Red Alert

I seek leave to make a personal explanation …..

Posted by on July 30th, 2012

I see I am getting a bit of gyp from critics in the blogosphere whose latest fantasy is that I lack an environmental ethic.

Their mistake is they think that a healthy environment stands in opposition to a healthy economy.

I don’t rise to the bait too often, but on this occasion I will bite and lay out my record.

Some of these critics should do their homework.

I am 52 years of age. I tramp, ski, and swim in rivers and the sea. I have been fighting for environmental causes most of my life.

As a lawyer I fought for conservation orders that now protect many of the south island’s rivers including the Mataura, the Buller, the Ahuriri, the Greenstone, the Dart, the Lochy, the von, and the Kawarau. 

I am still active in river protection. This year I am appearing pro-bono as an expert witness on energy policy in support of the Fish and Game application to protect the Nevis river from damming.

As Minister of Energy I halted the decline in renewable electricity as a % of total generation, set an objective of 90% renewables by 2025 and put in place a myriad of initiatives to achieve that end. That objective has survived the change to National, and good progress is being made towards it. Together with Jeanette Fitzsimons, I also promulgated the most ambitious energy efficiency and conservation strategy we had ever had, and played a strong hand in the design and funding of the insulation retrofit programme that National continued with.

As Minister of Energy I added substantially to the lands protected from mining by extending schedule 4 protection to all parts of national parks not then protected, including Kahurangi.

As Minister of Land Information I revamped tenure review, helped form a number of conservation parks, including the Otiake Park in the Hawkduns, stopped tenure review around lakes and rebalanced the relationship between the Crown and lessees. National has reversed some of those changes.

As Acting Minister for the Environment I unblocked the national policy statement on freshwater quality. Trevor Mallard continued this work culminating in the very good NPS proposed by Judge Shepherd et al, which was then neutered by National.

As Minister of Climate Change I successfully legislated to price greenhouse gases in all sectors of the economy covering the 6 main gases covered by the Kyoto protocol. New Zealand remains the only country in the world to have achieved that. I was named Environmentalist of the year in 2008 by the Listener for that and other initiatives.
Changes by National and a loss of momentum internationally collapsing the price of carbon have undermined it, but the architecture remains sound. It is Labour’s policy to bring agriculture in to the ETS.

While in government I read about set nets causing the deaths of Hector’s and Maui dolphins. After confirming with Chris Carter that this was intend a serious problem I approached Helen Clark who, with Jim Anderton’s help, vastly expanded the areas where set nets were banned.

I have had high profile run-ins with proponents of lignite developments, including Solid Energy’s Don Elder.
As Labour’s then spokesperson for conservation, I helped lead Labour’s successful campaign against National’s plans to allow mining in schedule 4 National parks, Coromandel, Great Barrier Island etc. For those with a sense of humour, my Christmas interchange with Gerry Brownlee on the issue, in which Gerry starred, remains the most watched clip from parliament.

I have spoken often on the need to better protect our albatross and petrels from being killed as by-catch. Similarly, I am a defender of lowland wetlands against reclamation, and against degradation caused by intensification of nearby land use.

I have been a defender of the RMA, while wanting to improve its reputation by addressing some of its arcane and hard to defend processes.

I am happy to stand on my record on environmental matters.

Which is why it annoyed me to be told I am out to lunch on mining issues.

Having a clean environment means making sure we use our natural resources responsibly. It doesn’t mean we stop using all of them.

That’s why, outside of schedule 4 areas, mining applications can and should be considered case by case.

As I said when interviewed, there is legitimate public concern about deep sea drilling arising from the Gulf of Mexico catastrophe and the limitations of New Zealand’s response to the Rena shipwreck. We must ensure that world’s best practice is followed and that the safety devices needed in the event of mishap are available and can be deployed. Even then, it may be that the deepest of wells are too risky and ought not to proceed.

In terms of lignite, I reiterated that Labour believes its use as an energy source using current technology is a dirty greenhouse gas intensive practice. We are also unconvinced it is economic, especially if environmental consequences are included, and have said government money should be  spent on renewables instead.

Our position on developments in the EEZ is that RMA type principles should apply. We sit between the Greens (who would ban most development activities) and National, whose EEZ legislation, while initially supported by the Greens, is inadequate.

We can develop our resources responsibly and make responsible decisions for our future – and a sustainable economy requires it.

42 Responses to “I seek leave to make a personal explanation …..”

  1. whodunnit says:

    David, is there now a deliberate plan in Labour to attack the Greens? Is that supported by the Leader? How do you reconcile your new policy to allow greater mining and development with the inevitable trade-offs that you will have with the Greens to form a government? Right now Labour’s the bigger partner. When you do form a government, will it be Labour’s pro-development or the Greens anti-development policy that will win?

    You want to create jobs but it’s a bit baseless if you know that the Greens will veto any new developments that might have an impact on the Environment.

  2. OneTrack says:

    Good on you David. Tell the Luddites to pull their head in a bit. They have had it their own way for too long and the country is paying the price.

  3. Tamati says:

    Greens and Labour are fighting already, they haven’t even formed a coalition yet!

  4. AnnaLiviaPluraBella says:

    Good on you. This is what Red Alert is for…I assumed. You should not feel a need to apologise. Much of the blogosphere posts are about the absence of communication.

    I’ve no problem with well managed mining. It’s more important to me that your policies are well founded and well communicated than be agreeable to me. Most members don’t have the time or inclination to form a strong view on every single issue: that is what our leaders and policy specialists are for.
    We need all of our front benchers out there passionately exposing their values, thinking and strategies. Stop being cautious. Please.

    EVERY MP should have a quota of public speeches to make in their electorate. We are lucky in New Lynn in that regard. We had you do a very good one in Kelston a while back.

  5. Pete George says:

    Interesting statement – a good environmental record (one involving actually getting things done) and little to argue with.

    I hope the Nevis protection is successful.

  6. mickysavage says:

    Firstly a couple of significant bouquets David:

    1. 90% renewable energy by 2025 was a far sighted, brave and principled decision. My heart hopes for 100% but the reality is that 90% is as good and as brave as could be hoped for. Congratulations on your stand.
    2. Well done on the ETS. Again given the situation at the time, including the need to stitch together a majority the scheme was as good as anyone could hope for. It was so important that a scheme be established.

    And now for the brickbat …

    Do you agree that the use of the phrase “I don’t think we are much different from National” when talking about Labour’s mining policy was an unfortunate choice of words? I accept that there are much more important things that words but in politics they are important.

  7. Clare Curran says:

    Greg Presland, your brickbat is looking pretty limp

  8. Pete George says:

    Micky, parties are allowed to have similar policies, it’s actually good if they are sensible policies. “Opposition’ doesn’t mean words always have be state polar opposites.

  9. Nick Taylor says:

    Yes, and in that disgraceful #s92A “debate”, you were the only one who actually questioned the corporate dogma that “we need more copyright law”.

    I would have voted for you as leader. You should NEVER (however) say that Labour isn’t that different from National though… because there’s this well-founded strand of cynicism running through all western democracies that the two main parties are not different to each other on issues that actually matter.

    And that is why you lost the last election… not because the other guy’s won, but because people didn’t bother to turn out to vote. What’s the point? “I don’t think we are much different from National”… it’s a rephrasing of The West Wing line “we’ve got two business-parties; one pro-life, the other pro-choice”.

    As to Deep-Sea oil-drilling… “Best Practice”? As ordained by whom? Sorry – that doesn’t begin to cut it. I’m afraid I’m voting Green… for that statement alone.

  10. Manu Caddie says:

    Labour doesn’t seem to know whether it’s coming or going – probably had it’s day and time to move on. At least the Nats are proud they represent the interests of the 1% – Labour is still trying to have rich cupcakes and eat them too. How anyone can claim to be pro-environment and still support fossil fuel production is beyond me.

  11. ghostwhowalksnz says:

    Nick , we have had deep sea oil drilling for 30 years. Are you wanting that shutdown tomorrow ?

  12. James Caygill says:

    Good on you David. Well said.

  13. Jenny Kirk says:

    David Parker’s environmental record sounds impressive, but there IS a flipside. When he was Minister for the Environment he also encouraged Crest Energy to put up a proposal for 200 tidal wave turbines in the Kaipara Harbour – at the time, known by the locals to be severely degraded and showing depletion of its fisheries which tidal wave turbines would have made worse. Locals advised the then Minister of this, but he took no notice. Shortly after he made his decision, an important research document on the severely depleted and contaminated state of the Kaipara Harbour – the largest in the southern hemisphere – was published. The Minister’s advice was obviously inadequate at that time. And when I questioned him on it, he was angry at being criticised – rather than being concerned that maybe his advisors might have been wrong.
    Perhaps now as an Opposition MP he is getting advice which is still shonky?
    I cannot figure out how he can tell a business audience that Labour is not unlike National when it comes to mining developments, when he could have so easily used the 2011 election policy for his speech which clearly shows Labour IS different from National in that regard.
    Labour supporters/activists want their MPs to stand up for their beliefs, not kow-tow to National Party usual approach to exploitation of the environment.

  14. Kev says:

    Just checking – is that the same Jenny Kirk who voted for asset sales, who is now lecturing David Parker? His environmental record is as impressive as that of anyone in parliament.

  15. Stuey says:

    David was lead lawyer in a number of successful Water Conservation applications and he should be justifiably proud of his achievements. It is interesting that WCO’s have become the only real road block to National’s desire to drain and dam our few remaining free flowing rivers. They now seem hell bent on removing the roadblocks to provide more irrigation water that will of course mean more pollution from the resulting landuse intensification.
    A smiley face can not keep the Nats in power forever so I look forward to a Labour/Green coalition after the next election. Only then will there be any chance for what’s left of our rivers to run free.

  16. Anne says:

    @ Clare Curran.

    In politics choice of words do count. Use loose phraseology and you can provide opportunities for your opponents on all sides to misrepresent you and what you have said. Rule no 1.

  17. Jonkers says:

    David, that’s an impressive CV. But where does Labour stand on hydraulic fracturing?

  18. AnnaLiviaPluraBella says:

    @ Clare Curran

    Your attempt at naming and shaming Micky, when he gave open and genuine feedback, reflects poorly on you. Do not do that again to anyone.

    You are stood down from your role of moderator for a month. And say three hail Mary’s and three glory to bees.

  19. Tim G. says:

    Hi David,

    While you’re making personal explanations, could you also please explain why the 4 SOE power generators that National are flogging off weren’t named on your closed list of strategic infrastructural assets that should be run “in the New Zealand interest” and which foreign investors should be debarred from purchasing either in whole or in part?

    Because unless you do, the likes of Chris Trotter are going to continue implying that you’re a stealthy Rogernome (

  20. Mighty Kites says:

    I am pleased that David has been able to give his point of view. As a Labour Party member, I am all for accessing our natural resources, provided NZers get the most benefit from proceeds and the environmental regulations are beefed up. As for fracking, more and more reports are emerging from scientists that cast doubt on the Greens emotive claims that fracking is going to end the world, so why ban something that hasn’t resulted in any disasters or adverse effects in NZ in over thirty years of use, based on evidence that is increasingly showing it to be safe for use?

  21. Rob says:

    @Nick Taylor – please explain, using your knowledge of geology,oceanology and engineering, how you would mandate a better best practice for deep sea ocean drilling, or in fact an alternative to?

  22. Anne says:

    Your attempt at naming and shaming Micky, when he gave open and genuine feedback, reflects poorly on you.

    Well said AnnaLivia…

  23. Tanya says:

    Yep, agree with the brickbat, whoever the writer was.

  24. David Parker says:

    Jenny your post is incorrect.

    Yes, as Minister of Energy I obtained a four year funding commitment through the budget to advance marine electricity generation devices. The objectives were two fold – to create future renewable energy options with low greenhouse gas emissions, and to stimulate green growth economic opportunities.

    The funding explicitly was only for physical devices, not RMA processes.

    The recommendation as to which devices should be funded was made by a committee of experts, not Ministers.

    The funding approved for Crest Energy was conditional upon RMA consents being obtained by Crest Energy. Those RMA processes at law are a decision for local government and regional government, with appeals to the Environment Court. Central government does not take that decision.

    In the end the funding offer for the Crest Energy device in the Kaipara was withdrawn because they did not get their RMA consent within the required period.

    Other marine energy devices approved for funding in other areas were approved on the same terms ie money for devices not processes, and funding conditional upon RMA consents being obtained.

    Pursuing green growth renewable energy and economic development projects in compliance with the RMA is certainly not evidence of bad environmental credentials.

    David Parker

  25. Jenny Kirk says:

    No, David, my post is not incorrect. You, as Minister for the Environment, were instrumental in assisting Crest Energy in that you announced they would be eligible for a grant of millions (from memory, $2m) IF they obtained the necessary resource consents. This was on the advice of your expert committee : you told me that yourself when I questioned you.
    The Env Court judge mentioned that very grant when he was making his decision. And you were angry at being questionned about the matter, and dismissive of the local iwi concerns.
    You also still have not answered my query which I have asked in a number of ways (eg email to you) – why are you not using Labour’s excellent 2011 general election policy as the basis for your speeches? The implication comes through strongly in your speech to the business people recently that you are National-light on a number of economic/mining issues. This is not a good look for a senior Labour MP.

  26. Jenny Kirk says:

    To Kev : yes, I was an MP during the period when Roger Douglas was busy selling NZ assets. I strongly opposed him, I did not speak in favour of selling assets, I was not always present when the votes were taken – although it was mandatory for all MPs to vote with caucus on those issues, just as it was (and still is) mandatory for all caucus members to go along with the majority decisions – otherwise you get turfed out of caucus. Behind the scenes I tried to make life as difficult as possible for Douglas, Prebble, de Cleene, Bassett et al – not easy for a first-term MP. I was appalled at the deceit being practiced by those Rogernomes on both the Labour Party members and the general public, at that time. Helen Clark and Michael Cullen managed to restore our faith in the goodwill and honesty of the Labour caucus. I do not want to see that eroded again.

  27. Anne says:

    Brave words Jenny. Thank-you. I sincerely hope the Labour caucus takes note…

  28. Anglo-Norman says:

    1. We need a blog site that is restricted to paid up Labour members, where we can have lovely frank robust funny sad cathartic honest dialogue. That will dispel the feeling among many ( inc me) that there is a defensive circling the wagons minset among the current leadership.

    2. We need a charter and governance regime for this or a new blig site. The moderator regime is partisan and inconsistent at present. Clair and Trevor are better at other things….

  29. Kev says:

    Sorry Jenny, if you are going to accuse David Parker of being a Rogernome, despite the considerable evidence against that claim, then it would be better if you hadn’t actually voted for Rogernomics yourself. What you claimed to have done ‘behind the scenes’ amounted to nothing. Taking an actual stand at the time might have been more effective than popping out for a latte while caucus voted. It’s OK if you now want to renounce what you voted for, but you shouldn’t be pointing the bones at people who didn’t do what you did.

    Not really brave at all to be against Rogernomics now Jenny. There was a time and place and you didn’t. Better to say now “I made decisions then and I have now changed my mind.”

    Also, on the Kaipara development, you could be more explicit in stating that was a renewable energy project. So are you saying that Labour should not only be 100% renewable, but also renewables that don’t involve any dams, harbours, wind turbines, or other actual renewable sources of energy.

    It is soft-headed and impractical thinking like yours that made the crimes of Rogernomics possible.

  30. Robyn says:

    Not one word about fracking in your statement David.

  31. Jonkers says:

    Hi David,

    Your non-response to my question about fracking I take as confirmation that Labour is divided on the fracking issue.

    What gives?

  32. Craig Glen Eden says:

    Davids statement re Labour’s Policy and Nationals was a mistake I would expect from some new MP not what I would have expected from someone with leadership aspirations. Clare Currens attempt at a put down of Mickey is sadly what I have come to expect from someone in this Labour Caucus. Clare shows exactly why Labour is making no traction on a poorly performing National Government. She simply has no clue as to the significance of David P error. Maybe its time Clare looked for a new career?

  33. Lou Peters says:

    Explaining is losing

  34. exit lane says:

    Labour’s policy is to “give consideration” to extending Schedule 4 protection to the southern part of the Coromandel Peninsula conservation estate between Tairua and Whangamata, which has identical conservation values as the northern part included in schedule 4.

    If David Parker is serious about his commitment to the environment and wishes to take a stand different from National with huge public support, he will commit Labour without equivocation to this policy. Waiting ……

  35. jennifer says:

    @ Craig Glen Eden, the problem with the Greens is that they are full of promises and short on delivery. Very much like Key, actually. The Greens promise their kumbaya carbon free nirvana, just like Key promises his brighter future. Neither are realistic. Neither will come to pass anytime soon. Meanwhile, everyday folks get on with life in the real world.

  36. Paul B says:

    @ Craig Glen Eden
    You state “Clare shows exactly why Labour is making no traction on a poorly performing National govenment” Really? Surely Labour is tracking very properly(last couple of polls?)against your stated “poorly performing National Government”. The last thing any party needs is ‘YoYo’ popularity.
    Slowly and inexorably Labour will be in the ‘box seat’ come 2014, as the deficiencies of a government which primarily serves only 15% of the population is revealed, and when the respective character of the leaders is fully appreciated.
    Some of the discussion on David Parker`s statement may not be paticularly positive, but it reveals open debate which is ‘an honesty’ others will not countenance.
    @ Lou Peters… that is so sad!… do you have children?

  37. Craig Glen Eden says:

    @ Jennifer who was talking about the Greens?

    Paul B I suggest you look at the polls we are not going anywhere. We wont win an election with 30-33% support.
    If you think like many in or Caucus that they just have to wait for our turn again you are sadly mistaken. We should have been back in Government this term instead we have people like Clare taking up space waiting their turn.If this Labour Caucus does not lift its game and stop making stupid mistakes like David P made you can forget us being the Government or even the major Party in opposition. Its time Labour faithful wake up and face the truth their are some in our caucus that are just not up to the job sadly.In my view D Parker is not one of those he usually does a good job however this time he stuffed up, its time to start learning and stop making stupid mistakes.

  38. Paul B says:

    @ Craig Glen Eden,
    It is possible no single party will ever ‘win’ an election in the future, but the recent ‘Fairfax polls’ suggest quite positive trends for Labour… “Steady does it?”
    Of course Labour should have won the last election!? But somehow Key won the hearts and minds. I felt Phil Goff did a good job, but there is just no accounting for the ‘Silly Billies’ who voted for the others!- and somewhat biased media .. AND of course the ‘stay at homes’ – that is where Labour must work much better. They undoubtably are the key to a ‘left’ victory. Why do you think National is busy ‘Dumbing us down’ – Clare has done good work there.
    Key, Joyce, and co, are the masters of spin but… ‘you can fool …etc… eventually has a happy outcome?
    Of course fighting ‘within’ is fatal… The population may seem to make uninformed & ‘lazy’ decisions, but it seems that they can detect an unhappy party in microseconds.
    I have difficulty ‘Finding’ David P`s heinous error. It was not a categorical policy statement? The Greens and Labour have different policies- it would be remarkable if they were not more extreme on environmental issues. Labour would be foolish to try and become “9 shades of green”. The two parties must learn to coexist… compromise.
    Have I missed something?

  39. Kev says:

    You gotta love these people who argue that Labour MPs are terribly disappointing ‘unless they do exactly this obscure thing I want that most people don’t really agree with or care about’.

    Grow up. Not everything is a litmus test.

  40. KJT says:

    Last I heard the Greens were OK about responsible and regulated mining, except on land of high conservation values.

    And most of NZ appear to agree with them.

    Labour cannot be all things to all people. A supposed left wing party that continues with Neo-liberal dogma such as “we cannot afford super/welfare/higher wages” will be doomed by stay away voters, because they are no different from NACT.

    Now we can produce everything we need with less people, workers should be working less for the same pay, not more for less.

  41. Craig Glen Eden says:

    “Have I missed something” Yeah I think you have Paul B, Sadly branding and perception is every thing,when a Labour spokesperson says we are like National on a topic like mining the average voter does not then look any further.

    Kev I dont want anything obscure unless listening to members is obscure in your view or stopping stupid statements like we are like National on mining. If you want to cheer on the same dumb shit that lost us the last election be my guest.