The Green Party core principles recognise the need for ecological wisdom to underpin everything we do. Environmental policy is found throughout our policies, not created just as an add-on. We particularly refer the reader to the following policies:
- Agriculture and Rural Affairs
- Green Taxation and Monetary Policy
- Research, Science and Technology
- Sea and Oceans
The Green Party envisions a future in which:
- Our human economy will be sustainable because it is in harmony with ecological processes.
- Resources will be used no faster than the rate at which they can be replenished and wastes will not exceed the ability of the environment to absorb them safely.
- People will understand the implications for the environment of their way of living and will be involved in decision making about sustainable development.
- Aotearoa/New Zealand will be an international advocate for ways of life that respect the natural environment and other living creatures.
- All human activity takes place within the limits of a finite planet.
- All renewable resources must be used only at the rate they can be replenished.
- Non-renewable resources must be used efficiently, recycled to the maximum degree possible, and plans made for their eventual replacement.
- We should not create waste unless it can be converted back into harmless substances.
- People must be helped to understand how they depend on, and how they influence, natural processes so they can live sustainably and participate in sustainable development.
Ecosystem Services - Ecosystem services are the benefits people obtain from ecosystems including:
- Provisioning services - food, water, timber, fibre;
- Regulating services that affect climate, floods, disease, wastes and water quality;
- Cultural services that provide recreational, aesthetic and spiritual benefits;
- Supporting services such as soil formation, photosynthesis and nutrient cycling (see Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005).
Agenda 21 - The United Nations action plan for sustainable development, ratified 1992
Specific Policy Points
Sustainable Development means improving overall wellbeing and quality of life in ways that can be sustained indefinitely because they do not push nature beyond its limits. The Green Party will:
- Develop and implement a National Strategy on Sustainable Development that will link all policies, building on Agenda 21 and compatible with international reporting frameworks.
- Ensure that sustainable development will take priority over growth in GDP as a national goal.
Education is critical to achieving a shift of attitudes towards respect and care rather than exploitation. Understanding of the value of ecosystem services is essential if they are to be protected. The Green Party will:
- Ensure that education for sustainability forms part of the cross-curricula themes and key competencies promoted by the Ministry of Education.
- Build on the resources negotiated by the Green Party in the 2002/3 Budget to enhance capacity in colleges of education and schools so that environmental education can be delivered in all schools in accordance with the National Environmental Education Strategy and Guidelines.
- Resource the development of cross-curricula achievement standards, and provide for Maori perspectives in sustainability education.
- Re-establish central government funding to the Enviro-Schools programme to extend their work with the community.
- Emphasise the understanding of ecosystem function and human impact on this function through direct experience as well as classroom learning.
- Increase funding for local environment centres to support community environmental education.
3. Information for Sustainable Living
Even when people are aware of the potential impact of their behaviour and choices on the environment, it is often difficult for them to make the decisions they want to make to minimise their environmental footprint. To help them do so, the Green Party will:
- Develop and publicise a single New Zealand standard for measuring environmental impact that is based on life cycle analysis of goods, including country of origin and distance travelled.
- Require products to clearly display an environmental rating based on this standard.
- Resource programmes that help people convert their knowledge on sustainable living into action, including community based social marketing and mentoring.
Water quality in lakes and lowland rivers has seriously deteriorated in recent years. While point sources have been largely addressed, nutrient run-off from farmland and pollution from urban stormwater have increased, and in many places partially treated sewage is dumped in rivers. Water must be returned to the environment in a state as good or better than when it was extracted. The Green Party supports:
- Ensuring regional councils and unitary authorities implement integrated catchment management plans which provide for environmental flows sustaining the ecological, hydrological and geomorphological functioning of the ecosystem, preservation of the mauri of the water body, provision for domestic and stock water use and fire fighting purposes prior to allowing an allocation for other extractive uses.
- Amending the proposed National Policy Statement on water so that it includes specific targets and time frames for water quality ie. exactly when rivers need to reach a 'swimmable and/or fishable' standard.
- Making it a requirement to have a resource consent to convert land to ruminants or to intensify stocking rates and require councils to set limits on nitrogen and phosphate run-off.
- Establishing a contestable dedicated fund to support sustainable land management practices on farms, such as nutrient budgeting, planting of riparian margins, planting of headwaters in flood prone catchments, conversion to woodlots for sustainable management, energy and water saving equipment and the restoration or protection of biodiversity. This will be funded by a levy on nitrogen and phosphate fertilisers and dollar for dollar matched funding by Government.
- Providing for regional councils to set charges for agricultural and industrial water use (except drinking water for stock), and use the revenue to fund their sustainable management function.
- Legislation to keep water under the domain of public authorities to prevent the privatisation of water.
- Universal access to high quality drinking water for all.
- Ensuring that the public supply of household water is provided as a public, non-profit service.
- Developing strategies to assist and encourage urban users of water to decrease their demand for water through rainwater collection, grey water recycling and other conservation measures, including setting standards for water conservation in publicly owned buildings.
- Ensuring that those who use water for recreational purposes respect its ecological and spiritual values.
- Requiring that as a minimum, all water bodies be maintained to the contact recreational standard.
Please also see our separate policy on Water.
While the National Environmental Standards for air quality should, once fully implemented, greatly decrease emissions from domestic and some commercial sources of air pollution, they do not address pollution from vehicles. Vehicle emissions are now believed to be responsible for over 400 deaths a year. Other measures are needed urgently. To improve local air quality the Green Party will:
- Accelerate the development of national and regional air quality standards under the RMA;
- Set comprehensive emission standards for all ages and classes of vehicle, including older vehicles, which are appropriate and reasonable for the age of the vehicle, and gradually increase these standards over time.
- Undertake a comprehensive education and information campaign about the importance of reducing vehicle emissions and the steps vehicle owners can take to ensure their vehicle has the lowest practical emissions.
- Prohibit the importation of vehicles older than 7 years unless they can meet strict emissions standards.
- Prohibit the disconnection of any functioning pollution control equipment (such as catalytic converters) from vehicles to which they are fitted.
- Introduce mandatory vehicle assessment in order to ensure compliance with emission standards involving a combination of:
- Regular surveys of the emissions performance of the vehicle fleet.
- Requiring new vehicles fitted with engine management systems to produce evidence at WoF or CoF inspection that these systems are maintained and tuned to meet appropriate international emissions performance standards on an ongoing basis.
- Requiring all new vehicles not fitted with engine management systems to meet appropriate international emissions performance standards on an ongoing basis, verified by random comprehensive testing at WoF or CoF inspection.
- Making greater use of roadside emissions testing and requiring comprehensive emissions testing for vehicles that perform poorly on these tests.
- Mandatory comprehensive emissions testing as part of Warrant of Fitness (WoF) or Certificate of Fitness (CoF) inspections for classes of vehicles which surveys reveal have the worst emissions performance.
- Providing exemptions for specialist classes of vehicles, which are rarely used such as vintage and veteran cars.
- Recognising that some costs of establishing and running the emissions testing system ought to be met by the Government.
- Evaluating the best means of assisting people to adjust to the new regime, including consideration of a six-month warning period (followed by compulsory retesting) for vehicle owners after the first time tests show their vehicle(s) is not meeting emission standards.
- Reduce sulphur in petrol (currently 150 ppm) to 50 ppm and regularly review fuel specifications so that they meet international best practice for compounds that degrade air quality, such as the sulphur content in diesel and petrol, and the benzene levels in petrol.
- Support the transition to low-emission and zero-emission vehicles, such as electric buses, and ensure that public transport funding encourages the use of low-emission and zero-emission vehicles.
- Providing support for low income households in urban areas with air pollution problems to reduce their emissions by replacing open fireplaces and older solid fuel burners with new models that meet low emissions requirements. This will be especially important as more households use solid fuels to meet their heating needs.
Nature has no waste because every substance in it is cycled. We must redesign our economic systems so that all materials are cycled, each 'waste' becoming the feedstock for another process. The Green Party will:
- Establish a timeline with clear targets to make Aotearoa/NZ waste free by 2020.
- Establish a central agency to coordinate and facilitate efforts to achieve this waste free status.
- Set a timetable for instituting Extended Producer Responsibility for products, to include a deposit charge on non-biodegradable products such as beverage containers, electronic waste, tyres and oil.
- Prohibit the disposal of certain materials to landfill, starting with materials where recycling infrastructure exists or can be easily developed.
- Sign New Zealand up to the Basel Ban, which prohibits the export of hazardous waste from OECD to non-OECD countries.
For more details, see our separate Waste policy.
7. Toxic Substances
We live in a cocktail of toxic substances to which our bodies, and other living creatures, are not adapted. Sustainability requires us to reduce this burden wherever possible. The Green Party will:
- Restrict the registration of toxic substances where a less toxic alternative exists.
- Develop a pesticide reduction strategy with targets and timetables.
- Pass legislation to make chemical drift across boundaries illegal.
- Support industry to move towards "cleaner production" techniques that eliminate or reduce toxic materials.
- Set a levy on hazardous substances in proportion to their toxicity and persistence. This will be used to fund the remediation of contaminated sites.
- Establish clear liability rules for contaminated sites, based on the polluter pays principle, with the Crown taking responsibility for sites previously owned or contaminated by Crown agencies, and for contamination produced by past Governments. Establish an innocent landowner defence where the contamination could not reasonably have been known at the time of purchase.
8. Climate Change
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing humankind is that posed by rapid climate change resulting from human-induced increases in the concentration of "greenhouse" gases in the atmosphere. These emissions must be stabilised and then decreased by reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and controlling emissions from livestock. In particular, the Greens will:
- Ensure that New Zealand supports the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, because this is the only international agreement that we presently have that works towards reducing emissions.
- Set the liability for carbon emissions at points in the economy, as outlined in our climate change policy, so that ordinary consumers and most businesses do not have to engage directly with international trading
- Continue to work for the development of a transportation system that reduces the emissions of greenhouse gases by moving freight from trucks to rail and coastal shipping where possible, and personal transport from cars to public transport, cycling, car pooling and walking.
- Introduce, and progressively increase, fuel efficiency standards for motor vehicles entering the country.
- Oppose any additional use of coal.
- Support the establishment of permanent forests to absorb and store carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere.
The Green Party remains committed to keeping the Aotearoa/New Zealand environment free of GE organisms. New information is constantly coming forward showing that the risks have been understated. The Green Party supports:
- The use of genetic science as a tool in diagnostics, understanding of heredity, and development of medicines, provided any genetically engineered organisms are completely contained in an indoor laboratory.
- The use of marker assisted breeding for crop and animal improvement.
- A ban on release or field trials of genetically engineered organisms in the environment and food production system.
- Comprehensive labelling requirements, similar to those in Europe, on current GE food imports.
- A ban, in the long term, on the import of GE food.
- The marketing of Aotearoa/NZ and its products as GE free.
The RMA is our key environmental law and has been repeatedly weakened to smooth the path of developers. The Green Party will:
- Uphold the original principles of the RMA — environmental protection and public participation.
- Increase environmental legal aid, first established by a Green Party Budget bid in 2000, so that citizens' groups can take part in RMA cases with good legal, planning and scientific advice.
- Develop National Policy Statements and National Environmental Standards, to set environmental bottom lines with councils able to set higher standards where appropriate.
- Encourage councils to enforce consent conditions to protect the environment.
11. Environmental Reporting and Information
The Green Party will:
- Complete the development of sustainability indicators, make these widely available to the public, and use these to measure progress towards sustainability, at national and regional levels.
- Require all Government departments to complete sustainability reports and promote the use of this methodology by local government, businesses and NGO's
- Develop a public information system which collates data concerning soil, air and water quality.
Antarctica should be maintained as a place of peace, science and conservation. The Green Party supports:
- Granting World Park status to continental Antarctica and that part of the Southern Ocean south of 60 degrees south. This would still allow limited scientific research but would prohibit all commercial exploitation, including mining and fishing.
- Increased regulation of tourism, with limits on the total number of people or voyages visiting Antarctica.
- Increased measures to prevent and detect illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in the Southern Ocean.
13. International Agreements and Trade
Free trade imposes environmental costs through increased fossil fuel use for transport, increased biosecurity risk, and undercutting of environmental standards by countries where such standards are low. The Green Party believes that:
- International trade agreements and the rules of the WTO must be subject to environmental and labour treaties and must not override them.
- Strict biosecurity standards, that are necessary to protect our biodiversity, environment, health and primary industries, must not be overridden by the desire to remove obstacles to international trade.
14. Te Tiriti
The Green Party will:
- Support an increased role for tangata whenua as kaitiaki of their rohe.
- Develop models for shared guardianship with iwi and hapu of protected areas, building on successful models that already exist.
- Reject the use of the conservation estate as a cheap source of land for Treaty settlements.
- Support the present practice of returning to iwi, sites within the conservation estate, of high value to tangata whenua, such as waahi tapu.
15. Greening of Government
Because of its enormous role in the economy, government can exercise strong influence over suppliers. The Green Party believes:
- A policy of green procurement, in which life cycle analysis is a cornerstone, should be implemented throughout central and local government, and all state owned agencies and crown entities.