Yesterday’s select committee hearings on the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) were a lesson on how to do it. We had invited all the iwi submitters to present in the early afternoon, just as we have grouped other like-minded submitters. But instead of each taking their individual 15 minutes for presentation and questions, they organised themselves into a forum, presided over by Dr Apirana Mahuika and MC’d by Willie Te Aho, with all the questions dealt with together in a forum at the end. It was an impressive show of organisation and solidarity and allowed a better debate on the issues.
The key issue for Maori is fairness in the impacts of the ETS. This is easy to say, but fairness can have many meanings to different people.
Is it enough that Maori and pakeha foresters pay the same deforestation penalties and live under the same rules? Well, no – it’s not that simple.
Some iwi used Treaty settlement money to buy land under Crown Forest Leases with the express intention of deforesting and farming the land when the final rotation was harvested by the lessees. The question here is, did the value assigned to that forest when they bought it reflect the fact that there would be a large financial penalty for doing that? The penalty is charged to the owner of the land, not the owner of the forest.
For recent Treaty settlements, that fact is obviously taken into account in valuing the land. For Ngai Tahu a decade ago, and probably some others since, that is unlikely to be the case.
Some sectors in New Zealand will be affected more than others, because of their greenhouse gas intensity. For example, IT and computer software are hardly affected, while livestock farming, forestry, fishing and energy intensive industry are greatly affected. So another take on “fairness” might be, are Maori disproportionately involved in those industries? I think we need to know how much of the pre-1990 forest estate (the forests that incur a deforestation liability without earning credits because they were planted before the base year for the Kyoto protocol) are held by iwi, and I have asked for that information.
Then there are households. Every household will face the same rise in the price of a kWh of electricity and a litre of petrol, so that’s fair, right?
Maybe not – power and fuel are a much higher proportion of family income for those on low incomes than for high earners. Maori are disproportionally on lower incomes and more likely, statistically, to live in cold damp houses on the edge of cities where the only way to get to work is my car and the only affordable car is a gas guzzler. Maori don’t have this on their own of course, they share it with all low income people. But that is why I negotiated so hard with Labour for the return of the electricity SOEs profits to the people, in the form of home insulation and energy efficiency upgrades. We are working with the Government right now to make sure people don’t lose that.
It’s also a reason why we go on and on about improving public transport and cycle and walking facilities. We want to give as many people as possible the choice to leave their old gas guzzler at home and take a train or a bus that runs frequently, on time and affordably.
A new point to me was driven home forcefully, and I’m glad to have learned it. Most farmers are content to get much of their return on their investment and hard work via an increase in the value of their farm. Then when they retire they get a large capital sum to pay for a house in town and an overseas trip. But Maori land acquired through customary title or through Treaty settlements is not for sale – it must stay with the iwi for future generations. So capital gains are of little value to them. They need a good annual income to provide for the whänau. Policies that restrict their income but capitalise their wealth in land values disadvantage them relative to most other New Zealanders.
No-one will escape the impacts of climate change and no-one can be exempt from the costs of the ETS. In the end I put it to Maori submitters yesterday that “fairness” does not mean that Maori are not impacted but the ETS, but that Maori as a group will not be impacted more than society as a whole. That seemed pretty well supported.