Minister speaks at Taranaki meeting on the environment

Thank you for the opportunity to attend and to meet with you today at the first MFE coordinated Environmental Forum for iwi of the Taranaki region.

I am excited to be here to discuss environmental matters that are important to you.

The forum provides a great opportunity for the Government to not only engage directly with you as tangata whenua but to also look at innovative ways we could partner together, post-forum.

It is a good example of how this Government wants to work with Māori moving from the negotiating table to a true partnership.

We know that through the engagement my colleague Kelvin Davis, the Minister of Crown/Māori Relations, has been leading, that Local Government and environmental issues are very important to Māori.

We’ve heard that looking to the future, local solutions are important, and Māori should be involved in co-designing if not leading the design of these solutions. This forum takes one small step towards achieving this goal.

 

Environmental priorities for the Government

This Government knows that a healthy environment underpins the wellbeing of our communities. We face some big challenges – water quality, climate change and population growth.

We can have environmental growth within economic limits – a productive and sustainable economy – but that will require action from all sectors, on all fronts.

Freshwater management and water quality

When it comes to water quality we all of want to protect and restore our waterways.

Environment Minister David Parker, myself and our other Ministerial colleagues, are in discussion about Māori rights and interests in freshwater, how the Government engages with Māori on water-related issues, and how to shape and phase a work programme.

We recognise these are hugely important issues for you and for New Zealand.

We are committed to moving forward with you, but first it is important that all Ministers have the same understanding of the issues.

You will be informed as soon as Ministers are ready to move to the next step.

No decisions have yet been made.

Broadly, Minister Parker has signalled that he expects the freshwater work programme would result in some amendments to the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management (NPS-FM) and other regulation such as stock exclusion regulations.

Ministers and the Ministry have received proposals and suggestions on how to amend the NPS-FM from Fish and Game, and from Regional Councils. We have also received a report from the Land and Water Forum.

We haven’t yet had a chance to work through the detail of what’s being suggested.

Meanwhile the Ministry is continuing to work with Regional Councils on implementing the existing NPS-FM.

Over this forum, we will be in listening mode. The team will hear what you have to say, take your views back to Wellington and feed them in to our work.  

Climate Change

New Zealand is on the path to a low emission, climate resilient future; and the Government aims to be net zero by 2050.

The transition to a low emissions future is well underway.  Almost every country that signed the Paris Agreement agrees we need to reach net zero emissions by mid-century to avoid the worst effects from climate change.

Our economy will look very different by 2050 - the Zero Carbon Bill is our chance to prepare, so we can take advantage of the opportunities that change will bring

The Zero Carbon Bill puts in place the core building blocks to give New Zealanders long-term certainty about the path we are on, no matter what government is in power.

The Government is committed to working with New Zealanders to make it a fair and just transition. 

There will be a national conversation on the Bill from 7 June. There will be lots of opportunities to provide feedback, including a public meeting in New Plymouth on 11 June.

Oil and gas transition

On the Government’s announcement to not grant any new offshore petroleum exploration permits, we know that transitioning to a low emissions economy is inevitable. By making the transition now we give people and investors certainty.

We are ensuring the investment in New Zealand is sustainable and will benefit New Zealand in the long term.

This decision supports a just transition to a low carbon economy for New Zealand and we will work with iwi, industry and key players to ensure this occurs.

The rights of existing permit holders will be honoured. Existing permit holders can and will be able to carry out activities related to the normal operations of their production facilities.

We have commissioned MBIE to establish a Just Transitions Unit to lead the development of Government-wide strategies. This is to ensure that workers in the petroleum and related industries are supported and existing operators’ rights are respected.

We will invest hundreds of millions of dollars in new infrastructure and clean energy projects in regions that currently rely on fossil fuels, meaning that as we transition away from these fuels, regions that currently rely on them for their economy will see new jobs created.

Working with Māori

To close, it is my view that we are not going to achieve any of our ambitious environmental priorities without building a strong and enduring relationship with iwi/Māori.

We look for and will facilitate partnership opportunities that arise in a post-Treaty settlement environment, and expand opportunities for relationships beyond those established by the settlement of historical claims.

I view this forum as one of those opportunities.

I look forward to spending some time with you today and to build on today’s mahi.

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