NZ News
27 May, 2023
Dairy farmer bridges cultural gap beside braided awa - RNZ

"With the help of a cultural land advisor, North Canterbury farmer John Faulkner is creating a diverse mahinga kai - Māori food gathering site - on his riverside property. "I've got the land, I've got the area..." That's what went through John Faulkner's mind while hearing about the efforts to regenerate rural land at a zone committee meeting. Now with the help of Makarini Rupene (Ngāi Tahu), Faulkner was restoring the biodiversity on his land.

Down from Faulkner's dairy support block, on the south bank of the Waiau Uwha River, tōtara, mānuka, kānuka, cabbage trees, and flax were nestled once again. "And approximately 50 or 60 rongoā māori species in here. They are all endemic of a five-kilometre radius, so they were here in the past."

Faulkner's 162-hectare dairy farm, a kilometre up the road, was integrated with the support block. In winter, the cows come down and graze on the 35h available to them. He wanted a restoration site based on traditional Māori values and usage of the land. After learning about mahinga kai, and furthermore, nohoanga sites, Faulkner believed he had the space to develop a contemporary version."

26 May, 2023
‘Damning’ govt report lays out freshwater failures - Newsroom

Supposed protections weren’t enough to stop sensitive lakes deteriorating, a Ministry for the Environment report says

"A long-awaited government report lays bare the disconnect between the realities of intensive farming and the illusion of environmental progress. The report, produced by the Ministry for the Environment and published on its website on Wednesday, dismantles the idea a cascade of plans, frameworks, national standards, and consents is leading to healthier water bodies.

Headlined ‘Lessons Learnt’, the report centres on the sensitive Ōtūwharekai/Ashburton Lakes – a network of wetlands and lakes in the Canterbury high country, the largest of which is Lake Heron. The report finds the freshwater management system, including audited and compliant environment plans for adjacent farms, fails to protect the lakes.

Too many nutrients from the surrounding land is the direct cause of decline in the lakes, which are generally shallow, and slow flushing. “Over 95 percent of [the nutrients] is due to leaching and run-off from land-use practices on the adjacent pastoral farms,” the report says.

… Environmental groups call the report damning, and evidence of systemic failure – a shot across the bow ahead of a national rollout of freshwater farm plans, similar to those used in Canterbury.

… Greenpeace campaigner Christine Rose says the report is damning of the system the government is relying on to fix freshwater. “This is really just the tip of the iceberg.” The system is broken, she says, and the report is evidence to suggest freshwater bodies across the country will become increasingly contaminated, and deteriorate further.

… Freshwater ecologist Dr Mike Joy, of Victoria University of Wellington, a member of the science and technical advisory group established in 2018 to oversee evidence for the Government’s freshwater reforms, says: “It’s reinforced or substantiated everything that I’ve been saying about the failure to protect freshwater.”

21 May, 2023
Govt's NZ Steel deal welcomed by climate activists - INews

"The Government's announcement today of a deal with NZ Steel to significantly reduce the emissions of their Glenbrook site has been largely welcomed by climate activists.

However, activists and opposition politicians alike have taken issue with what they see to be a "corporate welfare" approach to emissions reduction. Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said the project, in which the Government would partially fund to the tune of $140 million an electric arc furnace, "dwarfs anything we have done to date" in emissions reduction. It would reduce NZ Steel's emissions by almost half and the country's by 1% or 800,000 tonnes annually.

India Logan-Riley, a climate activist from rangitahi-led climate action group Te Ara Whatu, said: "It is nice to get good news after the climate policy bonfire earlier in the year and very little for climate justice in the budget." But they raised concern over the fairness of the Government subsidising a high-profit, high-emissions industry. Companies that have profited from fuelling the climate crisis should not be looking to taxpayers to bail them out when they should be using their own profits to make the shift. "If the Government is going to make financial contributions then it would be sensible for the public to expect a degree of control or ownership of these corporations. "There has to be future accountability for these companies." "

09 May, 2023
Why the heat is on carbon offsets claiming to protect forest -

"Some carbon offsets promise to reduce deforestation. There’s growing evidence these claims may not always stack up.

When ticking an airline's carbon offset box, you’re probably picturing your dollars creating green action: someone planting a seedling that will grow into a tree. But fairly often, you’ll be paying someone not to take action: to not chop down or burn existing trees.

People selling these offsets say forests lock away vast amounts of greenhouse gas that the world cannot afford to release. Rather than landowners making money by harvesting wood or clearing the land for farming, they can get paid to keep the trees, by selling offsets. But opponents say the concept opens a can of worms. It only works if the forest is at risk of being chopped or burned – and it’s tough, if not impossible, to calculate the precise amount at risk.

If it turns out the trees were never seriously at risk, the offset projects could become a sort of protection racket: with people threatening forest to secure cash. Meanwhile, the oil companies and airlines that buy credits can claim they’re taking climate action, while continuing to contribute planet-heating pollution."

09 May, 2023
Judicial review against Minister for Climate Change following failed ETS auction - Link

"Today Lawyers for Climate Action NZ Inc filed High Court proceedings seeking judicial review of the Climate Change (Auctions, Limits, and Price Controls for Units) Amendment Regulations 2022.

The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) requires businesses in covered sectors to surrender one unit for every tonne of greenhouse gas emitted.

The ETS has an important role to play in meeting our domestic and international emissions reduction targets. In order to do this, the Climate Change Response Act 2002 requires volume and price settings to be made annually for the five years ahead. By law the settings must be in accordance with our emissions budgets, our nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement and the 2050 net zero target.

In December last year, Cabinet rejected the advice of the Climate Change Commission and the recommendations of the Minister of Climate Change about what the ETS volume and price settings should be. The effect of the Cabinet decision was to make available at low prices an additional 35 million units over the next five years. That is more than one year’s worth of emissions for sectors within the ETS.

LCANZI’s judicial review claims that in overriding the recommendations from the Commission and the Minister, Cabinet failed to address whether the settings were in accordance with the emissions budgets and the NDC. Instead the decision was driven by concerns that rising ETS unit prices would flow through to households. LCANZI seeks a declaration from the Court that the regulations are inconsistent with the Climate Change Response Act, and an order that the regulations be remade."

View statement of claim

27 April, 2023
New Zealand too reliant on tree planting to meet net zero emissions targets, experts warn - The Guardian

"Climate commission draft guidance says country must take more action to directly cut pollution instead of relying on trees

New Zealand’s heavy reliance on planting trees to offset carbon pollution threatens to torpedo the country’s ambitious plans to reach net zero emissions by 2050, according to warnings from the body advising the government on its climate policy direction.

The independent Climate Commission published draft guidance on Wednesday that – when finalised later this year – must be considered by New Zealand’s leaders as they draw up their next suite of plans to meet the country’s greenhouse gas reduction targets.

The provisional document sounded renewed alarm about the government’s inclusion of carbon offsets through forestry in its calculation of emissions reduction, and a lack of clarity on how much meeting climate goals should be made up of real cuts to high-polluting activities.

New Zealand’s government “needs to make a choice about how far it will go” in directly cutting polluting activities versus simply planting trees to remove carbon, the report said. If it did not, New Zealand would fail to reach net zero emissions by 2050, the writers added. “Our current pathway of policies will not get us there,” the chair of the commission, Rod Carr, told reporters in Wellington on Wednesday"

27 April, 2023
Climate Commission warns of 'boom and bust' for forestry and emissions trading scheme -

"The Government has been given a firm shake-up from the Climate Commission, with new advice warning it must urgently rethink the emissions trading scheme and its over-reliance on planting exotic forests.

The warning comes in the commission's draft advice for the Government's second emissions reduction plan, which will cover the years 2026 to 2030 and form part of the roadmap for how the Government will meet its net-zero carbon goal by 2050.

"The current pathway we are on seems to reward sequestration in forests above gross emissions reduction ...If we are on that pathway, the commission's conclusion is, we will not meet the target," chair Dr Rob Carr said. "Every time we offset an emission you or I make today with another hectare of forest, we are committing New Zealanders to maintain that forest cover for a very long time, so we are removing choices, options and opportunities from the future.""

26 April, 2023
"Luxon refuses to say if tax system unfair: 'Wealthy aren't the problem' - 1News

"Today, Inland Revenue (IRD) and Treasury released the findings from two inquiries looking at how much tax high-wealth individuals pay across all income sources, and another on what the general population pays.

... The IRD report gathered information on 311 of the country's wealthiest families - many of them with a net worth of more than $50m. The mean estimated net worth of the families surveyed was $276 million in 2021. Treasury found the general population pays an effective 20.2% tax rate across all income sources. The IRD found that high-wealth individuals, by comparison, pay about 9.4%.

Luxon was put on the spot by reporters this afternoon at Parliament who challenged him on whether he agreed with the report's findings.

... He refused to say whether rich Kiwis needed a tax hike. "The people that are being treated unfairly is the middle working class New Zealanders and they're the people that need a tax break." More tax cuts have been part of Luxon's economic policy since March 2022. But last year, the National leader was forced to sideline plans to effectively repeal the Government's 39% top tax rate on those making over $180,000 — citing inflationary pressure."

26 April, 2023
IRD report shows wealthy NZers pay much lower tax rates than other earners -

"Inland Revenue research released today reveals a large differential between the tax rates ordinary New Zealanders pay on their full income compared with the super-wealthy, Revenue Minister David Parker says. “This internationally ground-breaking research provides hard data showing that the wealthiest New Zealanders pay tax at much less than half the rate of other Kiwis,” David Parker said. “The data, based on full income information from 311 of our wealthiest citizens, shows that the average person in this group pays an effective tax rate of just 8.9% tax on their economic income – that is, income from all sources, including capital gains on investments. “In contrast, most New Zealanders pay tax at more than twice that rate. For example, someone earning a salary of $80,000, with no other income, pays 22% tax on that income, excluding GST. “The difference is mainly because the very wealthy earn only a small portion of their income from wages and salaries, unlike most New Zealanders.

“The differential is even larger when GST is included: for the wealthiest, their effective tax rate rises to 9.5%, but for the person on an $80,000 salary, it goes up to around 28 or 29%. That is because wealthy New Zealanders spend a much smaller portion of their income each year, compared with other earners.” The High Wealth Individuals Research Project is internationally significant because it uses real data, unlike other overseas studies which draw on surveys or scenarios, David Parker says."

04 April, 2023
Government’s proposed crackdown on lobbyists dismissed as too tentative - NZ Herald

"The government’s proposed crackdown on lobbyists has been dismissed as too tentative, and just about meaningless.

Following RNZ’s investigation into political lobbying, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has commissioned long-term work on regulating the industry - but in the meantime wanted lobbyists to develop their code of conduct, and is removing their swipe card access to Parliament.

… Hipkins wants advice on how to regulate lobbying long-term to report back next year. In the short-term, he has started by asking the Speaker to revoke lobbyists’ swipe card access to Parliament. Around 80 lobbyists - including people in unions, business, and the non-government sector - are currently on Parliament’s approved list.

… Hipkins’ attention to the issue was first raised following an investigation by RNZ two weeks ago. But the issue was last looked at in 2012, a􀀂er former Green Party MP Holly Walker introduced a member’s bill. It did not make it past the select committee stage."

25 March, 2023
Lobbyists in New Zealand enjoy freedoms unlike most other nations in the developed world - RNZ

"The popular view of lobbying is based on perceptions of shadowy figures stalking the halls of power in Washington DC. But the industry here, in New Zealand, is far less transparent than in the US.

… Lobbying is big business in the US but it's highly regulated and relatively transparent. In the US, lobbyists can be jailed for five years for corruptly failing to comply with the Lobbying Disclosures Act 1995.

… Transparency International (TI) compared New Zealand's lobbying environment with Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the United States and found us wanting. "The absence of independent oversight of, and personal gains from, lobbying in New Zealand is glaring," TI's New Zealand chapter said in a November 2022 report.

… In 2010, the OECD, the club of rich nations, produced a set of principles for lobbying, in what it called the "first international instrument to address undue influence and inequities in the power of influence".

… The OECD report shows New Zealand is one of 18 countries where "lobbying activities are not subject to transparency regulations". At its most basic, the OECD says countries should define what lobbying is. New Zealand doesn't even make it to step one."