Election 2011 – SMC science Q&A with political parties

The Science Media Centre put questions on key science-related issues to the political parties ahead of the General Election scheduled to be held on November 26. 

Please click on the links below to find the answers from responding political parties (or download as a PDF):

Science priorities  |  Crown Research Institutes  |  Science and education  | Biosecurity | Energy

 Research and developmentWater qualityHealthMarine sustainabilityGenetic engineering

Previous election and science Q&As:

Election 2008: The Labour Party, National Party, the minor parties.

Comments are published in alphabetical order, based on the name of the political party.

1: Science priorities

The Ministry of Science and Innovation has said it plans to develop a statement of science priorities for the Government by November 30 and a statement of innovation priorities next March. What do you think should be the key statements around science and innovation made by these documents?

ACT: “First and foremost the government should be looking to create an environment conducive to good science rather than ‘doing’ science itself. Second, the government should look to create maximum contestability for funding it provides to research institutions, be they CRIs or Universities.”

GREEN: “The Green Party believes that as a society we need to commit resources to both fundamental and applied research and that all such research should aim to contribute to sustainable development. Research priorities must lead to greater understanding of the interconnections within the ecosystems on which we depend and the causes of social problems. They must also support the shift to sustainable systems of production and patterns of consumption, rather than just generating profit in the present. Research must be conducted to support innovation and new industries. This is part of our commitment to localisation and community economic development.”

LABOUR: “Our focus for science should be on creating a New Zealand which is clean, green and clever, that leverages the inherent talents of its people to produce an economy that is highly productive and innovative.

“The cleantech sector has enormous potential for growth, supporting its growth would be a priority for Labour so we can grow the economy and create jobs without ruining our environment. We already have significant advantages in renewable energy as well as ‘clean green’ brand which can be leveraged to boost this sectors earning by billions.

“Labour would also prioritise boosting business expenditure on R&D. Currently it sits at one-third the OECD average and unless we improve that our economic growth will continue to lag.

“The next generation of Kiwis will have to be smarter and more innovative to compete in a fast-changing and technologically driven global economy.  So we need to prioritise science education in schools and ensure they have the resources and support to teach science in a way which excites and engages students.”

MAORI PARTY: “The Maori Party wants to see a greater and more meaningful emphasis placed on tikanga Maori, or traditional Maori approaches to scientific innovations. Maori traditional approaches to medicine and environmental management and protection, farming and horticulture hold vast sources of untapped knowledge”.

NATIONAL: “National is committed to boosting science and driving innovation in our economy, to underpin growth and create higher-paid jobs. Our science priorities are in the areas that will enhance economic growth, so we’re focusing science and research resources squarely on growing the economy. A major part of this is improving the connections between science and business.

“Other key priorities include harnessing science to improve our environment, provide more efficient energy, and lift the performance of our health system. ”

2: Crown Research Institutes

New Zealand still has eight Crown Research Institutes, after 10 were set up in 1992 with the dissolution of the DSIR. Two decades on, is this structure still the best for state-owned science companies, and what changes to taxpayer-funded science, if any, would your party implement, and why?

ACT: “ACT believes that this model has been largely successful. Having multiple and competing organisations comes closer to our policy direction of contestable funding and having multiple organisations increases the scope for experimentation, not just in the scientific sense but also in the organisational sense. ACT’s only change would be to push towards greater autonomy and competition for funding in areas where funds have been ring fenced for specific institutions, in particular, opening up more competition with Universities.”

GREEN: “We do not believe that the current management model for Crown Research Institutes (CRIs), which are now required to turn a profit, is the best. We need to develop models to get the best from the science community. We would like to see changes in funding to promote long term sustainability. We support universities and other competent science research providers being funded to conduct needed research, especially when it is linked to science education. We also support the idea of partnerships to develop applied technology. We are concerned at the extent to which public science is becoming private knowledge and would seek to redress this.”

LABOUR: “The Crown Research Institute model has worked fairly well over the past two decades; they’ve produced some ground breaking research for the benefit of New Zealand and returned solid dividends to the Crown.  Labour has no concrete plans to change the CRI structure though we certainly won’t be privatising them. We firmly believe that any change should be based on evidence in order to lead positive outcomes.

“Labour will however look for ways in which we can enhance collaboration between the CRIs and our other publicly funded science centres including universities – breaking down the silos between institutes will lead to better value and higher quality research which will benefit New Zealand as a whole.”

MAORI PARTY: “The Maori Party believes that these Crown Research Institutes should remain, however we would like to see more effective representation of Maori in management and in governance. The Crown has important constitutional obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi and the integration of Maori worldviews regarding official scientific research is imperative in fulfilling those obligations.

“The Maori Party will therefore ensure that there is a more positive outcome for Maori and Maori approaches to scientific research by increasing the pool of experienced people and we require all boards, research institutes, State-owned enterprises and Crown entities to allow fair and adequate Maori representation and decision-making capacity”.

NATIONAL:  “The Crown Research Institutes is a good model for New Zealand. However, they become too internally focussed at the expense of their sectors. “We have reformed Crown Research Institutes to make them more effective. In 2010 we introduced the recommendations of the CRI Taskforce.

“The major performance indicator for CRIs now is their engagement with their sectors. They also now have significantly more core funding – up from $60 million to $215 million. This allows them to build long term capability, and prioritise the core research problems of their industries in a systematic way. We have also ensured that CRIs are focused on growth industries. This fits our Science & Innovation agenda of promoting economic growth through investment in science and research.

“The Government has just announced that it is establishing an Advanced Technology Institute branches in Christchurch, Auckland, and Wellington. The institute will eventually employ over 700 research and development specialists across a range of disciplines. The institute will work with both research providers and businesses to translate innovation into commercial products, by having its own extensive R&D capability that supports business (including testing and prototyping facilities), and by being able to source and interpret commercial R&D output from research providers.

“The Advanced Technology Institute model has been very successful in Denmark, Finland and Singapore, and fills a gap between manufacturers and existing tertiary institutions, whose research has a different core focus.

“Lifting the research and development capacity of our hi-tech manufacturing sector is critical to developing the huge potential that advanced manufacturing has as a stronger contributor to our export sector and growing our economy. To do this we need to increase private sector investment in R&D, and improve collaboration with public sector R&D. Our co-funded business grants are already raising business investment.”


3: Science and education

Not only does New Zealand have problems persuading young people to study science at university, it has difficulty persuading graduate researchers to eventually settle in this country. How will your party make science and technology more attractive to students looking ahead to tertiary education, and what can be done to encourage them to work in New Zealand?

ACT: “ACT’s core value in primary and secondary education is decentralisation. For the vast majority of students, there is one type of school, one type of teaching, and one curriculum and assessment system. To the extent that primary and secondary schools are failing to attract students into science, it is a failure of the entire system affecting almost every student. We believe it more likely that more science friendly schools, teachers and curricula will evolve in a more decentralised system.

“That is, a system where the funding follows the child and teachers and principals have more autonomy about how they run their schools. For example, in the Canadian province in Alberta where anybody can set up a special character or “charter” school there are now thirteen such schools including the Calgary Science School which takes a scientific approach to learning.

“More generally, New Zealand faces a problem with providing interesting and well-paying jobs, evidenced by the outflow of people on a truly massive scale. In the OECD we have the second highest proportion of citizens living outside our country. ACT believes that the primary challenge is creating a stable, lightly regulated, lightly taxed environment for entrepreneurship and economic growth. ACT’s full economic policies can be found on our website.”

GREEN:  “The Green Party supports facilitating a culture-shift in attitudes towards science, research, and technology through school curriculum changes and initiatives like Green Innovation Awards in the sciences. We support changes to student support to supplement loans with a bonding scheme incentivising students to remain in New Zealand. There is a big hole at the moment in funding early career researchers that creates an incentive for them to head overseas, often on a one way ticket. Properly funding post doc research positions would address this.

“Additionally we need to support secondary school teachers to inspire the next generation of scientists among us. Research shows that enthusiastic teachers do make a difference. Teachers need to have the time and energy to be creative in pupil-focused activity rather than burdened with administrative demands. To address this we support initiatives like after six years of service, teachers, including early childhood education teachers, will be entitled to a sabbatical leave for one year at 80% of their salary.”

LABOUR: “The years immediately following graduation are critical to consolidate the careers of scientists. With the removal of post-doctoral scholarships in 2010, New Zealand is at risk of losing hundreds of our best brains overseas.

“Labour will reinstate post-doctoral fellowships for recent PhD graduates, scaling up to a cost of $6 million a year, so they are supported into research careers in New Zealand instead of overseas.

“Labour will also establish a scheme for better funding, ‘brilliant’ scientists. This funding will be portable to allow scientists to take it to the most appropriate institution, purchase equipment, recruit staff and attract other world leaders in the field to NZ.

“Labour’s full science and innovation policy, with more details on science in education, will be released shortly.”

MAORI PARTY: “The Maori Party is aware of and understands the concerns which arise as a result of a shortage in specialist areas. The issue is even more pronounced for Maori. For Maori, it is about achieving a balance of understanding and respect for matauranga Maori and western principles of science and technology.

“As previously mentioned, a Maori approach provides a very special, unique level of knowledge, based on empirical, cultural and spiritual elements. We think that improvement to levels of cultural competency at school will encourage our young people to take pride in their country and stay here and work.

“We also think that this will encourage our young Maori to explore further beyond their horizons to study and a good career.   To this end, part of our education policy promotes the concept of the academy – a centre of learning excellence.  Within this we will establish roadshows to promote educational pathways in areas where Maori are under-represented – ie health science academies (Te Kura Putaiao Hauora) or science camps”.

NATIONAL:  “The attraction of science and technology for young people is directly linked to how it fits in with how they see their futures. The more important high technology industries are to our economy, the more people will want to work in the sector. Greater opportunities will lead to greater interest.

“We’re developing five new vocational pathways for young people through a partnership between industry training organisations and the education sector. They will clarify the existing array of options so students and their families can see the connection between what students learn at school and what industries it could lead them to.

“Manufacturing and technology is one of those pathways. The vocational pathways will describe the learning, and the assessment standards valued by broad sectors of industry. They will also include a career and study map, which will show young people potential occupations and future study options.

“Already we are seeing a change in attitudes. The three most respected people in New Zealand are scientists. Increasingly, we are hearing about smart companies that are doing very well – often with young people as their owners.

“We have already increased fundamental science funding through the Marsden Fund and Health Research Council. Many of our top young post grads work on projects funded through these means. The Rutherford Discovery Fellowships created more opportunities for young scientists a few years into their career. We are reviewing support for post-docs.

“The Advanced Technology Institute will create jobs for an additional 300-400 scientists and engineers.”


4: Biosecurity

Side effects of global warming and increased cross-border travellers and cargo are likely to be greater potential risks of incursions of pests and diseases. Global economic strife and continuing wars may also increase the risk of inadvertent incursions or even deliberate bioterrorism. What science or innovation would your party support to better prepare the country for pests, a disease outbreak, bio-terrorism attack or global pandemic?

ACT:  “Our party does not have a policy on a specific science or innovation for these challenges. Science and innovation by their very nature are about discovering new knowledge, so it would be presumptuous to say we already know.

“Nevertheless we recognise that New Zealand’s isolation has given us a unique ecosystem and the history of human colonisation shows how vulnerable it is to outside threats, especially introduced species. With this in mind, protecting our ecosystem is one government expenditure that the ACT Party supports in line with our broader view that it is the primary role of government to provide a safe community.”

GREEN: “The most likely threat we will face are pests and diseases. As we have experience from incursions of the varroa mite, didymo, painted apple moth the impacts can be wide ranging and somewhat irreversible. Picking winners is not as important as providing a sound base that allows for good science to be undertaken both as preventative measures but also as part of the response to incursions. Part of our green jobs priority is investing in R&D though grants and tax credits. Biosecurity is important for the security of our agriculture, fishing and forestry sectors and as such would be a priority for R&D funding.”

LABOUR: “Effective biosecurity safeguards are vital to protecting New Zealand’s primary exporting industries and are native flora and fauna. Biosecurity hazards are constantly changing and we need the most up to date research and scientific techniques in order to ensure our borders are as secure as possible. Labour will continue to support investment into biosecurity science and innovation, through our CRI’s, universities and Biosecurity New Zealand.

“Our biosecurity policy will be released shortly, containing more information on how Labour plans to bolster our biosecurity system.”

MAORI PARTY: “Biosecurity is critical to protecting New Zealand’s economic potential and the continuing good health and welfare of our people. The Maori Party supports a biosecurity system which protects our way of life and our beautiful native plants, birds, insects and our natural environment, our rivers, lakes and streams, our mountains, our wahi tapu and our taonga. Ultimately, the point of this protection for us is the safeguarding of the special and very unique relationship that Maori have with our natural surroundings so that our future generations can enjoy it as much as we and our ancestors have”.

“The Maori Party believes we must protect Aotearoa from unwanted pests or organisms.  Effective and efficient instruments and measures are required to reduce and prevent the harmful effects on the relationship between Maori, as well as our culture, traditions, waters, wahi tapu , taonga and traditions.

“We supported the Biosecurity Law Reform Bill in December 2010 because it provided room for amendments to modernise and improve our biosecurity system, including ways to implement principles of recognition, partnership and protection for indigenous biosecurity methods and values. The Maori Party will lead Government’s response to the Waitangi Tribunal Report (WAI 262 Ko Aotearoa Tenei) which provides a vital foundation to care of our flora and fauna”.

NATIONAL:  “National is committed to making the biosecurity system more effective and efficient by ensuring that resources are used when, and where, they are most needed. We know that biosecurity doesn’t just begin and end at the border. The system works on three fronts: working overseas to stop travellers and importers from bringing pests here; working at the border to identify pests that do arrive; and working to find, manage or eliminate pests that have established here. We’ll continue to engage with government agencies, local councils, industry and community groups and the New Zealand public in finding ways to improve the biosecurity system. ”


5: Energy

NZ is expected to become increasing reliant on hydro-electric and wind generation in the move to alternative energy sources. How would your party provide a boost to the science needed to help diversify to other “green” energy sources, such as sustainable wave and tidal power and additional geothermal plants. And what policies would you implement to help households cut their energy consumption to reduce the need for new generation?

ACT:  “The ACT Party does not support direct government investment or “picking winners” in the energy sector. The Corn Ethanol debacle of the past decade is a good example of why governments shouldn’t try to do such things, as is the moth balled Marsden B Power Station at Ruakaka, a Think Big project that was built and never used. To the extent that government should try to change the energy sector, it should do so using broad based taxes such as a carbon tax and let the market function, although ACT does not currently support such a tax.”

GREEN:  “Part of our green jobs priority is to leverage the State Owned Energy Companies to generate investment in renewable energy technology. Initiatives like a start-up capital fund specifically targeted at clean tech opportunities, boosting government funding of R&D by $1 billion over the next three years through tax credits and grants. Additionally strong environmental regulations allow for more certainty around investment in renewable energy solutions.

“Finally we must not forget about energy efficiency and conservation measures to reduce peak demand. Insulation, and clean heat sources play a role in this but the most important step is to implement a New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy (NZEECS) with real and achievable targets and milestones to assess progress.”

LABOUR: “We need to increase our renewable energy production in order to keep powering the country in the future and combat climate change, that’s why Labour set the goal of producing 90% of our electricity from renewables by 2025. The last Labour Government also established the Marine Energy Development Fund which has helped establish several wave and tidal projects in places like the Kaipara harbour and the Chatham Islands.

“Labour supports a strong ETS which realises the true cost of carbon and incentivises investment in renewable energy research and development. We’ll continue with home insulation schemes to ensure New Zealand homes are warmer, healthier and more energy efficient.

“Labour’s full energy policy contains more information on how Labour will boost renewable energy production.”

MAORI PARTY: “The Maori Party believes strongly in the efficient use of water, energy conservation and the need for sustainable environmental management as well as a nuclear-free future for our mokopuna. Government must invest in energy infrastructure and increase renewables in preparation for an oil-less world. Increasing grid efficiency and reducing energy use, more efficient water pipelines, sewerage systems, wind farms, and the rail system will also generate employment and training opportunities (labouring, manufacturing)”.

” We will implement a renewable energy strategy to address our reliance on fossil fuels; to be developed in consultation with iwi; and which establishes a cross-party inquiry to investigate our response to the peak oil crisis. New Zealand has the potential to lead the world in developing successful and efficient alternative energy sources and we will support investment in these new innovations.

“As part of the negotiations in the Emissions Trading Scheme the Maori Party gained an additional investment of $24m targeted exclusively towards low-income families.  This enabled 6000 additional homes to benefit from the scheme.  The Maori Party was also instrumental in reducing by half the price increases to power and petrol”.

NATIONAL:  “National is serious about global warming and tackling climate change. We’re reducing costs for businesses while encouraging the transition to low-carbon business.

“We have established the Global Research Alliance and provided $45 million for research aimed at tackling greenhouse gas emissions.

“We have also established a Green Growth Advisory Group, to provide advice on how to achieve economic growth while also promoting environmental protection.

“Our goal is to be 90% renewable by 2025. A key factor in achieving this goal is reform of the Resource Management Act, allowing renewable projects to be consented far earlier than under the previous Government. We invest around $18 m per year in renewable energy research. This includes research into geothermal, bio, solar, wave and tidal energy.

“National has invested significantly in insulation and clean heating, to help reduce households’ energy consumption. We’re investing $347 million and more than 130,000 homes have now been retrofitted.  The Government also recently introduced new energy efficiency standards for products and appliances which are expected to create net savings of $360 million for the country by 2020. ”


6: Research and development

In 2009, Australia was ranked 12th among OECD member countries for its spending on R&D as a percentage of GDP and New Zealand was ranked 27th. What is your party’s approach to encouraging R&D in general, and in particular, among New Zealand businesses? What policies would you implement to encourage private sector R&D?

ACT:  “The ratio of R&D to conventional investment that firms in a country should undertake is an open question. Sometimes it makes sense to develop IP here in New Zealand, other times it actually makes more sense to be an importer of IP. In other words, we should never try to reinvent the wheel. For this reason, ACT does not have a policy targeting any particular level of R&D spending or specific policies designed to encourage it.

“We believe that solving New Zealand’s broader problem with attracting investment will likely raise R&D and we should solve that problem first. ACT’s economic policies for providing a low tax, lightly regulated environment that is conducive to investment can be found on our website.”

GREEN:  “New Zealand invests 1.31% of GDP in R&D – close to half the average spent across OECD countries. Instead of subsidising polluters up to $1.2 billion per year to continue to emit CO2 under our current Emissions Trading Scheme, we would change the scheme and redirect that subsidy into industry-related R&D expenditure. Achieved through a combination of tax credits and grants this would be focused on clean tech solutions and priority given to fields where we enjoy a competitive advantage.”

LABOUR: “Labour will introduce a Research & Development (R&D) tax credit at the rate of 12.5%. It will lift New Zealand’s lagging R&D expenditure by encouraging businesses to research and innovate.

“Although Kiwis are an inventive people, our business expenditure on R&D is one-third the OECD average (0.54% of GDP); such a low level is a drag on New Zealand’s ability to innovate and grow.

“Only a handful of OECD governments do not give tax credits to stimulate business R&D; New Zealand is one of them. A tax credit encourages strategic thinking within business to invest in areas that will best suit the company, rather than simply applying for a grant.”

MAORI PARTY:  “The Maori Party is certainly in favour of lifting our potential in terms of getting innovative new ideas out of New Zealand’s  Research and Development sector. Successfully aligning investments in science and innovation with Maori business potentially will lead to 150,000 additional jobs per years in the New Zealand economy by 2060, with an additional $12 billion in GDP from the Maori economy.

“We want to establish a priority fund for Maori research and development. We will promote collaboration between Maori entrepreneurs, scientists and innovators to improve opportunities, jobs and incomes. And we will create and resource an incubation hub for hap? and iwi to test the economic viability of new ideas on the local and global market and to mentor up and coming researchers and students who want to undertake postgraduate study to conduct specialised research”.

NATIONAL:  “National has invested more into science and innovation every year since taking office. Vote MSI has increased from $689 million in 2008 to $773 million last year. There has been significant investment through other portfolios, such as the Primary Growth Partnership. PGP commitments co funded through Government and business have reached nearly $500 million.

“In Budget 2009 we put 23% more funding into the Marsden Fund and 13% more into the Health Research Council.

“Our business innovation support package in Budget 2010 increased funding by $225 million over four years. This included $189 million for Technology Development Grants, and $20 million for Technology Transfer Vouchers. We continued the Tech NZ scheme of matched funding ‘one off’ grants with funding of $47 million per year.

“All of these schemes are co-funded, which means applicants have to put in their own funds as well. This stimulates further private sector investment in R&D.

“We believe that targeted grants are far more effective at building real R&D capability in industry, rather than tax credits. Tax credits encourage accounting innovation over business innovation. We can also better target R&D spending where it has the greatest impact.

“The results of this have been clear. New Zealand now invests $2.5 billion a year in science and innovation – up 13 per cent from 2008. R&D spending as a percentage of GDP was up to 1.3% (up from 1.19%), and business R&D spending was $1 billion (up 10%). Our latest announcement will dramatically add to these results.

“The latest TIN 100 report into New Zealand’s largest high tech firms notes that our top 100 companies lifted their R&D investment by 15% over the last two years.

“National’s intention is clear – we want to raise the level of innovation investment. We have done and we will continue to do so. The Advanced Technology Institute is just the latest example of significant investment.”


7: Water quality

Degradation of water quality in lowland waterways is an increasing problem, but intensification of agriculture looks set to continue as population increases and lifestyle changes in markets such as Asia create more demand for food from New Zealand. What is your party’s policy on supporting science and innovation to mitigate the environmental impacts of development, habitation and industry on waterways and what science and technology would you implement to reduce the effects on waterways of diffuse pollution from farmland?

ACT:  “ACT supports science and technology solving this problem, but it should be solved by creating demand for a solution through enforcing proper standards on waterway pollution first. This approach makes it more likely that the most efficient solutions will be found. This approach is different to picking a ‘winner’ solution first then hoping it will solve the problem.”

GREEN:  “Water quality is a Green Party priority this election. We are drawing to heavily on our natural capital and damaging the sustainability of agriculture operations in the future. We want to introduce a fair charge for the commercial use of water. This charge incentivises uses of our water resources to do so more efficiently creating demand for good solutions. Some of the revenue generated by this charge would be recycled back into low tech waterway protection – riparian planting. Agriculture, as an industry where we have a competitive advantage, would be a good candidate for receiving the R&D tax credits and grants mentioned above.”

LABOUR: “The health of our waterways is at the heart of how we promote ourselves to the world and earn a premium for our exports.

“To improve water quality, farmers dependence on urea fertiliser must be urgently reduced. Science has a role to play in providing effective and affordable fertiliser solutions. Revenue from the Labour’s water resource rental will fund water way improvements, this will include investment in new research and science as we seek new means of cleaning up our waterways and minimising damage.”

MAORI PARTY:  “The Maori Party believes very strongly in investing in sustainable ways to control the quality of our water and the way we conserve energy and our natural resources including indigenous flora and fauna. We know that the enjoyment of our future generations and of course, our own health and well-being depends on it. We believe in the efficient use of water, energy conservation and the need for sustainable environmental management.

“We are concerned about water management; restoration of water quality; and environmentally sustainable land use that does not degrade our water systems.
We want to develop iwi environmental monitoring and evaluation on the quality of water in our rivers, lakes, seas and rural water supplies to homes and marae; and develop options for improving the water quality as a result.

“The Maori Party wants to develop environmental monitoring and evaluation of the quality of our freshwater resources in collaboration with local iwi. From this we want to come up with options for improving the condition and quality of our lakes, rivers and streams.  We will also subsidise organisations to undertake environmental impact assessments to support businesses to become more environmentally friendly”.

NATIONAL:  “National’s Bluegreen approach is about the balance between growing the economy while improving our environmental management.  New Zealand is more richly blessed with fresh water than just about any other country, and if we take a balanced, collaborative approach we can wisely use this resource to create jobs and wealth as well as providing for recreation and conservation.

“We have increased the investment in waterway clean-ups by five-fold to more than $265 million, compared to just $16 million spent between 2004 and 2008.  This will clean up significant water bodies such as Lake Taupo and the Waikato River, and reflects the importance National puts on improved fresh water management.  This also includes a $15 million contestable water clean-up fund for Councils with water pollution problems.

“We have doubled funding for New Zealand Landcare Trust to enable it to expand and grow its successful land management work. This includes support for landcare and community based groups, fostering research and providing land management training.

“We’ve announced a balanced package of reforms including:

•           Establishing the Land & Water Forum.

•           A National Policy Statement on Freshwater.

•           Doubling penalties for non-compliance.

•           Regulations for metering 98% of water takes.

“The Government has engaged the Land and Water Forum again to advance the next stage of work on methods, tools and governance arrangements for setting limits for water quality, quantity, and allocation. The Forum will report to Government during 2012.

“We have also established the Irrigation Acceleration Fund to provide $35 million over five years to support the development of proposals to the ‘investment ready’ prospectus stage.  Smart irrigation infrastructure will boost economic development and growth in our primary sectors.

“The fund will support regional scale rural water infrastructure proposals such as community irrigation schemes.  All successful projects will need to be committed to good industry practice that promotes efficient water use and environmental management, particularly around land-use intensification.  Irrigation good practice is essential if we are to protect our vital water resource for the future.”


8: Health

The health system faces challenges such as helping young people to a healthy adult life, and improving the quality of old age for an increasing proportion of the population. How would your party improve biomedical research in New Zealand and public access to the benefits that it provides, while at the same time meeting the health needs of an ageing population?

ACT:  “We do not have a specific policy on this, except to say that we do not support government attempting to pick winners in the biomedical space. New Zealand has excellent biotech companies such as F&P Healthcare and start-ups such as Nexus 6 which show what New Zealand firms can achieve, however they tend to be in surprising niches (sleep apnoea and asthma monitoring in these examples), which governments are unlikely to identify faster than entrepreneurs.

“ACT believes that creating the right environment for entrepreneurship generally will see more biomedical research. However from the point of view of the healthcare consuming public, we should be realistic about the fact that New Zealand is only 0.2% of the world economy and the majority of benefits will come from overseas. The most important factor in whether New Zealanders can access these is going to be the productivity and living standards of the overall economy.”

GREEN:  “We see the best opportunities for health research within a New Zealand context focused on public health measures and population specific measures especially addressing health issues of Maori and Pacifika people.”

LABOUR: “Labour supports long-term research to deal with the underlying causes of illness and strategies for the promotion of good health and well-being. We will maintain current levels for funding for health research and build upon this as resources permit. The R & D Tax Credit is also likely to provide some encouragement for private-sector health research.”

MAORI PARTY: “We want our whanau to be the best that they can be and to be supported by an equitable, sustainable health system.  We will promote marae-based health clinics as preferred sites of wellbeing and service delivery to support whanau.

“The Maori Party will look after our elders by restoring whanau responsibility through Whanau Ora. Whanau Ora is the basis on which we seek our collective strength.  The Maori Party is concerned by the findings of the Tatau Kura Tangata report (2011) that Maori aged 50 years and over live in lower socio-economic areas and as a result, are less likely to understand and obtain the necessary healthcare they need.

“Our Quality of Care policy specifies that we will resource formal and informal caregivers to enable whanau members to stay in their own homes, especially older people and disabled persons to be supported to live in their homes as much as possible. Whanau should feel safe and secure and should be able to live with dignity”.

NATIONAL:  “Science that directly boosts economic growth through effective market-driven research has been a key element of National’s agenda. The increased funding we’ve provided specifically demonstrates the Government’s strong commitment to the biomedical technology sector and the high-tech therapeutics industry.”


9: Marine sustainability

Government and industry have signalled increased effort in offshore petroleum exploration, and talked of the potential for sea-floor mining in the future. What policies will you implement to help preserve the health of the oceans surrounding New Zealand, and how will you gauge the environmental impacts of exploiting mineral resources on New Zealand’s continental shelf?

ACT:  “We do not have sufficient policy on measuring the impact. We are in favour of exploring the potential for harvesting great wealth from off-shore energy and mineral activities, and we acknowledge that if this sector expands then the government will have to increase its infrastructure for policing these.”

GREEN:  “We support: Creation of a network of marine reserves of a viable area, representing all marine eco-system types within our Exclusive Economic Zone; Amending the National Parks Act to facilitate the protection of marine areas adjacent to national parks. We don’t support off-shore oil drilling. The risks are to great and the response to the Rena grounding has highlighted the challenges we face due to our size and location in responding to maritime disasters and the state of local resources available to respond. A spill the size of the Gulf disaster would have catastrophic impacts on large parts of our coast. We don’t see the potential gains as worth the risk.”

LABOUR: “The grounding of MV Rena off Tauranga has graphically illustrated the destructiveness of even a relatively small oil spill. The environmental risks of any deep sea drilling for petroleum resources – in our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – must be minimised.

“Labour will not allow deep sea drilling to occur unless such standards and safeguards are in place, as well as robust contingency plans and an effective rapid response capability if an incident occurs. We will also establish a comprehensive oceans policy, including legislating to safeguard New Zealand’s ocean ecosystems and to minimise the environmental risks of activities in our EEZ.

“The legislation will set out new rules and a new consents regime for the EEZ, and will be administered by the EPA. These controls will manage the effects of activities and their disturbance of the sea floor.”

MAORI PARTY: “The Maori Party supported the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill in its first reading in September of this year. We supported it with the view that it would enhance our ability to care for the environment for future generations and also guarantee the mana whenua rights of Maori as kaitiaki over our environment.

“The Maori Party is opposed to offshore petroleum exploration without full participation of affected iwi groups in any decision-making process. “As a Treaty partner, Maori are entitled to fair and equal decision-making rights regarding all aspects of exploration where there is a potential for environmental harm.    We support a moratorium on off-shore drilling to enable full consultation, particularly with mana whenua, on the appropriate mechanisms to ensure any adverse economic, environmental, social and cultural risks are managed.

“We will implement the Crown Minerals (Effective and Meaningful Engagement with Iwi, Hapu, and Whanau) Amendment Bill in Te Ururoa Flavell’s name, to ensure full consultation and negotiation with mana whenua / mana moana before any mining contracts are let”.

NATIONAL:  “We have introduced legislation to manage the environmental effects of activities in New Zealand’s oceans. The Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill puts in place a framework that classifies activities as prohibited, discretionary, or permitted, gives the consenting function to the new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and enables public consultation on significant activities like drilling for petroleum.

“The proposed new law will protect New Zealand’s oceans from the potential environmental risks of activities like petroleum exploration, mining, marine energy, and carbon capture developments. The new system will work alongside existing legislation that manages fishing and maritime transport. It has also been carefully designed to ensure it is consistent with New Zealand’s international obligations.

“The Government has also beefed up regulation of the petroleum industry by the Labour Department with the new High Hazards Unit with four new inspectors. Additional interim measures were announced last month for the coming year requiring operators to work to the latest drilling safety rules developed in the United States following the Gulf of Mexico disaster, and environmental impact assessments to be submitted to the EPA.”


10: Genetic engineering

Scientists are using genetic modification to develop new varieties of forage grasses they predict could have potential to increase productivity and moderate pollution from pasture-based farms in New Zealand. What view does your party have on changing the HSNO Act to make introduction of GE pastures easier, or supporting, say, a conditional release of GE pasture plants to boost the research effort?

ACT:  “ACT supports the use of GE. We acknowledge that there is little evidence worldwide of the concerns and sometimes outright scaremongering around GE being realised. Given the increase in demand for food around the world and the role that New Zealand could play in it, ACT believes that we should be rational and scientific about genetic engineering, and we believe that the current evidence favours greater use of GE.”

GREEN:  “We support keeping GE in the lab. Once released into the environment we cannot remove it and as such we support a precautionary approach. Our clean green brand is one of our countries most valuable assets we support protecting it.”

LABOUR:“The Royal Commission on genetic modification recommended a precautionary approach whereby New Zealand’s unique environment would be protected but future options to take advantage of this new science would not be closed off. Labour endorses that approach.

“Labour will continue to insist on zero tolerance of unapproved GM organisms. In government we strengthened New Zealand’s system of managing GM organisms (GMOs) to being one of the most robust and stringent in the world. We believe accountability and traceability of GMOs is necessary to protect New Zealand’s unique environment.”

MAORI PARTY: “The Maori Party does not support the introduction of genetically engineered plants and pastures”.

NATIONAL:  “We have no plans at this stage to make changes to the HSNO Act to loosen up the rules around Genetically Modified Organisms.”