The New Zealand Herald
Wobble warning for Greens
Fitzsimons says keeping Govt going must balance with original purpose
What the Green Party has achieved after 10 months in Government is impressive but the caucus should be careful not to get the “speed wobbles”, former Greens co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says.
“James [Shaw’s] account of what has been achieved by three and a half ministers in Government is pretty impressive and I’m delighted by the portfolios we got and the work the ministers are doing,” she told reporters in a break during the Green Party’s two-day annual general meeting in Palmerston North at the weekend.
“There’s always the risk at this stage of getting the speed wobbles. There’s always a tension between keeping the Government going smoothly and getting a lot of achievements from ministerial work and staying true to our original kaupapa.”
But Fitzsimons, who co-led the Green Party from 1995 to 2009, said the Greens’ support for the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill was a low point. “It’s wrong, it denies MPs’ basic freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of thought. It’s contrary to the Bill of Rights and it’s contrary to our policy.”
Efforts to prevent the caucus from voting with Labour and New Zealand First had “hit a brick wall”, Fitzsimons said.
Despite that, the bill was not discussed at the meeting. Other members who attended said that while it was a disappointing position, it had to be weighed against the gains the party had made in Government.
Co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson emphasised the caucus’s achievements in their keynote speeches to more than 200 supporters — on climate change, the environment and conservation.
They followed those up with plans to tackle water-bottling and landfill waste.
In her first major speech to the party, Davidson said they had secured a commitment that the issue of water sales, particularly to overseas bottling companies, would be considered for inclusion in a review of the Overseas Investment Act.
Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage, who had been the target of some unhappiness around her signing off on the expansion of a Chinese-owned water-bottling plant near Whakata¯ne earlier this year, redeemed herself somewhat with an announcement yesterday that Cabinet had signed off on work to look at a number of waste minimisation measures including expanding and increasing the levy for taking waste to landfills.
Sage has also taken on the portfolio of Women’s Affairs while her colleague Julie Anne Genter is on parental leave.
Genter, who is 42 weeks’ pregnant, biked to hospital yesterday to have her baby induced. It will be a first baby for Genter and her partner Peter Nunns.
Local councils have backed a move by the Government to reduce the mountain of rubbish going to landfills and force companies to take more responsibility for their waste.
Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage announced that Cabinet had signed off on work to look at a number of waste minimisation measures including expanding and increasing the levy for taking waste to landfills.
It will also consider making companies take more responsibility for the waste their industry creates, from production to disposal. Tyres and lithium batteries will be first.
The work will also look at requiring landfill operators to report on the composition and quantity of waste, and obtaining data from councils and the private sector on how much is reduced, reused and recycled.
“[Councils] have been undertaking their own waste management . . . initiatives but to really make headway against the rising tide of waste, local and central government need to work in partnership,” Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) president Dave Cull said.
LGNZ supported expanding the waste disposal levy to apply to more landfills, adopting a national waste data framework and implementing a comprehensive and mandatory product stewardship programme for tyres.
“Right now the tools and incentives that councils have to manage waste better are insufficient to deal with the volume generated. The waste disposal levy is only applied at 11 per cent of the country’s landfills, and the information about what is going into landfill isn’t being captured,” Cull said in a statement.
Sage, who made the announcement at the Greens Party’s annual meeting in Palmerston North, said little action had been taken over the past decade while the amount of waste going to landfills was increasing.
There are only 15 voluntary product stewardship schemes at present, for products like glass and agrichemical containers.
“I want to include some mandatory [schemes] in that mix, starting with tyres. New Zealand creates 4.6 million end-of-life tyres each year. Right now, an estimated 70 per cent of them are either stockpiled, sent to landfill, or illegally dumped,” Sage said.
There have been calls to increase the $10 a tonne levy, which applies to only around 11 per cent of waste disposal facilities, to as much as $140 a tonne. Sage would not say what levy rise she would like to see, saying she wanted to see what the Ministry for the Environment work produced.
Sage said construction and demolition waste accounted for an estimated 85 per cent of the waste stream but the levy applied to mostly metropolitan landfills.
The expanded levy and increased price per tonne is likely to come into force in early 2020, following public consultation.
The waste industry has said a crisis is looming if action is not taken to deal with the recycling piling up in New Zealand as a result of China’s decision to stop taking recycling from other countries, including New Zealand.
National’s Environment spokesman Scott Simpson said a potential big increase to the actual levy rate was another tax that would hurt households.