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Environment first, say Greens

23 June 2005

Environment first, say Greens

Other parties will always put economic 'growth' ahead of the environment, so only a vote for the Greens will ensure New Zealand's ecology will be protected by Government next term, says Jeanette Fitzsimons.

The Green Co-Leader today launched her Party's Environment Policy for the 2005 General Election at a contaminated stream in the Hutt Valley.

"Our Environment Policy is central to our entire election and legislative platform, the vision we have for New Zealand and who we are as a political movement," says Ms Fitzsimons.

"By comparison, Labour is a party of fair weather environmentalists who make the right decisions when it is easy, but when faced by tough decisions, opt every time for 'growth', regardless of the environmental cost.

"National simply keeps its head in the sand and avoids even the most stark evidence of the environmental crisis. Despite some good decisions in the nineties, their policies today would actively accelerate the destruction of our grandchildren's ecological heritage.

"The Greens will campaign strongly on the environment this year. In particular, we are committed to cleaning up New Zealand's rivers; the 95 percent of lowland rivers that are unfit for drinking and swimming put the lie to the '100% Pure' slogan. A major new initiative in today's policy is a contestable fund to pay for sustainability improvements on farms, including the prevention of agricultural run-off into waterways and lakes. Federated Farmers first proposed this idea, but we have devised the formula to pay for it - half from a levy on fertiliser, which would also decrease its wasteful over-use, and half from general taxation.

"After two years of planning for mandatory vehicle testing, Labour has recently thrown in the towel over vehicle pollution. Despite the fact that emissions are measured and controlled elsewhere in the world, the Government has lost its way on bringing in a regime here. Improving air quality is a major priority for the Greens. We will allow only cleaner vehicles into the country, ensure that newer vehicles with on-board computers have their setting checked regularly, test all vehicles in the most polluting classes, and random check the rest. This will save hundreds of lives a year.

"The Resource Management Act is a prime example of the differences between the parties. The Greens see the RMA as an essential mechanism for ensuring local and national development projects only proceed if they are sustainably managed. One reason the Act is not being properly applied at present is that successive governments have dragged their feet on developing the necessary mechanisms, such as national environmental standards, needed to make it function as intended.

"We have succeeded in stopping most of Labour's proposed mindless tinkering with the Act in the latest amendment and are totally opposed to National's plans to weaken it terminally. We will continue to stand up for the key principles in the Act - environmental protection and public participation in decisions. "Fundamental to a sustainable society is better public understanding of ecological systems and how our lifestyles affect them. Following on from our 2002/3 Budget funding for environmental education, we will build capacity in education colleges and schools, so they can teach this essential understanding."


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