Remarkable Outdoors  Political parties respond

FMC’s Remarkable Outdoors campaign aims to build the profile of conservation and outdoor issues as New Zealand heads into a general election. All political parties were given the opportunity to respond to the challenges in our campaign. David Barnes summarises their responses.

FMC put the challenges in our Remarkable Outdoors Campaign. Read the booklet here to all the parties in parliament, as well as to those outside parliament with an obvious interest in our issues. The responses from the political parties (listed in alphabetical order) are summarised here. NZ First and The Opportunities Party did not respond in time.

ACT Party

The ACT Party sent a response but didn’t really address the questions. It did say that it would sell Landcorp and put the proceeds into community environmental initiatives and it would introduce differential charging for tourists on tracks. It says that better access pricing would ease congestion and generate revenue that could be put back into protecting the environment.

Green Party

The Green Party says it supports all our priorities unequivocally. Increasing DOC funding is a flagship policy. The Green Party has consistently called for DOC funding to be significantly increased to ensure resources for: protecting and restoring our wild spaces and native species, advocating strongly for nature, fostering recreation in the great outdoors, and working co-operatively with all New Zealanders to achieve these outcomes. It favours a border charge to fund Predator Free New Zealand to the tune of $50 million a year. The party is committed to ensuring the on-going viability of the majority of Great Rides and wants to increase the number of on-road cycle touring routes. It supports the Remarkables National Park in principle, subject to public consultation and iwi agreement.

Labour Party

The Labour Party strongly believes that conservation land belongs to all New Zealanders, and that we have rights of free access to it. Labour says it has for many years worked to improve public access to the outdoors, waterways and coastlines by filling gaps in the Queen’s Chain. For any overseas purchase, Labour will insist that public access commitments are honoured. It says that use of the conservation estate by overseas visitors and the tourism industry should never be to the detriment of services provided to Kiwis. Labour will ensure that DOC has the funding it needs, and plans to announce further details on this. The party believes DOC should always be empowered to advocate strongly and publicly for conservation. It says a predator-free New Zealand is a highly laudable idea, but thinks the present government has failed to resource the initiative properly. Labour will not sell or swap conservation land that is specially protected under the Conservation Act and will undertake a systematic classification of stewardship land, starting with land that has obvious conservation value. Labour raised concerns over land tenure within the proposed Remarkables National Park.

Will DOC’s funding be increased to allow real progress for biodiversity and better mangement of places like Sunrise Hut. Photo: John Marshall – Napier Tramping Club

Maori Party

The Maori Party supports a well-funded, healthy conservation estate that guarantees access for all. It supports tangata whenua involvement in decision making related to the conservation estate, and seeks to reprioritise funding to see DOC working more closely with iwi and hapu. On support for landmark outdoor projects, it says it supports the continued use of our taiao (natural world), especially activities which promote healthy whanau and whenua. The party supports initiatives that seek to restore the mana and wellbeing of the taiao, including initiatives that support the regeneration of our native bird populations, such as Predator Free 2050. It welcomes the opportunity for input by iwi, hapu and whanau to meet not only the aspirations of this initiative, but others that seek to increase the wellbeing of other aspects of our taiao, such as our waterways. It favours initiatives to progress reclassification of stewardship lands, but acknowledges that iwi and hapu may seek to have interests in the conservation estate recognised as a part of their Treaty of Waitangi settlement.

National Party

The National Party points to the $76 million for tourism and recreation infrastructure in this year’s budget and $100 million from partnerships over the last six years as evidence that it is funding DOC adequately. It will continue to support the DOC Community Fund to enable projects such as the Outdoor Recreation Consortium’s work on backcountry huts. National says its commitment to the cycle trails is underlined by MBIE’s ‘Maintaining the Quality of Great Rides Fund’, which will distribute $8 million in the four years to 2018. As the party that initiated Predator Free New Zealand 2050 and the Battle For Our Birds, National affirms its commitments to those programmes. It intends to continue work on reclassifying stewardship land and notes that the Minister of Conservation has already asked the New Zealand Conservation Authority to report back on the feasibility of a Remarkables National Park. FMC received National’s response on the same day that Prime Minister Bill English suggested changing legislation to circumvent the Supreme Court decision on the Ruataniwha dam, so unsurprisingly they did not state whether they would guarantee against selling or swapping specially protected public conservation land.

Outdoors Party

The Outdoors Party favours beefing up the Walking Access Commission, including extending its powers to negotiate establishment of the Queen’s Chain along all rivers and the foreshore. It wants mandatory public access arrangements on all land sales under the Overseas Investment Office’s jurisdiction. It wants to impose a quota on the number of tourists (for the whole country or just for specific places wasn’t clear), noting that introducing a tourist tax will earn money but do nothing to stem the capacity issue in the conservation estate. The Outdoors Party notes a fall in DOC funding in real terms against the corresponding tourism increase, and says its policy is to increase DOC funding substantially. The party thinks Te Araroa should be balloted to manage and control numbers. It doesn’t support Predator Free New Zealand 2050, citing concerns including the name (pointing out that various native species are predators), funding, property rights and managing unwanted species on private land. However, it seems this disquiet is partly underpinned by an antipathy towards use of aerial 1080.

United Future

United Future wants a border charge to fund DOC, and wants this to go towards tourism and recreation infrastructure. It gives qualified support to our vision of ‘excellent and certain public access’ when land is sold to overseas interests and wants to prioritise the reclassification of stewardship land. Its other responses were generally a simple ‘yes’ or somewhat guarded support.

FMC recognises that few people vote on single issues, but hopefully this information will help you frame your decision on polling day.  The full responses from political parties can be found here

Wilderlife