Governing is simply about policies and the people charged with forming and implementing them. On Friday, the new Government announced its Cabinet – the people side – alongside its policy agreements. Clear signals sent.
Let’s start with the people.
If you have an environmental bent, it’s not good news.
Neither the Environment Minister (National’s Penny Simmonds, with ACT’s former Fed Farmers chief Andrew Hoggard as Associate Minister) nor the Climate Minister (National’s Simon Watts) will sit in Cabinet. That pretty well signals how such matters rate with the Luxon regime.
Environmental matters will get a tiny peek inside Cabinet via Minister of Conservation Tama Potaka.
Minister for the Agriculture, Forestry and Trade portfolios will be National’s Todd McClay. Hopefully keeping agriculture and trade in the same hands will protect some sanity in primary sector policies, as this Minister will be constantly exposed to the sustainability demands of our overseas customers, who purchase 85%+ of our food production (in turn 63% of all NZ exports). However, aforementioned Neanderthal Andrew Hoggard is Associate Minister for Agriculture.
NZ First’s Shane Jones as Minister for Regional Development will get another $1 billion+ pot of lollies to hand out … let the local councils’ scramble begin! He’s also Minister for Oceans and Fisheries and Minister for Resources. And finally, also Associate Minister for Energy. In these positions he will have a strong hand in NZ’s environmental profile.
And on the policy side
Here are some highlights from the formal Coalition Agreements, including a few of special interest to Hawke’s Bay (all language quoted from Agreements; italics are my comments):
Commitment to reduce farming regulation. [Devil in the details.]
National’s commitment to supercharge electric vehicle infrastructure with a comprehensive, nationwide network of 10,000 public EV chargers by 2030 will specifically take into account ACT’s concern that there be robust cost benefit analysis to ensure maximum benefit for government investment. [‘Analysis’ will not be a threat to this initiative.]
Increase the cap on the number of workers under the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme to increase the flexibility of the quota allocation system. [Cheers from HB’s growers.]
Repeal the Natural and Built Environment Act 2023 and the Spatial Planning Act 2023 by Christmas. [This will actually disappoint HB local government officials, who will hopefully progress an urgently needed regional spatial plan of their own volition.]
Amend the Resource Management Act 1991 to make it easier to consent new infrastructure including renewable energy, allow farmers to farm, get more houses built, and enable aquaculture and other primary industries.
Replace the Resource Management Act 1991 with new resource management laws premised on the enjoyment of property rights as a guiding principle. [These two seem to stop short of outright 100-day repeal of the RMA, which would be a terribly unproductive step backward, but still means an environmentally-weakened RMA is assured.]
Introduce financial incentives for councils to enable more housing, including considering sharing a portion of GST collected on new residential builds with councils. [I hear local officials applauding.]
Reverse speed limit reductions where it is safe to do so. [I hear Paul Paynter applauding!]
Maintain a split-gas approach to methane and carbon dioxide through to 2050 and review the methane science and targets in 2024 for consistency with no additional warming from agricultural methane emissions. [Split-gas sensible, but any slow downs or target reductions not good for our planet.]
Enable farmers and landowners to offset sequestration against their on-farm emissions. [Good, if smartly done.]
Liberalise genetic engineering laws. [This is counter to what HB leaders have previously supported.]
Replace the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 to allow district councils more flexibility in how they meet environmental limits and seek advice on how to exempt councils from obligations under the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 as soon as practicable. [Real environmental danger here.]
Replace the National Policy Statement for Freshwater 2020 to rebalance Te Mana o te Wai to better reflect the interests of all water users. [In other words, ‘re-prioritise’ so that economic use isn’t ranked lower than environmental protection, as present law provides.]
Repeal the ban on offshore oil and gas exploration. [Maybe the world won’t notice.]
Disestablish the Māori Health Authority. [Maybe Māori won’t notice.]
Introduce a Treaty Principles Bill based on existing ACT policy and support it to a Select Committee as soon as practicable. [Fasten your seatbelt!]
Remove co-governance from the delivery of public services. [Ditto.]
Investigate build and lease-back arrangements for new hospitals. [Could be interesting option for HB.]
Immediately issue stop-work notices on several workstreams, including … Three Waters (with assets returned to council ownership). [Disaster for local ratepayers.]
Analysis of all this will keep BayBuzz quite busy the next three years, if not overwhelmed. Donations welcome!