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Election Issues: The environment

Monday 11th August 2014

In the weeks between now and the general election, we’ll be looking at the issues dominating the debate. These primers will be updated as policies are announced.

A group of environmental organisations is taking the Electoral Commission to court over a decision that would require their Climate Voter initiative to be registered as a third-party election promoter. The commission has advised the group its campaign and website, which call on voters to decide based on parties’ climate-change policies, are election advertisements. Under the Electoral Act, any body that spends more than $12,300 on election advertising needs to be registered with the commission.

The disagreement highlights the fact that the environment and how best to protect it is likely to sway at least some voters in this year’s election, many of whom are expected to be young. In fact, the question with the most votes in the first few days after the launch of Massey University’s Ask Away project asked “What will you do to change New Zealand’s climate change policies so that our gross emissions don't continue to increase?”

HAVE A QUESTION on the environment? We’ve teamed up with Ask Away so you can put them directly to the politicians.

Writing in the Taranaki Daily News, Ross Henderson argues that the issue of climate change reveals a generational divide. “As I see it, many young people are more deeply concerned about it than older folks. Don’t get me wrong. Of course there are people of all ages who are concerned and active on the issue. I just find that younger people show more urgency about the topic, have more creative ideas and don't feel the need to stick to the status quo.”

A cartoon depicting the environment

The Green Party put the issue of climate change centre stage for their election campaign after announcing it would introduce a carbon tax to help reduce CO2 emissions. The Government denounced the idea, saying it would cut jobs and compromise the export economy, while Federated Farmers said the party’s proposition to tax the dairy sector is “unfair” and “udderly useless”.

In recent weeks, The Wireless has looked at the tension between farming and the environment, and asked just how clean our water should be. But what other environmental issues might come up in this election?

At the start of the year, the Government was accused of “muzzling New Zealanders” with its decision not to allow the public to formally to deep sea oil and gas exploration. Environment Minister Amy Adams said the new process will save the industry time and money, and the EPA will adequately assess consents. She says the public will have a chance to make submissions on oil and gas drilling in New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone.

CHECK OUT OUR full election coverage.

In April, the Government doubled the amount of land and sea available for oil and gas exploration, attracting a small protest. The Green Party has a “staunch opposition” to deep sea drilling – it would immediately ban deep sea drilling, while Labour supports drilling in a more controlled environment. The Government pointed to the two different policies as evidence of a fractured left wing in politics, though Labour’s energy spokesman David Shearer said the nature of MMP meant the party had to be open to negotiation o policy.

The Government has pledged to spend nearly $40 billion over the next decade on building and maintaining roads critical to the country’s economic performance. The draft policy statement outlines continued funding for Roads of National Significance and a $375 million interest-free loan for Auckland motorways, and focuses on making roads safer and maintaining regional roads. At its annual conference, the National Party promised to spend more than $200 million on state highways, to be paid for from the proceeds of the partial sale of shares in state-owned power companies.

The opposition parties called that an election bribe, but the Prime Minister John Key said the funding is part of measures to improve infrastructure. Both Labour and the Greens have criticised these policies, saying there needs to be more investment in public transport and other ways to get around. The Green Party has pledged to spend billions on public transport.

If you’d like to see some of the parties’ policies, you can find them here: National Party; Labour Party; New Zealand First; Mana; Maori Party; Green Party; United Future; ACT Party; Conservative Party and the Internet Party.