Young Nats Speech: Environmental Conservatism
Speech notes to Canterbury/Westland Regional Conference
5 May 2002
Youth Vice President
NZ Young Nationals Chair
Thank you for the opportunity to address you here today as your Youth Vice President.
Firstly I would like to acknowledge the Young Nationals team here today, particularly my Deputy Chair Jamie Simpson and Regional Chair Ben Shearer. I would also like to recognise my predecessor, the very capable incoming MP for Waimakariri Daniel Gordon. It is a great honour to step up to the plate as Daniel pursues higher honours.
I would also like to acknowledge the strong Parliamentary Team that we have here in Canterbury and their ongoing support of Young Nationals. Particularly I would like to acknowledge the three MPs who are moving on in one way or another. Pansy Wong who is taking the good fight and some Canterbury grit to Auckland and particular our retiring MP Doug Kidd and Jenny Shipley. All have been great supporters of Young Nationals and myself personally.
I have a brief anecdote that I believe epitomises Doug's contribution. There had not been a Young Nationals meeting in Canterbury for a couple of months and as Deputy Chair I landed the job. Deciding that Doug was always good for a few stories I e-mailed his office to see if there was a gap in his dairy before sending a formal invite. About 45 minutes later I not only received a reply, but his flight references and a request for him to be picked up! His talk incidentally was one of the most interesting that I have ever heard, as he had just returned from Timor - photos and all.
Jenny Shipley has been a central part of the political landscape for almost as long as I can remember, she has been a fantastic leader of the National Party and the country and a superb local MP. I can testify to this, having lived in the electorate for the greater part of my life.
Over the last several weeks I have been addressing some important issues pertaining to youth with the caveat that youth are not a homogeneous block of society - something that this government has yet to learn. In their youth strategy the Government define youth as between 12-24 years old. I don't know about you but when I was 12 I was more worried about buying a Lego set than a house or car and still believed in 'girl germs'. It is a joke to imagine that the concerns, needs and wants of a young adult are the same as those of an intermediate level child.
There are of course some issues that demographics show us are more important to youth than other voting blocks but it would be a mistake to assume that there is a panacea policy or communication to gain and retain the support of youth. Policy should always be designed, not only to be of benefit in the short term but the medium and long-term. At the very least, policies of today should not negatively impact on future generations - as the debt and spend policies of the 70s and 80s affect my generation.
One issue that encompasses this concept of intergenerational responsibility is that of the Environment. Polling and common-sense shows that this issue has gained significant traction in under 30s and particularly women. Frighteningly this can translate into support for the Greens - or as I prefer to call them the "Dope Smoking Commies who hate GE" Party.
To give you an example of the effect that the Green perception - or deception - has, I have met many economically sensible, responsible young people - in other words our voters - who tell me that they are undecided whether to vote Green or National. For those of us who understand what an insidious blight the Greens are on the New Zealand political landscape you can imagine that the first time I heard this just about choked - and without the aid of a noxious weed!
Part of the reason for this is that in the case of the New Zealand Greens the very name use of the term "Green" is about as honest as one of Ms Clark's paintings.
The Greens hate trade, defence (unless it is a Communist invasion), think organics and mind-altering weeds are pretty cool and GE isn't. That is a very tenuous link to environmental issues.
On my campus tour I made a point of going up to the Green's bench, if they had one, and asking what their policy was on vector control. Without exception I got a blank look. Possums, ferrets and the like I would prompt. Again the answer was barely more enlightening. Most were able to tell me that they thought possums were bad but no-one was able to tell me what their policy was to get rid of the vermin. Fortunately I have managed to track down how the Greens are going to solve this vital issue. Wait for it, they are going to spread the ashes of, assumably dead, possum testicles around. That's right, the solution to one of the greatest bio-security invasions in New Zealand's history is possums balls. Well I reckon that is just plain nuts. Clearly the Green caucus who signed off on that one did so whilst Nandor was smoking his special cigarettes.
All humour aside the possum invasion is one of the most serious threats to New Zealand's environment, and economy, today. There are about 70 million of the rodents - that's about 20 for every New Zealander. Each and every night they eat around 21,000 tonnes of vegetation. They have focussed feeding habits meaning that they will chew through entire areas of forest before moving on - a major cause of die-back. I would suggest that possum damage in our native forests far outweighs that of sustainable forestry and without the economic benefits. Possums compete for resources with out native species and will eat native birds and animals given the opportunity. At least as vital as the conservation impacts is the fact that the possum is a vector for Tb. New Zealand, despite its clean, green image, has an ongoing Bovin Tb problem. If this was to become a major outbreak it could cost the economy $5 billion. Hardly an issue to be trifled at and certainly not an issue to be solved by witch doctor science.
There are several key points in providing a promising environmental future. Firstly economically poor countries also have a poor environmental record. Only a country with a thriving economy can afford to have a proud environmental record. Yet another irony when the Greens, with their oh so forward looking trade policies, claim to be environmentally friendly - not to mention the fact that they prop up a regime that believes economic growth is a dirty word.
The key to a strong environment is sustainability - the sustainable and ongoing use of our natural resources. Our colleagues from the West Coast can tell us that their forestry operations where world class in this regard and for their troubles - a decree from Helengrad that even sustainable forestry offended HER sensibilities and should be stopped. And in response to opposition West Coasters are labelled feral and inbred. Remembering attacks like this makes Paintergate just a little less surprising.
The Greens don't want any logging - probably so that forestry workers are not disturbing their 'special' plots.
There is a misconception about what sustainable means. I have had people tell me that it means clear felling native forest and planting new trees - yet another myth on which the Greens base their support. On the Coast it meant removing up to 50% of the natural mortality rate. Native trees fall over - it is impossible to tell which gaps in the forest are caused by natural causes or chainsaw. Only the trunk is taken, by helicopter, leaving the branches to continue the life cycle.
Finally for New Zealand it is vital that we keep our borders secure. I spoke of the effect that a Tb outbreak would have - that is nothing compared to the effect of a FMD outbreak. Overnight New Zealand's dollar would plummet, to 23 cents or lower. In the first few weeks at least 30,000 jobs would be lost, mainly primary workers. This number would climb to over 100,000 as the flow on effects took hold. GDP would drop by a quarter and the standard of living would fall by around 25%. And these are Treasury figures - notorious for conservatism.
At the moment our borders are some of the tightest in the world - in the US luggage is x-rayed as you leave for guns and explosives. When you enter New Zealand it is x-rayed again - for food and other natural products.
National's biosecurity policy goes a long way to making our borders even safer. If you deliberately flaunt New Zealand's bio-security laws you will be on the next flight home. I'm talking about the worst case scenarios - the tourist who rescued his meat package from the amnesty bin for example. No clearer message could be sent - in Singapore there is a large sign that says: "Import Drugs and you will be executed." In New Zealand the message will be risk our unique environment and our very economic well-being and you will be kicked out of the country. The other highlight is that National will focus on post-border bio-security. An emergency fund will be created so that resources are available to combat the next incursion.
New Zealand must continue to do more. Funding of intelligence services to combat terrorism must also focus on the frightening concept of aggro-terrorism. Our borders will stop most incursions caused by negligent but unintentional travellers and traders - they will not stop a deliberate smuggling of noxious agents. Imagine the carnage that could be caused by a deliberate seeded FMD outbreak or a deliberate release of fungal pathogens on our Pine Forests - which incidentally have the fastest growth rate in the world.
It is difficult to overstate the importance of protecting the Environment, I have only managed to outline a few key issues today, but protection does not mean ending progress and returning to grass skirts and bare feet. National understands this and is the only Party that can provide economic strength and improve and maintain New Zealand's image as a clean and green nation.
New Zealand has a stark choice between economic and environmental success or back to the horse and cart. I know which legacy I want for my children.