Petition to ban fireworks “modernising our rules”

Green Party animal welfare spokesperson Gareth Hughes has accepted a the petition, Hughes said that the private sale of fireworks was dangerous.

Retweeted by Green co-leader @MaramaDavidson

I haven’t bought fireworks for a long time, possibly not in this century, so I have no personal interest in whether I can buy fireworks or not.

I’m aware of issues with personal harm risks and fire risks and adverse effects on pets and animals.

But I have concerns. ‘Modernising our rules’ is a euphemism for BAN – rules to restrict personal choice.

This is not the only fireworks petition on the go.

Petition of Chris Eichbaum – Cease retail sales of fireworks

Published date: 1 Nov 2018

Petition request

That the House of Representatives pass legislation to prohibit the retail sale of fireworks, and institute licensing arrangements for individuals or organisations to responsibly detonate fireworks in public displays approved by the relevant territorial local authority.

Petition reason

At present fireworks can be lawfully sold to any person over the age of 18 years. Accidents involving fireworks result in injuries to many, and to young people disproportionately. Domestic animals are often traumatised by fireworks and their retail sale is opposed by the NZ Veterinary Association that has repeatedly called for a ban. Legislation should facilitate public fireworks displays that are managed by licensed providers and approved by the relevant territorial local authority.

Also:

Petition of Melanie Lindstrom – Ban the private sale of fireworks and promote Matariki for public displays

Published date: 13 Nov 2018

Petition request

That the House of Representatives pass legislation banning the private sale of fireworks and urge the Government to promote Matariki, rather than Guy Fawkes, as a culturally significant occasion for public firework displays.

Petition reason

The private sale of fireworks at Guy Fawkes is a commercial enterprise that I believe harms New Zealand. We see distressed pets and wildlife, burn injuries, and multiple fire service callouts. We need to shake off our colonial overcoats and be more culturally responsive to our tangata whenua. Celebrating a failed gunpowder plot from England in 1605 makes no sense in 2018.

‘Guy Fawkes’ is not a ‘commercial enterprise’, it is an opportunity for free trade of goods for sale for entertainment purposes. There is very little celebration of the 1605 gunpowder plot in England.

Celebrating 2000 year old disputed history at Christmas makes no more sense, but some old traditions survive. An attempt to ban Christmas probably wouldn’t go down well (ditto Easter and even the recently adopted tradition Halloween).

But a good practical case can be made for moving fireworks use to Matariki, in the middle of winter when it is dark by 6 pm.  It is a long wait up for kids on 5 November with it not getting properly dark (in southern New Zealand at least) until 10 pm.

If fireworks are banned because they can cause harm what else could be petitioned? A ban on bikes, scooters and skateboards? Kids often get harmed when using them. Ban TV and computers and mobile phones? They have harmful effects.

Greens pushing to end oil and gas exploration

Gareth Hughes has had a low profile as a Green MP for some time, but he is upping his efforts to end oil and gas exploration.

Newsroom:  Greens want Labour to toughen gas ban

A supplementary order paper from Green MP Gareth Hughes threatens to rip the scab off the Government’s contentious ban on new offshore oil and gas exploration.

The Government announced an end to the issuing of exploration permits for offshore oil and gas exploration in April.

The ban did not affect existing permit holders, who were free to continue extracting oil and gas.

But as backlash mounted against the ban, the Government granted a significant concession to exploration companies.

Hughes has used a supplementary order paper (SOP) to try to overturn Woods’ decision. An SOP allows MPs to amend legislation that is currently before the House.

But the proposal has come at an awkward time for the Government.

A perfect storm of catastrophes has exposed just how reliant New Zealand is on gas. Unseasonably cold weather and low water levels at the South Island’s hydro-lakes has meant electricity generators have had to use gas and coal.

Unfortunately, two outages at the Pohokura gas field and essential maintenance on the Maui pipeline has meant New Zealand’s gas resources haven’t been ready to pick up the slack left by depleted hydro-lakes.

This has sent wholesale electricity prices soaring .The average wholesale price for most of October was $300 per MWh. Last October the average was just $102 per MWh.

I use Flick for power. They are usually quite reasonable, but my last two power bills have jumped up, with one over double the previous week ($100 for a week).

Hughes says the loophole means offshore drilling could continue indefinitely, defeating the purpose of the ban. He has called on Labour and New Zealand First to back him.

“The whole point of ending future offshore permits was to ensure a smooth transition away from fossil fuels. To extend existing permits defeats the purpose,” he said.

But due to us being far from reducing our dependence on fossil fuels a reduction in gas recovery risks forcing us to use less clean energy, and forcing us to import more fossil fuels.

 

Gareth Hughes versus Megan Woods on oil and gas exploration

Green MP Gareth Hughes has made it clear that he and the Green party disapprove of a concession given to the oil and gas exploration industry, as announced by Minister of Energy Megan Woods.

Hughes in a speech in parliament in March:  End Oil Exploration, General Debate Speech

While the media debate the pros and cons of oil exploration you can’t debate the physics of climate change.

Scientists warn we can’t afford to burn 75% of the fossil fuels we’ve already discovered if we want to avoid dangerous climate change.

A study in Nature Communications last year found if we burn all available fossil fuels, we’ll cause the fastest climate change in 420 million years!

Exploring for more oil is like pouring petrol into an already filled gas tank and lighting a match.

This is the nuclear-free moment of our generation.

We find ourselves at an important historic turning point – will we continue exploring for new oil and gas that we can’t afford to burn?

To get there we need to transition away from fossil fuels like oil.

Given some existing permits don’t expire until expire 2046 we need to stop granting more.

That’s why I’m calling on the government to stop offering new exploration permits for fossil fuels.

Our future isn’t more oil rigs off our coasts it’s wind turbines on our hills, insulation under our roofs, solar panels on top; modern public transport in our cities and sustainable zero-carbon jobs in our regions.

I support the end to exploration.

On Monday: Bill to end new offshore oil and gas permits a win for the planet

The Green Party welcome the introduction of the Crown Minerals Amendment Bill, which will legislate to officially stop new offshore oil and gas exploration permits.

“This is a special day for the planet, and proof that this Government are now meaningfully acting to address climate change”, Green Party energy spokesperson Gareth Hughes said today.

“This is Greens in Government at its best and represents an important step to stopping new offshore permits, so that our environment is better protected.

“We’re looking forward to the upcoming wider review of the Act. We will push hard to change the purpose of the Act so that exploration is ‘regulated’, not ‘promoted’ by this Government.

Surprisingly given the Green Party’s in ending the use fossil fuels and ending oil and gas exploration it looks like they were blind sided by Woods’ announcement on Tuesday:

Mining companies with existing licenses for drilling have a time limit on when they can explore. If they reach the time limit, their permits are handed back to the Crown.

Oil drillers shouldn’t be offered special treatment to extend or waive that time limit. I struggle to see the point in banning offshore exploration for oil and gas if existing companies with huge blocks can hold off from exploring until way later down the track.

Hughes followed up in Parliament yesterday:

Question No. 7—Energy and Resources

7. GARETH HUGHES (Green) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Does she stand by her reported statement that she will “consider giving the oil companies more time to fulfil their commitments on the permits”; if so, which permits are currently facing a “drill or drop” decision in the next two years?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister of Energy and Resources): Yes, I am in discussion with officials regarding the possibility of exercising my statutory powers, as the responsible Minister, to make changes to petroleum exploration permits. Any such change would be made on a case by case basis under the current law. There are 16 permits with “drill or drop” decisions in the next two years. More information about all active petroleum exploration permits, including “drill or drop decision” points, is publicly available on the New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals website. As the member is aware, our Government is committed to a long-term transition away from reliance on fossil fuels, and the introduction of legislation this week reflects exactly that commitment.

Gareth Hughes: Does she stand by the Government’s historic decision to halt offshore oil and gas exploration, and if so, does she think a long tail of up to 16 active permits undermines this decision?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: In answer to the first part of the question, yes, and in answer to the second part, no. As we’ve been clear, the Government is committed to a long-term transition away from fossil fuel exploration and a clear plan for our future. We’re achieving this by issuing no further offshore exploration permits, while also protecting the existing exploration permits that cover 100,000 square kilometres, to enable a smooth transition over the coming decades. This is a sensible approach that allows regions, communities, industry, and the workforce a just transition to a low-carbon future and avoids sudden economic shocks like we saw in the 1980s.

Gareth Hughes: Does she agree with recent comments by our climate ambassador Jo Tyndall that this Government has sent a clear signal to industry that we are phasing out oil and gas extraction, and if so, does relaxing the work programme deadlines on permits undermine that message?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I do agree and am proud that we are ending offshore exploration and are committed to a just transition, and we’re not relaxing those conditions.

Gareth Hughes: If the Minister grants extensions to any offshore permits, will she limit their duration, and if so, what time frame will she use?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: As I indicated in my primary question, each of these needs to be on a case by case basis, and I will consider those applications on a case by case basis.

Gareth Hughes: Will the Minister commit to passing more wide-ranging changes to the Crown Minerals Act (CMA) this term to ensure New Zealand does transition away from fossil fuel extraction?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: As the member knows, the first tranche of the CMA reforms was introduced this week. This legislation is to give effect to the Government’s decision about the future of offshore petroleum exploration. Our intention is to begin tranche two following the passage of this legislation, and we’ve long signalled that tranche two will involve a comprehensive review of the CMA and will engage with a wide range of stakeholders to ensure the legislation is fit for purpose as we make this transition. The Government’s decision about—

SPEAKER: Order! Order! That’s enough. That’s enough.

Hughes followed that up:

Hughes is the Green Party spokesperson for Energy & Resources. It seems odd that he hasn’t been closer to Woods and what she is doing and announcing on this – has she ignored Hughes and the Greens?

Surprisingly there is no mention of fossil fuels or oil and gas in the Labour-Green confidence and supply agreement.

And as Climate Change Minister where is James Shaw on this? Last week in an email to party supporters – James Shaw promoting Green achievements

Being in Government means we can deliver on our Confidence and Supply Agreement – but it also means so much more. For instance, we got an end to new exploration for offshore oil and gas – yet this wasn’t covered in our agreement.

It seems that they didn’t get as much as they thought they had.

 

‘A bit of a backdown’ on oil and gas exploration annoys Greens

It appears that the government has backed off a bit on it’s contentious ban on new oil and gas exploration, which was applauded by environmentalists and slammed by Taranaki business interests in particular. Is has been pointed out that it could lead to higher carbon emissions as more alternatives were sourced from overseas.

Hamish Rutherford (Stuff):  Symbolic backdown undermines Government’s untidy oil move

After all the hype, the Government’s troubled path to ending new oil exploration has a bizarre sting in the tail: a bit of a backdown.

In the hours before she announced a law change to give effect to decisions announced in April, which mean no new offshore permits, Energy Minister Megan Woods met with the industry to deliver a piece of good news.

Oil explorers facing deadlines on their permits to either commit to exploration wells or relinquish the permits – referred to as “drill or drop” – are likely to be given more breathing space.

It seems the deadline to drill could be pushed back for years, although Woods has not given details other than that she will consider giving more time on a case-by-case basis.

In terms of concessions, it looks like no big deal, given the Government is changing the legislation that frames the sector. No-one in the industry will celebrate this as a victory, given the overall impact of the moves by the Government.

But it seems like Woods is trying to head off a potentially major “what if?” headache.

As it stands, the Barque prospect off the coast of Oamaru will be lost forever if New Zealand Oil and Gas (NZOG) does not find partners willing to commit to the major cost of drilling, by early 2019.

Although the odds of success are put at only one in five, NZOG has claimed that, if successful, Barque could transform New Zealand’s energy outlook, with thousands of jobs and tens of billions of revenue.

Seen this way, Woods’ gesture to the industry looks like a major contradiction of the Government’s plan, to set New Zealand on a renewable future.

Reality wins over idealism?

Greens are not happy.

Both Greenpeace and the Green Party are furious, with the Government’s partners warning it waters down the moves made so far.

Given where we have come from, the latest move should be no surprise.

On a sunny day in March, Ardern walked down the steps of Parliament to greet Greenpeace activists, delivering a major shock that the Government was “actively considering” their call to end oil exploration. Although her speech was more symbol than substance, it was clear major plans were afoot.

As it turned out, the Government was not really considering anything, and it certainly did not want much in the way of advice.

Less than a month later, Ardern would lead a group of ministers into the Beehive theatrette to announce the decision, giving the impression that ministers had considered the matter.

In fact, all that had happened was that the leaders of Labour, NZ First and the Greens had reached a deal. Cabinet had no input in the decision.

Officials were so furious at being sidelined from the decision that it was leaked, spoiling Ardern’s plan for a dramatic announcement at Victoria University.

Greenpeace and the Green Party furious. Officials furious. Officials furious. It looks like this was rushed and bungled.

It should be remembered that this advice comes from bureaucrats who have not only been ignored in the actual decision-making, they are giving advice on a decision that could kill the sector they work in.

Seizing on the fact that – as in all long-term forecasting – the report on the oil exploration decision outlines a vast range of possibilities of the cost (from a few hundred million to more than $50 billion), Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters dismissed it as a “very, very bad piece of analytical work”.

It is fair to say that the official advice offers no accurate guide as to what the fiscal cost of the decision would be.

Given that we do not know the future for carbon prices, oil prices or interest rates, there is no way we could possibly know what that cost would be, a fact which seems lost on Peters.

What we do know is that there will be a cost, and it will likely be significant.

We also know that the way it was handled has had a significant impact on investor confidence in New Zealand, which seems to have dawned on the Government only months later.

It is also likely to have an impact on energy prices, both from the cost of gas to households and its impact on future electricity prices.

Woods said on Monday that, even with the benefit of hindsight and advice, she would still push for exactly the same decision.

Of course, she would say that. But it seems the Government has decided to breathe a little more life into oil exploration, just in case.

Green Party: Minister must not water down oil and gas decision

Green Party: Minister Woods must not water down decision to ban offshore oil and gas exploration

The Green Party does not support Labour Party Minister Woods allowing mining companies with existing offshore oil and gas exploration permits more time to consider if they will drill.

“Mining companies with existing licenses for drilling have a time limit on when they can explore. If they reach the time limit, their permits are handed back to the Crown”, Green Party energy spokesperson Gareth Hughes said today.

They shouldn’t be offered special treatment to extend or waive that time limit.

“I struggle to see the point in banning offshore exploration for oil and gas if existing companies with huge blocks can hold off from exploring until way later down the track.

“New Zealand took an incredibly exciting and brave step for people and planet when we decided to ban future offshore oil and gas exploration.

“It has been congratulated world-wide and New Zealanders are proud of the decision, let’s not water it down.

“I am urging her to reconsider this proposal”.

Remember Gareth Hughes? I’m not sure how much clout he has. He is till an MP but is far from prominent.

 

Shades of Green – “cracks in the green revolution”

Greens have not been united on everything in the past, but in opposition they were at least able to appear to be largely working together.

A simple reality of being in Government means that those MPs who are ministers – James Shaw, Julie Anne Genter and Eugenie Sage, and to a lesser extent Parliamentary Under-Secretary Jan Logie, have heavy workloads, and have had to make decisions that follow the will of Government rather than the ideals of the party.

The other four MPs have much more of a free rein, and three of them in particular are fairly prominent doing their own things on social media.

Image result for shades of green

It is now effectively a party of two halves.

And party has been particularly divided over their historic strong opposition to ‘waka jumping’ type legislation and their current opposition, and their decision to vote in favour of Winston Peters’ controversial bill.

Green supporters often react badly to criticism – some of them fervently believe their own hype and can’t countenance any possibility they and their ideals may not be perfect.

So they are not likely to take Matthew Hooton’s column in the Herald today very well – Cracks in the green revolution

True Greens are not concerned about climate change, poverty or endangered species per se, but see them as mere symptoms of the real problem, which is capitalism and the population growth it allows.

I wouldn’t call them ‘true Greens’, that’s a label more appropriate for Jeanette Fitzsimons and Rod Donald, but there is a strong green mantra that social revolution is the main aim, with the claim that that will somehow fix environmental problems.

Hooton describes the current shades of Greens. James Shaw:

Far from having Norman’s True Green whakapapa, Shaw is a Wellington technocrat more at home at his former employer PwC than at a radicals’ rally.

He is part of a three-strong faction in Parliament but the other members are Labour’s David Parker and National’s Todd Muller, with whom he is trying to establish a multiparty consensus on climate change that might not save the planet but would certainly destroy the party.

Many Greens seem to abhor any attempt to work with ‘the enemy’, National.

Recently appointed co-leader Marama Davidson:

Davidson joins Hone Harawira as the only genuine radicals to have become party leaders.

It’s unsurprising that Davidson declined to participate in post-election negotiations with Labour.

Such processes are far too bourgeois for someone who deeply believes the New Zealand state is illegitimate.

Davidson may lead a faction of one in Parliament but she is a cult figure among Green activists who plan to insert her disciples into key party positions at its AGM this weekend.

The rest of the Green caucus:

Julie-Ann Genter is the smartest Green Minister and a genuine expert on transport and urban planning but her American heritage is a problem among the base.

Eugenie Sage is a genuine environmentalist rather than True Green but gets no credit for her wins on oil and gas, conservation funding and plastic bags.

Jan Logie worries more about the spirit of Te Tiriti o Waitangi than about the details of the Paris Climate Accord.

The party’s longest-serving MP, Gareth Hughes, is on the outer, having been overlooked for promotion despite more than eight years in Parliament.

Hughes has a very low profile. He has championed environmental issues, but seems to have lost any drive he may have had – and that’s debatable. He is perhaps best known for his ‘Hey Clint’ moment, asking a staffer what he should say.

Chloe Swarbrick, 24, and Golriz Ghahraman, 37, compete to be the darling of the party’s millennials with their eyes on the longer term.

Swarbrick seems to have taken on her job as MP seriously and has been prepared to work with any other MP or party to try to achieve some wins, especially on cannabis law reform. I think that her efforts so far have been impressive, more so because she is a first term MP.

However Ghahraman has stumbled from controversy to controversy on social media. She joined with Davidson and supporters this week claiming to be female and non-white victims.

Are Davidson and Ghahraman a serious threat to ‘the establishment’? Or are they more of a threat to the Green Party.

While the Green ministers have low profiles buried in their portfolios, the party revolutionaries have time to get attention. I’m not sure this face of the Greens is attractive to the soft Green voters they need to rebuild party support.

All the Green MPs are learning the realities of being a part of Government, and this will evolve over the current term.

They have major challenges in trying to avoid being split by fights for power that any political party (ok, except NZ First and ACT) have.

If Davidson and her supporting faction see a revolutionary takeover within the Greens as necessary on the road to drive out ‘the establishment’ then the Greens are in for challenging times.

Will they split or grow?

Do Greenpeace causes deserve immunity from prosecution?

I don’t think there’s a simple answer to this – protests and degrees of lawbreaking and importance of causes can vary a lot.

But Russel Norman and co-defendant Sara Howell are claiming that if they are convicted for “low level civil disobedience” it would prevent other protests for fear of prosecution.

There are ways to protest without breaking the law, but that’s not part of this story.

Stuff:  Greenpeace activists oil ship protest was just ‘low level disobedience’

Greenpeace executive director Russel Norman and fellow activist Sara Howell appeared in Napier District Court on Friday to apply for a discharge without conviction after admitting a charge of interfering with an oil exploration vessel.

The prosecution

Crown prosecutor Cameron Stuart said the pair caused significant disruption and danger and there was a high level of perseverance and premeditation by the defendants, as evidenced by the fact they acknowledged they rehearsed their moves in advance.

Their actions posed huge risk to them and to the ship’s crew and sensationalised what would have been a peaceful and legal activity”.

“This hearing is not about the morality of the law. It’s not about oil. It’s not about climate change,” Stuart said.

He said the consequences of a conviction would not be out of all proportion to the gravity of the offending. He said the pair had leveraged what they called an “unjust prosecution” as a means of publicising their views.

This raised questions as to how their reputation could be damaged if they were convicted, he said.

The defence

Norman and Howell were represented by Ron Mansfield, said the pair were devoted to fighting climate change and the burning of fossil fuels.

Their views were genuine, well-held, and designed to care for generations to come, Mansfield said.

He said the pair had entered the water at a distance from the vessel that permitted it to avoid them without too much disruption.

He said the danger had been “completely overstated” and the pair could have been removed from the water at any time.

Mansfield said the offending was “low level civil disobedience” and it would be concerning if others undertaking such protests were prevented from doing so because they feared being convicted.

The judge

Judge Arthur Tompkins said that argument “cut both ways” and there may be an argument as to why a conviction was necessary.

Judge Tompkins said other protesters had been convicted in the past and this had not had the “chilling effect” Mansfield suggested.

The verdict – not yet

Judge Tompkins reserved his decision. The pair were remanded until September 24.

The pair faced a maximum penalty of 12 months’ imprisonment, or a fine of up to $50,000 for the offence of interfering with or coming within 500m of an offshore ship involved in oil exploration.

The discussion

Protest is an important part of a democratic country.

Laws are generally to protect safety and freedoms.

The offence of interfering or coming close to a ship involved in exploration was contentious. From NZ Petroleum & Minerals:

People are free to protest on the water as they are on land – provided they do not interfere with structures or vessels involved in lawful petroleum and minerals activities.

While a number of laws cover activities at sea, provisions specific to offshore petroleum and minerals activities were introduced following protests that hindered a seismic survey vessel in 2011.

In May 2013 the Crown Minerals Act 1991, which governs the allocation of the Crown’s petroleum and mineral resources, was amended. New offences were introduced for damaging or interfering with structures or ships being used offshore in prospecting, exploration and mining activities – including incursions into specified Non Interference Zones.

Green MP Gareth Hughes in parliament 13 April 2017:

GARETH HUGHES (Green) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Does she agree with Dr Russel Norman, who said that section 101B(1)(c) of the Crown Minerals Act 1991, known as the Anadarko Amendment, was “put in place by the Government to protect the interest of big oil and to stifle dissent”?

If the “Anadarko Amendment” is all about protecting people’s safety, why does it apply only to the oil and mining industries, and is this simply a case of one law for us and one law for oil?

Can the Minister confirm that that 2013 amendment, used to charge Dr Norman, was passed under urgency with no consultation and received no New Zealand Bill of Rights Act check, and that polls at the time showed 79 percent of Kiwis wanted to see it withdrawn or sent back to committee?

I remember the opposition to the bill, but I don’t remember the poll, and I can’t find it..

 

 

Labour, Green MPs block holding Curran to account

The Government that promised more openness and transparency has taken another step backwards, with Labour and Green MPs on the Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee voting against asking Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran to appear before it to clarify unanswered questions about her meeting with ex-RNZ employee Carol Hirschfeld and her communications with RNZ chairman Richard Griffin.

NZH: National members blocked from getting Clare Curran to appear before committee over meeting with RNZ Carol Hirschfeld

National was blocked from asking Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran to appear at a select committee to clear up unanswered questions around her communications with former RNZ executive Carol Hirschfeld, a report says.

The Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee released its report
today on a briefing in which the committee was inadvertently misled by RNZ chairman Richard Griffin and chief executive Paul Thompson about a meeting between Curran and Hirschfeld last December.

A minority report by the five National Party members of the select committee said questions remained unanswered regarding the appropriateness of communications initiated by Curran, with Hirschfeld and Griffin.

Curran’s behaviour was potentially in breach of parliamentary standing orders covering “intimidating, preventing, or hindering a witness from giving evidence, or giving evidence in full, to the House or a committee”, the National members said.

The National members also sought to invite Curran to the committee to give her the opportunity to clear up the unanswered questions.

“Regretfully, this resolution was not supported by other members of the committee, once again leaving the matter unresolved.”

The National members of the committee – chairman Jonathan Young, Andrew Falloon, Paul Goldsmith, Melissa Lee and Parmjeet Parmar – said they felt Parliament itself had been impugned by the inadvertent misleading of the committee by RNZ and actions of the minister.

The MPs who blocked holding Curran to account:

  • Paul Eagle (Labour, Rongotai)
  • Tamati Coffey (Labour, Waiariki)
  • Michael Wood (Labour, Mt Roskill)
  • Deborah Russell (Labour, New Lynn)
  • Gareth Hughes (Greens, list)

Coffey had a surprise win against Maori Party leader Te Ururoa Flavell in last year’s election.

Eagle, Wood and Russell scored fairly safe Labour electorates – Wood got into Parliament in a by-election in 2016 after Phil Goff resigned, while Eagle and Russell are first term MPs. Russell was rated as a good prospect as an MP, but she is putting party before principles here.

Hughes keeps a low profile in Parliament these days – Greens are also supposed to be strong supporters of open and transparent government and of holding the government to account (going by James Shaw’s comments in handing Parliamentary questions over to National) but joining the blocking of holding Curran to account suggests big talk, walk away from responsibilities.

Tn the whole scheme of things this isn’t a big deal, but it leaves a cloud over Curran’s ambitions to significantly boost RNZ, and she is likely to be reminded of this embarrassment whenever she tries to do anything on open government.

The final commitment in the Labour-Green confidence and supply agreement:

20. Strengthen New Zealand’s democracy by increasing public participation, openness, and transparency around official information.

Labour and Greens have weakened democracy through their weasel blocking in the committee.

Newsroom: When ‘open government’ becomes a joke

Curran isn’t just the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media but the Minster of Government Digital Services and Associate Minister for ACC and Open Government (via a State Services portfolio).

Open Government now becomes something of a joke under Curran at a time when we need it to be the very opposite.

What’s important now is RNZ and the many other initiatives Curran is involved with don’t keep on paying the price for her mistake. Curran’s copybook may well be blotted but she presides over portfolios that are far too important for us to allow that stain to spread.

That was on 2 April. Labour and Green MPs on the committee have spread the stain further.

Most of the public won’t know or care about this festering, but it remains hovering over Curran, and it is a confirmation that Labour and the Greens are in Government more for themselves than for integrity.

What is the real oil and gas agenda?

There were many mixed messages around the announcement last week that no more offshore oil and gas exploration permits would be issued (while the current Governbment remains in power at least).

Gavin Shaw (editor of Energy News) writes of a possible agenda in A symbolic beheading of the oil and gas industry:

“We’ve stopped the rigs,” Green Party energy spokesperson Gareth Hughes said to his supporters.

I’m left to conclude that last week’s performance was less about climate change and more a choreographed demonstration of the anti-oil and gas agenda within parts of the Government.

Why remains a mystery, but at least we now know where Green Party Co-leader James Shaw really stands on the issue. Symbolic heads on pikes are more important than actual policy, apparently.

When Shaw spoke last week of moving to a “fossil fuel-free future” by 2050 I suspect he really believed just that.

No one in the world is predicting the end of hydrocarbon use – not the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change nor the International Energy Agency. We will use less for transport, but we will continue to need coal for making steel and oil and gas for all those handy products we use in our computers, aircraft, buses, trains, solar panels and wind turbines.

The IEA continues to call for increased exploration and production investment to meet rising transport demand and to displace coal currently used for power generation and making chemicals and fabrics.

With the global population forecast to increase by a third by 2050, the agency is concerned that supplies of all lower-emitting options are not increasing fast enough.

But Shaw and the Labour Cabinet don’t seem to care. Nor do they understand the role New Zealand – already an oil and methanol exporter – could play supplying those lower emitting products.

Worse than that, the Government appears actively determined that there should be no expansion of the industry here.

Why else would you ban onshore exploration except in Taranaki? Surely we should be looking for gas and geothermal resources on the South Island so that coal-dependent industry there has lower-emission options alongside wood and electrification?

Achieving real emission reductions is going to be complex. It will likely require industry- and regionally-specific interventions, some of which may be counter-intuitive.

Incoherent policy rambling, grandstanding and cherry-picked anecdotes won’t cut it.

So is the Government going to work with the oil and gas industry to utilise its skills to help reduce emissions?

Not yet apparently.

Were it actually focused on emissions reduction it might have allocated a bit more than the $150,000 it allocated for new energy initiatives among the $19.7 million it doled out in Taranaki earlier this month.

That’s a minor handout, and when compared to others:

  • $13.34m – Taranaki Crossing Experience.
  • $5m – Taranaki Cathedral restoration and upgrades.
  • $400,000  – SH43 business case.
  • $250,000 – hill country tree planting business guide.
  • $210,000 – Tapuae Roa support
  • $175,000  – regional ‘future food’ opportunities.
  • $100,000  – new energy development centre business case
  • $100,000 –  Māori enterprise and education (focus on science, technology, engineering, arts/design, mathematics, innovation, and digital).
  • $100,000  – ‘innovation precincts’ feasibility study.
  • $50,000  – H2 Taranaki.
  • $50,000 – Taranaki Future Foods Accelerator business case

That was announced the week before the oil and gas permit announcement. Not a lot of alternate energy funding there.

If the Government has an agenda to transition the country off fossil fuels then they need to treat alternatives seriously.

Greens hail ‘biggest victory yet’

Gareth Hughes:

I had to pinch myself because I almost can’t believe we did it!

Today our government has announced the historic decision to end all new fossil fuel exploration in our oceans.

Ending deep sea oil and gas exploration has long been a key goal of the Green Party and today, in Government, we’ve delivered it.

Without question it is our biggest victory yet.We’ve stopped the rigs.

Without doubt this is a big win for the Greens, but I don’;t think it stops the rigs, it just stops possible future rigs that don’t already have permits.

This nuclear free momentof ending the environmentally dangerous and planet threatening search for new oil and gas in our pristine waters has come about because of you and generations of New Zealanders calling for a clean energy future.

This campaign started decades ago. As a teenager I took part in a blockade of Mobil Oil calling for the end to oil exploration. And in 2011 I joined thousands of others on the beach at Tauranga to help clean up in the wake of the Rena oil disaster. Like so many Green members and supporters the campaign to stop oil exploration has been core to why I’m involved in politics.

And we really should all take pride in today’s historic win.

The Green Party has thrown everything (bar the kitchen sink) at achieving this goal. We worked with artists and painted giant murals, marched in the streets, tendered for the oil blocks to protect our oceans from the oil companies and I even donned a wetsuit to launch a policy underwater following the Rena oil spill. We uncovered scandals in Taranaki like the spreading of fracking waste on farm land and the National Government’s plans to drill for oil in the endangered Maui dolphin sanctuary.

For decades Greens have shone a spotlight on the perils of oil drilling and its threat to our very existence. And today we have won.

Our beaches, our whales, our Maui’s dolphins are safer from the danger of a Deep Water Horizon type catastrophe because of the decision our Government has made today.

Some people will not be happy about this decision. The oil companies are sure to protest loudly and have deep pockets and loud voice to drown out the call of the environment.  At the same time as this, the Government has started transition planning and support for the works.  So we need your help to get the positive message about protecting our climate out to as many people as possible.

RNZ funding questions

Radio New Zealand (and other media) have justifiably been praised for their coverage of the earthquakes this week. In times of disaster most trivia gets sidelined as media rises to the occasion (except for a few diversions on cows and paua).

RNZ is state funded and the Government purse strings have been tightened over the past few years. Their funding in relation to their earthquake coverage came up in Parliament yesterday.

Garth Hughes took the opportunity to push for more money for RNZ – at a time when Government funding of things like rescuing Kaikorai from devastation and isolation and fixing a few roads and railway lines may be a tad more important.

Bill English responded by saying that RNZ had used the money it does receive wisely, and demonstrating the ability to use the money it receives well does not on it’s own justify giving them more money.

MediaSupport for Media and Radio New Zealand Funding

9. GARETH HUGHES (Green) to the Minister of Broadcasting: Will she join with me to acknowledge the work of all media in New Zealand, which is so important in times of natural disaster and crisis; if so, will she consider increasing our public broadcaster Radio New Zealand’s funding in Budget 2017?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Minister of Broadcasting: Yes, I do agree with the member. The media has done an excellent job of the vital task of keeping the public informed about what they should do at a time of stress. In terms of Radio New Zealand’s (RNZ’s) funding—and, of course, Radio New Zealand, uniquely among media organisations, has a guarantee of revenue for future years, something that many media organisations would regard with envy. However, any bids will be considered in due course as part of the usual Budget process.

Gareth Hughes: How long does the Minister think our only public broadcaster, Radio New Zealand, can continue to provide the high standard of broadcasting we have seen in the past few days, when its funding has not been increased for 8 years?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, clearly up until now it has done a very good job. I have not seen any noticeable deterioration, in fact, I have seen some improvements in the broadcasting of Radio New Zealand on the guaranteed funding that it has, which, as I said, makes it unique among media organisations, a number of which are fighting simply to stay alive.

Gareth Hughes: Given the Minister’s comments around the ability to lodge a Budget bid, is the Minister concerned Radio New Zealand did not put in a funding bid in the last Budget round, with the chairman describing it as: “pointless beating your head against a brick wall of reality.”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I was not disappointed at all. I know for public organisations it can be a sort of automatic reflex that they bid for more money just because they had some last year and think can do more good next year. In the case of RNZ though, over a number of years it has changed with the times. I am particularly complimentary of its website development. It sees itself now less as an owner of a broadcasting system and more as a content provider. I am sure that the wider media sees benefit in broadcasting content of the quality of RNZ’s.

Gareth Hughes: Given the excellent work that Radio New Zealand has done in the last few days despite a real-term funding cut of $4 million since this Government came to office, would the Minister encourage Radio New Zealand to put in a Budget bid for the next funding round?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, not on that basis. I mean, we do not give a public organisation more money just because it has demonstrated its ability to use the money it has. If there is a greater need for the long-term sustainability of the organisation then I am sure the board and executive of Radio New Zealand will see merit in putting up a bid. Equally, we also try not to give money to organisations where their services habitually fail, because that would also be rewarding organisations, rather than just applying money to obvious need.