New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin defends climate change teaching resource

New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin is defending the controversial climate change teaching resource despite her colleagues speaking out against it for telling students to eat less meat.

Martin, Associate Education Minister, posted a video to her Facebook page explaining how eating less meat was a reality for her growing up because her family couldn't always afford it.

"I'm really not sure what the drama is... I'm really not sure when for many New Zealanders part of having days where you don't eat meat is a reality because they can't afford the meat."

The teaching resource, almost about two weeks ago by Education Minister Chris Hipkins and Climate Change Minister James Shaw, tells students how they can help to reduce emissions by eating "less meat and dairy".

The advice sparked an angry response from Martin's New Zealand First colleagues Winston Peters and Shanes Jones - both Cabinet ministers - and Mark Patterson, the party's spokesperson for agriculture.

"I don't want the politically correct brigade colonising my dietary habits - it will never, ever happen... Schools have absolutely no authority to stigmatise and demonise us meat-eaters," Jones told Newshub last week

Peters, the Deputy Prime Minister, supported Jones and suggested to Magic Talk that the prospect of eating less meat could damage the country's agriculture industry and lead to job losses. 

"Exports give people jobs in this country and you've got this group of elitists challenging the very existence of these jobs by their extremist, absolutist statements."

Patterson described the dietary advice as "out of context" and said grass-fed New Zealand dairy, beef and lamb "have a much lower carbon footprint" than overseas grain-fed factory farm systems.

Martin said it has been "really interesting to see people's reaction to what is the curriculum document around climate change", and acknowledged her colleagues' comments.

"One of my colleagues has particularly come out and talked about making sure that you don't lump New Zealand farming which is grass-fed farming with what goes on overseas."

Martin is now urging people to read the resource with an "unbiased mind, recognising that this is about teachers creating an environment in their classroom where their students can talk about and debate a thing that is very real".

She pointed to one of the resource's recommendations to have "meatless Mondays", arguing it's "not a new concept" and one that she grew up familiar with.

"I don't know about you, but in my lifetime I've lived both as a child and as a parent at a time when we couldn't afford to eat meat every day of the week."

The minister also addressed concerns about an activity in the resource - for year 7-10 students - called "myth buster role-play" where one student will play the role of an 'activist' for climate change and the other a 'sceptic'.

ACT leader David Seymour described the activity as "terrible"

"I just think that sort of exercise, given that it doesn't provide any sort of resource or credence to why people might be sceptical, amounts to state-organised bullying of kids."

Martin defended it, saying: "Please don't tell me that we don't have activists and we don't have sceptics around this topic in the real world."

The minister explained how halfway through the task students swap roles, "so they're not asking the students to take that role and be that - they're asking the students to actually have an intelligent debate".

She explained how the teaching resource is "helping our young people to actually participate... It's teaching them to do so respectfully".

"I think if you look at it objectively and realise that this is about our children having a constructive conversation and finding the answers for themselves."

The National Party says it might make changes to the resource, or perhaps withdraw it altogether if elected to power this year. 

You can read more about the resource here.