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Guest Editorial

Government Risks Billions

I have a sense of wonderment as I drive up the Kauaeranga valley through the lush native forest to a pristine swimming hole, a stark contrast to the feeling of dread as I read dispiriting reports of gross environmental backsliding by our government.
 |  Denis Tegg  | 

The multi-billion-dollar fair trade deals (FTA) with the UK, and the EU, both heralded for their strong environmental commitments, are now jeopardised by government policies intent on sacrificing our natural heritage for short-term gain.

The FTAs contain the strongest environmental pledges New Zealand has ever negotiated, including commitments to take steps to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, promote sustainable agriculture and address climate change.

They have clear mandatory obligations that the Parties must comply with.

For a government prioritizing economic growth, jeopardizing trade deals promising a combined $4.2 billion annual GDP boost is incoherent policy making. The UK deal alone could bring $1 billion in GDP, while the EU deal offers potential increases of $1.4 billion and $1.8 billion to GDP and exports respectively.

This isn’t just about trade; it’s about who we are. Are we a nation that values and protects its natural heritage, that honours its international commitments, and that prioritises the well-being of future generations? Or are we willing to sell our souls for a temporary economic boost?

The government’s assault on our environment is relentless. Gutted environmental laws leave us vulnerable, while sidelined biodiversity protection endangers our unique wildlife.

The government is sacrificing clean water for commercial gain and fast-tracking risky projects with minimal oversight.

Weakened climate efforts will mean we will fail to reach our promised emission reduction goals.

The reopening of oil exploration is stupidity on steroids when the international advice is that using any new oil discoveries will overshoot the world into dangerous unlivable climate change.  They discourage electric vehicles with new charges and halted public transport initiatives while redirecting climate funds to tax cuts.

Delaying agricultural emissions pricing and questioning methane targets with dubious science further undermines our obligations to take climate action. They’ve rushed through repeals of key environmental laws, ignoring evidence-based policies, and replacing them with ministerial approvals that bypass public participation safeguards.

This isn’t about efficiency; it’s a race to the bottom that sacrifices our environment and future for cheap exports.

But this is unsustainable, as overseas consumers demand change, and our damaged reputation will hurt our exports in the long run.

This isn’t just about upholding a trade agreement; it’s about upholding our values. The UK and EU deals aren’t pieces of paper – they’re a promise to future generations, an assurance that we take seriously the climate crisis and the delicate balance of our ecosystems. It’s a promise we’re rapidly breaking.

Our government’s “war on our environment” isn’t just bad for the environment; it’s bad for democracy. They’re shutting the public out, silencing your voice on decisions that impact your neighbourhood and the very thing that attracts visitors to the Coromandel – our environment.

They’re rushing through changes without proper assessments, bypassing crucial checks and balances. No more impact statements, no time for public input or from experts. They claim efficiency, but this is a power grab, concentrating decisions in the hands of a few ministers, vulnerable to lobbying and corruption.

By backsliding on our environmental regulations and kicking the can down the road on climate action, we’re also shooting our primary producers and businesses in the foot.

The Government is not only wreaking havoc on our natural world, but it’s also trashing our international reputation and putting the economy at risk.

Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric of “cutting red tape” for industry. This isn’t streamlining; it’s dismantling the safeguards that protect our land and water.

It’s a downward spiral, where “competitiveness” is measured in the amount of environmental damage we can tolerate.

But the world has moved on. Consumers are demanding sustainability, and weakening our environmental protections will only backfire. We’ll be left with tarnished exports, a damaged reputation as a tourist destination, and an ecosystem on the brink.

The choice is ours. Fight for a transparent, democratic process that protects our places and your voice. Demand better from our leaders and hold them accountable.

We can be the generation that turns the tide, the one that chooses a future where prosperity and our protected natural heritage co-exist.

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