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  • Exchange Cafe

General Election 2023: Candidates on climate & the environment

Updated: Feb 1

The Exchange Cafe hosted East Coast / Ikaroa Rāwhiti Candidates for the 2023 General Election at Rāngai Studios to have a conversation about what their Party will do to restore te taiao, meet our Paris commitments and ensure our region is resilient in the face of a changing climate.

Shannon Dowsing interviewed candidates from the Green, Māori, Labour and National Parties asking them about their party policies on climate change and the environment. Every candidate was asked the same set of questions.

Watch the interviews linked below to hear their full responses, or read on for a summary of the policies and commitments relevant to each question.

Question 1: As you know, under the Paris Agreement, New Zealand has signed up to very ambitious reduction targets but we’re unlikely to reach those at this stage. The science is telling us we have 6 years to at least half our emissions if we don’t we’ll be caught in runaway climate collapse. There’s a high level of concern among New Zealanders, especially among rangatahi and calls for more urgent and effective action.

What is your Party's commitment to climate action and what plans do you have to halve our emissions in the coming 6 years?

Green Party: Jordan Walker

Over the last 6 years, the Green Party has implemented the following climate action focused policies:

The current policies we have going into this election are:

  • The Clean Power Payment will provide whānau access to $36,000 of interest free loans and grants to insulate and electrify their whare.

  • Climate Safe Communities is our long term planning policy that works with Councils locally to implement infrastructure that can withstand climate driven disasters. This includes funding to get light rail into the bigger cities.

Te Pāti Māori: Meka Whaitiri

Te Pati Māori believe in indigenous models and reclaiming our position as kaitiaki. We will resource Māori-led and locally-led solutions to make our coastlines resilient.

Te Pāti Māori climate change policy plan includes:

  • Setting up a $1 billion dollar Clean Energy Fund.

  • Putting $100 million towards Māori Taiao Relief Fund.

  • Bringing agricultural emissions into the ETS.

Labour Party: Tāmati Coffey

We signed up to the Paris Agreement as a country and therefore we have a shared goal to try and reduce our emissions as a people. We’ve put in place the first of the Climate Change Budgets which are ring fenced toward climate initiatives no matter which government is in at the time.

Further initiatives to try and get emissions down include:

  • The Clean Car Discount which encourages people to move away from gas guzzlers and into more efficient cars.

  • Increasing access to public transport by making that free.

  • Partnering with big industry emitters such as New Zealand Steel and Fonterra to support them to reduce their emissions.

National Party: Dana Kirkpatrick

The National Party signed up to the Paris Accord to get to carbon net zero by 2050. We have a number of policies that relate specifically to climate change:

  • Agricultural Emissions Policy: Invest in technology and genetic editing to find tools for farmers to reduce their emissions, without reducing production.

  • Transport Policy: This policy includes public transport and rail links in the lower North Island, build better roads with less emissions, and invest in the electric fleet.

  • Electrify NZ Policy: We want to double the amount of renewable energy in New Zealand.

Question 2: Tairāwhiti is vulnerable and has been severely impacted by climate change and severe weather. Our life lines including roads, water, power, communications were all cut off in a single event this year.

What will your party do to support the Tairāwhiti region to prepare for the impacts of climate change?

Green Party: Jordan Walker

  • Statistics are showing that most people are concerned about the cost of living. People can’t think about climate action when they are living in poverty. The Green Party will implement a Wealth Tax to see the equitable distribution of wealth.

Te Pāti Māori: Meka Whaitiri

  • We will look to Māori-led, local solutions that are supported by local indigenous knowledge.

  • We are open to re-establishing the blue highway using the waterways to transport our people up and down the Coast, for example using sea gliders.

Labour Party: Tāmati Coffey

  • We put funding in place straight after Cyclone Gabrielle to repair the roads and clear debris so people could drive around the Coast again.

  • We have put putea aside to assess how to get communications stronger in the region so they won’t be cut off again.

  • The Government is funding the whānau at Te Karaka to put their houses up on stilts so they don’t have to relocate.

National Party: Dana Kirkpatrick

  • The National Party will support the investment already given by the current government into recovery, but we need to re-think about what that looks like in terms of roading, infrastructure and landuse.

  • In terms of water, our policy is to give the control of water assets back to the Councils, and we don’t support Three Waters.

Question 3: The Ministerial Inquiry into Landuse (MILU) laid out a roadmap of recommendations to address the immediate and long term risks facing the region.

Will you incorporate the recommendations from the Outrage to Optimism report, and what would you fasttrack from that?

Green Party: Jordan Walker

  • The Green Party understands that there is a need to change forestry practices, but also understand that it is more difficult than that at a local level. We support native planting over exotic trees and retaining those trees in the ground on erodible soils. There needs to be a just transition for forestry workers.

  • The Green Party believes that Councils need new revenue tools, such as targeted environmental taxes, congestion charges, resource rentals and tourism infrastructure levies to better enable funding for local programs without relying solely on rates.

Te Pāti Māori: Meka Whaitiri

  • Forestry is our biggest employer on the Coast. It will take time and investment to transition to a different landuse. This is the Crown’s responsibility.

  • We would fast track the transition. Our Taiao Relief Fund and Clean Energy Fund would go a long way to fast tracking that.

Labour Party: Tāmati Coffey

  • The Gisborne District Council have said that they lacked the capacity to do the regulatory work that they needed to do with forestry companies. We need to understand how we can resource the Gisborne District Council better in their regulatory role.

  • We need to think about what role forestry plays in Tairāwhiti. It employs a lot of people. We need to work with the forestry companies to be able to improve practices;

  • Look at other opportunities such as a biodiversity market which would allow people to plant out in natives and have a value attached to that too.

National Party: Dana Kirkpatrick

  • The recommendations were wide reaching and some were out of scope for the report.

  • The short term priority has to be cleaning up the debris that continues to lie in the forests, roads and rivers.

  • The medium to long term focus is how we invest into technology or research and development to find a financially viable way to clean up those [forestry] sites quicker and easier.

  • We would use science and technology to look at how we focus on landuse going forward.

Question 4: We need to transition towards a sustainable economic future for Tairāwhiti. We’re already seeing industry, landuse, healthcare, education and transport being disrupted.

What does your party see as a Just Transition for the region?

Green Party: Jordan Walker

  • Our climate plan will create thousands of jobs, provide training opportunities and decent secure work for whānau. The Clean Power Payment will create more jobs in the renewable energy sector. Our Climate Safe Communities Policy creates more jobs.

Te Pāti Māori: Meka Whaitiri

  • Landowners need to be around the table, especially Māori farmers, so that they can be part of the transition they want to see going forward.

Labour Party: Tāmati Coffey

  • We see the opportunities for solar and wind farms as a space that is filled with potential for Tairāwhiti to create localised renewable power infrastructure.

  • Looking to trial and experiment with opportunities for other green energy opportunities such as geothermal and tides.

National Party: Dana Kirkpatrick

  • The just transition as outlined in the [MILU] report has a whole lot of things we should do around education, biodiversity, business, but we need to agree as a community around how we do that. We are a wee way off how we come out of this in a planned and managed way.

  • We can’t afford for the forestry industry to fall over completely in our region. It’s a massive contributor to our regional GDP.

Question 5: Businesses are under increasing pressure from consumers to reduce their carbon emissions, and in return their impact on the environment.

How will your party support businesses to decarbonise?

Green Party: Jordan Walker

  • The Clean Power Payment helps businesses decarbonise by giving them access to grants and interest free loans to move away from gas and fossil fuel burning energy sources.

Te Pāti Māori: Meka Whaitiri

  • We would back Māori businesses because they are already very conscious around their impact on the environment and often have a bottom line that includes people and te taiao.

Labour Party: Tāmati Coffey

  • We’re partnering with big, high emitting companies using the Government Investment in Decarbonising Industry Fund to support big businesses to decarbonise. Have partnered with NZ Steel and Fonterra.

  • A Labour initiative has allowed 40,000 houses to put solar panels on their roofs. If re-elected, Labour will create a $4000 subsidy for households that want to invest in solar panels. This will help people save 50% off their annual power bills.

National Party: Dana Kirkpatrick

  • Our Electrify NZ Policy focuses on clean energy. We would like to see large businesses transitioning into clean energy rather than coal or fuel.

  • We want to support the transition for farming and farmers. We have a lot of projects we want to kick off, which revolve around using wetlands to reduce emissions.

  • We want to see more electric vehicles.

Question 5: We know that localised, community-based energy projects are effective in cutting emissions and increasing regional resilience. With Cyclone Gabrielle we saw the urgent need for those local systems and some successful trials in our communities are taking place.

How would your Party help remove regulatory barriers and increase R&D into those community energy-based projects?

Green Party: Jordan Walker

  • The Green Party is looking at scaling up support for community energy solutions, including community and marae-based clean energy hubs with solar and wind generation, local markets, battery storage solutions and peer-to-peer retail trading.

Te Pāti Māori: Meka Whaitiri

  • We want to work with the Gisborne District Council to make sure that the regulatory frameworks are strong enough and fit for purpose to encourage people to decarbonise.

  • Our priority as Te Pāti Māori is to work with our communities to unlock solutions.

Labour Party: Tāmati Coffey

  • We have reformed the Resource Management Act to make the process of applying for sustainable, renewable energy projects cheaper, faster and better.

National Party: Dana Kirkpatrick

  • The Electrify NZ Policy focuses on reducing compliance and red tape. We want to see consents for renewable energy projects confirmed within one year.

  • We would support investment into local energy-based projects.

Question 6: Power companies are making record profits and households are struggling with soaring power prices. It was recently reported that our four biggest power companies had a combined earnings of $2.7 billion dollars last year.

What would your party do to accelerate the adoption of cleaner energy options such as wind and solar, and how will this benefit New Zealand households?

Green Party: Jordan Walker

  • The Clean Power Payment will help provide access to home owners. This is combined with our Pledge to Renters Policy that aims to provide a rental cap and a rental warrant of fitness to get rental houses up to a healthy home standard.

Te Pāti Māori: Meka Whaitiri

  • In our Tax Policy we will lift the company taxes from 28% - 33% because we believe we have an unfair tax system.

  • We will set up a $1 billion dollar Clean Energy Fund that will go a long way to supporting solar and wind farms on the Coast.

Labour Party: Tāmati Coffey

  • We are already getting solar panels on houses.

  • We are looking and Investing strongly into new forms of renewable energy.

  • We introduced the Winter Energy Payment to provide support over winter for our lowest income earners and elderly. Committing to carrying this payment through in this election.

National Party: Dana Kirkpatrick

  • The Electrify NZ Policy aims to double the supply of renewable energy which will push down the price of energy across New Zealand because we will have a much more diverse way to generate electricity.

  • The National Party will support the continuation of the Winter Energy Payment.

Question 7: We’ve committed to the global methane pledge, needing to cut 50% of New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

What will your party do to support farmers to reduce their agricultural emissions profile?

Green Party: Jordan Walker

  • The Green Party will support farmers to transition to more sustainable forms of agricultural production through access to low interest loans and grants.

Te Pāti Māori: Meka Whaitiri

  • We’ve got the Mātai Ahuwhenua Farming Fund to support farmers that are capital stretched to support them to transition to more sustainable forms of farming.

  • We would bring agricultural emissions into the ETS.

Labour Party: Tāmati Coffey

  • We have established the He Waka Eke Noa partnership to work with our farmers and ag sector to come to the table with its best ideas for how we reduce emissions.

  • Working with our tech sector and bringing those two worlds together to find the opportunities and solutions to reduce emissions in the agriculture sector.

National Party: Dana Kirkpatrick

  • We want to use technology to find ways to reduce emissions while not reducing production. This will include changing the legislation around genetic modification and gene editing.

  • We will introduce new rules around what classes of land can be put into forestry and what percentage of land classes can be put into forestry.

  • We will push the pricing of agricultural emissions out to 2030 and not include agriculture in the ETS.

  • We want to find ways for farmers to claim carbon credits from new plantings of native forestry or wetland restorations.

Question 8: This region is an example for all of New Zealand, the damage of planting monoculture pine, whether that be for forestry or carbon farming, has resulted in unprecedented damage to our lands, waterways and biodiversity.

How would you address the current Emissions Trading Scheme settings that financially incentivise the planting of monoculture pine over natives?

Green Party: Jordan Walker

  • Implement a biodiversity credit system to financially incentivise the protection of important habitats and species.

Te Pāti Māori: Meka Whaitiri

  • Māori land up the Coast is the steepest land classifications so it needs to be planted in trees, but you also want an economic return for them. We will support those landowners to transition from pine into more permanent forest. This will take time.

  • We want to see how we can drive carbon credits from our existing pre 1991 native forests that are untouched. A lot of existing native forest on whenua Māori is pre 1991 which is fundamentally unfair.

Labour Party: Tāmati Coffey

  • There’s room for both plantation forestry and native forest in our landscapes. We need to take a more diverse approach to help people utilise their land.

National Party: Dana Kirkpatrick

The National Party will implement the following changes to landuse classification:

  • Place a moratorium on conversion to pine trees for land in classes 1 to 5;

  • Some percentages of land in classes 5 & 6 can be converted to forestry;

  • In classes 7 & 8, you can plant forestry but you have to figure out the right tree for the right place.

Question 9: We are in a biodiversity crisis. Our taonga species are at risk. It is proven that the biodiversity crisis is as important as the carbon crisis.

Will you support the development of a biodiversity credit system for NZ?

Green Party: Jordan Walker

  • Yes, we support a biodiversity credit system for NZ.

Te Pāti Māori: Meka Whaitiri

  • Yes, so long as the biodiversity credit system is based on matauranga Māori and that Māori can see how they will derive benefit out of it.

Labour Party: Tāmati Coffey

  • I don’t know enough about biodiversity credits. We need to mature that conversation to understand the role the Government should play within a market setting, the good examples from overseas, and how we insert our matauranga Māori into that conversation.

National Party: Dana Kirkpatrick

  • We don’t have a policy on that right now but I believe it is something that should be looked into.

Question 10: Our waterways have been contaminated with excess nitrates, silt, run-off from farms, slash from forestry. They are no longer safe places for us to enjoy, collect kai or freshwater.

What will your Party do to restore the health of our waterways?

Green Party: Jordan Walker

The Green Party’s Freshwater Policy will:

  • Ensure regulatory frameworks for water management through Te Mana o te Wai with measures and funding to give effect to tino rangatirotanga of iwi and hapu over waterways in their rohe.

  • Protect all remaining natural wetlands and increase funding for their restoration, including estuaries and coastal wetlands.

  • Provide funding to support Councils to implement a room for rivers approach, including working with farmers and communities away from the direct path of rivers that naturally flood.

  • Implement a Healthy Oceans Act which would appoint a Minister of the Oceans to oversee the protection of at least 30% of our ocean by 2030.

Te Pāti Māori: Meka Whaitiri

  • We support Te Mana o te Wai which is the kaupapa that came from the Iwi Leaders Forum.

  • We have to acknowledge Māori proprietary and kaitiaki rights to waterways and re-establish the connection and relationships to wai. It will be a Māori-led solution that will help clean up our waterways.

Labour Party: Tāmati Coffey

  • We support Te Mana o Te Wai which creates a hierarchy system that prioritises the mana and protection of our water.

  • We’ve been criticised for our work in affordable water. This used to be called the Three Waters which is your drinking water, storm water and sewage systems in our regions. Councils across the country have told us that they can’t fix the water infrastructure by themselves, so we’ve put in place an opportunity for Councils to partner with the Government to sort out their water supply.

National Party: Dana Kirkpatrick

  • We would like to see more work done in how we manage the waterways. A focus on native planting, riparian planting and wetlands as a filter system will all make a difference but it’s a long term fix.

Are there any final points you’d like to make about your Party's commitment to protecting and enhancing the environment, and the combat of climate change?

Green Party: Jordan Walker

Over the last 6 years the Green Party have done more for climate justice than successive governments have come close to. We’ve been able to implement climate action that takes putea from our biggest polluters and redistributes it to the Climate Emergency Fund. We’ve only just got started and we need more time and more Green members of parliament.

Te Pāti Māori: Meka Whaitiri

When we are in crisis, like we are seeing today with the cost of living, homelessness, incarceration rates, pāpātūānuku being devastated and our waterways being patu’d, we tend to always look overseas for solutions. We need to honour Article 2 of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Matauranga Māori and Māori solutions need to be at the forefront and leading us out of the crises we are in today. When Māori lead, we lead for everybody. When others lead, Māori are often forgotten.

Labour Party: Tāmati Coffey

We as a party, and particularly as Māori within that party, take an indigenous view to the environment. Our environment is our everything. We need to tidy it up as much as we can to leave a legacy that our mokopuna can inherit. I carry that with me and advocate for that. Environmental kaupapa doesn’t stop and won’t be fixed with one government. It has to last intergenerationally and should be a complete focus for any Government.

National Party: Dana Kirkpatrick

As New Zealanders, we all know that our environment is very important to us. I get really upset when I drive along our roads and see rubbish in the ditches. If we’re that committed to the environment, we all have a part to play. Perhaps it’s about the affordability of waste disposal and recycling. Along with all the big picture items, I’d like to see some of that stuff included as well.


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