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Don Brash Writes - 12 October 2006

Don Brash Writes

No. 92 - 12 October 2006

In my annual speech to the Orewa Rotary Club this year, I said that for the next three years National would continue to emphasise the five key policy areas that we took to the last election. I also indicated that we would bring renewed emphasis to two other policy areas - health and the environment.

So it was with great pleasure that I launched our 30-page environment policy paper, "A Bluegreen Vision for New Zealand", at the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary last Friday. The paper is the culmination of more than six months work by Nick Smith and the National Party caucus and covers 17 key topics, from oceans to outdoor recreation to nature conservation.

The discussion paper is the first of a series of papers that the National Party caucus intend to develop over the next two years. That this is the first paper to have been published demonstrates just what an important part the environment plays in our vision for New Zealand's future.

While National did have an environment policy at the last election, it seems that policy was largely perceived as focussing strongly on development at the expense of wider environmental objectives. In short, voters were suspicious that National's desire to ensure a prosperous New Zealand would come at the expense of our environment.

The reality is that economic growth and a clean environment can, and must, go hand-in-hand. I think our discussion paper clearly demonstrates National's determination to pursue policies that will ensure New Zealand's natural environment is not sacrificed for the sake of a temporary boost in incomes.

For too long in this county the assumption has been that only parties to the left of the political spectrum care about the environment. That is incorrect.

National, on behalf of all New Zealanders, is concerned about polluted air and water, about the erosion of our East Coast hill country, about our shrinking forests and about the extinction facing much of our flora and fauna.

The initial response to the paper has been very encouraging, with a former Labour MP saying it was the most comprehensive environment paper seen in New Zealand in ten years.

The environment reforms advanced in it are about a new framework based on best international practice but with a distinctly New Zealand flavour. They recognise the importance of long-term stability and consistency in the development of environmental policy.

The paper discusses ideas like tradable emission permits in respect of water, carbon dioxide emissions and nitrogen. It proposes that hunters and fishers can and should be permitted to take more responsibility for managing their own activities and the resources they use.

It suggests that we can get better value for money for the taxpayer and better outcomes for the environment if we place more emphasis on backing groups like Landcare Trust, QEII Trust, Nga Whenua Rahui and the many private and community conservation organisations that have grown up throughout New Zealand. To that end we are proposing a Sustainability Investment Fund worth $1 billion over 10 years to help reduce pollution and help save our unique flora and fauna.

The paper also acknowledges the risk posed by the threat of climate change and proposes capping emissions from the electricity sector - which is the fastest growing emitter - as a first step, along with incentives for forestry plantings.

Although there are still uncertainties around some of the science - and National will keep a close eye on the latest findings so our policy response remains appropriate - the majority of scientists believe greenhouse gases are causing climate change. National views the climate change proposals in the paper as an insurance policy to protect against that risk.

I encourage you to download a copy of the paper from our website and have a look at the detail of our proposals. We are seeking submissions on the paper and will welcome your feedback as we finalise our environment policy.

To download a copy of the paper, click here (880KB, PDF)

Don Brash


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