Election 2017: the environment

IMPROVING FRESH WATER: Freshwater issues have become major talking points in the lead-up to the 2017 general election. Riparian planting, such as harakeke (flax) planted here by the Whangawehi Catchment Management Group in Mahia, can improve water quality by holding soil and filtering effluent from farming. Picture supplied

ELECTION 2017 is the environment’s turn to shine.

Environmental issues were once predominantly the domain of the Green Party, but this time around the state of our fresh water and climate change concerns are among the major talking points for all parties.

Public discontent on fresh water has boiled over since the last election due, to increasingly unswimmable rivers; drinking water problems; increasing numbers of dairy farms, irrigation projects and the water quality and quantity issues that come with them; water bottling schemes; and questions over who, if anybody, owns the water.

North Canterbury artist Sam Mahon expressed the discontent of many yesterday by erecting a statue of Environment Minister Nick Smith pants down, squatting over a glass of water outside the office of regional council Environment Canterbury.

In Tairawhiti, sewage discharges into city rivers where people swim and do water sports continues to be a major issue, as do water quantity and quality issues on the Poverty Bay Flats, and sediment from erosion throughout the district.

Decisions on how Gisborne District Council regulates for these issues, balanced with cultural and economic factors, are driven by national policy statements produced by central government.

The Gisborne Regional Freshwater Plan, released in August, is a direct result of such central government direction.

Climate change has been a mainstream global political issue since the 1990s, but multiple New Zealand governments have been reluctant to act on it.

This looks set to change, with Labour leader Jacinda Ardern making it a centrepiece of her platform, claiming climate change to be this generation’s nuclear-free movement.

The global Paris Agreement on climate change, reached in 2015, is increasing pressure on countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The New Zealand government pledged to reduce emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

But while dozens of developed nations have steadily reduced their emissions since 1990, our net emissions have increased by 64 percent, among the highest increase in the developed world.

New Zealand’s coastal communities will be greatly affected by climate change impacts such as rising sea levels, further evidenced by a government report leaked this week to the Green Party.

In Gisborne rising sea levels will have dramatic impacts, including exacerbating erosion and increasing flooding.

Following is an overview of the various policies on fresh water and climate change from all of the major parties.

(Note: order chosen due to most recent polling results from Radio New Zealand’s “Poll of Polls”, and does not reflect a party’s strength on any particular issue).

National: Make 90 percent of large rivers and lakes swimmable by 2040; require regional councils to improve water quality for swimming and report on progress every five years; drive a $2 billion improvement programme; fence off all waterways to all stock by 2030; review ownership, allocation and pricing issues through the Land and Water Forum; continue to fund irrigation projects with $90 million over the next few years and a total $400m over time.

Labour: Make all rivers and lakes swimmable within a generation; help farmers and other landowners with fencing and riparian planting through a “Ready for Work” youth programme; charge water bottlers and other businesses with heavy water consumption at per-litre rates to be determined post-election and put the royalties toward clean-up projects and meeting Treaty settlements; and work with iwi to resolve Treaty water claims.

NZ First: Ensure water takes for agricultural irrigation and electricity generation are sustainable; ban water consent holders from transferring their consents if no longer needed; recognise unprotected “wild and scenic” rivers with new water conservation orders; charge a royalty on the export of drinking water; remove requirements to consult with iwi and oppose other recognition of iwi rights and interests in fresh water.

Green Party: Require all waterways to be safe for swimming; introduce levy on nitrate pollution and use the revenue to fund support measures for farmers to reduce their impact on the environment; require all farms to be fenced from rivers and creeks, and for riverbanks to be planted; stop irrigation subsidies and introduce irrigation charge; ban new dairy farms; establish a national sustainability accreditation scheme for food products, processors and farmers; charge for the sale and export of bottled water at 10c a litre; charge all commercial users for the water they use with input from mana whenua; ensure Maori are recognised and supported in their role as kaitiaki of their taonga and tikanga; and address stormwater pollution though urban design.

Maori Party: Legislate to protect fresh water and give it the status of taonga; enhance Te Mana o Te Wai as the overarching objective for freshwater management and provide funding to support community projects; establish Regional Water Authorities based on a co-governance model between water rights holders and regional councils; support funding for capturing rainfall and better clean water storage systems, particularly in rural areas; impose a moratorium on the sale of water so water quality, management and ownership can be addressed; and make the freshwater standard ‘drinkable’.

ACT: Oppose any moves for Maori to hold co-governance of water; replace first-in first-served water use with a market-based scheme for water rights, like the fisheries’ Quota Management System; and prevent over-allocation and ensure existing permits remain with holders until expiry.

The Opportunities Party (TOP): Put an interim ban on intensification until catchments have water improvement plans; advocate a cap and trade system where water consent owners get priority to use a certain proportion but must pay a market price for each litre used and not sell what they don’t use; and make polluters pay for exceeding sustainable levels and reward others from the penalty pool.

National: Meet Paris Agreement targets through reducing domestic emissions under the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), excluding agriculture; 90 percent renewable electricity energy by 2025; improved public transport; and increase electric vehicles, with a target of 64,000 by 2021.

Labour: Ensure a just transition to a sustainable low-carbon economy; establish commission to enforce emissions targets; and restore the ETS to all sectors.

NZ First: Oppose the ETS; support fossil carbon reduction relevant to New Zealand; and support power generated by customers being bought back at the price it is normally sold to the customer, such as through solar power.

Green Party: Net zero carbon economy by 2050; strengthen the ETS through a progressively-rising price cap and a minimum price floor, and over time replace it with an effective levy; make New Zealand a world leader in the race against climate change; prioritise investment in low-carbon transport options; 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030; and establish commission to enforce emissions targets.

Maori Party: Legislate emissions targets and support carbon budgets towards the targets; support new renewable energy sources; close all coal-fired power plants by 2025; encourage green spaces in urban centres and energy efficiency across the board; plant 100,000 hectares of new forests over the next 10 years; and create a refugee category for people displace by the effects of climate change.

ACT: Replace petrol taxes and introduce road-user fees; and replace ETS with a carbon tax.

The Opportunities Party (TOP): Aim to be carbon neutral by 2050; restore ETS and reform it to create firm limit on emissions; use ETS revenue to invest in improving energy efficiency in the nation’s homes; aim for 100 percent renewable energy by 2035; and reforest all erosion-prone land by 2030.

ELECTION 2017 is the environment’s turn to shine.

Environmental issues were once predominantly the domain of the Green Party, but this time around the state of our fresh water and climate change concerns are among the major talking points for all parties.

Public discontent on fresh water has boiled over since the last election due, to increasingly unswimmable rivers; drinking water problems; increasing numbers of dairy farms, irrigation projects and the water quality and quantity issues that come with them; water bottling schemes; and questions over who, if anybody, owns the water.

North Canterbury artist Sam Mahon expressed the discontent of many yesterday by erecting a statue of Environment Minister Nick Smith pants down, squatting over a glass of water outside the office of regional council Environment Canterbury.

In Tairawhiti, sewage discharges into city rivers where people swim and do water sports continues to be a major issue, as do water quantity and quality issues on the Poverty Bay Flats, and sediment from erosion throughout the district.

Decisions on how Gisborne District Council regulates for these issues, balanced with cultural and economic factors, are driven by national policy statements produced by central government.

The Gisborne Regional Freshwater Plan, released in August, is a direct result of such central government direction.

Climate change has been a mainstream global political issue since the 1990s, but multiple New Zealand governments have been reluctant to act on it.

This looks set to change, with Labour leader Jacinda Ardern making it a centrepiece of her platform, claiming climate change to be this generation’s nuclear-free movement.

The global Paris Agreement on climate change, reached in 2015, is increasing pressure on countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The New Zealand government pledged to reduce emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

But while dozens of developed nations have steadily reduced their emissions since 1990, our net emissions have increased by 64 percent, among the highest increase in the developed world.

New Zealand’s coastal communities will be greatly affected by climate change impacts such as rising sea levels, further evidenced by a government report leaked this week to the Green Party.

In Gisborne rising sea levels will have dramatic impacts, including exacerbating erosion and increasing flooding.

Following is an overview of the various policies on fresh water and climate change from all of the major parties.

(Note: order chosen due to most recent polling results from Radio New Zealand’s “Poll of Polls”, and does not reflect a party’s strength on any particular issue).

National: Make 90 percent of large rivers and lakes swimmable by 2040; require regional councils to improve water quality for swimming and report on progress every five years; drive a $2 billion improvement programme; fence off all waterways to all stock by 2030; review ownership, allocation and pricing issues through the Land and Water Forum; continue to fund irrigation projects with $90 million over the next few years and a total $400m over time.

Labour: Make all rivers and lakes swimmable within a generation; help farmers and other landowners with fencing and riparian planting through a “Ready for Work” youth programme; charge water bottlers and other businesses with heavy water consumption at per-litre rates to be determined post-election and put the royalties toward clean-up projects and meeting Treaty settlements; and work with iwi to resolve Treaty water claims.

NZ First: Ensure water takes for agricultural irrigation and electricity generation are sustainable; ban water consent holders from transferring their consents if no longer needed; recognise unprotected “wild and scenic” rivers with new water conservation orders; charge a royalty on the export of drinking water; remove requirements to consult with iwi and oppose other recognition of iwi rights and interests in fresh water.

Green Party: Require all waterways to be safe for swimming; introduce levy on nitrate pollution and use the revenue to fund support measures for farmers to reduce their impact on the environment; require all farms to be fenced from rivers and creeks, and for riverbanks to be planted; stop irrigation subsidies and introduce irrigation charge; ban new dairy farms; establish a national sustainability accreditation scheme for food products, processors and farmers; charge for the sale and export of bottled water at 10c a litre; charge all commercial users for the water they use with input from mana whenua; ensure Maori are recognised and supported in their role as kaitiaki of their taonga and tikanga; and address stormwater pollution though urban design.

Maori Party: Legislate to protect fresh water and give it the status of taonga; enhance Te Mana o Te Wai as the overarching objective for freshwater management and provide funding to support community projects; establish Regional Water Authorities based on a co-governance model between water rights holders and regional councils; support funding for capturing rainfall and better clean water storage systems, particularly in rural areas; impose a moratorium on the sale of water so water quality, management and ownership can be addressed; and make the freshwater standard ‘drinkable’.

ACT: Oppose any moves for Maori to hold co-governance of water; replace first-in first-served water use with a market-based scheme for water rights, like the fisheries’ Quota Management System; and prevent over-allocation and ensure existing permits remain with holders until expiry.

The Opportunities Party (TOP): Put an interim ban on intensification until catchments have water improvement plans; advocate a cap and trade system where water consent owners get priority to use a certain proportion but must pay a market price for each litre used and not sell what they don’t use; and make polluters pay for exceeding sustainable levels and reward others from the penalty pool.

National: Meet Paris Agreement targets through reducing domestic emissions under the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), excluding agriculture; 90 percent renewable electricity energy by 2025; improved public transport; and increase electric vehicles, with a target of 64,000 by 2021.

Labour: Ensure a just transition to a sustainable low-carbon economy; establish commission to enforce emissions targets; and restore the ETS to all sectors.

NZ First: Oppose the ETS; support fossil carbon reduction relevant to New Zealand; and support power generated by customers being bought back at the price it is normally sold to the customer, such as through solar power.

Green Party: Net zero carbon economy by 2050; strengthen the ETS through a progressively-rising price cap and a minimum price floor, and over time replace it with an effective levy; make New Zealand a world leader in the race against climate change; prioritise investment in low-carbon transport options; 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030; and establish commission to enforce emissions targets.

Maori Party: Legislate emissions targets and support carbon budgets towards the targets; support new renewable energy sources; close all coal-fired power plants by 2025; encourage green spaces in urban centres and energy efficiency across the board; plant 100,000 hectares of new forests over the next 10 years; and create a refugee category for people displace by the effects of climate change.

ACT: Replace petrol taxes and introduce road-user fees; and replace ETS with a carbon tax.

The Opportunities Party (TOP): Aim to be carbon neutral by 2050; restore ETS and reform it to create firm limit on emissions; use ETS revenue to invest in improving energy efficiency in the nation’s homes; aim for 100 percent renewable energy by 2035; and reforest all erosion-prone land by 2030.

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