Wellington Cardinal John Dew said that the country needs far-sighted people who will think beyond the three–year parliamentary term when making decisions around the environment.
The cardinal made this call as representatives of six political parties outlined their party policies on climate change and the environment at a Wellington pre-election forum.
The Wellington Archdiocesan Ecology, Justice and Peace Commission organised the livestreamed election forum on environmental and climate change issues on September 1, the Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. It was hosted by St Mary’s College, which celebrated its 170th anniversary the following day.
The questions were asked by Catholic students who were “maybe not old enough to vote”, according to Cardinal Dew. They were Xyryll Gayagoy, Morgyn Jacob, Joel Tebbs, Aurélie Bray, Lewis Johnston and Sithmi Sathruwani.
However, the cardinal said these students are passionate and committed to seeing the change “that needs to happen, does happen”.
The forum was chaired by Te Kupenga – The Catholic Institute chief executive Dr Areti Metuamate.
Political party representatives who attended the forum were: New Zealand First candidate Taylor Arneil, Māori Party candidate Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, Green Party leader and MP James Shaw, The Opportunities Party candidate Geoff Simmons, National MP Scott Simpson and Labour MP Angie Warren-Clark.
Mr Shaw acknowledged the young people who participated in last year’s School Strike for Climate Change.
“It was instrumental in ensuring that we got the Zero Carbon Act through Parliament in the shape that we got it through, with unanimity in the house,” he said. “That was a remarkable historical feat, and a large part of that was the young people who are putting pressure, not just on parliamentarians, but on their parents, on businesses and on other people in society.”
He said the Green Party’s stance is that climate change is one of two crises facing the country, the other being endemic poverty. He said this stance speaks to hearing “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor”.
Ms Warren-Clark said the Labour Party is very clear that “you cannot have economic strength without the environment being in the forefront”.
She said climate change is not an equality, but an inequity issue. She said Kaikohe, where her mother lives, is in the grip of drought. Those who can afford to, bought water, while those who can’t collected water in the streams.
“We, as a nation, need to look at that, and consider what can we do to support people in poverty. Twelve per cent of people are in poverty,” Ms Warren-Clark said. “We also need to look at the gendered nature of this inequity.”
Mr Simpson cited five “blue-green” principles that the National Party stands by. These principles include: all resource use should be sustainable, environmental protection and enhancement and economic growth are not mutually exclusive, decisions should be based on good science, people respond best to challenging change when they are engaged and given positive incentives, and commitment to the Treaty.
“There isn’t going to be a day when we wake up on any of these issues and say, ‘job finished. It’s done’ . . . This is a mission or a journey that is on-going,” he said.
Mr Arniel said that New Zealand First believes that, when it comes to climate change, there is a need for balance.
“We cannot turn around and go all out on climate change and incur massive economic costs and consequences, because then we aren’t going to be able to sustain our initiatives and very quickly take two steps forward, but then we might get pushed five steps back,” he said.
This was a theme that he expounded throughout the night.
On the issue of agricultural emissions, he said, “we need to be careful on how we lower our agricultural emissions . . . dairy alone makes up a quarter of our exports. If we want to lower emissions, we need to do it in a way that doesn’t kick our economy’s long-term growth and recovery from Covid-19.”
Ms Ngawera-Packer said the Maori Party will commit $1 billion to resource iwi communities.
She said the Maori Party exists, most of all, because “we are intolerant of the desecration that is happening to our lands and to our seas. We are here because no one is stopping seabed mining . . . and as indigenous people of this nation, we are asking that you stand with us.”
“The treaty is about the unity of strength. And that is what climate justice needs. Let’s look after our most needy first,” she added.
The Opportunity Party candidate Mr Simmons, who cycled to the forum, said there is a need to restructure the economy in the long term, because the current economic structure “favours the make, take and throw-away model”.
He said it would be cheaper for him to buy a new bike every three years, but he stubbornly gets it serviced every six months.
“Big picture, what we need to do is tax incomes less, and tax resource use and assets more,” he said.
He said, under former Prime Minister Helen Clark, there was an idea that infrastructure projects should be based where the best return on investment is.
“We should invest in the stuff that is going to give the best return on investments. This should all be public, for the public to see and for the public to decide how we make these massive investments, because it influences all of us,” he said.