Election 2020 – 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 September 19.

This is the fifth time the SMC has canvassed political parties on their science-related policies; you can access previous election Q&As on our website – 2008, 2011, 2014, 2017.

Click on the links below to find the answers from responding political parties:

COVID-19  |  Mental health  |  Climate change  | Research sector  |  Cannabis

  Fresh waterConservation  |  Biosecurity  |  Smoking & vaping

Responses are listed in order of the number of seats in the current parliament. NZ First submitted its response on 17 August. The Māori Party declined.

Q1: COVID-19

National; Labour; NZ First; Green; ACT; TOP

What is your party’s plan to control COVID-19 in New Zealand, and will this include a new public health agency? How will you balance this response against wider societal and economic concerns?

NATIONAL: National is committed to elevating the role of public health. Covid-19 has highlighted issues with the structure and funding of public health. We are committed to greater coordination across Public Health Units. We will also review the Pandemic Action Plan in light of the experience of Covid-19 and respond accordingly. If the question regarding “a new public health agency” refers to the recommendation in the Heather Simpson review that there be a new Crown entity provisionally called Health NZ to coordinate all DHBs, we do not support that.

National will effectively manage border policies. Community surveillance has fallen away. National will have a structured approach to widespread ongoing community surveillance. National recognises the importance of information technology in pandemics and will collaborate with public and private developers for the best solutions possible.

LABOUR: Labour went hard and early with its health response to the COVID-19 outbreak in New Zealand. That included swift border closure and a strict lockdown. New Zealand is currently at Alert Level 1. There are just a handful of active cases of COVID-19 here, and all are in managed isolation or quarantine facilities.

Labour continues to focus on keeping New Zealanders safe, while minimising the ongoing economic impact of the virus. That means ensuring robust systems for managed isolation and quarantine, and testing and contact tracing, as well as a continuing public information campaign that promotes basic measures like good hygiene and keeping track of where you go, all intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Going hard and early with our health response has not only saved lives but allowed our economy to bounce back sooner than others. Labour has a five-point plan for economic recovery, and with the investments we’ve already made as part of this plan, projections show unemployment could be back down to normal levels in just two years, and our economy could be growing again as early as next year.

Our five-point economic recovery plan is about investing in people, protecting and creating jobs, preparing for the future, backing small business, and positioning ourselves globally.

NZ FIRST: New Zealand First and its Ministers have been part of the current government’s successful efforts to “stamp out” Covid 19 in New Zealand. At every decision point New Zealand First has articulated clearly our understanding of the social and economic consequences of our decisions, as clearly as we have articulated the health and social and economic consequences of alternative decisions – these can be seen in other nations around the world. We believe that the path that we have set, as Government, has and is the right one for the protection of our people and ultimately the protection of our economy. Our borders continue to be our greatest risk and our greatest ally in the fight against a mass wave of community infection in New Zealand that is why we continue to support our Government’s measures to monitor, quarantine and isolate those returning and those that work at these points, including those ensuring that exports and imports are still happening and have continued to take place even during Level Four Lockdown. We do not see that a new public health agency is needed – what is needed is for the Ministry of Health, supported by other agencies and forces, to continue to maintain high levels of testing and have a strong plan around the “what if” community transfer should appear. We continue to work with our Government partners on solutions to soften the economic blow of Covid 19 on our communities and businesses and explore ways that we can “safely” open our borders to other nations (as they become Covid free or have appropriate control measures), how we might facilitate “safely” the reintroduction of international students and certain skilled workers etc. We have also had two New Zealand First Ministers participating in the multi-Ministerial Education, Employment and Training Group standing up initiatives to ensure New Zealanders whose employment is affected by Covid have what they need to retrain, change occupation and find alternative fulfilling employment in sustainable areas.

GREEN: COVID-19 has highlighted the value of a strong public health system. Throughout 2020, the Green Party has been comfortable taking a science-led approach and following public health advice. We resisted calls to end the lockdown early for economic reasons: in our view, there is no point opening “the economy” if it creates serious risks to public health. We support continuing managed isolation for new arrivals for as long as public health experts believe is necessary.

In principle, we support the recommendation of the Health & Disability System Review to create a new public health agency. Good health starts in the community with healthy food and healthy homes. We welcome a stronger emphasis on preventative health and wellbeing and look forward to working with other parties in the next Parliament to make this happen.

ACT: ACT’s position on economic recovery is simple. We need to kickstart the economy while continuing to protect the public from COVID-19. We need smart policies with how we go about it. Just as East Asian jurisdictions, like Hong Kong, Korea, and Taiwan, learnt from their experience with SARS and were prepared for COVID-19, we must learn from the COVID-19 experience and be prepared. 

To improve our speed of response to future events, ACT would permanently increase funding to public health by 50% to $660 million a year. We would consolidate the 12 Public Health Units around the country and merge them into a single National Public Health Service, with its own human health border inspection service and a health surveillance capability independent of the WHO. This Service would manage an expanded national PPE stockpile and audit DHBs’ and social care operators’ pandemic plans.

THE OPPORTUNITIES PARTY (TOP)One of the cornerstones of TOP is that we are an evidence-based party. In response to COVID-19 TOP has called for the reinstatement of the Public Health Commission to act as an independent body of experts which would advise the government on effective and efficient health-based policies. Having an independent body would allow us to continue to listen to experts which has served us well during this first wave of COVID-19. TOP would continue to support current management systems such as managed isolation and contact tracing.

In response to the wider societal and economic concerns, one of TOP’s key pieces of policy is the rolling out of a Universal Basic Income to support New Zealanders. This UBI would help provide financial security and flexibility to everyone, including those who have lost jobs due to COVID, or who are seeing work opportunities and hours dwindling but who don’t qualify for additional financial support under current government policy. The UBI will help buoy the economy as there is more currency flowing and will help reduce the immediate impact of borders being closed for longer.

Q2: Mental Health

National; Labour; NZ First; Green; ACT; TOP

How will your party ensure New Zealand’s mental health system is fit for purpose, and does this include anything from the Mental Health and Addiction review?

NATIONAL: A National Government will focus on delivering frontline services sooner so New Zealanders can access high quality services no matter where they live. Rolling out front line mental health services through GP practices has been painfully slow under this Government.

In 2017, the National-led government committed to a $100m social investment package for 17 mental health initiatives. These included e-therapy, telehealth, increased mental health provision in schools; and a co-response pilot to improve the response to mental health incidents. Unfortunately, National’s initiatives were scrapped by the Government last year.

The Government’s Mental Health and Addictions Inquiry was of undoubted value as it allowed people to have their say. However, it’s a shame our 17 well thought through initiatives were seemingly cancelled for the sake of it, particularly when the Mental Health and Addiction’s Inquiry actually supports them.

LABOUR: The purpose of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction was to –

  • hear the voices of the community, people with lived experience of mental health and addiction problems, people affected by suicide, and people involved in preventing and responding to mental health and addiction problems, on New Zealand’s current approach to mental health and addiction, and what needs to change;
  • report on how New Zealand is preventing mental health and addiction problems and responding to the needs of people with those problems; and
  • recommend specific changes to improve New Zealand’s approach to mental health, with a focus on equity of access, community confidence in the mental health system and better outcomes, particularly for Māori and other groups with disproportionally poorer outcomes.

Therefore, recommendations in He Ara Oranga: Report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction serve as a roadmap to vastly improved mental health and addiction services in New Zealand.

Labour accepted, accepted in principle, or agreed to further consider 38 of 40 recommendations in He Ara Oranga. Labour backed up this response with a $1.9 billion mental health package in Budget 2019. We have since begun rolling out a new universal frontline mental health service, expected to help 325,000 people with mild to moderate mental health and addiction needs by 2023/24.

On top of the $200 million for new and existing mental health and addiction facilities announced in Budget 2019, Labour has also committed $96 million to these facilities as part of the New Zealand Upgrade Programme.

Labour released the new suicide prevention strategy and action plan, Every Life Matters, and established the Suicide Prevention Office to drive action to save lives.

To make sure the Government follows through on its commitments to He Ara Oranga, Labour is also establishing the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission, expected to be up and running by February 2021.

Even before the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction was completed, Labour started trialling mental health support in primary and intermediate schools across Canterbury, extended the school-based health service to more high school students, and launched a mental health support pilot for young adults.

All of these actions signal a clear direction of travel for Labour, should we be granted the privilege of governing for a second term.

NZ FIRST: New Zealand First called for a review of Mental Health services as the country faced a growing mental health crisis. One of the recommendations in He Ara Oranga, the report into mental health and addiction was to re-establish a Mental Health Commission. Recently the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission Bill was passed into law. This establishes a Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission and is an important step in saving the lives of New Zealanders and delivers a key coalition commitment between New Zealand First and Labour. It will lay the foundation to transforming the country’s support services and guide us toward greater wellbeing. The Coalition Government has taken serious action on the mental health and addiction crisis the country is facing and this will help improve outcomes and equity of wellbeing for all New Zealanders. He Ara Oranga also made strong recommendations about what needs to change including the establishment of a cross-party mental health and addictions group. The cross-party group includes a New Zealand First member and will provide the MPs with information, evidence and knowledge exchange to support longer term thinking around mental health and addiction and its wider impacts in New Zealand. The cross party group has produced its first report on suicide and will be available in the next parliament. It embodies our aspirations to nurture our people and drastically reduce Aotearoa’s suicide rate.

In addition to the record $1.9 billion for mental health announced in budget 2019, a New Zealand First Minister recently announced access to counsellors for primary school students to help these children deal with mental health and wellbeing issues again delivering on a coalition commitment.

GREEN: In Government, the Green Party has achieved progress increasing the availability and affordability of mental health services. Our Piki youth mental health programme is now operating in three major cities, and recent Government funding will see free counsellors available on all university campuses.

There is more to be done. We will make Piki available nationwide. We will increase accessibility to mental health services for people with the full range of mental health conditions, from mild to severe, as recommended in the He Ara Oranga report. There are many other aspects of the He Ara Oranga report which need further work to have a stronger mental health system. Substance abuse has strong links with mental health, and the He Ara Oranga report recommended significant changes to minimise the harmful use of alcohol and other drugs. The Green Party supports all of these recommendations and will look to implement them in government. This includes significantly reducing alcohol advertising and sponsorship of sporting and cultural events, while introducing a replacement funding programme.

ACTWe know that COVID-19 is contributing immensely to financial and employment stresses experienced by all New Zealanders. We know that New Zealanders seeking mental health assistance over the last 10 years has increased by 70%. If we are to continue being productive and self-sufficient, we need to have good mental health and people need to be properly supported during this unprecedented period of stress and uncertainty. ACT has a real plan to tackle mental health by transforming the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission into a proper Mental Health and Addiction service that will properly tackle the issues of too much bureaucracy, lack of choice, and a system hard to navigate, and deliver services for those who need them most.

Our policy for transforming mental health is available here.

TOP: Investment in mental health is a crucial part of improving the wellbeing of New Zealanders. TOP has called for a greater focus on preventative healthcare within our system. There is a problem with the current mental health funding model in New Zealand. The evidence suggests that prevention is best done in local communities in ways that suit that community, instead of putting mental health funding through the ministry and DHBs. Greater funding in the area of preventative healthcare would allow easier access to services such as counselling and mental health support for individuals before they reached a crisis point. This would also allow communities to support each other and give them more flexibility to shape available health care to their needs, as we recognise that not all communities have the same needs or concerns. We plan on boosting the funding to mental health treatment services through our alcohol and cannabis policies.

Q3: Climate change

National; Labour; NZ First; Green; ACT; TOP

How will your party meet the goals of the Paris Agreement? What role will the newly-established Climate Commission play in guiding New Zealand’s response?

NATIONAL: National signed New Zealand up to the Paris Agreement in 2015 and supports greenhouse gas reduction in a manner that does not threaten food production. We continue to stand by that ambition.

The National Party believes the role of the Commission should be to provide analysis on how we reduce emissions and respond to climate change, all the while ensuring a strong economy and job protection.

National will ask the Climate Change Commission to review the methane targets in the Zero Carbon Bill and measures to limit the use of forestry to offset fossil fuels.

LABOUR: Labour has worked hard to tackle climate change and provide New Zealanders with clean energy. We passed the landmark Zero Carbon Act, which provides a framework by which New Zealand can develop and implement policies that contribute to the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global average temperature to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

The Zero Carbon Act set a legally binding 2050 emissions target of net zero, other than for biogenic methane, which has to be reduced (in gross terms) 10% by 2030 and 24% to 47% by 2050. The Act also established an independent Climate Change Commission, which will prepare 5 yearly emissions budgets as stepping stones towards the 2050 target. The Act also requires the Government to develop and implement emissions reduction and adaptation plans.

The Climate Change Commission will play a crucial role in New Zealand’s ongoing response to the climate crisis, by providing expert advice and monitoring to help keep successive governments on track to meeting our long-term goals.

Labour has also taken other action to implement the Paris Agreement. For example, we’ve stopped new offshore oil and gas exploration permits, overhauled the Emissions Trading Scheme to make it an effective carbon price tool, and invested in Ara Ake – Future Energy Development Centre, in Taranaki.

We will continue working to transition New Zealand to a clean, green, carbon-neutral economy, with 100% renewable electricity generation and decarbonisation of transport and industrial heat.

NZ FIRST: New Zealand First has a preference for practical policies that work, as evidenced by our achievements on behalf of the environment.

However, New Zealand First does not view environmental policy through a singular prism that preferences it over the need for this country to thrive economically so as to afford a transition to a lower carbon future.

New Zealand First believes in providing balance to ensure that the agriculture sector is incentivised by, and assisted through, transitional policies that serve both our primary producers, their wider communities and the environment.

This balance was shown during the negotiations around the Zero Carbon Act and the ETS. New Zealand First’s contribution was a constructive one that has sought to balance the interests of the agricultural sector against the need for the government to take strong action and show leadership on climate change.

New Zealand First will ensure the current ZCA settings are kept the same; e.g., no Independent Climate Change Commission with Reserve Bank-like statutory independence.

GREEN: In Government in the last three years, the Green Party has made more progress tackling climate change than all Governments in the last 30 years combined. This has mostly been about setting up the frameworks for the transition to a low emissions economy over coming decades. These include fixing the Emissions Trading Scheme, establishing the Climate Change Commission, and passing the Zero Carbon Act – one of the first pieces of legislation in the world to oblige a country to live within the Paris Agreement goal of 1.5C warming.

Now it’s time for action. The Green Party has announced a Clean Energy Plan which will see New Zealand end coal use by 2030 and industrial fossil gas use by 2035, and massively increase renewable electricity generation, including by installing solar panels on all suitable state homes. In the coming weeks, we will also announce transport and agriculture policies which will show what’s necessary to meet New Zealand’s 2030 emissions reduction targets. We look forward to being in a position in the next Government to receive the Climate Commission’s first recommended emissions budgets and emissions reduction plans, and we commit to acting on them.

ACTACT believes in a no-nonsense climate change plan which ties our carbon price to that of our trading partners. ACT believes New Zealand must play its part on climate change. But any response must be simple to administer, politically durable, and effective. New Zealand will only prosper if we match our goals with actions which actually benefit the environment.

To address our emissions ACT believes we need smart solutions to implement other sources of energy. New Zealand now buries 3.5 million tonnes of waste in landfills every year and has a ban on waste to energy power generation. ACT would remove the legislative barriers waste to energy has in New Zealand opening up a sustainable alternative solution while also reducing our carbon emissions. 

TOP: The Climate Commission is a big win. We will always take the advice of experts as an evidence-based party. To achieve the goals set in the Paris Agreement we need an Emissions Trading Scheme which works for New Zealand and the global environment.

TOP will ensure the Emissions Trading Scheme is restored to being a proper cap and trade scheme. It should remain closed to international units, phasing out the free allocations to energy-intensive exporters and auctioning credits with the cap set at the 2030 target. We expect this will cause the price of carbon to rise significantly, sending a long term signal for investment. If international trade resumes, the government should purchase the units and auction them into the ETS.

The revenue raised by the ETS should be used in the first instance to invest in improving energy efficiency in the nation’s homes and small businesses. That includes insulation and the adoption of energy-efficient heating systems. This will save money and reduce emissions at the same time. The other short term priorities are planting all our 1.1m hectares of erosion-prone land and ensuring electricity pricing encourages a move to 100% renewable energy.

Q4: Research sector

National; Labour; NZ First; Green; ACT; TOP

How will your party support ethnic and gender diversity in the research sector? How will you support Mātauranga Māori research?

NATIONAL: Whether it be investing in trades, increasing financial literacy, or providing fees-free places for eligible teens at tertiary institutions, the National Party has long been aspirational for Maori. That’s why we support greater Maori participation in research programmes, particularly those involving significant components of Matauranga Maori.

Greater participation in academia requires working from the ground up, and the emphasis needs to be on participation and achievement from a young age. That’s why the National-led government introduced Partnership Schools, some of which put Maori learning outcomes front and centre. While these schools were shown to have made a positive difference, the Labour-led Government shut them down.

LABOUR: In Government, Labour has proven its commitment to increase diversity in New Zealand’s science system. We know that diversity guarantees the very best ideas and talent, to support the highest quality research. Last year, Minister Woods heard from Māori working at the science-mātauranga interface, following a series of hui, and a pathway forward was discussed. This year’s Budget included $33m for Māori research and development opportunities, to allow Māori to determine their priorities in this space. Labour will continue pushing for increased diversity in our science system.

NZ FIRST: New Zealand First campaigned on increased and improved Research and Development in New Zealand. Improved productivity and international competitiveness are core to our country’s ongoing success as a trading nation. We are glad to see the R&D tax credits be re-introduced. We support any endeavours by firms to improve their diversity of people and critical thinking.

GREEN: Green Party policy is to promote gender equity, ethnic diversity, and participation by people with disabilities in the research sector. One way to help achieve this is to move from the existing sector-focused and corporatised science model in Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) and universities into one that that enables cross-disciplinary research, focuses on public good and economic transformation, and is more enabling and empowering of science and innovation. By encouraging research institutions to establish better links with communities, a broader range of people will become involved in research. In the public sector, we support targets and plans to ensure gender and ethnic diversity at senior management levels. Our broader policies to increase paid parental leave and simplify Working for Families will help reduce career barriers for women researchers.

The Green Party supports the development and study of traditional Māori knowledge within the public science system. Such work can only occur in partnership with Māori, may involve new science structures, and must ensure that intellectual property rights remain with Māori.

ACTUnder ACTs education plan, students regardless of their ethnicity or gender will have the flexibility to pursue study and careers in the research sector. ACT supports the establishment of more Partnership Schools to give students the learning environment that best suits their needs. ACT also believes that parents should have greater flexibility to choose where to send their child and not have this determined by their postcode. To enable this ACT would establish Student Education Accounts. A $250,000 sum of money for every child to attend a school that offers them the best learning opportunity. This Student Education Account carries through to tertiary learning and will also provide additional funding for top academic achievers through a scholarship program.

You can read more about ACT’s education policy on our website here.

TOP: TOP does not currently have a specific policy around this, but strongly agree that supporting Mātauranga Māori research is important. We agree that research needs to be conducted in a way that is appropriate to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and believes this is best ensured by consulting and listening to Māori voices within our research communities. An area we are particularly aware of currently is ensuring data sovereignty.

The current model of training researchers fits a very narrow range of people and is exclusionary to those who do not easily meet the expectations inherent in the system. TOP’s innovation policy would incentivise our tertiary institutes, largely Universities, to become responsive and reflexive practitioners, shifting their delivery models to be more inclusive.

Q5: Cannabis

National; Labour; NZ First; Green; ACT; TOP

What is your party’s position on legalising cannabis for recreational use, as will be asked in the referendum?

NATIONAL: The National Party opposes the legalisation of recreational cannabis.

LABOUR: Labour will honour the decision made by the public at the 2020 Cannabis Referendum.

NZ FIRST: New Zealand First campaigned on providing an opportunity for New Zealanders to have a referendum on this topic.  We said that we would support a referendum and would abide by the outcome and that we have an expectation that others would do the same.  This is why the country will consider a draft piece of legislation at the upcoming election.  It is worthy of note that if New Zealand First was not in the current government then it is our belief that the country would not be having the choice it has on the 19th September on this issue.  The Green Party had campaigned on legalising recreational cannabis for a number of years and so if they had been in a position to create a Government with Labour alone it is reasonable to believe that they would have required legislation pass legalising cannabis without a public referendum – without New Zealand First in Government to ensure that the public had the final say.  New Zealand First does not have a public position on the referendum – each MP and candidate will vote their conscience at the same time as the rest of New Zealand does.

GREEN: The Green Party supports evidence-based, compassionate drug law reform that reduces harm. Drugs are a health, housing, employment, and education issue and criminalising people doesn’t solve any of those problems. Both legal and illegal drugs can cause harm, especially if used to excess or at a young age. Our social and legal response can either increase or decrease that harm. We know prohibition fuels organised crime and causes far more damage than it prevents. Many people in Aotearoa use drugs, but a lack of sensible regulation means people put their lives at risk by using substances of unknown potency from unknown sources. At the same time, weak advertising rules normalise and glorify an unhealthy drinking culture. The Green Party supports a “yes” vote in the referendum to legalise and control cannabis, and has worked to ensure the proposed law is a world-class public health response. In Government, we also pushed for and passed important reforms to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, so people found using or possessing small amounts of illegal drugs are supported into recovery rather than locked up.

ACTProhibition of cannabis has clearly failed. But we need to be sure any particular approach to legalisation will improve matters. ACT supports the referendum, however Government’s priority should be harm reduction, especially keeping cannabis out of the hands of children. The referendum is an opportunity to put an end to a significant amount of police resources being consumed by chasing down petty drug use allowing police to focus on preventing serious crime.   

TOP: Legalise it, tax it, regulate it. Our independent reviews of the evidence as well as the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor report agrees that legalisation does not result in a consistent change in usage patterns (except those over 65!). It is very important to us at TOP that we listen to the evidence. We acknowledge that there are health concerns when cannabis is used by people under the age of 18 and that these harms need to be managed. Therefore, we need to ensure that we have a public health campaign that can reduce use in teenagers. By taxing cannabis we can use the revenue (estimated at $150m) to do just that. TOP would spend this generated revenue on education, after school projects for youth, and the treatment of addiction for all drugs.

Q6: Fresh water

National; Labour; NZ First; Green; ACT; TOP

What will your party do about predicted water supply issues across the country? Do you intend to change water quality standards, and if so, in which sectors?

NATIONAL: National knows that infrastructure investment is crucial to improving water quality, supporting more sustainable agriculture, and responding to climate change. Auckland needs considerable investment in properly separating stormwater and sewage to clean up streams and beaches. It is also in need of more water storage to ensure that Aucklanders have sufficient water to cater for their basic needs. The regions need investment in more schemes like the Waimea Dam in Nelson.

LABOUR: Labour believes that healthy freshwater is critical to New Zealand’s wellbeing and our economy. Freshwater supply is increasingly under threat from extreme weather events, declining rainfall and rising temperatures. While in government, we’ve made significant investments in water storage infrastructure, and have boosted funding to upgrade water services.

We’ve started delivering on our commitment to clean up waterways, with new standards and rules and substantial restoration investment. And we have progressed a comprehensive review into drinking water, stormwater and wastewater, again backed by funding.

Implementation of all of these initiatives will be a Labour priority in the next term of government.

NZ FIRST: New Zealand First, as part of the current Government, has already amended water quality standards in response to the terrible situation and the recommendations of the review into the Havelock North contamination of 2016. We have also been aware however that many small local councils will require support to be able to meet these standards and have supported the work done by Internal Affairs and the Minister of Local Government around creating a process for this support to be provided from central government – this work is ongoing. New Zealand First has also been a strong advocate of water storage – particularly small water storage projects that give greater security of supply to the some of our poorest and more remote communities. New Zealand First feels strongly that government has a moral obligation to these communities to remove the burden of having to pay for water to be shipped in to them when they are some of those with the least ability to pay. An example of our commitment to this issue is the $13 million PGF investment into water storage in Northland where families were having to bath their children in local streams during the recent drought. This is just one of many projects around New Zealand that the PGF has supported to better capture and distribute water.

GREEN: Water is a shared resource. As the climate changes we face stark choices about how it is used. With the Green Party’s support, the Government has introduced the strongest ever water reforms. For the first time, rules will prioritise ecosystem baselines and Māori cultural values. But there is more work to do around dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) limits, and to address allocation and conservation issues. On nitrogen, the Green Party will be led by the best available science which suggests a DIN of 1mg/litre.

The Green Party supports a fair resource rental charged on commercial water users, developed with Māori in a way that recognises the kaitiaki, proprietary, and customary rights of iwi and hapū. It’s essential that we protect food production – but that does not mean just more dairy intensification. The Green Party will support farmers to create more small-scale, on-farm water storage, and we will continue to oppose Crown funding for large irrigation projects. In cities, the Green Party will work with councils to improve “soft” infrastructure to reduce runoff, equip homes and communities with rainwater tanks, and require large new buildings to include greywater recycling. We will not support privatisation of drinking water, stormwater, or sewerage services.

ACTACT believes the Government should pause new freshwater regulations for the rural sector as New Zealand works through the COVID-19 crisis. We don’t believe now is the time to be creating new uncertainty in our communities.  

TOP: New Zealand’s environment is at the very core of our economic and social wellbeing. Our Fresh Water policy addresses this issue. To appropriately manage our valuable water supply, we first need to resolve the standing issue of water ownership through Te Tiriti o Waitangi. To improve the quality of our freshwater we need to ensure that polluters pay the cost for any damage they cause. After ownership and water quality issues have been resolved we can then address water allocations through market solutions. Only water above minimum flow rates, community needs, and the customary rights of Māori should be available for commercial use.

To properly allocate the limited water we have, TOP would establish a water market. This would ensure that the limited excess water we have is used most effectively and efficiently. It will also address the overallocation of water that is currently happening through resource consents. To help address the issue of water shortages in urban areas TOP proposes an urban development act that will incentivise incorporating on-site energy production and waste/stormwater management in new developments, e.g. rain gardens, water storage tanks, onsite wastewater treatment systems.

Effectively managing water usage and incentivising the reduction of pollution will improve our water quality.

Q7: Conservation

National; Labour; NZ First; Green; ACT; TOP

Predator Free 2050 has set four interim goals for 2025, including a ‘breakthrough science solution’ capable of eradicating at least one small predator. How will your party support these goals and what is your position on the use of genetic tools for predator control and eradication?

NATIONAL: The National Party – which committed New Zealand to the Predator Free 2050 Initiative in 2016 – believes that the eradication of mammalian pests from mainland New Zealand is only achievable through investment in new technologies.

The Government has continued to block biotech solutions from being explored, and the Green Party’s outdated ideology continues to stand in the way of protecting our birds and using biotechnology to eradicate pests.

LABOUR: Labour will continue to support the Predator Free 2050 strategy, including developing new and innovative tools to eradicate or control predators, refining existing tools to make them safer and more cost-effective, and expanding the area of effective predator control.

Labour takes a precautionary approach to genetic modification to protect New Zealand’s environment, but not close off future options to take advantage of this science.

NZ FIRST: NZ First was instrumental in directing actual funding into Predator Free 2050. This has meant increased funding to our universities and commercial projects. For example through the Provincial Growth Fund we were able to fund the first tranche of new tools including:

  • NZ Autotraps’ AT 220 self-resetting rat and possum trap, now redesigned and being produced from a new factory in Whakatāne;
  • the “Remove and Protect” suite of products, recently used in the successful removal of possums from the 17,000 ha Perth River Valley in South Westland and now being supplied to other projects;
  • the air-powered “Hammerforce” resetting possum and stoat traps, with prototypes ready for pen and cage trials;
  • Boffa Miskell’s long life lure blocks, with field trials indicating preferred and highly effective attractant mixes; and
  • Environment and Conservation Technology’s “Spitfire” self-resetting toxin delivery device, undergoing design tweaks to improve serviceability following successful pen, cage and field trials.

We would need to see more work progressed on genetic tools as a means of control and eradication.

GREEN: In Government, the Green Party has secured the largest investment in conservation ever. This funding will better protect kiwi, kākāpō, takahē, and other wildlife from the predator crisis. We’ve added 64,000 hectares to Kahurangi National Park – the largest ever addition to a national park in Aotearoa. We are responding to the job losses COVID-19 has created by investing $1.3 billion to create thousands of jobs for nature over the next four years, including 6,000 jobs in conservation. We’ve also released the Predator Free 2050 Strategy and five year action plan.

The significant additional funding for DOC, Predator Free 2050, and Zero Invasive Predators has enabled the development of innovative traps, lures, and breakthrough baits. Next steps include establishing more protected and pest-free islands and sanctuaries, including in our towns and cities, and ramping up landscape scale predator control.

Genetic tools are no silver bullet and generally a long way off in terms of development. The Green Party takes a precautionary approach to the idea of genetic tools for predator control with the research best undertaken in labs by Crown Research Institutes. The focus at the moment is using all the tools we’ve already got to tackle the predator crisis.

ACTACT believes we must protect our country’s unique flora and fauna by eradicating pests and predators. However, this shouldn’t occur at the expense of our valued introduced species. Fishing, hunting and gathering are important activities undertaken by many thousands of New Zealanders.

 ACT also recognises the significant threat pests like rats, mice, possums and mustelids pose to our native flora and fauna and our agriculture sector.

We support funding research into 1080 alternatives through Predator Free 2050, including trapping innovations, non-toxic alternatives and deer repellent. We recognise that, until such tools are available, the use of 1080 in some remote high country areas may be unavoidable. In more populated areas, however, we would prefer that alternatives to 1080 are used where possible.

ACT will:

  • Ring-fence contestable science funding to prioritise research and development into viable alternatives to 1080.
  • Require the Department of Conservation to use all measures and resources at their disposal to minimise the by-kill of game animals and other non-target species during 1080 operations, including through the mandate use of effective deer repellents.

TOP: Predator free 2050 is a very admirable goal. TOP believes we already have a “breakthrough science solution” that will enable us to achieve that in the form of gene drives. TOP’s Gene Editing policy supports a change to the regulatory regime of GMO’s in New Zealand so that gene drives can be considered as one method to eradicate or manage pests within New Zealand. Our unique isolated geography and distinct native flora and fauna make gene drives a low-risk option for New Zealand.

Q8: Biosecurity

National; Labour; NZ First; Green; ACT; TOP

What does your party see as NZ’s biggest biosecurity risk, and what plans does it have to mitigate it?

NATIONAL: Covid-19 is the biggest biosecurity risk facing New Zealand and the National Party’s priority is to keep New Zealanders safe. To do so, we need smart and safe management of our border, something this Government has been slow to deliver. Under their watch returnees have escaped, testing of arrivals in isolation hasn’t always been mandatory and, despite our current border closures, the Government has mismanaged the flow of returnees and the capacity for them to enter managed isolation.

New Zealand is in the midst of a crisis with hundreds of thousands out of work and our economy in decline. We need smart, competent management of the border.

The National Party takes biosecurity incursions very seriously due to their potential to decimate our agricultural industries and cause billions of dollars’ worth of damage. While New Zealand’s borders remain largely closed to international travellers, there are no restrictions on the movement of freight. That’s why continued vigilance is needed to protect the sector from unwanted pests and diseases.

LABOUR: Labour is focused on maintaining a strong border, and eradicating or managing the impact of pests and diseases already here. While in government, we’ve delivered on our commitment to strengthen New Zealand’s biosecurity system, and support our valuable primary sector and special environment. For example, we’ve redeployed workers affected by COVID into biosecurity jobs, increased frontline biosecurity officers and added new dog detector teams. We’ve also protected the productivity of the country’s vital beef and dairy sectors with a thorough and ongoing response to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis, and, in the wake of Mycoplasma bovis, we worked with industry to strengthen NAIT, the national animal tracing system, to ensure it’s an easy-to-use, world-class traceability system that keeps our primary sector and economy safe. We’ll continue to strengthen New Zealand’s biosecurity system.

NZ FIRST: Kauri dieback is a microscopic fungus-like pathogen that infects Kauri roots and kills the trees. Human and animal activity can increase the rate of spread through the increased movement of mud or soil particles.

Research is critically important to inform and support our response to these pathogens – so it is vital that sufficient funding is made available to undertake this work.

In this term of government New Zealand First has provided leadership in the fight against Kauri Dieback with $40.5 million funding for Kauri Dieback and Kauri trees including $6.25 million from the One Billion Trees Fund to establish the first Kauri sanctuary.

New Zealand First will prioritise a science approach to finding a cure with urgency meanwhile efforts to control the spread of the pathogen will continue with urgency in collaboration with local government, land owners, iwi and others.

GREEN: Mycoplasma Bovis is the latest in a long line of biosecurity risks to our primary industries, but not as much attention is usually given to biosecurity risks that attack our indigenous wildlife. Time is running out to address Kauri dieback and while there has been significant investment in research and DOC is investing in ongoing track maintenance to help mitigate the risk the next Government needs to commit to a fully funded National pest Management Strategy to save Aotearoa’s iconic kauri. Myrtle rust is also a significant issue affecting pōhutukawa, mānuka, and rātā which DOC and MPI are actively monitoring to help mitigate the risk. Biosecurity is also a job creation opportunity post-COVID-19. In Government, we have already begun supporting forestry workers to control wilding pines in Northland, East Coast, Hawke’s Bay, and Canterbury.

ACTACT understands that biosecurity is a major concern of many New Zealanders. 2020 has shown just how serious we must take the issue. As a trading nation we rely on our strong borders to protect the clean and green image New Zealand presents to the world. To manage this we need to ensure we have smart policies in place at our borders, in our ports and airports, to ensure that we can maintain this. 

TOP: Exotic pests and diseases are the biggest biosecurity risk to New Zealand. We have seen that clearly with Mycoplasma bovis infecting our cows to the tune of 50,000 animals culled and Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae decimating our kiwifruit orchids. The route into New Zealand is often through imported contaminated biological products from overseas such as bull semen or kiwifruit pollen, which were the likely sources of infection in the above examples.

TOP plans to change our GMO (genetically modified organisms) legislation so that New Zealand can competitively create its own varieties that are suited to our unique environment and give us a competitive edge internationally. This will diminish the need for the importation of biological products that will further reduce the risk that we import exotic pests and diseases.

Q9: Smoking & vaping

National; Labour; NZ First; Green; ACT; TOP

What will your party do to achieve the Smokefree 2025 goal and what part, if any, will vaping regulations play?

NATIONAL: The National-led government introduced the ‘Smokefree 2025’ initiative in 2011 and believes the Government should do more to achieve the goal. Despite the introduction of excise duty on cigarettes, as well as plain packaging, persuading smokers to break the habit has been challenging.

Instead of further restrictions, National wants to make it easier for people to vape and therefore wean off cigarettes. While we are committed to ensuring vaping is used as a tool to help smokers quit, it shouldn’t be an easily accessible habit for young teens.

This is where rules and regulation come in. The last National-led government made headway on the issue, producing legislation for the Labour-led Government to pick up at the end of 2017.
Unfortunately, the Government has been slow to act – it’s taken three years for them to come up with almost exactly the same legislation National had already produced. With National stating its commitment to get these laws passed quickly, the Government’s dawdling on the issue hasn’t made sense.

LABOUR: Labour is committed to the Smokefree 2025 goal and supports the range of measures within the Government’s existing tobacco control programme as well as recently commissioned work, including the –

  • regulation of vaping products;
  • banning of smoking in cars with kids;
  • review of the impact and effectiveness of the tobacco excise increases; and
  • supporting the provision of better services for smokers to quit.

Labour is currently developing an action plan for Smokefree 2025, which may include a range of options such as regulating the supply (e.g. licensing of retailers, and capping and/or reducing numbers of retailers, potentially around schools or in areas with a high concentration of tobacco retailers) and constituents (e.g. nicotine levels, flavours and other additives) of tobacco products, as well as any other measures arising from a review of the recommendations of the 2010 Māori Affairs Committee.

While Labour has made a very good start, more needs to be done if we are to improve on current projections and, particularly, to close the gap for Māori, which must be our priority. Developing an action plan for Smokefree 2025 is an important part of this.

NZ FIRST: The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Bill was passed under urgency so New Zealand now has a regulated vaping market. New Zealand First believes that education and cessation support continues to be the best tool to get toward the Smokefree 2025 goal however we do not support further increases to price as we believe this too heavily penalises those from our lower socioeconomic communities and has led to the creation of a black market for cigarettes which in turn has led to crime specifically targeting dairies and smaller businesses.

GREEN: The Green Party supports the Smokefree 2025 goal. Achieving this will take renewed investment in programmes that help people quit smoking. Vaping regulations need to ensure that people addicted to nicotine have access to lower-harm options, without encouraging young people to take up new habits. We support a ban on advertising of vaping products and a common sense, harm-reduction approach to their availability in shops.

ACTACT believes that vaping is a less harmful and legitimate alternative that helps people quit smoking. Vaping laws passed in August will protect non-smokers from starting to use nicotine products and encourage existing smokers to switch to better alternatives. The new law ensures smokers have access to a range of innovative products including heated tobacco and e-cigarettes allowing smokers to choose an option that best suits them to help them stop smoking. ACT believes that as an incentive to encourage smokers to quit, only GST should be applicable to these products. 

TOP: TOP has a focus on preventative healthcare, which is why we support Smokefree NZ. Reducing the number of people who smoke will reduce the number of people who need to be treated for smoking-related illnesses down the line. TOP wants to see NZ Smokefree by 2025 and will continue to listen to the experts on the best way to achieve that.

Vaping has been shown to be an effective alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes. However, there are concerns that vaping is attracting a new group of people who have not previously smoked. While vaping is significantly better than smoking tobacco it is still not harmless. Therefore, vaping does need regulation which needs to balance the benefit of helping people quit smoking while limiting its appeal to new, predominantly younger, users. TOP will continue to follow expert advice on the best way to balance these needs.