Think Globally, ACT Locally
Think Globally, ACT Locally
Sunday, 13 August 2006
Speeches - Environment & Conservation
Speech to Upper South Regional Conference, Elms Hotel, Christchurch.
It's good to be back in Christchurch. It's like coming home for me.
I grew up in Rangiora, North Canterbury. I studied ecology at Canterbury University. I lectured environmental science down the road, at Lincoln.
ACT has since become the only completely new party elected under MMP.
We have fought the battle of ideas, and had those ideas ignored, vilified and finally adopted by our political opponents.
But our challenge is not just to 'complete the circle' started two decades ago.
We must lay the blueprint for a new, modern New Zealand.
A New Zealand worth leaving to future generations.
That means thinking - and acting - for the long term.
It means promoting enduring ideas.
I am proud to lead a party that believes in tolerance, diversity and personal freedom.
A party that believes in prosperity.
And that believes in making New Zealand a better place to raise our families.
We stand for a prosperous economy and a strong society.
We recognise that our quality of life matters, too.
New Zealand should be a beautiful country that everyone can enjoy.
But one party has politicised and come to dominate the environmental argument.
A handful of groups now control environmental protection, running the agenda and keeping others at arm's length.
That's a mistake.
ACT believes that every party needs to tackle environmental issues.
Every Kiwi needs to be aware.
New Zealand's biggest environmental crime has been locking ourselves into big government programs, while overlooking the steps that individuals can take.
Our experience with Muldoonism has shown us that big actions, by big government, lead to big disasters.
The environment of our country is too important for us to hand over responsibility to politicians and trust them to "sort something out".
State monopolies didn't work for business. They aren't working for health. They won't work for the environment.
We need to let all our citizens get involved.
Encourage individuals, not government, to be 'hands-on' environmentalists.
There's no bigger example of government interference than the Kyoto Protocol.
New Zealand's Kyoto compliance means little or nothing to the environment.
Our carbon emissions are less than a drop in the bucket. Global warming is more about politics and research dollars than sound science.
But Kyoto will cost Kiwis a billion dollars a year.
While they're thinking big, government has overlooked the small steps that people can take themselves.
Steps like having a fuel-efficient car.
In government, power is measured by the size of your Ministerial limo.
But people love seeing my little Smart car around Epsom.
They know their MP is thinking globally, and acting locally.
But when it comes to conservation, we let people do very little.
Thousands of Kiwis who care about our country want to make a difference.
Enjoying 'the great outdoors' is our Kiwi pastime.
Yet our contribution to protecting it is limited to protesting and going to court.
ACT wants to encourage practical environmentalism.
We should accept that non-governmental organisations have a role in looking after our precious wildlife.
We could put our national parks into trusts for ordinary, caring New Zealanders to join and run.
We could reward Iwi and businesses that take greater care of their communities.
There is a place for the Department of Conservation, but it should work in partnership with local people who love the land.
Thanks to red tape, private conservation is endangered.
But it is not extinct.
We should learn from the Kiwi Recovery Programme. The Karori Wildlife Sanctuary. Christchurch's own Roger Beattie.
Roger Beattie is passionate about Canterbury's eastern buff weka.
He set up the mainland's first large predator-proof reserve in 1994.
Now he's trying to encourage other people to set up their own small predator-free enclosures to bring weka back to Christchurch.
Red tape makes it hard, but DOC makes it harder.
It took Roger two years to get his last permit to transport and hold weka.
And while DOC say they want to re-establish weka in Christchurch, they kill up to 400 a year on the Chatham Islands.
The know-how and technology to re-introduce weka to Canterbury is available. Those who want to bring in and breed weka need to be encouraged. They certainly don't need to be hampered and held up every step of the way by the same bureaucrats charged with caring for our rare and endangered species.
I get the feeling that DOC is scared of the competition. Given DOC's performance, they have every reason to be.
We should be supporting people like Roger Beattie in their private conservation efforts - not hindering them. Big State monopolies don't care for the planet - but people do.
Getting people involved in private conservation gives them an active role in looking after our country.
Where the State gets involved, it should focus on taking care of its core duties.
Like making sure that justice is done.
The Ministry of Fisheries works hard to stop illegal fishing in New Zealand waters. But, like the police, they do not have the resources they need.
We have a Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, supposedly to advocate for the environment in the political process.
Instead of reporting to Parliament as a whole, he often seems to be uncomfortably close to the Green Party.
We cannot allow such an important debate to be captured by any one party.
Or any one bureaucracy.
Especially when we have no shortage of advocates.
With our present Parliamentary Commissioner, Morgan Williams, retiring we should disband the office.
We have no need for it. It serves no useful purpose. We would be better off putting the funds into private conservation.
Government should focus on doing things well, instead of constantly searching for new areas where they can interfere.
Areas like access to water.
Here in Canterbury we have a problem with water.
Many people think the problem is that there isn't enough.
But that's the same with any commodity, in the absence of a system for pricing and ownership.
Why conserve water, when wasting it costs you nothing?
And Labour thinks they can legislate and regulate the problem away.
Labour's "freshwater strategy" is to have a 'leadership group' of bureaucrats to 'identify', 'establish criteria' and 'develop strategies' over the next two years.
There is not a single definable action.
But their intention is clear. Central government will take control.
We know that nationalisation of natural resources leads to disaster.
Eastern Europe was an environmental wreck when communism fell apart.
The environment of North Korea is unable to support their citizens.
Zimbabwe's authoritarian government has turned a country once known as "Africa's food basket" into a basket case.
With the environment - as with business - central planning fails.
Labour should introduce choice and markets to Canterbury's water system.
Privately held, secure, tradable water rights would mean Kiwis controlling their own access to water.
People would have the incentives of a property owner to use, protect and conserve their asset.
It would be in your interest to conserve water - because it would be your water.
And if you had surplus, you could sell it to someone else.
The stunning thing is - this system isn't new.
It was used in Otago's gold fields.
It is used overseas.
It should be used here in Canterbury, and across New Zealand.
We are in ACT because we know that behaviour is better shaped by choice than by force.
Families and individuals make better choices than politicians and bureaucrats.
New Zealanders know we are confronted by serious environmental and conservation issues.
We want to preserve our country's beauty, and our quality of life.
But we cannot do that just with the blunt stick of law-making and regulation.
We need to let people make their own choices about how lightly they tread on the earth.
And we need to trust them.
That's the big difference between ACT and other political parties.
We trust the people.
New Zealanders love to travel, and we love our homecomings.
It is time to think globally, and ACT locally.