Simon Bridges blasts New Zealand First as 'no friend' of regions and farmers

Simon Bridges is blasting New Zealand First for blocking changes National proposed for the Zero Carbon Bill which he says would have benefited the regions.

"It was Winston Peters and New Zealand First that blocked them... They're no friend of regional New Zealand and farmers," Bridges, National leader, told Magic Talk Monday morning. 

He was responding to a disgruntled caller from rural Otago called Jack who said he was disappointed that National had voted for the Zero Carbon Bill.

"They don't care about rural people," Jack told Magic Talk. "If [National] want people to vote for them, start standing up for people in New Zealand and stop being sheep."

Bridges, who was interviewed straight after, said he was "not sure what surprised Jack" about how National voted on the legislation, which passed its final reading last week.

"We take climate change seriously, [but] we don't think it's an emergency. I like the framework of this Bill, but we're going to make significant changes to it if we get into office next term."

Bridges said he's "not sure why Jack's so angry at us when Winston Peters blocked every single change we wanted to make sure the law didn't hurt the economy and jobs and incomes every step of the way". 

He said Labour and the Greens were "prepared to entertain changes that we were looking at, certainly around the methane target". 

National wanted a range of changes, including having the biogenic methane reduction target set by the Climate Change Commission. 

The Bill set the reduction target at between 24-47 percent by 2050, and National says it's too high for farmers to realistically achieve - but New Zealand First wanted to keep it. 

A New Zealand First spokesperson said the decision not to support National's amendments on the Zero Carbon Bill was made by three Government parties.

"National is trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear with its blame game - National voted for all of the provisions in the Zero Carbon Bill, it wasn't forced to.

"New Zealand First negotiated hard on behalf of the agriculture sector... what you're seeing from National is a marketing attempt to hide their choices."

Bridges told Magic Talk the methane reduction target is "over the top". 

"Stuff that doesn't take into account the economic impact this will have on New Zealanders, we will change that."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said last week it's already "embedded in the legislation" that the government of the day should listen to the commission's recommendations.

She said the commission would be able to give any government of the day their advice on targets and that includes the methane reduction target, based on scientific evidence.

National thinks the target shouldn't be included in the law, and that the government of the day should wait for the commission's recommendations, rather than politicians jumping the gun. 

Bridges is promising to abolish the methane reduction target if elected in 2020 and leave it completely up to the Climate Change Commission to decide.

He's also promising more protections for food production, and placing more emphasis on looking at the level of action being taken by other countries to allow New Zealand's targets to be adjusted to reflect the international community.

Senior National MP Judith Collins said last week she considered voting against National on the Bill because she felt it was "deeply flawed" and unfairly targets the farming community.

Bridges also described the Bill as "flawed" during his speech in Parliament, but said he likes the framework and looks forward to making changes to it if elected next year.

"This isn't a nothing Bill [but] on the other side of it though, there's no way the sky's going to fall in," Bridges told Magic Talk.

"If you've got the changes we're talking about, you've got a pragmatic law that you work your way through with sensible, practical change over time."