The rejection of the Rocky Hill mine in NSW is a big win, but impossible in Aotearoa

Yesterday it was reported that the proposed Rocky Hill coal mine in New South Wales had been stopped, after the NSW Land and Environment Court, following much activism from the local community, ruled that the NSW government was right to reject the mine because of its impact on climate change and its impact on the community.

A consent authority cannot rationally approve a development that is likely to have some identified environmental impact on the theoretical possibility that the environmental impact will be mitigated or offset by some unspecified and uncertain action at some unspecified and uncertain time in the future.


This sets an exciting precedent in NSW for the future rejection of new coal mines. We know that we’ve got just 12 years to act on climate change, and that if Australia wants to fulfil its obligations to keep warming below 2°C, let alone the crucial 1.5°C limit, Australia has to keep 90% of its coal reserves in the ground, unburned

But this same kind of decision is impossible in Aotearoa New Zealand, with the Resource Management Act explicitly prohibiting consent authorities and regional councils from considering the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on climate breakdown when considering an application for a discharge permit or when making rules to control GHG discharges respectively.

These rules were introduced in 2004 by the Labour government, with the idea to require negative impacts from GHG emissions to be dealt with at the national level, not at the local level, whilst allowing positive effects of renewable energy to be still judged locally. The Associate Minister of Energy argued that by restricting Regional Councils from applying controls, the bill restricted the potential for duplication of regulation and restricted the potential for restrictions placed at the local level to conflict with ‘national objectives. Except, there still hasn’t been any kind of national standard introduced or implemented, leaving Regional Councils unable to control GHG emissions through their regional plans and resource consents so that they do not duplicate or conflict with non-existent national controls

Central government has failed to take action, and central government has barred local government from taking action in its absence.

From a reformist angle, Aotearoa New Zealand needs significant reform to the Resource Management Act to combat the large carve-outs that have allowed significant degradation to our climate and our waterways- even just the act of farming, an activity responsible for extreme pollution of our climate and waterways, is exempt from needing a resource consent.

Our consenting regime can learn a thing or two from New South Wales.

Government changes 1 billion tree target to half a billion

NZ Herald reports:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is denying that the Government is backtracking over its goal to plant 1 billion trees over 10 years, saying it was always going to be in partnership with the private sector.

Forestry and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones told the National Business Review today that the Government was going to plant about half of the 1 billion trees, while the private sector would plant the rest.

“[The one billion goal] is not something that is going to be pursued in isolation from the industry. If we work together, if they continue with their 50 million [a year] over 10 years and we continue with 50 million [a year] over 10 years, you get to a billion.”

This is pretty dishonest. Had the government partnered with the private sector to plant the billion new trees over the next 10 years, that would be fine.

However, the 50 million trees planted by the industry are only planted to replace trees that they’ve already cut down. That’s net zero trees from the industry. In fact, we’ll need to be planting more than that, as the trees planted in the 1990s have been forested.

This is just more fudging of the numbers. Half a billion isn’t enough, hence the promise of 1 billion. It’s quite disappointing to see this from a promising government.

New Roy Morgan poll gives Labour and the Greens a majority

CSV  

The latest Roy Morgan poll is out, and it’s looking good for the left!

The Labour/NZF+Green government parties are at 54.5%, with Labour/Greens together at 49.5%.

National has dropped down to 40.5%, and NZ First has fallen to just 5%.

Labour is at 39.5%, just 1% point behind National, and the Greens are back up to 10%.

If this were translated into seats, Labour and the Greens would have a combined 62 seats, 13 of which belong to the Greens. That would mean New Zealand First would be put back into opposition.

Let’s hope these results are sustained for 2020.

 

66.5% say NZ is heading in the right direction, while just 20% say NZ is heading in the wrong direction.

Rocky start on the first day of parliament

House trading
Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Today was the commission opening of parliament, in which the Speaker of the House was elected. This went in an interesting way.

Winston Peters and David Parker, along with 3 other government MPs and 1 opposition MP, were absent, unable to be sworn in.  Winston and Parker were overseas attending the APEC meeting. Thus, when the time came to elect the speaker, it was believed the government didn’t have enough votes to elect Trevor Mallard.

Simon Bridges raised a question, asking whether members not yet sworn in could vote. Expectedly, the answer was no. The National Party front bench then huddled together in conversation, stalling the process.

Labour’s Minister for State Services came over, as did Grant Robertson, joining National in discussions.

National then voted for Trevor Mallard as speaker of the house.

Afterwards, the opposition confirmed they had struck a deal to increase the number of select committee seats to their advantage in exchange for their support of speaker. National had played their cards well, forcing Labour’s hand. An embarrassing mistake for the new government!

Unfortunately, in reality, the government had 57 MPs (excluding Mallard, who couldn’t vote for himself), while the opposition had 56. The Labour Party never needed to make a deal with National to elect Trevor Mallard. They appeared to have fallen for National’s bluff.

This looks embarrassing.

The government appeared to have given the opposition what they wanted, without having any need to. National made them look like fools who don’t have their stuff together. This is not a great start for a government already being attacked for being messy and chaotic.

The government now states this was to avoid a vote, which they viewed as a rockier start.

It’s hard to tell whether this is genuine, though it probably is. It would have been sensible to communicate this beforehand. I’m not sure why the government would care if it went to a vote or not, unless they really valued their time or an alternate perception of stability over select committee seats.

I would not argue that this outcome was more stable than a contested speaker election.

If National had contested the election of the speaker, they would simply lose, and it would be bad for their reputation. Few like needless challenges. Instead, Labour agreed to National’s terms, giving them more power in select committees. I would call this an embarrassing failure for the government, and a sly move from National that makes them look like clever bargainers.

And this is all before Winston chose to sue National and the media.

Today the Electoral Commission released the voter turnout by each age group, and now the data proves there was a real rise in young voters visiting the ballot box.

Age 2014 Turnout 2017 Turnout Change (percentage points)
18 – 24 62.7% 69.3% 6.5%
25 – 29 62.1% 67.6% 5.5%
30 – 34 67.4% 70.9% 3.5%

In the 18-24 age range, turnout was up 6.5% points from the 2014 election. It’s great to see more young people getting involved and exercising their right to vote.