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Labour’s environment policy welcomed

28 August 2014 – Wellington

Forest & Bird media release for immediate use

Labour’s environment policy welcomed

The independent conservation organisation Forest & Bird says that overall the Labour Party’s newly released environment policy would go a long way towards protecting New Zealand’s natural heritage.

But Forest & Bird’s Advocacy Manager, Kevin Hackwell, says the organisation is concerned that some of the party’s policies do not go far enough. For example, Labour’s policy would not put in place a moratorium on fracking, while national regulations to properly control it were being developed.

“A transition to a high-tech, low-pollution economy that does not rely on fossil fuels is essential, and it is good to see that Labour has made that a priority,” Kevin Hackwell says.

“Labour’s promise to retain the purpose and principles of the Resource Management Act is also very welcome. This promise should be welcomed by all users of the RMA as it will protect the Act’s environmental core, and ensure that over 20 years of case law is not lost.“Labour’s policy commits it to strengthening or even replacing the recently-created National Policy Statement (NPS) on Freshwater Management. This is meant to provide bottom-lines for managing the country’s rivers, streams and lakes, but at present it is not nearly strong enough.

“There is also a promise to produce an NPS on native biodiversity, which would provide uniform minimum standards for protecting the country’s unique plants and animals,” Kevin Hackwell says.

“At the moment there is no such thing, and Forest & Bird believes this would be a valuable tool in making sure that there are no more extinctions.

“Likewise, an NPS that would give councils some direction in the consenting of onshore oil and gas exploration – as is being promised by Labour - would be a sensible step that would address the inadequate regional council controls on fracking,” Kevin Hackwell says.

“But, surprisingly, Labour’s policy does not include a moratorium on fracking until such regulations are in place.

“Given the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment said in her recent report that some councils treat oil and gas fracking wells no differently to water bores, this is a serious oversight.

“The commitment to improve the existing marine protection legislation - as a precursor to developing a comprehensive oceans policy – is important. But it would have been useful for voters to have been given a timetable for the introduction of such a policy. We would hope that would be introduced in the first term, if Labour was a part of the next government, given how long New Zealand marine habitats have gone without the protection of such a policy,” Kevin Hackwell says.

Forest & Bird also welcomes a potential mandate for the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to audit and monitor compliance with resource consents and plan conditions, and for polluters to be held liable for the clean-up of oil spills.

“Another promise to de-politicise appointments to boards of inquiry convened by the EPA – which preside over the conditions of consent for projects that are deemed to be of national importance – would also be a very positive step forward,” Kevin Hackwell says.

© Scoop Media

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