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Memo To Incoming Government: Don’t Forget About The Environment

The Environmental Defence Society is calling on all parties to prioritise care for our country’s natural environment in their coalition agreements.

“No government has a mandate to increase pollution or species extinctions in this country. But some manifesto commitments could lead to those perilous outcomes,” said EDS CEO Gary Taylor.

“On freshwater management, some of the offerings reflect a lack of understanding of how the new reform process will work. Regional councils are now preparing new freshwater plans. They will give effect to national bottom-lines as well as include catchment-based time-bound targets developed with affected landowners. This process must continue at pace. Slowing down or weakening water quality limits will lead to more pollution for longer and that’s not what New Zealanders expect.

“In Aotearoa New Zealand there are around 4,000 native species threatened or at risk of extinction. This is deeply concerning. We finally have national direction in place aimed at protecting nature on private land. Promises to repeal or weaken the National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity are ill-considered. This area of policy needs consistent direction over time, along with commitments for pest eradication. The government could assist by developing incentives to help landowners protect and restore indigenous biodiversity and habitats.

“On climate change, National’s commitment to meeting our emissions reduction targets is very welcome. But those targets need the right policy settings to get there, otherwise the promise is a chimera. Diverting funding for emissions reductions into tax cuts needs a rethink and exotic forest offsets need recalibration to prioritise gross emissions reductions. The Climate Change Commission needs continuing support and proposals to dismantle it should be rejected.

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“All parties have had a swipe at the resource management system with varying degrees of radicalism. This is where some serious, deep thinking is required, or we will head into a decade or more of uncertainty. It’s just silly to completely reject all the policy development that’s taken place over the past 5 years and start over. Parliament needs to come to a broad consensus on the way forward. By all means, speed up decision-making, including for renewables, and fine-tune what’s there, but don’t throw the new laws out. The Spatial Planning Act has great potential to speed up infrastructure delivery.

“Our marine environment is one of the largest in the world. Its management needs fundamental reform. We need to shift towards ecosystem-based management for fisheries; implement more marine protected areas including around the Kermadecs; review the Quota Management System; transition away from harmful bottom trawling; and rethink the institutional arrangements for oceans management. National is well-placed to provide real leadership on this bundle of issues.

“In short, the incoming government could be very good for our environment - or very bad. All these issues need careful consideration during the coalition-building negotiations. It’s not just about tax. Those agreements will set our environmental priorities for the next 3 years. We should be clever enough to provide for our economic welfare without harming our natural world,” Mr Taylor concluded.

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