- Date published:
8:12 am, March 7th, 2023 - 78 comments
Categories: chris hipkins, climate change, Environment, labour, michael wood, science, transport - Tags:
There were some interesting and concerning developments in relation to climate change recently.
In the morning the Herald reported that the Government was planning on an ambitious change to transport infrastructure priorities with climate change being the primary concern.
From Thomas Coughlan:
Ministers are finalising a new transport strategy that will, for the first time, make climate change the top priority when it comes to deciding how transport funding gets invested.
The plan, which will go out for consultation this year, will dictate where tens of billions of dollars of transport funding will be spent in the next three years and promises a stark pivot towards public transport and away from emissions-intensive investments, like new highways.
Transport Minister Michael Wood has proposed changes to the way $2b of maintenance money is spent each year, which could mean swapping car parks for new bus lanes and cycleways – paid for with the money used to fix potholes, according to a briefing released to the Herald under the Official Information Act.
An overarching goal of the plan will be to reduce the amount of driving and thereby emissions – officials say projects that will increase emissions will not necessarily be axed, but face a “high threshold” to get funding.
The changes may come at a cost. Wood told the Herald, that after being frozen for three years, increases in fuel taxes and road user charges are once again on the table although no decision had been made about whether to increase them yet.
The document being referred to is the Government Policy Statement on Land Transport. It is reviewed every three years and the next review is due to occur in 2024. The document drives how the National Land Transport Fund is used.
Previous versions are generally a tweak of their predecessor. But it looks like the latest one was going to be radically different and highlight the sort of change required if we are going to meet our greenhouse gas emission goals.
Alas by yesterday afternoon this appeared to be nothing more than a fond wish. Again from Thomas Coughlan at the Herald:
The Government is walking back aspects of its land transport plan, after they were published by the Herald this morning.
The Herald revealed Transport Minister Michael Wood and transport officials were putting together a plan that would place emissions reduction as a top priority of the transport plan, known as a Government Policy Statement on land transport or GPS.
The plan included changing the way road maintenance funding is used, putting it towards cycleways and bus lanes as well as just fixing roads.
But that has changed, with Wood now promising an “emergency-style” plan that responds to the maintenance needs of Cyclone Gabrielle.
“The indicative transport priorities signed off by Cabinet last year will change in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle,” Wood said.
“We are now working on an emergency-style GPS that will focus on the huge task of reconstruction of roads and bridges washed out by the cyclone and flooding, as well as building greater resilience so our transport network can better withstand the increasing frequency of extreme weather events like we have seen this year.
“No final decisions, including changes to fuel excise duty, have been made as we are still working through the full extent of the damage inflicted by Gabrielle,” he said.
The change appears to have come from the top. From Radio New Zealand:
Asked about [a fuel tax increase] at today’s post-Cabinet media conference, Hipkins hosed down the suggestion.
“You will see that my track record here is to reduce taxes on fuel, particularly at a time when fuel prices are otherwise higher than they’ve been previously. I don’t intend to increase them at a time when we are actually trying to decrease them.”
Hipkins said “a lot had changed” in the last few months that would have a bearing on the final GPS.
“It will change from what was previously consulted on. Clearly, there’s been a change in leadership of the Government but also we’ve dealt with an event that is going to have a significant impact on transport infrastructure and where we have to prioritise.”
Then this morning Hipkins reiterated the change by saying that Cyclone Gabrielle had changed everything and the Government had to focus on the repair job. Cyclone Gabrielle should have changed everything. It should have shown us that we have to accelerate measures to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, not delay them.
If climate change is no longer considered one of the greatest challenges of our time then I for one would respectfully disagree.
The thing about the recent storms is that it is very likely that they will be repeated and repeated as the atmosphere warms up and the amount of water that it can absorb increases.
The Government’s goals under the Emissions Target Plan include reducing total kilometres travelled by the light fleet by 20 per cent by 2035 through improved urban form and providing better travel options. To achieve this will require significant investment in public transport and cycleways, the sorts of investment that Wood was talking about. Incremental change will not do it.
The afternoon walk back may have been about tone rather than substance but this is not helpful. Seeking out votes from those who are still not convinced that climate change is an extraordinarily important issue is not reassuring to the rest of us.
If ever we needed strong principled leadership on the issue it is now.
Labour should not be competing with National for the votes of those not convinced we are in a crisis. It should be leading on this issue.
"Seeking out votes from those who are still not convinced that climate change is an extraordinarily important issue is not reassuring to the rest of us."
I don't think Hipkins is doing that. I believe he (and his fellow politicians/advisors) are recognising the reality of this Wicked Problem and the impossibility of being able to do much at all that's meaningful by way of preventing what's "coming down the pipe". He, and we, are now desperately trying to invest in survival blankets. Have any of us here stopped driving our car altogether?
That is a slippery slope to hell. More and more resources will be spend on repairs and less and less on mitigation.
Any thought on the optics? I would prefer that Hipkins was brave and reinforced the importance of the issue.
By "repairs", I assume you mean roads being rebuilt to a more resilient standard. That is, adaptation.
I would prefer that Hipkins was brave and reinforced the importance of rebuilding resilient and enduring infrastructure.
I am fine with that. But the debate then needs to be no new roads and maintenance and PT and cycleways are to be preferred. We are not there yet.
I don't think we can avoid that can we.
At this point in time we have to rebuild our roads and infrastructure that was destroyed or damaged.
For better or worse repairs are the priority right now.
Looking forward to the government publishing its new RLTP.
For a handbrake turn like that one yesterday they should lose their license for loss of traction control.
Hopefully no-one still thinks we have the skill or manpower to rebuild all this by ourselves.
It's not a rebuild we need (as in, replace what we had with the same again), it's a re-imagining. The resulting physical work would look very different from what we had pre-cyclone.
The prophet Kenny Rogers (praise be to Him) sang "Don't fall in love with a dreamer".
People in the north have houses and lives and children and businesses to rebuild this week.
Redesigning and then costing and then rebuilding something new takes 5-10 years.
Ain't no time now for fussin' and wishin' and hopin'
That's right, there's no place in this world-under-pressure to scope something other than shoring up what we have now.
The time for voluntary systemic change has long-passed, more fools us.
Sing along now with Kenny and Kim
Sing it loud. Sing it to the hills. Sing it to the next storm.
I don't think so. The barrier is in not giving people with sustainability design experience the power to make the changes. Each new house that is built, rebuilt or renovated could be done through a sustainability, resiliency and regenerative lens, right now, or through a BAU lens.
We saw this with tourism after the first shock of the pandemic. The people put in charge of tourism recovery were the usual power mongers who just don't have sustainability/regen/resiliency skills, and the people with those skills were largely sidelined, or given token positions.
You have no idea about the civil engineering, civil design, land acquisition, route designation, or house planning and construction industries. Nothing to do with 'giving people power' or whatever wet nonsense.
John Key's holiday highway to Warkworth, and mega motorways thru Hamilton, have taken resources away from basic maintenance that is sorely needed elsewhere. What a pain. These things are decades in planning… can't break contracts and re-allocate work plans without a world of hurt
I'm impressed with your ability to peer into people's heads and accurately assess their level of expertise in multiple industries. Is it telepathy? Or is there some gadget involved?
I'm assuming Ad does have expertise in those areas, but it's pretty obvious he has only a rudimentary understanding of sustainability, resiliency, and regenerative design (which I do know a bit about). That's not mindreading so much as having read his comments and arguments over the years.
What he can't do is rebut my points, so he just tries to undermine me via ad homs instead.
Ad ad homs if you like. I'm sure someone can improve the pun.
giving people power is employing them in position where their skills can be used. Employment and contracting decisions can be made now, not in 5 – 10 years time.
Tell me what you know about sustainable design Ad. Failing that, tell me why you are so fundamentally opposed to it.
I agree totally with this view from Robert Guyton.
Do the things you've always done, get the results you always have.
As coming out of Covid presented us with a chance NOT to do business as usual, so does the future coming out of climate change induced damage present us with a chance for change.
I had thought that tossing away any 'unpopular' policies was to enable Labour to nail the election. I am starting to wonder if, following the election, we will ever see any of these policies ever again. Three/five waters and hate speech.
I am not holding my breath on seeing any visible climate change building back. So no managed retreats, no govt buybacks, no directions not to build on fragile ground as per the intensification policies that Labour passed on to local authorities, no thinking caps on to meet access needs differently. I would be surprised if anything major came out of the enquiry into slash.
So no reimagining. Instead we are holding off on transport programmes to build back roads that are more 'resilient'. So perhaps a bit of a direction tweak there, a camber change there. Nothing major, nothing innovative, nothing creative, nothing radical that says climate change is with us and 'No, it is not the time for BAU'.
Urban solutions for an urban based party. The problem rural NZ faces is there is no alternative to the car nor will there be. A little honesty from the left on climate change would be welcome. We all know whatever NZ does is just virtue signalling in the probably vain hope others will follow. No this isn't about climate change it's about gathering revenue from a party in government too scared to bring about a fairer tax system.
Waka Kotahi has said that the urban areas need to do the heavy lifting in terms of transport CO2 reductions. This is not a competition. Farmers will get the benefit of Auckland for instance cutting its emissions.
And it is not virtue signaling. We could all do nothing and sit back and watch the world burn or flood or both or we should do our part.
Kiwis love their Ford Rangers too much. Need harsher taxes on these urban assault vehicles, and incentives for the trusty old Corollas etc.
The EV subsidies strike me as a bit of virtue signalling and pandering to the already wealthy. I don’t get it. Most Kiwis can’t afford a brand new electric car.
I can’t see CC as truly being the “top” priority. Surely repairing our connections to the parts of NZ affected by Gabrielle is more urgent right now.
Maaaaate it won't be virtue signaling if a nz company cracks a methane vaccine or bolus for cattle, it'll be a huge reduction and hopefully a massive increase in export $
Ifffff…the sound of pie, in the skyyyyy…..
Two things : the first story was about the GPS being worked on which would go out for consultation. I noted the unhelpful headline "fuel taxes back on the table". The second story about the "walk back" was Chippy saying they are working on an emergency GPS given the floods and the cyclone. Like it or not, we do face a huge challenge in transport infrastructure right now. If you live in Gisborne, or the Far North, or Hawkes Bay or Wairoa or even out here in West Coast Beaches, you just want to know what the short term plan is. That doesn't mean we can't and shouldn't be planning for the longer term. We have to do both.
I get that and it is right to focus on the rebuild. It is the language that downplays the need to mitigate which is the problem. I commented that the change may be about tone rather than substance but in my humble opinion the downplaying the need to adapt is a retrograde step.
We all have humble opinions. Keep them coming I say.
Lawyer’s phrase. Has a specific meaning!
I always thought that this was the best interpretation. When you say IMHO you are really saying to the other party “You are a complete dick and your opinion is a load of old bollocks.”.
Is that what lawyers mean?
I'm confused. Did Wood make an announcement on a plan that's been in development, and then later that day Hipkins did some PR messaging about Gabrielle? So the plan is still going ahead for consultation, but we don't know what Hipkin's led government will do with it?
So it looks as though this was a plan (Government Policy Statement) that the Ardern Cabinet had signed off on – pre Gabrielle (and other preceding weather disasters especially in Northland and Auckland).
This was released to the Herald under an OIA (or at least, that's my understanding). And Coughlin wrote it up.
Hipkins then came in and said that this needed revising following Gabrielle et al.
GP saying that this is an example of poor prioritization.
Genter was even more explicit on Morning Report this morning (sorry, can't link to the exact segment, the RNZ website link isn't working)
This is the non-functional link
thanks, really appreciate that explanation.
(your link is the correct one for RNZ as it lets people read the intro and then choose how they will listen. Better to use that than a link with an audio player and no other detail).
"That doesn't mean we can't and shouldn't be planning for the longer term. We have to do both."
Where's that then, that "planning for the longer term"?
Seems at every knock-back we get, we go all conservative and dig in and protect our bau, a strategy much supported by blue-voters across the land.
I think it's a natural human tendency to move towards stability rather than change when scared. The challenge is how to convince people that change is the better survival strategy at this point in time.
Agree again Robert Guyton. If the announcements are good practice for repair and at the same time are good practice for working with climate change then surely say both.
If you really wanted to put your money where your mouth is you might lead off with the meeting the challenges of climate change part and use it to illustrate that CC best practice is also best practice transport mode building/repairing.
This would have an advantage too in that it shows that by doing these CC building we are doing something and not just hand wringing or making people feel, still that CC is in the future somewhere.
If NZ removed transport emissions altogether it wouldn't really do much to global climate change.
And, collectively, we like our cars, and despite Genter's dream of utopia, people just can't get around the Hawkes Bay on bicycles, while NZ expects to remain competitive, globally.
We have to find a way to give people what they want in a sustainable way, thereby showcasing said sustainable example to the rest of the world, where the big problems are.
When cars were first popular the people who fought to keep horses failed. But Toyota later got support for its Prius, which was once an innovative way to give people a car that at least gave Ford Ranger drivers a more sustainable alternative.
If we don't (in some fashion) quickly rebuild basic infrastructure in the affected regions – we get social and economic collapse now. If we don't re-design, re-imagine and harden infrastructure for the future, we get social and economic collapse later.
Welcome to to the fiscal and operational impossibilities bequeathed to us by 25 years of denialist supremacy.
More like 40 to 50 years.
I'm a proponent for the naming and shaming of people who used their power and influence to misguide individuals for political and ideological gain.
The two people imo whose names should be top of the CC Denier list:
1) Leighton Smith, former ZB host who claimed ad infinitum that CC didn't exist. He fooled thousands of listeners for years with his pseudo scientific bullshit and its a disgrace that radio station allowed him to continue his crusade for so long. I expect he's still bleating about it to anyone prepared to listen.
2) John Boscowen, former ACT MP who used his parliamentary position to discredit CC at every opportunity both in the House and on the hustings. He, too relied on pseudo science bullshit and was constantly asking inane questions of ministers for the purpose of gaining public attention to his crusade.
Just a reminder who played major roles in our current dilemma.
Some of the most resilient routes we now have are the Roads of National Significance started by National. For the East Coast and for Northland the demand for 'build back better' structures that can withstand 1-100 events will be ever greater. Meaning: massive engineering.
Just a typical example: in Kaeo their main highway bridge is under construction now with a 10 metre high causeway above the existing floodplain and 5 metres above the existing bridge and road. Kaeo is also now more resilient with better stop-banks around the town.
Kaeo's state highway is already the only road that can get you further north to Kaitaia and beyond. Hence massive engineering that looks somewhat out of place until there's another major flood event.
Coastal shipping all those trucks struggling to get north could be working out Marsden Pont and pihia, ferries to corromandal and whitianga
"Transport Minister Michael Wood has proposed changes to the way $2b of maintenance money is spent each year, which could mean swapping car parks for new bus lanes and cycleways – paid for with the money used to fix potholes"
What was that glorious meme? Ah yes Nek Minnit.
My heart is warming toward Mr Hipkins. Just a little, but still.
See, here's the red flag to the direction Hipkins has taken 🙂
Bernard Hickey comments:
"Ford Ranger Man drives over Michael Wood"
Wood dumps emissions reduction as priority for next transport plan after NZ Herald leads with emphasis on swapping Waka Kotahi's road repair money for cycle lanes; Road repairs now #1"
There's a lot of adjusting to a prime minister like Hipkins.
He has so little other than pure Beehive-trained reflexive politician within his sticky purple blood.
We need to think of Hipkins much more like a small-eyed reptile focused on survival.
Check the way he clamped down on consultants this morning right after the Luxon speech.
Check the knifing of Mahuta and 3 Waters
Check yesterday's evisceration of Wood and his entire policy platform.
Check the total sidelining of Shaw from any storm response, despite portfolio.
Hipkins is an utterly win-focused, principle-free, machine tooled leader focused on killing game and winning, and it doesn't matter one iota who is in his way red or blue or green you will be pulled underwater and kept there until you have stopped breathing. Only Muldoon got to this degree of cold.
It's pretty obvious even his own Cabinet are getting used to it.
But it is the only way to win in 2023.
how do you think he would act if he had to rely on the Greens to form government and they had 15 MPs?
The more he moves Labour close to National, the stronger the likelihood of Greens have 15 MPs.
The same is happening on the right, where National is leaving a lot of room for ACT to shine.
We could see 35% of the electorate voting for Greens and ACT this year
that would make the MSM's head explode though. Or they'd have to start reporting as if we have MMP.
Good point Weka….the imagery is magic.
On the early Feb poll trend Greens will get about the same as last time.
Once we get a post-Gabrielle poll we'll see National down 2 to 32% Labour up 3 to 37%.
If the student march numbers are anything to go by, there's no further traction for the Greens in climate change as an issue anymore.
I was asking you about your thoughts on Hipkin's response to a theoretical scenario, given how you characterised him in your previous comment.
There's no need for anyone to consider that scenario.
I see a higher risk now that NZF gets over 5% Greens get 7% tops and Labour in high 30% just plays the Greens and NZF off each other for the minor ministries.
ok, tell me how you think Hipkins would act in that scenario. I'm asking you to expand on your thinking about the kind of PM Hipkins is and will be.
I think he will work well with a strong Green caucus.
My impression is Hipkins is in election mode and is simply trying to dent all of National's attack lines. Anywhere they are getting traction, he is defusing the issue.
Once he has the next term won, I am confident he will bring Labour back to where they were under Jacinda, and will work well with the Greens.
Election mode makes sense. Once they're government again, I hope for all our sakes he moves further greenward than Ardern.
We can all help ensure that; Party Vote Green.
The Chippolata on Joe Sixpack's BBQ .
You who relentlessly wished Ardern gone…
I don't think Ad is saying the new PM being a killing machine is a bad thing.
Could/would chippy work with act do you think?
In Wellington for the weekend for the first in years I was struck by the huge ( comparatively ) number of Teslas on the road, other EVs are not as obvious as they also carry non-EV badging but the EV uptake is very, very obvious. Fast EV uptake is by far the quickest way to lowering and eventually eliminating transportation CO2, the rest is just pissing about.
One simple change the Government can make is that rental and lease companies should be compelled as quickly as possible to make their fleets fully electric as they are the main feeder for the used car market.
I wonder when we will start to see this EV/PHEV/HEV uptake being reflected in a decline of fuel sales at the pump?
So here we go today at Question Time today : Will be interesting. See National are focusing on the first GPS story and Simon Coutts is replacing Simeon (pothole) Brown with a question about potholes, while Mr Simeon has a big trousers question.
Michael Wood and Chippy were v informative with their answers in Q time today You all should listen to their answers. Primarily that Cabinet hasn’t considered the GPS statement (which is done every three years). The Councils apparently got a briefing on the draft at some stage. Lesson here : never rely on Thomas Coughlan.
Another 'angle'. Is Hipkins a meat eater? I know I am – in moderation, of course.
Alarmist, or forewarned is forearmed? OK, even less meat, and dairy (bugger!) for me.
that is humans rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic. The problem isn't meat or rice, it's the systems being used to grow them. Does the rabbit in my back yard have more or less GHG emissions than the soy monocropped in the US or China and shipped to NZ then road transported to wherever we live?
As the quoted paper abstract clearly indicates (at least to me), the problems are both current "production practices" and dietary choices (plus food waste). I don't have much influence on production practices, but can choose to eat less meat and dairy.
I think that if civilisation changes its food production practices to be more 'future-friendly', then many of us will be consuming less meat and dairy – which would be a good thing, imho. Recent meat consumption trends are towards less, at least in NZ.
what are you intending to replace the meat/dairy with?
I’d already cut down on my meat and dairy consumption, substituting with (more) fruit (which I like – guavas (strawberry and Chilean), kiwifruit, blackberries, feijoas (a huge crop each year from two medium-sized trees that must be 20 years old now), PYO blueberries – I freeze the last two so I can enjoy them all year round) and nuts (cashews are my favourite – I never get tired of them; pistachios too but they're more work), and even a few more vegetables (mushrooms, peas, and beans – broad beans in particular).
I found a productive local mushroom patch (public land, but everyone else seems to ignore them), have been cultivating it as best I can, and have learned to prepare mushies for freezing. I’ve planted a Hass (type A) and a Bacon (type B) avocado tree, and the Hass crop is looking good this year, so it will be more avocados for me this year.
I thought less meat would be (more) difficult, but it's been surprisingly easy – I hadn't been eating enough veges for decades. The dairy has been more difficult, but have you seen the price of cheese lately?
When I was growing up (in the 60s), (amazing) Mum managed to put a meat meal on the table for dinner virtually every day of the week, except for Sunday afternoon roasts – we ate well. These days I choose to eat a meat meal maybe twice a week, and I feel none the worse for it.
Oh, and eggs – although I haven't managed to get into them much so far, an egg a day would be another potential substitution.
I'm not sure that I could go cold turkey on meat, let alone dairy, but some seem to make it work.
While it's great to see you willing to be more critical of labour party policy, this isn't about chasing National voters, it's about the cost of living and perceptions.
What else is the prime minister supposed to say when Wood foolishly comes out during a cost of living crisis and says he's willing to increasing fuel and road taxes?
Despite the weather event the needle hasn't moved much yet on concerns of climate change but the economy and costs of living is the number one issue.
Having from his govt come out and say yeah you're struggling but we're gonna make you struggle a bit more … Yeah na.
I've been using my e scooter on cycle lanes and they are bloody handy things to have, I think one of the reasons they cost so much is too many of them are over engineered when the ones that are just a painted lane are just as useful.
I do think we need to spend more money on public transport but on trains, not buses and public transport will never be for everyone, we'll probably always have a majority of private motorists in NZ be it because they live rurally, work late shifts or work in remote locations or just want freedom to go somewhere anytime or don't want to wait 45 mins for a bus to sit in a crowded bus next to someone coughing and sniffing directly next to them like what happened to me yesterday..ick.
I don't think this statement from Chris Hipkins means anything more than he knows he needs to balance climate change action with cost of living action.
If the prime minister said he was willing to let petrol taxes go up in this cost of living crisis, he'd have lost the public and most probably be submitting his resignation a couple months before the election.
Are you familiar with this? It would be extremely negligent for a Prime Minister to ignore the tidal wave on its way.
This speaks to a lack of understanding of the nature of the crisis. We can't replace the fleet with EVs, that window closed. Which means that the freedom to go somewhere anytime we feel like it going to change. Whether we like it or not. We can change voluntarily by good leadership, or we can wait until the next big wave hits and be forced to change. Honestly, how many roads do people think NZ can keep repairing and building back better every year?
45 min waits next to coughing people is a design issue that can be overcome.
Europe apparently has a standard for low-weight runaround vehicles, falling between scooters and cars, like Fiat Bambinas. In France, these are cheaper than a car and do not require as stringent licencing, so are popular with rural teenagers and city commuters. The e-motor space for this type of vehicle is filling up fast, e.g.
review of microlino e-car
Seems to me that modifying our city road rules to slow traffic a little would suit this type of car very well. That way, we keep the benefits of individualised transport while switching to low-cost, low-resource e-transport.
I think it's sound too – better than hybrid SUVs at any rate.
If the government were serious about a 20% fuel reduction, and achieving it constructively rather than swapping to power generated by Indonesian coal, they'd be quite keen for lighter and smaller vehicles, from lightweight cars through electric moped type scooters and E-bikes. Policy to date does not seem to favour them.
A roading lobbyist was on TVNZ this morning boasting that 93% of all freight in New Zealand is moved on roads. He made this boast as the reason for putting more government investment into roads.
The current 93% state of affairs of freight going by road represents the power and influence of the roading lobby over government policy that completely gutted our rail network in favour of roads in the past. This latest government U-Turn represents the power and influence of the roading lobby over government policy in the present.
Pretty shameful really and nothing at all to boast about.
This shockingly lopsided development is even more pronounced in Australia.
Fair suck of the sav. cobber
Oops forgot the link
Is Donkey still in charge?
This is looking more and more like a national government.
I'm seeing this in a totally different way.
Coughlan, who is a rabid National supporter, wrote what the Herald called an "exclusive" opinion piece which is characterised as news.
He, IMHO, had no actual proof of the premise on which the article is written, so he wrote it to stir things up.
Granny Herald then covered Wood's "denial" of the opinion piece as a "typical Labour reversal".
The Government won't be doing anything about climate change, because of – – (wait for it) – – Climate Change.