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Robertson and Cunliffe on the Environment

Written By: - Date published: 11:27 pm, June 22nd, 2012 - 87 comments
Categories: Environment - Tags:

Grant Robertson and David Cunliffe will be talking environment & economy at Titirangi tomorrow. It’ll be interesting to watch how Labour positions itself on this pivotal question vis-a-vis the Greens.

So far we haven’t really seen much of Labour on the environment. The Greens have done a very good job at dominating the space.

Labour’s point of difference should be how we preserve the environment whilst protecting the economy. The interaction between the two is core Labour space. Unlike National we know Labour can be trusted to not put our clean water, our native birds and bush, at risk. But Labour also wants to make sure we also have an economy that provides good jobs and a decent standard of living.

Let’s see what two of Labour’s top players offer up.

mickeysavage said “Titirangi War Memorial Hall, 500 South Titirangi Road, Titirangi. Kicks off at 1 pm.”

87 comments on “Robertson and Cunliffe on the Environment ”

  1. Draco T Bastard 1

    Whereabouts in Titirangi?

  2. BLiP 2

    Labour’s point of difference should be how we preserve the environment whilst protecting the economy. The interaction between the two is core Labour space. Unlike National we know Labour can be trusted to not put our clean water, our native birds and bush, at risk. But Labour also wants to make sure we also have an economy that provides good jobs and a decent standard of living.

    Think again – the Greens have got that well covered. Meanwhile, remind me, which Labour MP made it Rio de Janeiro?

    • dancerwaitakere 2.1

      A Labour MP wasn’t at Rio, but was not because they didn’t want to be.

      The Government did not provide (following convention) support for the opposition to send an MP, meaning that any trip would have to be covered out of the Party’s budget. At a time when there are lots of policy research needs etc etc this was just not something that could be met. As has been explain by Robertson already.

      It really does the Green no good to play petty politics like this.

      By all means debate policy etc, but to spin lines that are so blatantly wrong is embarrassing for the Greens.

      • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1

        Kennedy Graham’s Apology

        • hush minx

          I thought that was a very considered apology from Kennedy Graham. One thing I feel obliged to point out on the topic however is that Grant shouldn’t sound too righteous as really is the decision to not go is result of the prioritisation of the labour leaders office – after all they have contractors like the Pagani’s and that UMR polling to pay for – and the $$ can only stretch so far. I am sure Grant would have loved to go, but he is in one of the best positions to do something about the budget allocations. Not that those international events are always the best investment – but that’s a different argument! By the way has anyone got a link for Grant’s speech? I haven’t seen much from him wearing his environment hat and would like to read it.

  3. New Zealand was represented at Rio+20 by a young lady from Queen Margaret’s College in Wellington.
    She made an excellent speech in every way, a good representation from New Zealand.
    Obviously a keen Green player – will make a good Green MP.

    • deuto 3.1

      I also was very impressed with Brttany’s speech – AND she won a worldwide competition to give the speech. I look forward to hearing more of Brittany in the future as long as she doesn’t join the flight from NZ.

      • True Freedom is Self-Governance 3.1.1

        I wish I’d had such self-assurance at 17, sigh. That is one young lady who is going places, no matter who may want to drag her down. One sad thing though is that if she had been in Rio to play beach volleyball in a bikini instead of speaking on behalf of half the planet, most of New Zealand would be paying her the attention she deserves.

    • infused 3.2

      Yes, fight environmental problems with words. I look forward to the stunning change from this speech.

      Yeah, that’s over the top assholeism, but it’s the truth.

      These events will change nothing. They are photo ops of ‘hey we are doing something’, nothing more. Her words fall on deaf ears.

      • Colonial Viper 3.2.1

        Political and economic change must begin with words. Because the alternative ways to that change tend to be far more traumatic.

  4. handle 4

    Labour could have paid to send someone if this was a party priority. Probably more important that they start working closely and cooperatively with the Greens in this policy area, like they will have to in a coalition government.

    • Pete 4.1

      Not really sure I’d be that happy with my party dues contributing to sending someone to a talkfest when those outside of government have little influence on policy or engaging in negotiations.

      • Murray Olsen 4.1.1

        I agree Pete. It’s just a talkfest and I can’t see much coming from it at all. The big players ignore it, the hosts have passed a law saying they can cut down more forest than ever, and life keeps getting dirtier.

    • Ant 4.2

      If someone really wanted to go (or felt strongly about it) they could have fronted out of their own 140k+ salary.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 4.3

      For goodness sake Rio 20+ is a talkfest, you make it sound likes its the second coming. Even if the whole labour caucus went their impact there would be zero among 45000 participants. As a non government group they wouldnt have been able to attend major events.

      But it seems tokenism , all the while racking up air miles, is the way to go. Al Gore-ism at its worst

  5. Old Tony 5

    The Greens approach to the Environment is extreme and destructive. Anyone with an ounce of sense must realise that if we go backwards economically because of an unwillingness to exploit our resources then we become more susceptible to external control by those with money. At that point the environment we are trying to protect will be up for grabs anyway. Or to put it another way being wealthy is the best way to protect our environment.

    If Labour can find an intelligent point of difference from the Greens on the Environment and articulate it clearly then I, as a voter on the right of centre, will breathe a big sigh of relief. I’d be happy for you to indulge your other policy interests if you can generate the funds to support them and ensure all of us a future.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      Or to put it another way being wealthy is the best way to protect our environment.

      No, the best way to protect our environment is to stop selling it to foreigners and to put in place strict regulation of its use.

      • Murray Olsen 5.1.1

        Being wealthy is often the best way to degrade environments in the 3rd world, without being noticeably beneficial at home. Kiwi habitat in the Bay of Islands doesn’t get bulldozed to build MacMansions for poor people, after all.

    • bad12 5.2

      So you advocate ‘burning down the village to save it’, to stop the foreign masters of greed from despoiling the enviroment of New Zealand we all should roll over now and rip the place apart to extract all the minerals of the slightest monetary benefit???,

      Government only need extract from taxes $250 million weekly above the present amount and ‘it’s’ books are balanced,

      That in terms of who is ‘creaming it’ week in week out in New Zealand today simply equates to a 39 need cent tax rate for the top 20% of earners in the economy,

      We do not need mining or borrowing to build hard assets such as roads, schools, hospitals, and, state owned housing, as a sovereign Government and country we have the ability to produce our own monies simply through a Government issue of the requirements necessary for such infrastructure creation…

      • True Freedom is Self-Governance 5.2.1

        “So you advocate ‘burning down the village to save it’, to stop the foreign masters of greed from despoiling the enviroment of New Zealand we all should roll over now and rip the place apart to extract all the minerals of the slightest monetary benefit???,”

        Yeah, I think you put it better than I could but that was pretty much what I was thinking. It’s the dinosaur-brained wealth-chasing mentality that needs to change, to one where we realise that the environment was here long before that stuff we call money, that it will be around long after we are gone, and that if we make it unihabitable all the ‘wealth’ in the world will be useless. I read an article recently discussing how economists usually view the environment as a sector of the economy rather than what it truly is, our life-support system. This attitude has permeated our everyday society to the point where someone pointing out simple biological facts about our very survival can be shouted down by those claiming that the economy must come first at all costs. I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve encountered who actually think like that, but it still amazes me people can be so incredibly stupid enough to buy into it.

  6. QoT 6

    Labour’s point of difference should be how we preserve the environment whilst protecting the economy.

    I disagree – because as soon as you buy into the idea that “preserve environment” and “protect economy” are inherently oppositional forces you’re setting yourself up for continual attacks from the Right any time you do anything environmental.

    What I think the Greens have done a very good job of (as an obviously biased fan) is make the case that preserving our environment is part of protecting our economy – the whole contentious “100% Pure” branding which we rely on for tourism and exports being a prime example.

    • BillODrees 6.1

      QoT, “you’re setting yourself up for continual attacks from the Right any time you do anything environmental.”

      Do not let the Right define the debate. Ballsy leaders like Cunliffe defines the debate using values, context and analysis. We lost the last election because we were too efffing cautious! We were afraid to say what we felt! Time to stop following focus groups and to start giving leadership in the Economic and Environmental debate. Read Cunliffe’s speech and I think you will see what I mean. 

      • QoT 6.1.1

        Buying into the idea that environment and economy are inherently oppositional is allowing the Right to define the debate. Oh, wait, that was the entire point of my original comment, which you ignored. Carry on.

  7. Nick K 7

    But Labour also wants to make sure we also have an economy that provides good jobs and a decent standard of living.

    What’s a “good job”? And what’s a “decent” standard of living.

    • McFlock 7.1


      What’s a “good job”? And what’s a “decent” standard of living.

      “what is this thing humans call ‘love’?”

    • Colonial Viper 7.2

      What’s a “good job”? And what’s a “decent” standard of living.

      The elite 0.1% have defined this for themselves in great detail.

  8. BillODrees 8

    David Cunliffe marked out very clear policy directions for future development that builds on our Environmental threats and opportunities. The debate in Titirangi went well.  Cunliffe insightfulness, preparation and presentation nails it every time. Someone on the left is finally giving us a manifesto.
     Grant Robson laid the ground by outlining the issues and perceptions that inform the wider debate.   

  9. Nick K 9

    He’d have been preaching to the converted though. How many votes outside of the Labour Party apparatchiks present do you think he got today?

  10. AnnaLiviaPlurabella 10

    I’d say 1/3 reliable Labour, 1/3 Environmentalists/green and1/3 general public. There is also the wider audience that reads Cunliffe’s speeches I suppose. Robinson talked about labour perspective and strategy a but too much for a Public Meeting. About 200 there. Cunliffe was sharp and VERY well prepared. Robinson was more conversational . good stuff from both. Not a bad tag team. We need more gigs like that.

  11. Colonial Viper 11

    Robertson right? Not Robinson.

  12. mac 12

    by David Cunliffe on Saturday, June 23, 2012 at 6:19pm ·

    Environment meeting with David Cunliffe and Grant Robertson, Titirangi, 23 June 2012

    Hon David Cunliffe, Labour Economic Development and Associate Finance Spokesperson, Clean-tech Cluster Chair

    Tēnā Kotou katoa, ngā tangata whenua, ngā iwi o te motu.

    Welcome to this beautiful place called Titirangi – the “fringe of heaven” – a place of huge natural beauty, and fantastic, thoughtful, committed people.

    It’s a great pleasure to welcome our Deputy Leader Grant Robertson here and to hear his views on the growing urgency of Labour’s commitment to our environment. Thank you, Grant, for travelling to be with us all today.

    I want to acknowledge the former MP for Waitakere, Lynne Pillay, who led the charge to pass the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act and former Mayor of Waitakere Bob Harvey, the father of the Waitakere Eco-City; former Deputy Prime Minister Bob Tizard and Hon Judith Tizard; Waitakere Ranges Local Board Chair Denise Yates and member Greg Presland; Service Workers Union Secretary Jill Ovens; and the recent Director of the New Zealand Institute Dr Rick Boven. Most of all, I want to thank each and every one of you for being here today.

    Some of you will know that I am the proud father of two young sons.

    Since I became a father, everything I did before seems rather shallow and selfish.

    I feel incredibly lucky and grateful that I have the good fortune to live in one of the few remaining places on earth that has a stable democracy, food, education, healthcare and, above all, a healthy environment.

    How much longer will this paradise last? I’m not sure. I’m very sad to say there’s a very good chance that by the time my two young sons reach adulthood, the safe and healthy world that we all took for granted will be gone. Finished.

    When we look back on it, the worst crisis of the 21st century won’t be the ‘Great Recession’ since the global financial crash of 2008 – it will be the ‘Great Compression’ that is coming at us because of energy shocks, climate change, population growth and resource shortage.

    In a book called The Meaning of the 21st Century,[i] James Martin likened the first half of the century to a funnel that humankind will have to pass through to reach a more sustainable future, or any future at all.

    Sure, we will have to both protect dolphins and shorten dole queues, which is what you will be expecting from the title of this speech.

    But actually, the nature of this crisis is far deeper and more fundamental than the standard environment-economy trade-off thinking might suppose. The coming crisis threatens more than just marine biodiversity. The species we are trying to save could be our own.


    In that context today I am going to say three things: First, why these risks are fundamental and in some cases life threatening.

    Second, what contribution smart, clean technology and renewable energy could make to addressing the risks and providing a way forward.

    Third, we should not pretend that just “installing solar water heaters” is going to save the planet on its own.

    And fourth, how we can begin to think logically and clearly about making the tough decisions and trade-offs that are ahead of us.

    One thing is certain – much stronger action will be needed. Much will depend on each and every one of you, as well as on future governments.


    Population and consumption

    Let me point out a few really sobering facts.

    In 1350, at the end of the Great Famine and the Black Death, the world’s population was about 370 million. By 1750, this had almost doubled to 760 million. By 1950, the world had 2.5 billion people and already in my lifetime the world’s population has doubled once more.[ii]

    No one, no one, no one believes that the human population on planet Earth can safely hit nine or ten billion without grave consequences.

    In a sense, there’s no guilty party and no bad guys; just seven billion bewildered humans whose dreams came true: against all odds, we survived and flourished. We reproduced, organised and colonised the entire planet.

    Our ancestors bred like rabbits because it was the only way of guaranteeing survival. Also, because there was no old-age pension, large families were the only way of ensuring that there would be sufficient family members to look after the parents when they grew too old to work.

    Westerners may have smaller families, but we consume many times their fair share of resources and they tend to live in democracies with a high life expectancy and good access to education and employment.

    It’s amazingly arrogant for rich people from the West to lecture the developing countries about birth control and the need to conserve resources. The vast majority of the planet’s resources flow into the open mouths of the overweight and insatiable Westerners.

    Our car is too old and slow. Our old cell-phone isn’t modern enough, our broadband connection isn’t fast enough, our clothes aren’t new or fashionable enough. We’re bored with the food at our local supermarkets.

    It’s not just rich yuppies who live this way, either. Compared to most people in Africa, even those at the bottom of the heap in the West live relatively better.

    And while we crave the brief thrill of some new consumer product or food or car, people die. People die in their millions. According to the United Nations, almost 18,000 children die every day because of hunger or hunger-related causes.[iii] Every day. This day. These are children who need care and protection, who are not much different to my children, or yours.

    And the problem is getting worse, not better.

    As the world’s population grows, and as the West teaches the developing world to be greedy, so the demand for resources grows with each passing year. Oil’s an obvious one. So is food, but even the most basic of life-sustaining resources are running out fast.

    Even worse, that most basic of commodities: clean fresh water, which we generally take for granted, is also rapidly running out.

    Globally, there’s a really serious water crisis.[iv] There are simply too many demands on a limited supply of water.

    There’s a global shortage of water for industry, there’s a shortage of water for ordinary people to wash. There’s a global shortage of water to grow crops. There’s a global shortage of clean drinking water.

    Even here in New Zealand there’s a serious shortage of water in some areas.[v]

    Yet we have a Prime Minister who buries his head in the sand over the state of our environment – making a fool of himself trying to defend our 100% Pure brand to the BBC with nothing to back up his green-wash.

    By contrast David Shearer has personally confronted the reality of helping to feed, shelter and protect vulnerable people in some of the most difficult places on Earth.[vi]

    A climate of change

    And if population growth and water and resource depletion aren’t sobering enough, we need to be honest about the threat of climate change.[vii]

    Despite the fact that in a recession, people are more focussed on the short term challenges of making ends meet, if the science is reliable, then this is a longer term issue we cannot afford to ignore.[viii]

    Our National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (or NIWA) says the Earth’s sea surface temperature around New Zealand has increased approximately 0.8 degrees since 1900,[ix] mostly in the last several decades.

    Because of the lags between greenhouse gas emission and climate adjustment, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), estimates at least a 1.4 degree rise above 1900 levels even if no more greenhouse gases were emitted.[x] This is already forecast to affect the severity of floods, storms and droughts.

    The IPCC’s worst case, if nothing is done to limit emissions, is for warming in the range of 2.4 to 6.4 degrees by 2100, and the latest tracking data has us close to the worst case.

    A six degree rise risks setting off a self-reinforcing cycle of polar ice cap and tundra melt, natural increases in methane emissions, sea level rise, and reduced climate buffering by the world’s oceans.[xi]

    Stopping this, according to the IPCC requires emission reduction of at least 25-40% below 1990 levels.

    New Zealand’s carbon emissions are the fifth highest per capita highest in the OECD and they’ve increased 23% since 1990.[xii]

    Labour committed to a comprehensive, all-gas, all-sector emissions trading scheme as one of this country’s domestic responses to climate change. This will help contain domestic greenhouse gas emission while ensuring minimum disruption to our economy.

    By contrast, National quickly set about watering our scheme down and delayed the introduction of agriculture into it, which is responsible for nearly half of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. There is still no real commitment for agriculture to enter soon.

    Of course nothing less than global action will be required to solve this problem. But to play its rightful part, and to protect its clean, green brand, New Zealand must lift its game achieve that.

    Given that there is still no legally binding successor to the Kyoto Protocol after 2012, the outlook for global climate disruption remains grave.

    We are approaching a point where the number of people on the planet will be greater than the earth’s ecosystem can sustain.

    It’s impossible to know exactly where that point is – some say we have already passed it and are living in deficit; others say it is soon; far too many say they don’t believe it, or just don’t care.

    But when I look at my two sons, I fear that our generation has failed them. They will inherit a world far more difficult and more treacherous than our own.

    So, if we care about our kids and grandkids, we must act with moral courage now to give them the best possible chance of navigating this uncertain future.

    There are no islands

    The climate debate reminds us that there is no such thing as an island when these global megatrends collide.

    Sure, let’s accept that New Zealand does start with some advantages.

    We have wide open spaces, plentiful rainfall, fertile land and low population density. The World Bank estimates that we are blessed with 8th highest level of “natural capital” per person of any country on the planet.[xiii]

    According to some, our temperate climate and surrounding oceans may buffer us from some of the most extreme climate disruptions. It will still rain, although with more on the West coast, with more droughts in the East. NIWA already estimates that the droughts of 2007 and 2008 cost the country $500m and $1bn respectively.[xiv]

    But if the consequences of climate change, population growth and resource constraints are even half right, we may well be living in a world that is very different to the one we take for granted today.

    Frankly, if we think the financial hangover of reckless lending and borrowing of the last decade is bad – the consequences of another major oil shock and sweeping climate-induced poverty and disruption could be horrific.

    In such a world there are no ‘islands’.

    Or at least none that can guarantee the security of their supply chains or their ability to send products and services safely and cheaply to distant markets.

    Our domestic economy is not resilient today.

    Our low population density has allowed us to maintain a ‘100% Pure’ image, but the reality is different.

    Despite us trading on our clean and green image New Zealand is the only country in the OECD without statutory requirement for regular reporting on the state of our country.

    Instead we have to rely on others to tell us what’s happening.

    Having worked in my first term in Parliament to advance triple bottom line reporting, I now believe the time has come to put alternative wellbeing measures alongside ‘GDP’. ‘Gross domestic product’ measures pollution and crime as ”goods” as long as they show up in turnover.

    Labour in government began work on alternatives to GDP measures, and it is high time that complementary measures became standard in our economic reporting. Grant Robertson has a Members Bill in the ballot to this effect.

    The Pure Advantage report recently released, New Zealand’s Position in the Green Race, calls for a “100% pure reality check”.[xv]

    They note New Zealand has already slipped down Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index (EPI) from 1st in 2006 to 7th in 2008 to 14th in 2012.[xvi]

    The UK “food miles” debate may not have been based on great science (as many of our year round outdoor farming has a lower energy intensity than barn fed animals), but its adoption by large supermarket chains shows us that perception matters.[xvii]

    Our water quality is under threat. Yale University’s water index has us 43rd of 132 countries.[xviii]

    According to the OECD, three quarters of our water supply is used for irrigation,[xix] but that resource is un-priced (free) to the farmer and, under National, has just received an additional $400m subsidy.

    Little wonder many more catchments are 100% allocated, and that total nitrogen trends are way up around the country.[xx]

    Our cities sprawl, so we have low urban population density and under-developed public transport infrastructure. New Zealand has the third highest rate of car ownership in the world, but one of the lowest usages of public transport.[xxi]

    Our housing is famously cold and damp and draughty. It causes too many of our children grow up with respiratory disease and lifelong impairment.[xxii]

    And our track record on biodiversity is appalling. We should have woken up to this long before DOC research had to tell us that there are probably on 55 Maui’s Dolphins surviving. Further action is needed to protect endangered species.[xxiii]

    There is much more to say on conservation than we have time to today. I am hopeful that we will be able to welcome Labour’s Conservation Spokesperson, Hon Ruth Dyson, to speak with us in the West.

    Take action and good results are possible. Locally, thanks to Lynne Pillay, Bob Harvey, Penny Hulse, Denise Yates and many others, the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Protection Area Act set a new benchmark in addressing the cumulative effects of urban development and setting strong goals for preservation of our unique and beautiful ranges.

    Now that Australia has just created a whole raft of marine protected areas, the time has come for renewed discussion about mixed use marine parks and reserves.

    I could go on all afternoon about the threats to your safety, but I suspect you’d just become overwhelmed and depressed. Let’s talk about solutions rather than problems.


    So the world is facing major environmental challenges, and New Zealand faces both global and local risks.

    What contribution can clean technology and renewable energy make to addressing these risks and taking New Zealand forward on a more resilient and sustainable basis?

    Let me say from the outset that the serious nature of these challenges, there is zero room for “green-wash” in this debate.

    The National Government, for example, set ridiculously tight terms of reference for its Green Growth Advisory Group, to “green” the government’s existing growth agenda and to “leverage” New Zealand’s clean, green brand.

    That is, respectfully, the opposite of what we need. We need to live the brand, not to leverage it.

    We need a structural shift in how our economy works, not green-wash dreamed up by some marketing guru.

    What does that mean? It means creating more economic value with less carbon, energy and pollution footprint.

    Through clean technologies we can potentially improve the value and the sustainability of our primary industries.

    We can create new export niches by developing solutions onshore that can be sold and replicated offshore.

    The interests of a high-value, full employment economy and a sustainable environment are not necessarily opposed, but can work together.

    Clean-tech: old and new

    Put simply, reducing waste and reducing pollution can make things run more efficiently. Like a car exhaust. Tune the car properly, get the oil mix right, and there are less fumes. The car runs better and cheaper, and pollution is lowered.

    Likewise, research into cow ‘exhaust gases’[xxiv] is seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at both ends, and improve the nutritional value of feedstock and the productivity of dairy farming.

    Research into soil carbon is trying to fix more carbon into soils, both to reduce our net carbon emissions and to improve soil fertility.[xxv]

    As an example, across the harbour from here on Puketutu island, The Living Earth Company processes about 90% of the greenwaste that Auckland generates. Previously all of that would have made about 25% of the entire load going to landfills every week in the Auckland region.

    Instead it has revolutionised the old backyard veggie plot into a vast landscaping and gardening industry, turning that entire waste stream into money.

    If any of you have gone to a concert at the Villa Maria estate in Mangere, you will be surrounded by their Biogro certified compost and eco-mulch.

    Clean green business isn’t just happening on the farm or in the garden – it is stuff as obvious as eco-tourism ventures – from whale watching to guided tramping.

    It’s in the organic fruit drinks that made Phoenix and Charlie’s household names and valuable brands. But it’s a shame that this innovative company, like so many others, has been bought from offshore and delisted from our stock exchange.[xxvi]

    It’s in sustainable fisheries management, and environmentally balanced aquaculture, much of which is of particular importance to the Māori economy.

    It’s in new forestry cultivars that produce denser, stronger timber quicker,[xxvii] and planting practices that better conserve soil quality while improving yield.

    It’s in the electronic traceability of our livestock,[xxviii] so that we can demonstrate which animal from which herd on which organic farm is in each premium serving on a European supermarket shelf.

    Or in the desperate biological research now underway to save our Kiwifruit industry from the scourge of PSA by developing disease resistant cultivars.[xxix]

    Or in the nutritional research that is helping Fonterra and others like A2 to extract advanced proteins, nutraceuticals, lower intolerance and higher pay-outs from a bucket of milk.[xxx]

    Clean technologies can not only add value to primary products, they can create value from by-products.

    For example, Lanzatech is trailing turning the exhaust fumes from Glenbrook Steel mill into fuel and production chemicals.[xxxi]

    There are many other ground breaking breakthroughs being made in New Zealand. We need to get behind this shift or we’ll see bigger companies purchasing or just taking the intellectual property and benefit while Kiwis put in all the hard slog.

    Renewable energy: powering the future

    Clean technology is also helping to generate renewable energy and to better utilise and conserve the energy we have.

    The supply side

    New Zealand state owned energy companies like Mighty River Power are already world leaders in renewable geothermal energy. Through a subsidiary, Mighty River Power is assisting countries like Indonesia develop geothermal resources.[xxxii]

    And yes that’s the same Mighty River Power the Government rammed through legislation to partially privatise this week. Doing so – despite the clear opposition of New Zealanders and the lack of a financial case – shame!

    Solar energy also holds potential. For example SolarCity is currently putting industrial solar panels on the roofs of 2,200 new homes in quake-hit Christchurch.[xxxiii]

    Experts disagree over the full delivered cost of solar energy, but there is no question that it is coming down, and reaching large scale production of photovoltaic cells will help.

    Alternative energy supplies may be found in the forestry industry, with potential to use post-felling wood residue for biomass energy conversion.[xxxiv]

    Almost as soon as biofuels appeared on the market offering viable alternatives to fossil fuels, so did the campaign against them.

    It’s not as simple as “biofuel good, petrol bad”. The PCE pointed out in her 2008 report that biofuels, if not properly regulated, can potentially be worse for the environment than fossil fuels.

    They can emit more greenhouse gases (e.g. Indonesian palm oil). They can add to starvation by replacing food crops in order to benefit from big government subsidies. And they can decrease biodiversity (by clearing rain forests to plant biofuel crops).

    However these dangers can be mitigated and in Labour’s 2008 biofuels obligation legislation we worked with the Greens to develop sustainability standards which ensured that only biofuels from truly sustainable sources could be sold in NZ.

    The potential for biogas is being increasingly acknowledged and leveraged around the world and this innovative Kiwi company Flotech is at the forefront of this technology.

    Ironically they have struggled to get any traction here at home despite their pilot plant at the Redvale landfill in Rodney, extracting 90% of the methane produced by that landfill and converting it for onsite electricity generation.

    Redvale landfill is in the top ten largest gas fields in New Zealand and is currently Auckland’s leading producer of renewable electricity capable of powering 11,000 homes or providing enough alternative transport fuel to replace 54million litres of diesel a year.

    The Parliamentary Commission for the Environment (PCE) has identified wood waste to diesel technology as a major development opportunity.[xxxv]

    So whether it is wind power, geothermal, bio-waste, bio-mass or bio-gas, – and provided we are vigilant to avoid the risk of biofuels –there is huge potential in alternative and renewable energy to make a positive difference to our future.

    The demand side

    Clean technology can also help improve the efficiency of the energy that is produced.

    For example smart grids with two way metering allow households to pump surplus power back into the grid when they produce more from say, solar panels, than they need. The OECD estimates smart grids can cut peak power demands by up to a quarter.[xxxvi]

    The PCE recently urged more attention to smart meters and grids as a way of improving grid efficiency and streamlining grid upgrades.[xxxvii]

    Reduced consumption may mean reduced revenues to privatised power companies, so we need to ensure that future governments’ rights to regulate the energy market in the public interest – including for smart grids and two way meters – are not eroded.

    Who is sick of spending winter living in cold, damp draughty wooden houses? Plenty of people in this room I bet.

    But it’s not a matter of choice for the 230,000 plus Kiwi kids growing up in poverty.[xxxviii] We live in a country where those kids get sick way too often with respiratory disease and suffer the consequences all their lives.[xxxix]

    There’s nothing particularly high tech about installing batts in a ceiling, or insulation in walls. But home insulation and double glazing is not only good for energy efficiency and a lower carbon footprint – it is essential for public health, fairness, and a productive workforce in years to come.

    I know the government makes a big noise about its home insulation scheme, but actually, the National government’s scheme is barely scraping the surface.

    For example, a staggering proportion of your expensive home heating goes straight out through your windows. Double-glazing, which simply means two panes of glass instead of one, cuts this heat loss in half.[xl] The savings in health and energy would run into millions, from this simple step. Double-glazing also dramatically reduces the level of noise that enters your house.

    Here’s another simple example: LED lights use far less energy, they have a pleasant glow, they’re cheap and they last for years. Why not campaign to encourage homeowners and businesses to convert to LEDs? Why not start with the government departments?


    Oil and toys

    But let’s imagine, just for a moment, that we had a different government, a government of values and vision, of principle and pragmatism – maybe a Labour-led Government with a green tinge, I hear you ask?.

    If we had such a government, and we took clean technology and renewable energy seriously, could we ‘close the gap’ (yeah I reckon we’re allowed to use those words now) between the lifestyles many people want and the future we are going to get?

    The answer, honestly, is no.

    A “100% reality check” means that we’re going to have to learn to live better, more satisfying lives with less pollution and less wasteful material consumption, not more.

    On a planet of seven billion souls, we can’t all live according to some 1950s ‘American Dream’.

    It’s hard to believe, these days, but before the so-called economic reforms of the 1980s, most New Zealanders believed that it was a good thing to live a relatively modest lifestyle.

    People may have craved consumer products like better cars and larger TVs, but, by and large, people accepted the very important principle that you can’t always have everything you want.

    When I was growing up, children received one or two major presents a year: a large toy or a doll or a set of books. Older children passed their toys down to younger children. These toys were valued in the same way that adults value their cars today.

    Today a lot of Kiwi kids – not the 20,000 still growing up in poverty – have a room full of toys. Whereas a new toy was once a major event, now it’s simply a way of keeping children quiet while the parents go shopping.

    When I was growing up, toys were generally well built and they lasted. We’ve still got one or two of my childhood toys. I gave them to my sons.

    Now, toys are mostly cheap plastic junk. Do you know what those toys are made of? They’re made of oil. That’s right. Oil.

    I think, in 100 years’ time, our great-great-grandchildren will scarcely believe that, even while the world’s oil supplies were known to getting harder and more expensive to source, the citizens of the Western world filled their homes with needless junk that was mostly made from oil.

    Is this sustainable? Of course not. Yet we keep squandering our children’s inheritance as if there was no tomorrow.

    Myths and reality

    Almost as bad, we willingly believe the myths and lies of some governments and industry leaders, because we want to.

    Shall I list some of them?

    The biggest one is the lie that we’re going to be able to continue to live our current lifestyle, using alternative technologies. This is probably one of the worst.

    Even some environmentalists do it.

    It’s tempting to settle for tiny steps forward, because it is hard to get people focused on the future when life is so tough for so many today.

    Some are even so sick of being rejected by the mainstream that they’ve started to talk the language of the corporations.

    The endless energy myth

    I read a report a year or so ago, which estimated that renewable energy could account for almost 80% of the world’s energy supply within four decades – but only if governments pursue the policies needed to promote green power.[xli]

    Sounds good, doesn’t it? The fine print was that governments around the world, which are currently struggling to survive financially, would have to spend hundreds of billions on new energy projects.

    Energy bills would have to rise to pay for all this. Not a little bit, a lot: enough to make you turn your household heating off in winter, except maybe in one or two rooms.

    There’s a fundamental problem: our society has been built on cheap energy. Really cheap energy, most of it based around oil.

    We expect to be able to drive to the supermarket and buy 50 different types of food from all over the world.

    Do you know that fish is caught off the cost of the South Island, then shipped to China for processing, then shipped back to New Zealand again. Really? How is this possible?

    Two reasons: one is that the South East Asian crews and the Chinese factory workers aren’t paid enough, and the other is that oil is still cheap enough to make it worthwhile shipping frozen fish half way around the planet for processing.

    The green revolution myth

    I’m sure you’ve all seen those photos of farm life in the 1930s. Those days, as you know, are long gone. After World War II, farm life changed almost beyond recognition.

    It’s sad that the term for this change was (wait for it) the Green Revolution. The Green Revolution was a sadly misplaced name for industrialization of agriculture.

    Farms became much more productive, which was a good thing, or so it appeared at the time.

    Part of this increase in farm production came from new hybrid food plants. Part of it came from new technology such as milking sheds.

    Most of the rest of the Green Revolution was powered by oil. Oil and natural gas powered the tractors, oil powered the pumps that irrigated dry lands, natural gas was converted into fertiliser, and oil was converted into insecticides for pest control.

    The good news is that between 1950 and 1984, world grain production increased by 250%.[xlii]

    The so-called Green Revolution was the reason there are 50 types of food in your supermarket.

    The bad news is that the amount of energy required by agriculture increased by many times compared to traditional agriculture.[xliii] Many times. And most of this energy came from fossil fuels. Are you worried? You should be.

    The clean cars myth

    I know it’s wonderfully seductive to imagine a world where you drive to work in an electric car powered by hydroelectric power. However, I’m not so sure that electric cars are as green as they claim to be. Did you know, for example, that about half the components in a modern car are made of plastic? Guess where that plastic comes from? Mostly oil.

    There are currently 3.4 million cars registered in New Zealand. Only about 46 are powered by electricity.[xliv] If we increased that volume 100 times, we’d still only be running a tiny fraction of the vehicle fleet on electricity. If we attempted to replace even a large hunk of the vehicle fleet with imported electric cars, we’d simply bankrupt the country.

    At rush hour, in Auckland, it can take me over an hour to drive from North Auckland to West Auckland. What difference would electric cars make? Can anyone here look me in the eye and say that massive traffic jams full of electric cars are really much of an improvement?

    Of course not. What is really needed is a rail link. Imagine a fast, reliable rail link, direct from the North Shore to West Auckland. That’s a far better use for our precious hydroelectric energy. and the only sure way to make our cities liveable.

    Or at least a modern joined up network of rail, buses and ferries?

    As anyone who has sat in a two hour Auckland traffic jam will tell you, the one-car-per-person model simply doesn’t work anymore. I’d rather do the same trip in 20 minutes on a train with on board wi-fi and a flat white to go..

    Did you know that the government’s own studies show that transporting goods by rail is over five times more efficient than transporting goods by truck? So what does our government do? It builds more roads and, despite Labour’s KiwiRail buyback, under-funds rail. This is madness.

    If you want to know why the government wants to spend your money on roads and not rail, here’s a hint: the head of the trucking lobby is usually either a former National Party cabinet minister or a former Act Party leader. Do you see a pattern here?

    Rail doesn’t just benefit you personally, either; the more we invest in rail, the less we spend on imported cars and oil. The more we invest in rail, the more local people get employed at every level.

    The more we invest in rail, the more we build resilience for our future, while providing for our everyday need for reliable transport and affordable energy.

    Two ‘lifestyle’ myths

    Finally, we need to think beyond two equally false lifestyle myths.

    The first is that we run a world on sustainable energy and maintain our ‘current’ lifestyle? I don’t think so.

    Let me quote ecologist Richard Heinberg:[xlv]

    “I went to the Aspen Environmental Forum for two years in a row and … whenever the subject of our oil problem comes up, or our car dependency problem, the only thing that they want to talk about is running all the cars differently by other means.

    They don’t want to talk about walkable neighborhoods, they don’t want to talk about inhabiting the landscape differently, they don’t want to talk about public transit, they don’t want to talk about fixing the conventional railroad system.”

    Our energy expectations have grown beyond the wildest dreams of our ancestors. And they’re continuing to grow.

    This energy-intensive lifestyle is simply unsustainable. It’s probably unsustainable for Westerners. It’s completely impossible for seven or nine billion people.

    New Zealand is unique in that much of our energy comes from hydro-electricity. But do we have enough energy to maintain our current lifestyle into the future? The simple answer is ‘no’.

    The current government is living in a fool’s paradise, or is simply unwilling to confront the vested interests and tell the people the truth.

    The opposite lifestyle myth is that all economic development is bad and that living a hair shirt existence is our only option.

    Rubbish. With robust evidence-based analysis, proper planning and incentives, and most of all with public will and imagination, there is an opportunity for more people to live better, healthier lives by learning to live differently.

    Do I support clean-tech strategies such as renewable energy and wood-waste biofuels? My answer is quite simple: I support any moves that reduce our exposure to ecological crisis.

    Will these savings help? Yes. Do they solve the basic problem that we’re living a lifestyle we can’t afford? Probably not.

    We have a huge gap to fill between the future we want for our kids and the trends we are facing. Every concrete step to close that gap will help.

    We must not be seduced by the old materialist myth of the ‘American dream’, nor frozen by despair at the magnitude of the challenge.

    Between the myth of materialism, the trap of despair, and the myth of green-wash, lie tough choices and real adjustments.

    That is the only way we can build a better future for our children. We must build it with clear heads, warm hearts and above all the courage to change.


    Clear headed thinking

    Let’s add some hard headed thinking.

    Our 100% ‘reality check’ must recognise that sometimes compromise or trade-offs must be part of the plan.

    Sometimes we cannot avoid hard choices between the goals of the economy and the environment, or ‘the dolphins and the dole queues” (although I’m for the dolphins on that one). Should we have more swimmable rivers or more dairy runoff?

    And sometimes we face trade-offs even between different environmental goals. Should we have more hydro power or protect wild rivers?[xlvi]

    Clear thinking is harder because there are no one-size-fits-all answers. That’s why we need good evidence and data, and the tools to use them.

    But we cannot, in the face of the obvious, allow paralysis by analysis. As the PCE put it in her Water Quality report:[xlvii]

    “While science is necessary for policy, it is not sufficient. Science does not tell us how to make trade-offs, and trade-offs will almost certainly be needed. It is very unlikely that we can have our cake and eat it too. Even if technical fixes were to become available for dealing with all our water quality problems, they would still cost a great deal of money”.

    We need some real-world rules of thumb to guide us through the economy-environment maze.

    First – adopt the precautionary principle. New Zealand should be prudent about anticipating and managing the risks that flow from significant global climate change, fossil fuel constraints and economic turmoil.

    Second: resilience – the idea that we should strengthen our capabilities adapting to and managing the consequences of foreseeable environmental disruption. Energy and resource security are obvious examples.

    As my colleague the Hon Lianne Dalziel says, resilience goes hand in hand with sustainability. Lianne should know – she’s just been appointed to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction Advisory Group of Parliamentarians on Disaster Risk Reduction, in recognition of her work in making Christchurch a more resilient city.

    I strongly believe that resilience is a concept that we will be talking a lot more about.

    Leading change

    No matter how “worthy”, the change we need will not just “happen” by accident. Markets are notoriously short term. Financing breakthrough technology development is tough.

    Labour believes government has a crucial role to play in supporting or incentivising new technologies until the market is ready to take over.

    Take wind farms. The last Labour government awarded grants to assist the initial deployment of wind technology through the Ministry for the Environment. Before long, the volume of orders increased, wind farms were proved to be economic, the subsidy was backed off and the market took over.[xlviii]

    New Zealand’s science investment is still pathetic: less than a third of Denmark’s and about one quarter of Finland’s.

    There is so much more that we could do to release Kiwi ingenuity to assist both the economic and environmental challenges that face us.

    It is a crying shame that this Government refuses to take seriously the clean tech agenda, refuses to invest properly in our innovation ecosystem, refuses to lead the market to a better tomorrow on behalf of all New Zealanders.

    Getting the best long term outcomes will not always mean maximising short term profits. It can’t. Anyone who tells you it can is either stupid or lying.

    It’s disappointing that Steven Joyce, the Minister of Economic development, attacked the Pure Advantage green race report this week, saying that it would require a ‘value destroying’ adjustment of our economy.[xlix]

    Do people like him understand the costs of not adjusting and not planning for a better future? Do they understand that business as usual simply cannot continue?

    Just as New Zealand cannot “cut and sell’’ its way out a recession, we can’t mine and drill our way through a climate–disrupted, resource-depleted future.

    Achieving change

    For those of you who think change is some naïve dream, let me tell you a little story.

    In the 1860s, greedy British ship owners were overloading their boats. If the overloaded ship made it home, the owners made huge profits. If the boat sank, as many of them did, the ship owners got a huge insurance pay-out.

    This cosy “coffin ship” arrangement cost many thousands of innocent people’s lives. The ethical ship owners were pushed out of business. The coffin shippers grew rich. Does this sound familiar? Just as today, everyone knew what was going on and everyone said that the exploiters were too big and powerful to be controlled. Wrong.

    A British MP, Samuel Plimsoll, took on the shipping companies, and in 1876 the British parliament passed an Act that required all ships to carry a simple measuring line on the side.[l]

    If this line on the side of the ship was above the water, the ship was safe. If this line on the side of the ship was under water, the ship was overloaded. This line on the sides of ships was quickly called the Plimsoll line, and you can still see the Plimsoll line painted on the side of ships today.

    Plimsoll’s heroic efforts have saved millions of lives. The coffin shipper industry barons attacked Plimsoll from all sides. And they lost.

    So, is it possible to take on the bastards and win? Yes it is. Who gains when we do this? Everyone. So that is why, when we are re-elected, our loyalty must be to the people of New Zealand and their families.


    Everybody loves to hate politicians. Yet, we politicians are here because people voted for us. Politicians tend to do what’s easiest for them and their careers. Although there are a few of us that really care, we can’t force our policies onto unwilling voters.

    So, I think that the big changes in the world; the ones that might just save us, are going to be driven by ordinary people like you.

    But a word of warning: the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    It’s not good enough to have ideals. It’s not good enough to weep over the state of our nation’s waterways and land. It’s not good enough just to bemoan climate change and inequality.

    In between our dream world and our present world, there’s a minefield of confusion, denial and dishonesty, of myths blue and green.

    Let’s not get side-tracked by the wonderful fantasy that we can continue living a 1950s American Dream lifestyle. Nor be deterred from harnessing every bit of Kiwi ingenuity, every good idea, for a more resilient and sustainable future.

    I would love to say that’s all we need to do, but it’s not. We need to act on a personal level, a local level, a national level and, finally, a global level.

    On a personal level, we need to act in an aware, caring and responsible way. We need to recycle, we need to buy goods from ethical sources, and we need to teach our children the value of doing more with less.

    On a local level, we need to support city councils and interest groups that act responsibly.

    On a political level, we need to support parties that acknowledge the depth of the problem and are prepared to do something about it. We can’t just close down every dairy farm. We can’t just ban cars and hope that someone builds a railway.

    In the meantime, every bottle you recycle, every heater you turn off, every vote that you cast, is one small drop. And, never forget, an ocean is made up of nothing more than small drops. And an ocean is a powerful force of nature.

    And, finally never let us forget, that there are seven billion people on this small planet. Like drop in the ocean, we’re all this together. Thank you.


    [i] Martin, J. (2006), The Meaning of the 21st century: an urgent plan for an enduring future, Riverhead, ISBN-10: 1573223239.

    [ii] United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, World Population Prospects, http://www.un.org/esa/population/

    [iii] United Nations World Food Programme (2012), Hunger Stats, http://www.wfp.org/hunger/stats

    [iv] A selection of resources on this topic is available at Nature, http://www.nature.com/nature/focus/water/

    [v] Bradstock, M. (Issue 12), “The Great New Zealand Water Fight”, Good, http://good.net.nz/magazine/twelve/features/water-fight

    [vi] David Shearer CV, http://img.scoop.co.nz/media/pdfs/0905/David_Shearer_CV.pdf.

    [vii] Watt, D. (Chief Scientist, National Climate Centre), “New IPCC report on extreme weather events highlights increasing vulnerability to climate change impacts”, NIWA statement.

    [viii] Watt, D. (Chief Scientist, National Climate Centre), “New IPCC report on extreme weather events highlights increasing vulnerability to climate change impacts”, NIWA statement, http://www.niwa.co.nz/news/new-ipcc-report-on-extreme-weather-events-highlights-increasing-vulnerability-to-climate-change-impa

    [ix] NIWA (n.d.), Past Climate Variations over New Zealand, http://www.niwa.co.nz/our-science/climate/information-and-resources/clivar/pastclimate

    [x] Summarised in chapter 4 Brown, L. R. (2006), “Rising temperatures and rising seas”, Plan B 2.0 rescuing a Planet under Stress and a Civilisation in Trouble, W. W. Norton & Co, New York, ISBN-10: 0393328317.

    [xi] ibid. See also the revision Brown, L. R. (2009), Plan B 4.0 Mobilizing to save civilisation (W. W. Norton & Co, New York), ISBN-10 0393337197.

    [xii] New Zealand Institute (2011, October), “NZ Ahead: Report Card”, New Zealand’s Social, Economic and Environmental Wellbeing: Measuring New Zealand’s Performance so We Can Improve It, http://www.nzinstitute.org/index.php/nzahead/

    [xiii] TransTasman (2012, April 5), p. 3.

    [xiv] Cited in Pure Advantage (2012) New Zealand’s Position in the Green Race, p. 26.

    [xv] Pure Advantage (2012) New Zealand’s Position in the Green Race, p. 24.

    [xvi] For methodology and comparative 2012 rankings see Yale University (2012), “EPI rankings”, Environmental Performance Index, http://epi.yale.edu/epi2012/rankings

    [xvii] McKie, R. (2008, March 23), “How the myth of food miles hurts the planet”, The Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/mar/23/food.ethicalliving

    [xviii] Yale University (2012), “Country profile: New Zealand”, Environmental Performance Index, http://www.stat.yale.edu/cgi-bin/R/cpmain?iso=NZL%26view%3Dsummary%26thisind%3DEPI

    [xix] New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development (2008), A Best Use Solution for New Zealand’s Water Problems. Auckland: Business Council for Sustainable Development.

    [xx] Ministry for the Environment (2012, May 27). Trends in Total Nitrogen 1989-2007, http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/ser/our-rivers-information-sheets/total-nitrogen.html

    [xxi] Campaign For Better Transport (2011, May 18), Submission on Government Policy Statement 2012, http://www.bettertransport.org.nz/2011/05/submission-on-the-government-policystatement-2012. Cited by Pure Advantage.

    [xxii] For useful statistics see Asthma Foundation of New Zealand (2011, December 19), Press release: The Asthma Foundation supports the new Ministerial Committee on Poverty, http://www.asthmafoundation.org.nz/files/Poverty/Poverty_press_release.pdf

    [xxiii] Department of Conservation (n.d.), Facts about Maui’s dolphin, Why so special?, http://www.doc.govt.nz/conservation/native-animals/marine-mammals/dolphins/mauis-dolphin/facts/

    [xxiv] For a significant example see Bullis, K. (2010, November 22), “Chinese project puts cow dung to work”, MIT Technology Review, http://www.technologyreview.com/news/421771/chinese-project-puts-cow-dung-to-work/

    [xxv] For a plain-English summary see Kätterer, T. (2010, December), “Can we fix more carbon in agricultural land?”, Sustainability: Journal, Swedish Research Council Formas, http://sustainability.formas.se/en/Issues/Issue-5-December-2010/Content/Focus-articles/Can-we-fix-more-carbon-in-agricultural-land/

    [xxvi] Charlie’s Trading Company Ltd (2012), Our company: Asahi beverages, http://www.charliesgroup.co.nz/content/our-company/asahi-beverages.aspx

    [xxvii] New Zealand Farm Forestry Association (n.d.), No. 2 Choosing radiate pine tree stocks, http://www.nzffa.org.nz/farm-forestry-model/resource-centre/farm-forestry-association-leaflet-series/no-2-choosing-radiata-pine-tree-stocks/#The_breeds

    [xxviii] GS1NZ [non-profit] (2008), “Global standards a “must have” for NZ livestock traceability”, Scan, p. 9-10.

    [xxix] Morton, J. (2012, June 15), “”Fightback against kiwifruit killer disease poised to start”, NZ Herald, http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10813130

    [xxx] A2 Corporation (n.d.)., The science behind A2 milk, http://a2corporation.com/the-science-behind-a2/a2-milk/

    [xxxi] Pure Advantage (2012), Case study: Lanzatech, http://www.pureadvantage.org/blog/case-study/lanzatech/

    [xxxii] Mighty River Power , financial documents presented to past Parliamentary select committees.

    [xxxiii] McDonald, L. (2012, February 3), “Biggest solar-energy community planned”, The Press, http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/business/your-property/6358261/Biggest-solar-energy-community-planned

    [xxxiv] Pure Advantage (2012) New Zealand’s Position in the Green Race, p. 36

    [xxxv] Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (2010, July), Some biofuels are better than others, http://www.pce.parliament.nz/assets/Uploads/Thinking-strategically-about-biofuels.pdf

    [xxxvi] International Energy Agency (2011), Technology Roadmap: Smart Grids, Paris.

    [xxxvii] Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (2011, August 11), Press release: Urgent need for electricity leadership, http://www.pce.parliament.nz/media/media-releases/urgent-need-for-electricity-leadership-environment-commissioner

    [xxxviii] Children’s Commissioner (2010, January). “About child poverty”, Child poverty in New Zealand, http://www.occ.org.nz/home/childpoverty/about_child_poverty

    [xxxix] Craig, E., Taura, S., Jackson, C. and Han, D. Y., New Zealand Child and Youth Epidemiology Service (2008, July). The Health of Pacific Children and Young People in New Zealand, http://www.paediatrics.org.nz/Files/The%20Health%20of%20Pacific%20Children%20and%20Young%20People%20(Introduction,%20Viewpoints%20and%20Executive%20Summary%20Table).pdf

    [xl] Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (n.d.), “Window insulation”, Energywise, http://www.energywise.govt.nz/how-to-be-energy-efficient/your-house/insulation/window-insulation

    [xli] IPCC (2011, May 9), Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN), http://srren.ipcc-wg3.de/report

    [xlii] International Food Policy Research Institute (data set), http://www.ifpri.org/

    [xliii] Shiva, V. (1992), The Violence of Green Revolution: Third World Agriculture, Ecology and Politics, Zed, ISBN-10: 0862329655.

    [xliv] Ministry of Transport (2012, May 22), Official Information Act response to Mr Alex Harris, Ministry file number OC00756, http://fyi.org.nz/request/179/response/2254/attach/html/3/OIA%20Request%20Alex%20Harris%20Light%20Electric%20Vehicles%20Cover%20Letter.pdf.html

    [xlv] BBC News (2012, January 2), “Heinberg, Kunstler, Foss, Orlov & Chomsky”, A Public Affair, transcript available at http://energybulletin.net/stories/2012-01-03/heinberg-kunstler-foss-orlov-chomsky-public-affair

    [xlvi] Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (2012, May), Hydroelectricity or wild rivers? Climate change versus natural heritage, http://www.pce.parliament.nz/assets/Uploads/Wild-Riversweb.pdf

    [xlvii] Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (2012, March), Water quality in New Zealand: Understanding the science, http://www.pce.parliament.nz/assets/Uploads/PCE-Water-Quality-in-New-Zealand.pdf

    [xlviii] Wind Energy Association of New Zealand (2008, December 18), Press release: Wind Energy Association challenges wind myths, http://windenergy.org.nz/component/content/article/22-media08/161-wea-challenges-wind-myths

    [xlix] Oral Question 4 to the Minister of Economic Development (2012, June 21), Hansard (NZ) Vol 681 Page 1, draft copy available at http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/Debates/Debates/3/7/4/50HansD_20120621_00000008-Questions-for-Oral-Answer-Questions-to-Ministers.htm

    [l] Many books have been written about Samuel Plimsoll and the Plimsoll line. You can view a selection here: http://www.fishpond.co.nz/advanced_search_result.php?rid=1883705043&keywords=samuel%20plimsoll or http://www.mightyape.co.nz/search/?i=2812&prev=&s=samuel+plimsoll&SearchButton=Search

    • Pete 12.1

      That was a great speech. Hopefully a Labour/Green government can develop and put into action a plan to put the infrastructure in place for a post-oil New Zealand.

    • QoT 12.2

      One feels almost certain a link would have sufficed …

      [I allowed it through moderation because it was the topic of the thread…RL]

      • QoT 12.2.1

        That being said … it’s a damn good speech. Some nice concrete ideas, a serious take on the issues facing us … would be nice if he could avoid the digs at the Greens though (hey David, d’ya reckon they’d have managed to achieve more than “bemoaning” the state of our waterways if Labour hadn’t repeatedly insisted on hopping into bed with Dunne and Peters instead of them?)

        And it’s approximately a thousand times better/clearer/more inspiring than any waffley “vision” speech his ostensible leader’s been giving, not that this is much of a challenge.

        • handle

          where are the “digs at the Greens”?

          • handle

            Found them.

            • QoT

              They’re nothing on a par with Clare Curran’s “white-anting” comments or anything, but if you’re already aware of the occasional “let’s slag off the Greens for stealing our votes” flare-ups by Labour MPs you can spot them.

              • Colonial Viper

                Green MPs had no problem with being vocally critical of Labour and Labour policies during public forums last year. It’s just politics.

                • QoT

                  And if that was all I was talking about you might have a point, CV. But since I specifically mentioned Curran’s “white-anting” comments, maybe you could provide a single piece of evidence of the Greens firing similar “stop stealing our rightful votes” shots in Labour’s direction?

              • Anne

                “let’s slag off the Greens for stealing our votes”

                Yep, there’s been a few silly comments along those lines. I think Clare Curran may have received some friendly advice after her ‘white-anting’ rant.

                I’ve also noted some let’s slag off Labour and steal their thunder coming from a few Greenies.

                Both groups (and they’re a minority) are being counter-productive and need a bit of political education.

                • handle

                  They both need to look like grown-ups who can work together or we will see a repeat of last year where left voters stayed home.

                • QoT

                  “Steal their thunder”? I would love to know what you were referring to. Because the only thunder-stealing I can remember in recent political times has largely involved Labour adopting Green policies wholesale and then sitting back and saying “we’re glad the Greens are on board with our policies”.


    • A few minor quibbles aside I think this is a very good speech, which addresses many things we all need to seriously consider – and do something about it.

      I’ve blogged David Cunliffe’s conclusion, along with my own conclusion:

      I agree with this – it is as much up to us, the ordinary people, as it is our politicians. We can’t just expect our politicians to fix everything while we carry on wasting and polluting.

      We, that’s you and I, all of us, need to start thinking sustainability, and thinking survivability. And we need to change a lot.

      And it would help if we worked together more, with a common purpose. We need competitive politics, to a degree. But we also need people, politicians, parties to put aside differences enough to buikld a momentum towards a new future. One that our children will be able to survive.

      • Kotahi Tane Huna 12.3.1

        “Put aside differences…” who could disagree with that? Bland and completely pointless, or worse, like watching a man stomping on children, and asking if he would mind taking his boots off.

      • BernyD 12.3.2

        A global “we” doesn’t say bit well enough.
        If the manufacturers had some kind of guidline which was enforced then “We” means something.
        The end users and consumers can only say so much, if the need outweighs the ideals they will buy regardless.

      • Ad 12.3.3

        David is outlining a major schism between anyone who can see things keeping going as they are, and those who see the end of the kind of life we have known. There’s little place in that to just get along together.

        He made a point of noting Joyce’s dismissal of the Pure Advantage initiative – sneering at an alternative way of greening the economy from respected captains of industry. We can’t be united on this one. It’s one way for the world, or the other.

      • Draco T Bastard 12.3.4

        Says the man who supports this damaging government.

    • Ad 12.4

      Does it strike anyone as odd that this is the first the we have sen a senior Labour figure talk about the environment and the economy, even though consistent elections and polling have seen a major band of Labour’s support shift over to the Greens?

      Another thing that is striking in this speech is the tacit assumption that previous economic growth rates, growth models, and consumption models are never gong to return, and there is nothing we can do to get back to where we were. Auckland’s great malls would change. I haven’t heard any elected politician here state that consumer capitalism really is gong to end.

      I wasn’t sure about the example of the Plimsoll Line. It was a good story of a politician making a difference, but it wasn’t big enough change to really fit with the generally pessimistic tone, or the scale of problems the whole speech outlined.

      I hope that a future speech begins to connect together the themes of the Kensington Swan speech, which outlined how New Zealand (and the United States) had responded to economic catastrophe before, with the kinds of catastrophe Cunliffe outlines here.

      It’s time for him to draw his own dots together I think.

    • Draco T Bastard 13.1

      Crosby-Textor advise the RWNJs that they’re using the wrong language not that the RWNJs are actually wrong.

  13. Afewknowthetruth 14

    Labour’s point of difference should be how we preserve the environment whilst protecting the economy

    You just don’t get it, do you Eddie?

    Preserving the environment and protecting the economy are mutually exclusive concepts. The economy is what is destroying the habitablility of the planet we live on (via runaway greenhouse, acidification of the oceans, deforestation, species loss, draiing of ancient aquifers etc.) Every day that ‘the economy’ persists, the lower the chance anyone will be alive 40 years from now.

    And since the economy is totally dependent on fossil fuels, and oil is past the peak of extraction, the economy is what is killing the economy.

    I suppose no one gets it, other than Robert Atack.

    • QoT 14.1

      Though I myself criticised exactly the same line in Eddie’s post, I think there’s a big difference in how we interpret “protecting the economy”, AFKTT. If one’s definition of “protect the economy” is “defend all the current market institutions and ways of making profit which drive corporations to, e.g., not recall faulty products because the judicial system cannot make it unprofitable for them”, then sure, it’s obviously mutually exclusive from sustainability or preserving natural species/resources.

      On the other hand, and I hate to be waving the capitalist flag here, plenty of businesses operating within the current capitalist model do manage to be sustainable, they do manage to not destroy natural environments. And “protecting the economy” can mean just “ensuring NZers have jobs, that the goods we need can be produced, that some business can function without screwing everyone else over or being dependent on fossil fuels.”

      It’s certainly different to how the game’s currently played, by a bunch of people whose key goal is extract maximum “wealth” before the oil runs out and leave it to the governments of the world to pick up the pieces – but the game can change. And has to.

    • Ad 14.2

      Well it looks like David Cunliffe does. Not sure if I’ve been listening in the wrong places, but I haven’t heard anyone in Labour ever before say that our current lifestyles are due for an almighty crash, and even the most advanced technologies we have will not get us back to where we are now.

      I was at the speech, and he made a real point of saying that, even in farming, we cannot continue to be dependent on oil, and we are not on the path to sustainability.

  14. Afewknowthetruth 15

    Just in case anyone in Auckland actually wants the truth about the environment and the economy:

    Sunday, 24 June 2012, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., Jubilee Building, 545 Parnell Road, Auckland, New Zealand. The twin sides of the fossil-fuel coin: Responding to climate change and energy decline. Details here.


  15. lefty 16

    A good enough speech, but like the Greens, Cunliffe refuses to face the elephant in the room.

    Capitalism and sustainability are mutually exclusive.

    • Ad 16.1

      Which part of his speech denies that capitalism and sustainability are mutually exclusive?

      • Draco T Bastard 16.1.1

        It’s that he still supports capitalism in his speech. Go read it again, he’s pushing capitalist solutions to the problems caused by capitalism.

        Take wind farms. The last Labour government awarded grants to assist the initial deployment of wind technology through the Ministry for the Environment. Before long, the volume of orders increased, wind farms were proved to be economic, the subsidy was backed off and the market took over.

        “The Market” could only take over if their was profit which means increasing incomes and increasing incomes means increasing resource use.

        • Ad

          I think that kind of confuses an example with a theme.

          The entire third quarter of the speech is spent debunking any myth that says sustainability in our current model of living – or even vastly improved versions if it – will work. The point of the speech in that sense is not to say everything is futile (in which case there’s really no point being in politics at all), but that absolutely nothing we know of will enable this current lifestyle to continue.

          • Draco T Bastard

            …but that absolutely nothing we know of will enable this current lifestyle to continue.

            That includes capitalism.

            • Ad

              Exactly. Clearly he did not defend “this current lifestyle”

              • Draco T Bastard

                Except the bit which I quoted and a few other places.

                • RedLogix

                  I’m inclined to give Cunliffe the benefit of the doubt DtB.

                  I’m happy for Labour and the Greens to remain different parties; they represent quite different constituencies.

                  All I ask is that the leaders and seniors in both behave like adult and refrain from white-anting each other. Everyone knows that a Labour/Green coalition govt will happen one day, and on that day both parties will need each other. Will there be differences, tensions and compromises… of course; this is the inherent nature of democracy. What the voters hate are open attacks and evidence that the negotiating process has irretrievably broken down.

                  I read this speech and liked it. A lot.

                  It’s pretty bold in the context of what a senior Labour Party person can say. Hard to imagine a similar speech being delivered during the 4th Labour govt. It’s progress, it’s in the right direction, it’s intelligent, realistic and challenges us.

                  Is it perfect? No. But I was never asking for that.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    Oh, it’s good speech and it’s in the right direction, generally speaking I agree with it, but it seems that Labour really is still looking for the solution in the cause of the problem.

  16. Scooter 17

    Can someone put Grants speech up please?

    • BillODrees 17.1

      Grant made many good observations in Titirangi.   His contribution to the debate should be published. Every spokesperson should post their speeches on Redalert 

  17. alex 18

    Are these job applications?

  18. George D 19

    A very good speech. If this signals the direction of the next Labour Government, and this is actually backed up by policy then very good.

    But it’s important to realise, as Cunliffe seems to have done, that this won’t come without a fight from both sectional interests and the narrowminded wedded to existing ways of doing things. Cunliffe’s Plimsoll example is a good one. This requires MPs who are willing to put up with often fierce opposition and criticism from parts of the business community and their vicious mouthpieces (ie the reactive newspapers and television stations). The last Labour Government took a few fights, but abdicated many many more, leaving the Greens and others to ‘bemoan’ them.

    Let’s hope this speech reflects fighting policy, rather than Rioesque aspiration.

  19. Headlessrd 21

    Heh Heh! Funny funny stuff!

    “Unlike National we know Labour can be trusted to not put our clean water, our native birds and bush, at risk.”

    The pollution of water ways in NZ was a huge problem under Labour too, and like National they did very little about it.

    • RedLogix 21.1

      So because all previous govts have failed this is reason for all future govts to fail as well?

    • Colonial Viper 21.2

      The dairy industry is the biggest single contributor to the degradation of our waterways, and it is the intensification of that industry which has driven it. Massive intensification has in too many instances outpaced the improved management of stock, effluent and nutrients on the land.

      And where did the financial pressure for hugely increased dairy intensification come from? I’d say that its come from massively increased levels of farm debt (mortgages) owed to Australian banks. Which occurred under the watch of Cullen and the 5th Labour Government.

      • Ad 21.2.1

        Yes the omission of the dairy industry in the speech is odd.

        However it may be explained in part because Grant Robertson’s speech, which preceded David Cunliffe’s, made a specific mea culpa about Labour’s poor track record in fresh water management, noting his own personal involvement in the Clean Streams Accord and how that had largely been a failure. He also restated that at the question time afterwards.

  20. Afewknowthetruth 22

    Nothing in the current system is sustainable, since everything in the curent system is dependent on oil -and oil extraction will be down to about half current level by 2030, if no before. And very little of it will be traded internationally.

    Also, nothing in the current system is sustainable because every form of activity -even building windmills and solar panels, in fact especially building windmills and solar panels- generates CO2, and the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is at a new record high and rose by a record amount over the past year. We are already in overshoot with respect to CO2: there is not one credible analysis that indicates anything over 350ppm is sustainable and we’re already at 396ppm. In May 2013 we will break through 400ppm.

    As with everything that all politicians say, it’s just more bullshit from Cunliffe.

    Fortunately, the Pomzi money system is imploding. Fiat currency meltdown in combination with rapidly declining EROEI will derail the entire corrupt political-economic system before 2015. 🙂

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 22.1

      “Before 2015.”

      You sound like John Key. Although I was very impressed when your predictions of total fiat currency collapse came true at the end of last year. 🙄

  21. ad 23

    Has anyone looked closely at this text from the point of it being the basis of talks between future coalition partners in Labour and the Greens?

    Of course they have to stay in competition, but they alsop have to cooperate more, so I wonder what is to be lost from starting to talk now?

    This is the fist time I have heard anyone from Labour say that our current lifestyles – in any form – are unsustainable. Surely that is the core of the greens political message?

    I think there is a common political economy here that should be read by every Green MP.

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