the Courts which is expensive and time consuming.
“I acknowledge that catching people in the act is an issue, but I’m hoping that in promoting this Bill and raising greater awareness, we will remind people to keep an eye out for those who may be illegally dumping waste.
“We are a clean and green country and need to be tougher on litter to ensure we remain so,” Mr Simpson says.
Mr Simpson is keen to engage with the community on other measures that will lead to a decrease in litter.
Signing up to the United Nations (UN) Clean Seas campaign means little for New Zealand without accurate data, National’s Environment Spokesperson Scott Simpson says.
“We know there’s too much plastic litter in our huge marine environment but we really have no idea how much there is or where it comes from.
“New Zealand has stewardship of the fourth largest marine space on the globe but it's unlikely the bulk of plastic in there actually comes from New Zealand.
“I’ve asked Parliament’s Environment Select Committee to conduct an Inquiry into marine litter in our Exclusive Economic Zone and I hope the Government will support it.
“Ministry for the Environment officials have said there is a lack of data regarding the extent to which New Zealand contributes to global plastic pollution via land and marine sources.
“Signing a feel good UN campaign is meaningless virtue signalling without accurate data about the problem. We all want to have less plastic waste in our ocean but if we are serious about reducing it we need to have a much better idea about what type of plastic it is, where it comes from, and in what quantity,” Mr Simpson says.
Census day has dawned with a Minister missing in action as the raft of unresolved issues pile up, National’s former Minister of Statistics Scott Simpson says.
“James Shaw is new to Government and he needs to get his priorities right,” Mr Simpson says.
“The Census is the most important public interaction that Statistics NZ carry out.
“It’s unbelievable that in light of the multitude of problems being reported by those grappling with the country’s first online census, he has chosen to be swanning around the Pacific on a junket while his officials at Statistics NZ are left to carry the can.
“There are real concerns around New Zealanders not receiving their code letters, some are struggling with online access and many are reporting a lack of response to queries and calls for help.
“It’s obvious that officials are really struggling to land a credible result for the 2018 Census and, so far, the most interest their Minister has shown was to berate them for not asking more questions about gender and the LGBTQI community.
“It is deeply ironic that the Minister, the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister are all overseas this evening, and won’t be counted in this important snapshot of our society,” Mr Simpson says.
National’s disabilities spokesperson Nicky Wagner says reports that Kiwis with disabilities are especially struggling to complete this year’s Census online are extremely disappointing.
“Not only does it exclude them from the opportunity to take part, but it’s likely the results will be skewed because so many people from this sector of society won’t be represented.
“It would be good to see the Minister step up and take a lead on this issue – even at the 11th hour – instead of focussing on his other interests,” Mrs Wagner says.
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.