Working for conservation
There have been tears and joy in 2015. I wept with frustration at human arrogance and greed seeing diggers plunder Northland’s peat bog wetlands for ancient swamp kauri but marvelled at the more than 7,000 people who signed the petition to halt swamp kauri mining. We haven’t stopped the plunder but did force the Government to tighten up the way the law is enforced.
New Zealand is a biological hotspot because of the large number of species which are found here and nowhere else in the world. We also have a biodiversity crisis with around 2,000 species threatened with extinction because of the combined impacts of habitat destruction, such as wetland drainage, and predation. I was sad to give up the Green Party Conservation Portfolio mid-year as part of portfolio changes in the Green Caucus, but pleased to see our repeated conservation message finally gaining wider support. That message is that the National Government needs to invest in conservation rather than repeatedly cutting DoC’s budget and forcing it to depend on corporate charity.
Democracy for Canterbury
Further south, the need to restore local decision making was at the heart of many Christchurch issues in 2015. These ranged from the lack of vision for effective public transport through to the National Government burdening the city with unaffordable anchor projects like the stadium and the convention centre helping to create a financial hole for the Christchurch City Council.
The Council’s earthquake related deficit means it is selling a major asset, City Care. The campaign which the Greens and Keep Our Assets Canterbury organised to keep Christchurch assets did, however, encourage the Council to keep Orion, Christchurch International Airport and Lyttelton Port as strategic assets. This means public consultation will be required if the Council moves to sell them.
Citizens’ ability to comment on proposed law changes is a vital part of our democracy. I was inspired by the many Canterbury citizens who told the Parliamentary Select Committee that they wanted the restoration of a fully elected regional council at Environment Canterbury not the second class, partially elected model that the National Government is promoting.
Many others demanded that the City Council, not Government Ministers determine the City’s future once CERA winds up in April next year. The Bill which establishes Regenerate Christchurch as a new urban planning entity retains far too many of the emergency powers in the CERA legislation. We won’t know National’s response to public submissions until 2016 but it’s a campaign I am proud to be part of.
New home for Christchurch Greens
In spring, we celebrated finding new Christchurch office for the Green MPs after more than 12 months searching for suitable premises which were warm, oriented to the sun, and wheelchair accessible. Do come and visit us in Duke St.
Having talked to hundreds of people about climate change this year, it was a highlight to march with thousands of others in the People’s Climate Parade in Christchurch to demand a real plan to reduce our emissions. I’m delighted that at the most recent count Christchurch volunteers have collected more signatures on the Green’s petition for a climate plan than Auckland.
Looking to 2016
In 2016, our major environmental laws including the RMA, conservation legislation and how we protect our oceans will be under debate. I look forward to your ideas on how we can strengthen the way the law respects and honours nature, and blunt the National Government’s efforts to rubber stamp high impact development.
As well as reducing climate pollution (the fact that there are 300,000 fewer dairy cattle in 2015 compared to 2014, is a bonus for both the climate and our rivers), we need national leadership on how to tackle the impacts of climate change such as sea level rise, extreme weather events and sleeper pests. Pushing for change here will be another focus in 2016.