Gareth Hughes

Can’t or won’t?

by Gareth Hughes

On Tuesday, Steven Joyce, Minister of Economic Development and Science and Innovation, wrote about the ‘you cant’s’ of our country, in an opinion piece in the NZ Herald.

Feeling that perhaps I am one of those people he criticises as ‘people who in the one breath chant “more jobs, more jobs” and then in the next breath say “but don’t do that, or that, or that”, I thought I would ask Mr Joyce a few questions about why he and the National Government are saying ‘we won’t’ to a prosperous and sustainable Aotearoa.

Mr Joyce criticises those who say ‘you can’t explore for that there’. In actual fact, those of us who are deeply concerned about the Government’s risky ‘drill it, mine it’ agenda for our country are not saying ‘you can’t’ without providing alternatives that will both keep our valuable clean green image intact, and provide a more  sustainable economic path for Aotearoa.

As the Greens have been pointing out for a while, if we were to secure just 1 per cent of the global renewable energy market in the next five years, we’d create a $5.8 billion industry with 60,000 more green jobs. Short term risky exploration ventures will not create a long term stable economy for New Zealand. And with the Government boasting in its recent briefing to incoming Minister of Economic Development that we have one of the lowest royalty rates in the world, how can we take their claims of the economic benefits to New Zealand seriously?

So Mr Joyce, why won’t you and your Government commit to a modern and sustainably prosperous economic plan for Aotearoa, when the opportunities to do so are so viable?

Mr Joyce criticises those who say ‘you can’t build that there’. I wonder if he is referring to the vast expansion of new motorways planned which he himself presided over while Transport Minister? In the recent briefing to the incoming Minister of Transport, data revealed a transport budget blowout of $ 1 billion is expected as oil prices remain high. Is this smart economic planning? As Julie Anne Genter, fellow Green party MP and transport spokesperson said in a blog last week ‘As oil prices rise, people turn to buses, trains, walking and cycling, but this Government is planning to blow the budget on uneconomic motorways’

So Mr Joyce, why won’t you and your Government invest in sustainable transport options for Aotearoa giving Kiwis real choices which will be better for our economy and contribute to healthier lifestyles and a cleaner environment?

As it’s a large part of the Minister’s economic plan, he is also no doubt referring to those of us who criticise asset sales as the ‘you can’ts’. As my colleague Russel Norman revealed on Wednesday, the Government is planning to sell off assets which are earning four times more than the cost of capital tied up in them, some of which, according to the Prime Minister himself, have returned 18.5% shareholder profit over the last five years. Why won’t the Government implement smart economic decisions like a temporary earthquake levy for Christchurch, or a capital gains tax which would unleash capital to be invested in innovative productive Kiwi businesses?

So I ask My Joyce, rather than focusing on the ‘can’ts’ why won’t you and your Government focus on real solutions like renewable energy, green-tech, or smart transport that would deliver for Kiwis.



Published in Environment & Resource Management by Gareth Hughes on Fri, February 10th, 2012   

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