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Disaster around the corner for anyone interested in environmentally and socially progressive policies?

The latest Colmar Brunton poll put National at 47%, Labour at 27%, with Greens and NZ First on 11% each. Based on this result even with NZ First, it is unlikely that Labour/Greens could form a government. At the moment Labour/Greens seem unable to grow their overall vote, with any growth in the Greens vote coming at the expense of Labour. This leaves a National/ NZ First coalition the most likely election outcome.

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If you believe the polls there couldn’t be a worse outcome for a progressive voter. We’re all aware of the National Government’s record on the environment. On climate change they preferred cheating to taking action, and have left us facing a massive challenge to reduce emissions to meet future targets. On fresh water they have stalled taking action and then grudgingly done the bare minimum. But in cahoots with NZ First you can more-or-less kiss our environment goodbye, not to mention our social fabric.  

NZ First’s attack on environmental and social progress

Let’s put aside for now the impossibility of paying for half the policies that NZ First is putting forward. We’ll come back to that another day. 

On water NZ First have promised to roll back what little controls the Government and Regional Councils are placing on farmers. This would result in a return to a complete free for all for intensifying farming regardless of the impact on our rivers and lakes. Forget swimmability – and probably even wadeability if NZ First is in power. This might be great for farmers wanting to make a quick buck, but as our Selwyn candidate Nicky Snoyink pointed out last week it would be disaster for both the farmers that care and rural communities as a whole. In short, NZ First have completely and unashamedly sided with Federated Farmers on this issue.

NZ First have also said that they oppose charging for water, although they have also said more recently that they want to charge water bottlers. They also want to scrap the Emissions Trading Scheme. The final nail in the coffin is their promise to ban 1080 – currently one of the few tools we have to keep our native birds alive while we pursue the goal of Predator Free NZ by 2050.

Even more terrifying is their promise to ‘throw the book at young offenders’ – which flies in the face of the incredibly effective Youth Court system. This would end up costing us more and increasing crime to boot.

In short, National’s ‘do the bare minimum’ combined with NZ First’s policies from the past would be a disaster for the environment and society.

What are the options for a progressive voter?

Thoughtful progressive voters out there must be scratching their chins wondering what to do. Some may consider voting National, giving them a majority (perhaps with the Maori Party) simply to keep NZ First out of the frame.

Of course people that care about the environment traditionally vote Green, but that looks to be a wasted vote. The Greens have ruled out working with National and shackled themselves to Labour. Together they appear to have little chance of being in government after the election. If they do it would only be in coalition with NZ First, who would cancel out anything environmentally positive the Greens would want to do.

Of course, the other option is to vote for the The Opportunities Party (TOP). We are prepared to work with either Labour or National to ensure that these lethargic establishment parties make some real progress on economic, social and environmental issues. We’re interested in changing policy direction rather than who leads the government.

Do the Greens actually care about the environment?

It is easy to slag off NZ First, but they are just doing what they do, gathering votes from the discontented. This sort of Trump/Brexit like populist backlash is what The Opportunities Party (TOP) is trying to head off by talking about evidence based policies that would actually solve New Zealand’s problems. 

The real question is whether the Greens actually care about social and environmental progress. If they did, they would have a far better chance of being able to achieve that if they were willing to work with National. It seems they are more wedded to the idea of #changethegovt than they are to real progress.

We aren’t angry, we’re just disappointed. 

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    • Kevin Simpson
      commented 2017-07-20 18:47:23 +1200
      I was wondering why there was no feedback from senior TOP management regarding the 1080 issue.
      Then I found that the two Morgan family philanthropic foundations are financial partners, along with NZ’s big 6 dairy companies, of ZIP (Zero Invasive Predators), .who are directly responsible (with DoC) for dumping tonnes of 1080 in NZ wilderness areas in the name of predator control. No mention in any of ZIP’s publications about the extensive collateral deaths (particularly native birds). Hugely disappointing all round.
    • Alibofi Mayor
      commented 2017-07-19 19:29:54 +1200
      It’s all very well to say “if the Greens were willing to work with National”. TOP may be “willing to work with National” in theory but most of its policies are a radical departure from National’s (not that it has many policies, more of a laissez-faire “let us stagnate in the status quo by doing little” approach).

      So in reality, TOP, just like the Greens (who have worked with National governments in the past e.g. insulation), is technically willing but almost completely unable to work with National. And the claim that TOP is willing to work with a party whose worldview and policies are divergent while the other is not is just dishonest vote-mongering. As a TOP member I find this disturbing.

      The distasteful thing about this argument is that it panders to the sentiment that “ideology is bad” and that one can somehow avoid being pigeon-holed as “left and right” or “political”. A favourite lie that anti-intellectual NZ likes to tell itself, and that extremist parties like to parrot worldwide. Morgan likes to claim that he’s “pragmatic”, disinterested because he has plenty of money and nothing to gain from it, and that all TOP’s policies are evidence-based and thus “rational”. That is like Peter Dunne, Winston Peters or Donald Trump claiming “common-sense”. It essentially means that Morgan supports them because they are compatible with his ideology and his understanding of what constitutes evidence.

      I support most of TOP’s policies for the same reasons. But I think Morgan’s generally dismissive attitude – as in a recent interview on interest.co.nz denigrating all politicians as self-seeking money grubbers, and hints that other parties who have guiding principles as somehow more “ideological” than himself – is totally misguided and counter-productive. This kind of populism may attract a few votes but will repel many others, and will kill any long-term political project with honest objectives.
    • Martine Bouillir
      commented 2017-07-18 11:47:25 +1200
      I agree that to vote for parties on one issue is shortsighted but I appreciate the strong sentiments of many. I don’t like 1080 either but wouldn’t not NOT vote for TOP on that basis – they have too many other good policies that can really turn NZ around. I’d like to hear TOP come out in support of better tech and a pledge to find better ways than 1080. But let’s get them in there first. Peters is not doing this for good hearted reasons – he’s hoping to pick up exactly the one-policy voters! Look at the big picture as others have said…TOP has shown itself to be an intelligent thoughtful party – I believe they will listen to reason and look for better ways on specifics further along the line…the general ethos of TOP is clear thinking and that has huge appeal for me…no party is ever going to give us nirvana.
    • Dave Reid
      commented 2017-07-16 11:49:26 +1200
      I guess it all comes down to your personal belief set. I don’t believe the ends justifies the means. As far as i’m concerned, 1080 is simply an inhumane solution. Anyone who has seen an animal writhing for 3 or more days as it eventually dies from this poison knows what I mean. If you don’t have a humane solution, then maybe you don’t have a solution at all.
    • Kevin Simpson
      commented 2017-07-16 10:41:31 +1200
      Neal; The stance of the Green Party and Forest & Bird is mind boggling given the huge amount of “independent and unbiased” evidence that grows by the day. DoC has been strangled and manipulated by successive governments, and now relies on “paid-for” science that fits within their budgets. DoC senior management also follow its political leaders, seeing much of the estate as a tradeable resource, with the possum being a useful distraction. They have, and continue to, suppress viable alternatives which already exist. Do we wait until people are being poisoned by 1080 infected waterways (in reality, this is probably happening right now) and/or the extinction of some of our iconic native birds??? I see that TOP is about evidence based policies…how much evidence does one need?
    • Neal Jacks
      commented 2017-07-16 10:14:09 +1200
      David Reid suggesting that we should ban 1080 now and hope the the ‘free market’ will step up to deal with the problem is a naive wish. You may as well hope it’s the tooth fairy or Santa Claus that will solve the problem. The mythical ‘free market’ is a belief system in something that doesn’t in reality exist. We operate in a regulated market and so we should. I think people often forget that the market is you and me, not some corporate construct or ideological idea. TOP is about evidence based policies, there is nothing evidence based about banning 1080. When the Green Party, DOC and Forest & Bird all say the same thing about 1080 it would be wise to listen. It’s one thing to have reservations about 1080 as I do, it’s another to say we should ban it without a viable alternative already lined up ready to go.
    • Mark James
      commented 2017-07-15 21:50:21 +1200
      Just read another poll on interest.co.nz with different figures showing labour/greens and National equal. This being said this election the TOP party if they can get to 5% may be able to be an alternate partner for National or Labour/Greens other than NZ1st.

      My opinion is this is how you push ‘if you dont want Winston Peters to decide this election vote TOP’.
    • Kevin Simpson
      commented 2017-07-15 20:45:27 +1200
      Agreed Oliver. Your last paragraph reinforces the dangers of voting for a single policy party and/or one thats policies contradict each other. Like you, I like what I see, hear and read from TOP who are creating (as you mention) a comprehensive policy framework where individual policies are cross-linked and work together towards a set of goals.
      Due to my experiences and follow-up research, I believe that TOP’s Environment Policy and Clear Water Action Plan would be massively enhanced by a ban on 1080, with efforts and budgets re-directed immediately to alternative technology, methods and workmanship.
      Ultimately, transparency with the relevant agencies, would be refreshing.
    • Oliver Krollmann
      commented 2017-07-15 18:48:46 +1200
      Can we please stop making this all about 1080 again, please?
      If that is the sole thing on anyone’s mind, one can vote for the Ban 1080 Party. With so many people supporting the ban, and all the evidence (?) at our disposal that it has killed vast amounts of native wildlife (??) instead of helping preserve it, this is going to be a no-brainer. Right!?
      I know it’s a bad option. Many of us know that. TOP people certainly do because they recognise the genuine and verifiable evidence.
      On a side note, a party that supports Federated Farmers but at the same time wants to ban 1080, which is the most efficient tool to keep the number one vector of bovine tuberculosis in check, contradicts itself. This is just dishing out isolated statements and policies to appease groups of voters who need to hear what they want to hear, not about a comprehensive policy framework where individual policies are cross-linked and work together towards a set of goals. I’ve had enough of the former – I’m ready to try the latter.
    • Kevin Simpson
      commented 2017-07-15 18:48:02 +1200
      Jill Smith; I applaud your community volunteer work with families struggling to cope. Is it wrong for me to volunteer my time (using my life skills and experience) to work for our environment and native birds (amongst others) that are also struggling to cope? My motivation…have you ever seen a native bird, deer, pig or working dog die the most inhumane death caused by 1080? Please don’t judge me until you have. Without a healthy environment, human existence is on a tightrope. Unfortunately, successive governments have created a plethora of problems and issues to distract and divide society, knowing that it waters down the power of the people. TOP offers a refreshing change to that controlling type of regime.
    • Dave Reid
      commented 2017-07-15 18:29:37 +1200
      To my mind, a society can be judged by it’s behavior, especially to those with no profile, representation or voice. 1080 is completely inhumane. No one who advocated it’s use would ever approve a demonstration in public of the 72 hours of agony it can take an animal to die.

      With any solution to any problem, the very first question must be, ‘am I proud of this’

      No one can be proud of 1080. Indeed most could not watch a single animal die from it. We ignore, as we won’t watch.
    • Jill Smith
      commented 2017-07-15 18:18:22 +1200
      I agree with Oliver Krollman. As a community volunteer who deals with so many families struggling to cope, Kevin Simpson needs reminding that he must never ever take his right to vote for granted. I can assure him that the last thing on the minds of those we help is whether we should or should not use 1080. A caring society invariably cares about its environment. It’s no accident that when it comes a fairer society for all & preserving our environment for future generations, NZ is not the caring society it once was. We desperately need sound minds, not sound bites, influencing government policy that has an eye on the future.
    • Kevin Simpson
      commented 2017-07-15 14:02:03 +1200
      Very good points Robert. Trapping technology has advanced so much in the last 10 years. There is no real need to keep using 1080.
    • robert carter
      commented 2017-07-15 11:08:50 +1200
      Possums are the basis of several current industries and could be viewed as a resource. The industries include meat for restaurants around the world, petfood, fur coats and a very warm merino possum fur blend.
      Some people make their living trapping Possums catching 20-40 possums a night as possum fur is valuable,15- 20 possums generate a kilo of fur or more, worth between $110 -150 a kilo.
      .
      Given that 1080 does not eradicate the possums, nor does trapping’ perhaps a farming approach where the operators have to keep the numbers/damage below a certain level would be more appropriate.
      The problem of possums in remote areas could be solved by allowing pony or all-terrain vehicle access paths. This could also help in wasp, rat, cat and stoat control. Currently DOC pays people to kill possums etc, could this not be fine tuned, perhaps as a condition on the full or part-time operators.
    • Kevin Simpson
      commented 2017-07-14 20:40:11 +1200
      Good points Phil. I am sure that Gareth and TOP also share these views, given their environment policies, and that is the shake up that our political system needs. Whether it be farming, tourism, recreation, or sustaining life (both human & wildlife), the health of the environment has to come first. The majority of us know our waterways are in terrible shape, and without them, we have nothing!
    • Phil Marshall
      commented 2017-07-14 20:21:20 +1200
      I wonder whether part of the issue is the way we talk about the environment, as if it is optional, rather than an integral part of the economy. One consequence is that mainstream assessments of growth do not seem to take into account any negative effects on the environment (leaving aside for a moment all the other issues around both the concept and measurement of growth). Surely, if you increase GDP at the expense of the environment, that is no more growth than taking out a loan and claiming you have become richer.
    • Kevin Simpson
      commented 2017-07-14 19:36:25 +1200
      Oliver; I have never “not voted” so I do want to vote. You say the “the 1080 issue will be dealt with”, but by who? The single policy Ban 1080 Party or NZ First (heaven forbid)??? My argument is, why wait? Until the Kea, Kaka or Ruru are extinct? To your last sentence, can’t agree more. With the waterways also being poisoned by 1080 (despite what all the propaganda says), there won’t be clean water to sustain us in NZ anyway. TOP’s policies on water need to be backed up by a “no 1080” if they are to be serious about it. Liken it to putting a drop of dye in a bucket of water. After enough drops, the water colour changes for good. 1080 has been killing waterlife for years, is it having an effect on downstream users? Unfortunately, it will be too late when we find out for sure. PLEASE GARETH
    • Kevin Simpson
      commented 2017-07-14 19:20:53 +1200
      Brian; unfortunately your cousin has been led to believe that possums are THE problem for native plants and animals. There is an abundance of false truths out there. Proven and credible research (including government agencies) shows that possums rarely ever kill native birds and/or eggs (their main threats are rats, stoats, feral cats and 1080), and the amount of foliage they eat is a very small percentage of the actual daily growth. They have been using 1080 for over 60 years in NZ. If it was that good, surely it would have made a difference before now, yet rodent numbers have increased dramatically, while some of our iconic native bird species are facing extinction. Not rocket science.
    • Oliver Krollmann
      commented 2017-07-14 19:10:06 +1200
      Kevin, you said you won’t vote for TOP, and yes, you didn’t say you were going to vote for any other party – so you’re not going to vote at all, then?
      Please, don’t not vote. As Lesley said, please try to see the big picture. The 1080 issue will be dealt with. Just please don’t make it all about that one issue right here, right now. Brian confirms it’s the least evil of many bad options at the moment, and I’ve worked for TBFree in the past and can tell from experience that it is our weapon of choice for the time being, to make much needed progress. Please do not base your decision on just your personal experiences – there are always a few bad apples in each organisation, and you might have stumbled on them in your dealings with DoC. The evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of what and how it is being done at the moment.
      And now let’s get back to the important things – making sure that there will still be a planet capable of sustaining life in 50 to 100 years, as Lesley pointed out.
    • Kevin Simpson
      commented 2017-07-14 19:03:04 +1200
      I very much agree with you Lesley, the only difference being that, due to personal experiences, the issue of 1080 is more than just a “side issue” for me.
    • lesley haddon
      commented 2017-07-14 18:49:19 +1200
      I am voting for TOP because I am a big picture person. The issue of 1080 is a side issue for me. We have to bring in a new era of politics, not for us ( I am 65) ,for our grandchildren.
    • Brian Blackie
      commented 2017-07-14 18:31:35 +1200
      My cousin is a scientist specialising in possum control and she vehemently assures me that 1080 is essential right now in controlling possums, which goes on to benefit native plants and animals.
    • Kevin Simpson
      commented 2017-07-14 18:29:48 +1200
      Oliver, I did not say I was going to vote for any other party. I am passionate about the environment, spent nearly 30 years in the outdoor education & recreation industry, and won’t even vote for the Greens due to their stance on 1080. I have seen, first hand, the “collateral” damage to which you refer, having found dead and dying birds, deer, pigs, possums (no rats, stoats or feral cats) three weeks after a 1080 drop, followed by stonewalling and bullying from DoC when I tried to discuss it with them. Like many, I have done a lot of research on the issue and, quite frankly, do not believe the “paid for” science and DoC / Government propaganda. For many years, they have shown to be bullies, ignore or intentionally manipulate and/or obstruct other options, and blatantly break the laws of the land with seeming impunity. I have a lot of respect for Gareth and his goals for the country, and I would love to see him be more progressive on the 1080 issue. It would certainly win a lot of votes, the “anti-1080” community is growing by the day, and looking for a multi-policy party to back.
    • Oliver Krollmann
      commented 2017-07-14 18:02:55 +1200
      Kevin, so you’d rather vote for a candidate or party that you like less than TOP because you disagree on just that one topic?
      You already mentioned that research is being done to find a better solution, so why won’t you compromise? I don’t think the perfect party or policy that you can agree with 100% will pop up any time soon. I have my own issues with a few of TOP’s policies but that doesn’t keep me from supporting them for the overwhelmingly impressive list of topics where I think they’ve got it spot on.
      And please, not that old stale anti-1080 conspiracy theory talk again about numerous collateral damage. We’re evidence-based here in this forum, not anecdotal or sensational, thanks.
    • Kevin Simpson
      commented 2017-07-14 17:38:41 +1200
      The only thing stopping me from voting for, and getting behind TOP is their failure to promote a total ban on 1080. Until it is banned, there is no incentive for DoC and the government to stop its use, which is responsible for the inhumane death of tens of thousands of native birds, reptiles, insects, wildlife, marine creatures, working dogs and family pets. I know Gareth is supporting research on alternatives, but why wait, especially when the current regime is not going to listen to other ideas.
    • Oliver Krollmann
      commented 2017-07-14 17:10:25 +1200
      Let’s hope that these polls are just as useless as the ones before the Brexit referendum and the US presidential election, and that it isn’t all over yet before it has even begun. Maybe we see something happen here like what happened in France. We should be smart enough for that.
    • Oliver Krollmann
      followed this page 2017-07-14 17:05:33 +1200
    • Shannon Smith
      commented 2017-07-14 16:49:30 +1200
      You may want to have a read of this article re NZ Firsts policy on 1080 – https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2017/07/11/38194/1080-new-truths-or-few-truths

      It’s worth noting that Gareth is involved in a number projects trying to develop as fast as possible, a more economic approach than aerial 1080 over landscape sized areas. These methods involve traps and lures as well as bait stations and of course self-resetting traps. It is a matter of urgency of course but meanwhile on the evidence that we have 1080 is the most cost effective tool we have for controlling pest species – particularly possums – in remote areas. Dosage has dropped dramatically and application techniques have improved so on balance it has a positive impact on our native species.

      People are welcome to contribute financially to the development of these other methods of course, currently they are being funded by government and philanthropists. Gareth is also involved in producing an updated cost/benefit comparison of aerial 1080 versus best of breed non-poison approach.
    • Jenny Neve
      commented 2017-07-14 16:45:36 +1200
      TOP are not the only party willing to work with National – Maori Party has already compromised values to trade off and be part of the National Ruling Party.
      In a perfect world there would be no party vote – no corruption but as it stands a left wing voter has no choice except to vote Green or Labour. Conservationist party yes but if it means compromising values then one has to vote Green or Labour. I cannot understand why people who struggle to survive vote National – the very party who keeps them in servitude.
    • Dave Reid
      commented 2017-07-14 16:14:58 +1200
      The NZ First policy on 1080 is pretty much the only think I agree with NZ First on, and don’t agree with TOP on. 1080 is completely inhumane. Its not a poison anyone can use and hold their head up with pride. If it was banned, there would suddenly be an incentive for the development of other ways of managing pests, and the free market would soon step up to the plate. Buts that’s never going to happen while 1080 is cheap, and can be used indiscriminately.