Thursday, December 7, 2023

Blue rinse in new green party

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Revisiting gene editing, putting the right trees in the right places and helping farmers adjust to environmental regulations are all on the agenda for New Zealand’s newest political party.
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Sustainable New Zealand is headed by lawyer turned business broker Vernon Tava who is adamant the party will not be dominated by inner city finger-wagging urbanites and hopes to have candidates standing in the provinces.

Tava said the move to launch the party was driven by a sense the Green Party has become something of a clearing house for assorted leftist views and has lost the core focus it might once have had on the environment.

Any action taken by that party against farming will never cost it votes, given its core constituency is in inner city suburbs.

“But we do not want to be finger-waggers when it comes to environmental issues. 

“That becomes boring and alienating. 

“People who take the view you need to crack down on dairying will never build a lasting and binding consensus with those people tasked with looking after the majority of this country’s land and water.”

His party’s green theme is underlain by values that are both capitalist and sustainable, recognising the value businesses including agriculture play in building NZ’s social and economic welfare.

“I have a lot of time for James (Shaw) but his Green party is essentially an anti-capitalist project. 

“They tend to view all economic growth as bad and farming is often singled out in that.”

He welcomes the latest bipartisan support for the Zero Carbon Bill that has just passed through Parliament, keeping it robust enough to survive a change of government and keep NZ on track for meeting Paris Accord commitments.

But he believes the devil is in the detail for the freshwater proposals still to come and it will be critical farmers’ concerns are heard.

“The problem I am hearing is the regulations will create a one-size-fits-all set of rules when every catchment can have quite differing problems.

“It is partly a problem of our three-year electoral cycle, the pressure to push legislation through.” 

His party wants to invest an extra $95 million a year in the Sustainable Land Use fund to provide farmers with practical advice and support to implement farm environment plans.

Tava stood as a Green candidate in Northcote in 2011 on the platform giving the part more environmental focus. 

He then tried to be a National candidate for Northcote last year, only to be knocked out of pre-selection.

But despite his claim the Greens are anti-capitalist Tava is adamant Sustainable NZ is not committing to any one party and that it is very much early days for building membership and putting forward candidates. 

Tava says the Government’s Billion Trees project will do only part of the job reducing the country’s greenhouse gas footprint.

“But we agree with the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (Simon Upton) that trees are the only meaningful mitigation method for methane rather than carbon dioxide. Using fast-growing trees for a shorter life gas makes sense. We would also like to see farmers’ existing plantings allowed for their methane offset.”

He also intends to call for a revisit of gene editing, particularly with technology that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as AgResearch’s GE grasses are doing. His party would invest $60m a year to boost research funding in that area.

In coming weeks the party will be fielding candidates, focusing on 10 key seats where it feels their chances are best.

“They (the seats) will remain nameless at the moment but we do not want to just be a bunch of urban environmentalists. We are looking to spread beyond the cities.”

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