by John McNab
The choice for most New Zealanders in the up-coming election were not very encouraging in the light of both past and the current government performances – and broken promises. But it’s vital to not be deterred and to vote say outdoor recreation spokesmen.
For example Labour has broken its 2017 election promises about carrying out a review of the Quota Management System (QMS).
In February, Council of Outdoor Recreation Council of New Zealand chairman Andi Cockroft said fisheries minister Stuart Nash on 5 February in the “New Zealand Herald” admitted he had abandoned Labour’s election pledge to hold an independent review of the fisheries quota system. Greenpeace’s Russel Norman said the broken promise was the work of New Zealand First and its MP Shane Jones, who received a $10,000 donation from corporate fishing company Talley’s in 2017.
The “about-turn” by Minister Nash reflects the power and influence of the corporate commercial fishing companies over successive fisheries ministers say informed sources.
Many of the million or so Kiwis who go recreational fishing would be very disappointed at the minister’s choice of being compliant to big corporates.
A Horizon survey several years ago, showed while rugby is New Zealand’s most watched sport, fishing had more than five times more people participating than rugby.
There are other issues too.
Before the 2017 election Labour, NZ First and Greens all campaigned vigorously against selling farm land to foreigners. But late last year a lobby group “50 Shades of Green” pointed out a foreign owned forestry company had purchased more than 77000 hectares of good Kiwi farmland in just four years.
That a foreign forestry company can acquire that amount of farmland seemingly without question is an indictment on government policy according to “50 Shades of Green” president Andy Scott.
“That farmland would have previously supported farmers, rural communities, shops and schools,” Andy Scott said. “Now it is lost forever growing trees to support foreign owned conglomerates.
Six out of ten of the largest landowners in New Zealand are foreign-owned forestry companies with the forestry sector nearly 75% foreign owned.
It was also disclosed that the Labour/NZ First/Greens government had actively encouraged further foreign purchases of land for forestry through a stream-lined “special forestry test.” Foreign forestry corporates swooped on sheep and cattle farms on the North Island’s east coast with Regional Development Minister Shane Jones bragging of a “billion trees” policy.
Broken promises litter the political landscape.
Broken election promises cause the people to lowly rate politicians and their pledges, commented CORANZ chairman Andi Cockroft.
‘Not that other options were necessarily appealing,” he added.
Another issue was government parties’ pledges to stop the degradation of rivers.
In October last year (2019) a survey showed over 80 per cent of Kiwis stated there was a problem with the state of New Zealand’s rivers, lakes, streams, wetlands, and aquatic life.
Half of all respondents (49.3 per cent) thought farming activities were the leading cause of the issue, whilst the second most commonly stated cause was sewage and stormwater discharges (16.6 per cent).
Back in 2017 at election time, water spilled over as a big issue with public surveys showing some 70% of people were concerned at the deteriorating state of rivers, lakes and streams. Suddenly sensitive as an election loomed, politicians were listening to public feeling.
Then Prime Minister Bill English said he would look at charging bottled water exporters and the then opposition Labour Party suggested it was time to charge large irrigators. One of the mandates the Labour/Green/NZ First Government was given when elected was to clean up the country’s lakes and rivers. All three pledged to a clean-up.
It started well.
Even although it was a long twelves months after the election, in October 2018, the Government announced its blueprint to clean up waterways.
“We’re not going to leave the hard issues for future generations,” Environment Minister David Parker said, promising “a noticeable improvement in water quality within five years”.
New rules would be in place by 2020, Parker said in a joint announcement with Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor. They would come in the form of a new National Policy Statement (NPS) for Freshwater Management and a new National Environmental Standard (NES).
New Year 2020 came and went and there was still no policy. It took six months into 2020 for the announcement.
Belatedly as election day accelerated nearer, Ministers David Parker and Damien O’Connor acted and announced a water reform package. But to interested observers, it fell short of the mark, reportedly under pressure from Federated Farmers.
Then National climbed in saying if elected it would reform the water reform package.
Not Up to Scratch
The package was not up to scratch in the eyes of many.
Just two months ago, NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers’ president Dr Peter Trolove said the package had inadequacies that were so glaring that some would see them as “fraudulent and a shameful example of dishonesty and deceit in terms of a broken election promise”.
However the document delivered just days ago was not science-based and not underpinned by effective regulation and enforcement he said.
“It is an action plan that fails to implement any meaningful measures to halt ongoing water pollution while taking care to cause minimal inconvenience to the polluters”.
Peter Trolove identified only two finite actions in the plan to be taken in this term;
1. A cap of 190kg N fertilizer/ha/year
2. To eliminate dairy cattle and pigs from waterways more than a metre wide
“Basically the balance of the action plan was kicked down the road for the next Government and/or for future generations,” he added.
Then there is the role of the previous John Key National-led government which in dictatorial style, in 2010, sacked the democratically elected Environment Canterbury (ECan) and placed its own commissioners so as to fast track corporate mega-dairying development in the region.
Since nitrate testing by the NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers has revealed alarming nitrate levels well above human health and aquatic ecosystem standards.
Peter Trolove, president of the New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers said the previous National-led government (2008-2017) policies and legislation passed during its terms in government were major factors in the continued decline in New Zealand’s freshwater resource.
“The most recent National Party leader Judith Collins revealed her ignorance of the urgent need for new freshwater regulations,” he said.
The water and rivers crisis has been worsening over decades
Peter Trolove said previous Labour governments were not entirely blameless either.
“Like the Labour Government before 2008 which included Minsters Hobbs, Benson-Pope and Trevor Mallard, the previous National Government put short term policies ahead of environmental protection and public health,” he said. “However the John Key government’s single focus on increasing GDP at the expense of the environment has left a costly and toxic legacy of freshwater pollution that most New Zealanders find unacceptable.”
The ECan Act 2010
The constitutionally repugnant Environment Canterbury (Temporary commissioners and improved water management) Act (2010) exemplified National’s cavalier attitude to democratic process and the environment.
Andi Cockroft said politicians were notorious for broken promises.
“Please find me a promise from the last election that has been honoured,” he wryly said.
Nevertheless it was vital every eligible New Zealander voted in the election.
“Really you can’t complain if you don’t vote,” he added.
Greek philosopher Plato was quoted as once saying “The price of apathy is to be ruled by evil men.”
“Well you can say today the price of apathy is to be ruled by broken promises to paraphrase Plato,” he said.
He advised voters and the outdoor recreation sector in particular, to closely examine party polices, ask hard questions of politicians and parties and think long and hard about the voting choice.
“But vote we all must.” he concluded. “It’s our duty to democracy.”