The Green Party has launched key planks in its economic policy, saying it would remove subsidies to carbon-emitting industries under the Emissions Trading Scheme and replace them with subsidies for green technology development.
Green Party co-leader Russel Norman unveiled the “100,000 green jobs for New Zealanders” plan at Parliament, with the single largest boost to employment forecast to come from an estimated 47,000 to 65,000 jobs available from encouraging state-owned electricity companies to become exporters of renewable energy technology.
Rather than partially privatising the electricity SOEs, the Greens would allow them to issue Green Bonds to support the development of a green technology export sector.
“To complement this initiative, we’ll set a 100% renewable electricity generation target for 2030,” said Norman.
The National Party has pledged to sell up to 49% of electricity generators and retailers Genesis Energy, Mighty River Power and Meridian Energy should it retain power after November's election.
The government’s current target is 90% renewable electricity by 2025, but assumes an on-going role for gas-fired power plants to fill in troughs in sometimes volatile output from wind and hydro stations. The Greens policy would add NZ$1 billion annually to the government’s research and development budget and would prioritise clean technology projects. New tax incentives and a NZ$100 million start-up fund would be targeted to small and medium-sized clean-tech companies.
Government procurement policies would also favour buying green, New Zealand-made goods and services. The plan also proposes building an additional 2,000 state-owned housing units “before the rebuild of Christchurch creates industry capacity constraints.”
It would also raise the minimum wage to NZ$15 an hour, and spend NZ$20 million a year for three years subsidising small and medium-sized businesses meet the additional cost of the increase. Home insulation schemes would also be extended so that the current target of 200,000 homes insulated with government assistance would rise to 400,000, with attendant health, welfare and energy efficiency gains.
Another policy would stimulate planting approximately 665,000 hectares of new forest in the next decade, and would establish a 3,000-strong conservation corps to plant alongside degraded streams and rivers. Encouragement of a bio-energy industry using waste material could create as many as 27,000 jobs.
The Greens would allow mineral and fossil fuel extraction to continue, but would raise the royalties payable to the government, allowing establishment of a “large mineral wealth fund” that could act as “an important stabilisation tool in uncertain times.” ETS subsidies would be phased out, and a 10 cents per 1,000 litres on water for irrigation would raise between NZ$370 million and NZ$570 million annually.
Among other policies in the package are:
• Giving the Reserve Bank more scope to control inflation;
• A comprehensive capital gains tax;
• Higher foreign ownership test and an “outright ban on the sale of land to non-resident owners”;
• Introduce progressive electricity pricing to alleviate energy poverty;
• Phase out inhumane farming practices;
• End bottom-trawling by the fishing industry;
• Allow Kiwibank to retain its earnings and, if necessary, inject capital to make it competitive with the major Australian-owned banks.