New Zealand’s environment is at the core of our quality of life, our national identity, and our competitive advantage. From Lake Waikaremoana to the Ruahine Ranges, there is little doubt that Hawke’s Bay enjoys some of New Zealand’s most pristine and accessible natural beauty.
People from all over the world don’t just visit the region for our farms, orchards and vineyards, but come for our walks, our beaches, and our views. Good environmental practice is not only important to protect our natural heritage, but is crucial in lifting our nation’s game and securing the sort of future we want for our children.
That’s why throughout our first year in office the National-led Government has worked hard to provide real leadership on environmental issues that our country and the Bay needed so badly. We’ve moved to implement a raft of policies that marry sound economics with the protection of our environment.
We set out eight clear environmental priorities: climate change, freshwater management, biodiversity protection, oceans, air quality, outdoor recreation, waste management and contaminated site clean-ups.
On 1 October, we established the New Zealand Environmental Protection Agency. This new agency will be the vehicle for providing clearer central Government leadership around many of the environmental issues facing Hawke’s Bay.
We’ve put into practice programmes that will actually deliver for Hawke’s Bay.
The most significant of these programmes is the $323 million “Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart” initiative. This scheme is already proving very popular with more than 1,153 homes in the Hawke’s Bay region insulated in the first three months since its launch in July. Already it’s improving energy efficiency, reducing the cost of energy for households and increasing the value of Hawke’s Bay homes. Best of all, it is providing much needed jobs in our communities.
Another new programme of work is the fresh start for freshwater.
Here in Hawke’s Bay, we have seen first hand the problems of deteriorating water quality in areas of intensive agriculture. We’ve experienced the poor system of allocating water rights, and have seen the opportunities for storage and water augmentation lost because of poor public policy.
We know firsthand the value of water. Freshwater is to New Zealand, what minerals are to Australia. The good news is that freshwater, unlike their mines, if properly managed, will not run out.
National has not only recognised freshwater management as one of New Zealand’s big environmental challenges, but we’ve also set out an ambitious framework for driving reform in this all important area. Improving the water quality in rivers such as the Tuki Tuki and Mohaka are central to these reforms.
A further new initiative is around biofuels. National believes biofuels can play a part in the solution to renewable fuels. That’s why we’ve invested $36 million into a biodiesel grants programme, promoting biodiesel production to kick start the biofuels industry.
We’ve also passed legislation that exempts electric vehicles from road user charges to encourage their uptake. Electric cars have huge environmental benefits in that they are far more energy efficient and quieter than conventional vehicles, and can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These new Government policies for biofuels and electric cars provide a refreshing approach to new energy technologies.
Our New Zealand Cycleway Project, championed by Prime Minister John Key, will benefit both the economy and the environment by kick-starting local economies while protecting our natural landscape. We’ve seen huge growth in cycle tourism all over the world. This initiative will help create a high-quality tourism asset that will help attract higher-value cycle tourists and complement our “100% Pure” brand.
We all look in admiration at the success of the Otago Railtrail. There is no reason Hawke’s Bay can’t have similar success. We’re working together with local organisations to propose a Hawke’s Bay Cycleway Journey. We’re keen to see Hawke’s Bay with an iconic Cycleway Journey, with the hope that it will be included in the next round of allocations for the National Cycleway project.
Hawke’s Bay’s striking landscapes mean it has considerable untapped potential for tourism, both domestic and international. We believe that a journey of this nature would promote a range of small businesses, especially accommodation clusters along the route. The New Zealand Cycleway will not only preserve New Zealand’s diverse environment, but will encourage Kiwis and visitors alike to explore and enjoy it.
Within our first year in office, there are two very substantive reforms that the Government has been involved in.
The first of those is the biggest package of reforms to the Resource Management Act since it became law in 1991. These reforms address the delays, costs and uncertainties of the Act without undermining its overall environmental integrity. The new legislation that came into effect on 1 October makes a number of significant changes. Our reforms are about pulling back on expensive and unnecessary bureaucracy. They reinforce National’s Bluegreen message that being pro-environment does not equate to being pro-red tape.
The other major package is the critical issue of climate change.
This Government’s approach is about New Zealand doing its fair share and protecting our clean green reputation. But we’re also realistic about the costs, the impacts on jobs and what a small country like New Zealand can do.
The first challenge we’ve faced as a Government in climate change is setting a 2020 emissions target as we move towards the Copenhagen conference in December. We’ve set an ambitious target to cut emissions 10-20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020.
We’ve put a power of work over the last few months into making the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme workable and affordable. The ETS we’re proposing will halve the electricity and fuel price increases that Labour was planning, and it will save thousands of jobs.
Labour presided over record deforestation, and a growing emissions profile – our gross emissions are already 24 per cent above 1990 levels. We have had to start our efforts behind the eight ball during an economic downturn.
But we’re committed to doing our part. The changes ensure we don’t destroy peoples’ jobs and the backbone of our economy by jeopardising the key industries of agriculture and fisheries. They defer agriculture to the more realistic timetable of 2015 and improve the transitional support for the fishing industry.
National remains committed to pursuing sound, practical environment policies to achieve emission reduction. We want to reduce emissions in ways that result in the least cost to society and the economy.
National believes that New Zealand, as a responsible international citizen, and as a country that values our clean, green environment, must act to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
We’re proud of our environmental initiatives so far.
But the work is not finished.
We have an ambitious agenda and you will see more environmental policies rolled out in the coming years. Our environment is just too important for us to rest on our laurels.