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(Image: Southern Lightscapes Australia via Getty, with additional treatment by Shanti Mathias)

PoliticsSeptember 21, 2023

Election 2023: The climate change and environment policies in two minutes

a shiny river with a "policy n 2 minutes sticker on the image a braided south island kinda wide blue river
(Image: Southern Lightscapes Australia via Getty, with additional treatment by Shanti Mathias)

What does each party say they’ll do for the environment? has the thorough version and we have the two-minute version. 

This is the first in our 2023 series of policy in two minutes explainers.

The last term of government has seen some severe natural disasters, including Cyclone Gabrielle, the Ashburton floods and the Lake Ohau fire. At the same time there has been awareness of biodiversity loss in the Hauraki Gulf, marine heatwaves, freshwater contamination, high net emissions and a range of other threats to the natural world and the people who live in it – that is, all of us. With the climate crisis continuing to exacerbate these disasters, what are different political parties saying they will do to respond to it if they’re in government? 

Emissions reduction and climate adaptation

Not every party is on the same page about how to reduce emissions. Act suggests that having parliament sit less would reduce emissions from flights; they want to end subsidies, repeal the Zero Carbon Act and abolish the Climate Change Commission. Act and National would both use the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) revenue to create tax incentives for farmers, recognising more of the carbon sequestration that happens on farms and ending discounts for low-emissions cars

National would create new policy statements on renewable electricity and hydrogen to coordinate work on these energy sources through the country. They would work with businesses to reduce agricultural emissions and delay implementing agricultural emission pricing into the Emissions Trading Scheme until 2030

Labour also wants to fund climate-friendly businesses through its partnership with investment firm BlackRock, aim for 100% renewable energy and establish new research centres to study technology, climate change and pandemics. 

The Green Party wants to strengthen the ETS and Zero Carbon Act, create a Ministry of Green Works to stimulate the economy without an environmental burden and create legislation for the right to a healthy environment. They want to prioritise nature-based, rather than technology-based solutions to climate impacts and ensure climate resilience planning affirms tino rangatiratanga and supports Pacific countries

Te Pāti Māori wants to reduce emissions by banning synthetic fertilisers, seabed mining, oil and gas exploration and introducing further restrictions on mining on conservation land. They would include agricultural emissions in the ETS and create climate change resilience plans with whānau, hapū and iwi. 

The New Conservatives want to eliminate all climate-related taxes and support from the government. 

blue blobs and smoke stacks and dollar bills
Different parties have different ideas about how the Emissions Trading Scheme should work (Image: Tina Tiller)

Conservation and biodiversity

New Zealand First wants to change who is responsible for biodiversity by having local councils manage biodiversity priorities and rescinding the National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity. National’s policies for biodiversity are mostly centred on which activities can happen on conservation land, with the party focused on hunting rules, proposing a minister for hunting. They would limit the scope of “Significant Natural Areas”, a designation in resource consenting which affects how you can develop areas that have important natural biodiversity. Act would completely abolish these Significant Natural Areas and focus on conservation activities on private land, which the Labour Party would also like to encourage. Labour would continue funding for Jobs for Nature, a programme that has so far provided more than $1bn to support environmental work. 

Te Pāti Māori has said it will return conservation land to local iwi and hapū. The Green Party wants to increase pest and weed eradication and align work in New Zealand with global biodiversity practices. They’re also keen to support nature restoration in urban areas through working with councils too.

To look after biodiversity in Aotearoa’s huge expanse of ocean, the Green Party would create an oceans ministerial portfolio and an oceans commission to expand ocean protection while strengthening limits on fishing including bycatch, set nets and cameras on fishing vessels. All other parties have far fewer oceans and fishing policies, although Labour would increase protection for the Hauraki Gulf, and National’s policy to remove restrictions on recreational hunting extends to fishing too, as the party says everyone should be allowed to gather food for their families.  

Pollution and water

Freshwater pollution in New Zealand is a concern shared by most parties, while few have policies for other kinds of pollution. The Act Party wants to manage pollution with a market-based solution where landowners can trade nutrient discharges and water pollution within limits set by regional councils. The National Party would remove the reforms formerly known as Three Waters, relax drinking water rules and create a water infrastructure regulator

Te Pāti Māori would manage water pollution by recognising Māori rights to fresh water. The Green Party would set limits to nitrogen in waterways, a product of the dairy industry, and slowly reduce the use of synthetic fertilisers, while rehabilitating and protecting wetlands. Neither Labour nor New Zealand First has any publicised policy for freshwater.

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