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Vernon Tava silent on Sustainable NZ's position on key environmental issues; Makes policy comparison interest.co.nz was seeking to do with TOP a flop

Vernon Tava silent on Sustainable NZ's position on key environmental issues; Makes policy comparison interest.co.nz was seeking to do with TOP a flop

Sustainable New Zealand Leader Vernon Tava is avoiding detailing his new political party's stance on topical environmental issues. 

Tava - a business broker, who unsuccessfully ran for the Green Party's co-leadership before joining National - has done a series of media interviews in recent days, having officially launched the party on Sunday. 

However, he hasn't responded to a request interest.co.nz made on Monday at 2pm, asking him to answer a series of questions before the end of the day.

When interest.co.nz followed up with Tava at 6pm, he said he'd had a "full day". Interest.co.nz didn't receive a response from Tava when it texted and called on Tuesday, so decided to push on with a story. 

Interest.co.nz acknowledges Sustainable NZ is still developing its policies, but asked Tava to provide yes/no answers to questions related to topical environmental issues in the table below. 

It sent the same set of questions to The Opportunities Party Leader Geoff Simmons, whose responses are detailed.

The aim of the exercise, which interest.co.nz didn't disclose to either party, was to compare and contrast their policies, as both are environmentally-focused and willing to work with either National or Labour. 

Sustainable NZ has been touted as a solution to National's dearth of coalition partners.

Having less policy than TOP, and being almost solely focussed on the environment, there are fewer areas where it's likely to clash heads with National. For example, TOP's other key policies involve introducing an equity tax and legalising cannabis. 

Nonetheless, on the environment, the blue boxes in the table show where TOP and Sustainable NZ's views align with National's.

Interest.co.nz endeavoured to fill in some of the blanks for Sustainable NZ, but the policies detailed on its website didn't directly answer the questions posed. We could however answer one question further to comments Tava made in an RNZ interview. 

We will update this piece if/once we hear from Tava.  

Do you support the Coalition Government's moves to: TOP SNZ
Ban new offshore oil and gas exploration  No  
Work towards a target to reduce biogenic methane emissions by between 24-47% below 2017 levels by 2050 Yes  
Ensure the Climate Change Commission's advice is non-legally binding No  
Get farmers to come up with their own plan to price emissions at the farmgate, rather than bringing them under the ETS Yes  
Introduce a 100% renewable electricity target No  
Introduce a One Billion Trees programme No  
Ban all mining on conservation land Yes  
Require banks, insurers and large NZ-listed companies to report climate risk in their annual reports Yes  
Propose to restrict farmers from using new irrigation schemes or converting their farms to dairy unless they can prove this won't increase pollution Yes  
Propose to introduce a car feebate/rebate scheme Yes  
Do you believe: TOP SNZ
The new oil and gas exploration ban should be repealed Yes  
Agriculture should be brought under the ETS rather than an alternate emissions pricing scheme No  
The number of cows NZ has needs to fall Yes  
Forestry should be able to offset biological emissions Yes  
Regulated gene editing should be used to protect the environment Yes  
NZ should strive to increase meat and dairy exports using more sustainable practices Yes  
That even though GDP growth has its downsides, on balance, it is always a good thing Yes Yes
EVs should be subsidised and purchasers of higher emitting vehicles should be penalised Yes  
The Government needs to allocate more money towards road infrastructure than it is No  

National Leader Simon Bridges on Monday told RNZ that Sustainable NZ would be a "valuable addition" to New Zealand's political landscape. 

He said he hadn't been in talks with Tava, nor had he seen anything concrete regarding the formation of a party.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a post-Cabinet press conference that she didn't believe there was a space for Sustainable NZ to fill on the political spectrum, as Government already has a significant environmental focus.

Indeed, the Green Party has been criticised by the likes of Greenpeace and former Green MP Sue Bradford for not pushing an environmental agenda hard enough, as it's sought to build consensus across the political spectrum around the likes of the Zero Carbon Bill. 

Additional questions

Interest.co.nz also asked TOP and Sustainable NZ to answer a few additional questions in full.

In the absence of a response from Tava, it's worth noting Sustainable NZ's website says its top three priorities are "safe, healthy water that sustains life", "to save our native species from extinction" and creating "sustainable economic growth".

One of its policies is to increase funding for environmental conservation by $1 billion over four years. 

Here is Simmons' response:

If you could introduce three environmental policies, what would they be?

I'm assuming the Government's freshwater proposals are implemented, otherwise that would be one of my three. The goals are good, but the detail on implementation is lacking. The most important thing is to avoid the use of grandparenting in allocating nitrogen leaching rights. 

1. Commercial water users should pay a price for the water they use. The money should be used to clean up our waterways so that ratepayers/ taxpayers aren't paying. Maori rights over freshwater should also be resolved as part of this process. 

2. On Emissions Trading forestry should be used as an offset for biological emissions but not fossil fuels. If we also remove the price cap and start phasing out free allocations that would allow the price of carbon to rise rapidly (at least double what it is now, possibly triple). Revenue from auctioned units should be invested in energy efficiency, adaptation and as a carbon dividend. 

3. Re-engineering our cities. We need to invest in the infrastructure required to do density well. This should provide affordable, quality housing that allows people to live in a low impact way, with easy access to walking, cycling and public transport. 

Have you identified an electorate seat you'd like to run in? 

We have developed a long list of options but the priority for TOP is to restore our election night support of 2-3% by early 2020 and then talk to the major parties about this. 

Who are your key funders?

We have hundreds of regular donors with an average donation of around $20.

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33 Comments

Nice one. Can you get the other parties in the Parliament now to answer these questions and report, that would be very helpful in deciding who to vote for next year.

Exactly, get every party on record so we can compare across the spectrum. BTW why pick just TOP? Smells like an ambush designed to give oxygen to TOP not that parties actually keep their promises e.g. the COL are experts at that with weasel words.

As per the piece, TOP was chosen because it is also pitching itself as an environmentally-focussed party that's willing to work with National and Labour. We did a comprehensive policy comparison across all parties and all areas ahead of the 2017 election. Policy comparison will be at the centre of our coverage ahead of the 2020 election too. Parties don't like answering simple yes/no questions, but a tick-box table is one way of cutting to the chase and providing a summary...

Smells like an ambush designed to give oxygen to TOP

It does indeed.

These questions are narrowly focused on only one aspect of environmental policy - climate change. A typical millennial view.
No questions on:

> Anything to do with our marine environment: Expansion of marine reserves, fish quota management, fishing management (eg cameras on boats)
> Natives species preservation: Rat eradication, weed control, creation and expansion of pest free reserves
> Native forest management, preservation and expansion
> Preservation of reserves in urban area in the face of council approved infill housing
> Urban sewage system maintenance and renewal to prevent river contamination

With China planning to build "between 300 and 500" new coal fired power stations and India doing likewise, what NZ does as regards CO2 emissions, fades into insignificance.

With China planning to built "between 300 and 500" new coal fired power stations and India doing likewise, what NZ does fades into insignificance

Fair point. Those are important questions. The questions asked are largely based on new government policies. 

""Ensure the Climate Change Commission's advice is non-legally binding"". What does 'non-legally binding' imply?

Under the Zero Carbon Act, the calls the Climate Change Commission makes aren't legally binding, like the decisions the RBNZ makes for example. So, to the disappointment of some climate advocates, it can only make recommendations to the government, which will decide if they're implemented. 

Use of English. To my ears the question would be better 'legally non-binding' but as years of writing IT documention taught me it would be better expressed positively "Make the calls legally binding" - its harder to quibble about the meaning of a positive phrase.

""We have hundreds of regular donors with an average donation of around $20."" Generously assuming that the 'hundreds' are almost a thousand then this political party is being funded at under $20k. Compare that to the 150k raised for Geoff Goff at a Chinese community fund raiser. https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/313906/goff-denies-hypocrisy-over-$150k-donation
He who pays the piper calls the tune.

Surely the Sustainable Party begs the core question to ask: S at what level of Comfort?

It all feels much more like a kite-flying/testing-the-waters exercise, than a serious Pardy....

" sustainable " is such a wishy-washy nebulous word . .. hard to define ... if Tava had called them Blue-Green Party , we'd understand them immediately ...

We would indeed and know there is no point in voting for round 2 of the same thing.

"sustainable" is a really easy concept to understand what isnt is how its being abused and mis-used.

... where's the farmers party ... we've had MMP for a quarter of a century , and the so-called " back bone " of the country , our farmers , still lack the spine to set up their own special interest political party ...

Relying on the Gnats ? ... AKA Labour Lite . .. pwah ha ha ... those mutts have sold us out .. they're toeing the Labour line with WFF , carbon neutral 2050 .. immigration....

C'mon cockies , every man & his dog are forming a political wedge .. .. let's do this !

They might even have a chance if every man and his dog got to vote too...

Well just maybe climate change is a real thing and hence any non-extremist political parties can see the writing on the wall. I mean just look at how well the GOP is doing in the USA with climate denial. Meanwhile farmers have the NATS and even the far right like ACT to vote for if they are into climate denial.

I think there are very few people who disbelieve climate change .

... the sharp division is between the man made climate change group , and those of us who believe it is a natural thing , unavoidable ....

Where do I fit in: man made and unavoidable!

Many scientists (and common sense) say that the CO2 has been emitted, even if every human activity stopped this minute the effects of the CO2 whatever they may be are with us for thousands of years (average half life of atmospheric CO2.

What do weather patterns show?
The year coming into the 2019-20 summer has been unusually warm and dry for large parts of Australia. Above-average temperatures now occur most years and 2019 had the fifth-driest start to the year on record, and the driest since 1970. Australia recorded its hottest month in January 2019, its third-hottest July and its hottest October day in some areas, among other temperature records.

I thought this new party would leap at the opportunity to get some real coverage given that they have no profile and I didn't know their name until this article. Up until this point people who have talked about SNZ have just referred to it as a branch of the CCP National Party that only exists for the purpose of gerrymandering.

. . what springs to mind when you abbreviate their name to initials... S N Z .. .

Snooze !

Sausage party NZ.

They are greenies so no meat please.....

. . but , I'm a " greenie " ... totally love the environment .... never leave home without it .... and yet , I'm not vegetarian ...

Neither am I, pass the steak....LOL.

I meant sausage party as in a party where there are no women. Up to them if they want to eat meat.

On the issue of vegetarians when I worked at a bar as a student I sold a lot of hot dogs to vegetarians. I was surprised at how many would still want the hot dog even when I offered alternatives.

I'd like to know their policies on population and tourism.

Easy, more of both every year. Even the Green party with a co-leader with six children thinks the first is OK.

The Opportunities Party is lucky to have friends like interest.co.nz.

TOP will steal a few votes from the Greens. With the exception of TOP's insane tax policy, they are almost indistinguishable from the Greens. Sustainable NZ will steal a few votes from both TOP and the Greens. Neither will make it to 5%, but Sustainable NZ has a chance of being gifted an electorate seat by National. Of the minor parties, ACT is going to be the big winner at the next election. Would be great if ACT got anything close to as much coverage on this site as TOP does.

Yip DD, for years we all can observe their appearance, that's how human affiliates politically in the end. I watched on TV, muted volume, study their background, funding basis, their body language, appearance and like you straight away I knew which voters they are trying to grab and where is their closest large party allegiance will be; 70% debt can be unsustainable, but the 30% positive change can be in the sustainable future outlook. Hmn..

My gut feeling tells me, this one will be in bed with Nat. next year - or duckling silently gathering votes, then like NZFirst to Lab. - The numbers will go for the Blue coalition, the word 'sustainable' is the most variable to use at disposal. eg. say to choose between scale 0-10, balanced is in the middle.. sustainable you can put it anywhere, left, right.. in which you can always state a consensus where it's at the point of 'Sustainable', it's in the eye of the beholder of the party that own it... You loose Mr. Bishop Tamaki, too eager to use the rejected 'Coalition'.. now 'Vision NZ' - it is futuristic biblical term, but in short current pragmatism 'Sustainable' is catchy.

I think vernon has already shown some shape-shifting skills so not much point in trying to pin him down.with the retirement of peter dunne opportunists sense a vacancy for another chameleon party to carry them into parliament.

thank you for this analysis: I look forward to more. And Andrewo - I agree with your comments:
Anything to do with our marine environment: Expansion of marine reserves, fish quota management, fishing management (eg cameras on boats
This seems to be a shibbolith that no-one wants to criticise - food for the masses; income for the country...oh yeah? at what cost environmentally? Take salmon farming as well- the cozy arrangements between MPI (and Fisheries NZ) and New Zealand King Salmon (overseas owned - nothing to do with Aotearoa/NZ despite the catchy "green" name associated with our country by this industrial operation) must be investigated! Salmon farms in the Sounds have losses of up to 75% mortality-wise, and the plans for a 1700 hectare salmon farm in Cook Strait are charging ahead - green lights for go! of course "open ocean" farming as it is called will be in seas that have greater water flows - this does not mean that the volumes of waste (uneaten food, faecal matter and other debris) will be lessened just spread around more.... and with a greater impact not only on the benthos but on the marine birds/mammals and other organisms great and small that are an undeniable part of a food chain that has been, to date, "sustainable". For how much longer can we continue to exploit the natural resources of the sea with no meaningful limits? And of course, DOC where are you?

Days to the General Election: 22
See Party Policies here. Party Lists here.