SpOILing New Zealand’s environmental image

When Labour came to office in 1999, I was pleased for here was a Government that was planning to take on climate change and try to do something about it. As the years passed and Labour messed around I grew wiser about the potential implications for New Zealand economically, as much from the perspective of the business community as from the environmental lobby. When they left office in 2008, not much had changed, though New Zealand had ratified the Kyoto Climate Protocol.

Enter the National-led Government of Prime Minister John Key. Whilst knowing that by their philosophical stance, National were likely to promote business development, I was initially quite encouraged by the line that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet originally adopted. It acknowledged climate change is an issue, but it also noted that even if New Zealand totally wiped its carbon emissions out, the annual growth of Chinese emissions would probably wipe any gains within a year or two. A somewhat pragmatic stance I thought. But with the election in 2011 any hope that common sense commentary might be followed with common sense policy was dashed, not least by the appointment of a man to the Energy and Resources portfolio whose contempt for the environment is not only aimed at degrading existing environmental policy, but those who try to defend it.

His name is Simon Bridges. He is the Member of Parliament for Tauranga, a senior member of the National Party and Minister for Energy and Resources, Minister for Transport as well Minister of Labour. He was elected to Tauranga following the resignation of Bob Clarkson.

Mr Bridges actually holds a pretty powerful combination of ministerial portfolio’s that have the potential to allow substantial long term improvements to how New Zealand functions economically if wielded properly. There is no doubt that the changes Mr Bridges is making using his portfolio’s are major. There is no doubt that they will have long term implications for country.

Unfortunately there is also increasingly little doubt that the changes being introduced by Mr Bridges are anything but constructive, that they have major environmental consequences attached. The Minister who has the power to make New Zealand’s energy use one of the cleanest in the world has all but stopped the development of green energy sources.

That same Minister has  proceeded to open up tracts of New Zealand seabed off the east coast of the South Island for exploration that are in a seismically volatile zone, with numerous SW-NE trending faults some of which have been historically active. Some of those zones also have marine ecosystems of international importance, with Sperm, Blue Whales and large seal colonies on the coast whose well being would be impacted by exploration activities. Mr Bridges also claims that there are “a lot of fish” around New Zealand and that no harm is being done by opening up the habitat of the critically endangered Maui dolphin whose total number in the world is less than the National Party caucus.

Mr Bridges has also proceeded to actively discourage peaceful protest at sea with the passage of the Crown Minerals (Crown land and permitting)Act 2013, which was roundly criticized by the Opposition, human rights groups and environmental groups. The law was passed under urgency with no public input, and would have permitted the Royal New Zealand Navy to be used as an arresting force on the high seas against peaceful protests. Whilst he claimed Anadarko had nothing to do with the so called Anadarko Amendment, the same Minister wined and dined executives from Anadarko and 10 other companies including Royal Dutch Shell during the Rugby World Cup 2011.

And that is why I accuse Mr Bridges in this blog of spOILing New Zealand’s environmental image.

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