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Monday, September 8

National "re-releases" environment and conservation policies

National released its environment and conservation policies yesterday -- after Labour released them last week.

National Party Environment spokesman Nick Smith quipped, during an interview on TV One's Agenda this morning, that Labour's Trevor Mallard had intensified interest in the policies which he had somehow obtained and given to media on Thursday and Friday.

National leader John Key went ahead and announced the policies at the party's Bluegreens Forum on Waiheke Island.

However, while talking about the importance of the environment he gave a warning its protection would be balanced against what was needed for economic growth.

Key points in the environment policy were:

  • A legislated target of 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions compared to 1990 levels by 2050;
  • An Emissions Trading System (ETS). National would amend the Labour scheme within nine months of office;
  • Set standards and incentivise biofuel use by exempting it from excise tax or road user charges;
  • Exempting electric cars from road user charges;
  • $1000 grants for solar water heating and heat pump hot water heating;
  • A new Environmental Reporting Act which will require the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment to conduct independent five yearly State of the Environment Reports;
  • Expanding the Environmental Risk Management Authority into an Environmental Protection Agency with added responsibilities including regulation functions of the Resource Management Act and national policy statements and standards. The EPA would also process major projects consents. The Environment Ministry would be smaller and have an advisory role;
  • A new national park in Northland's Waipoua and surrounding Kauri forests and look at a new park on the public lands of the Waitakere ranges;
  • Reduce bureaucratic barriers to community involvement in species recovery efforts and;
  • Encourage the Department of Conservation to work better with rural communities over conservation while also removing tax disincentives for landowners seeking to improve land management;

Labour Party conservation spokeswoman Steve Chadwick described the conservation policy as bland and imitative.

She said Labour had made community-led initiatives a priority and funded many. Also DOC was fully involved with community efforts and thousands of volunteers worked with the department.

Ms Chadwick said the party's previous agenda was more radical and proposed making the Conservation Authority a fund-raiser "that would trade our heritage for private business gains".

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said the 2050 target was silly as National were not putting limits on more roading and traffic. He said dairy would be left free to produce more emissions.

Dr Norman also criticised the focus on personal vehicles instead of public transport.

Forest and Bird advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell said new parks, tax breaks for landowners and community involvement efforts were positive.

But he warned that greater voluntary and community involvement should not be at the expense of DOC's budget.

He also urged National to allow recreational hunting groups to manage conservation areas.-NZPA

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