Parliament's first full day: From climate scepticism in National to potential flood taxes

In the midst of a real-time national state of emergency due to climate change, the National Party is fending off questions about having a climate sceptic in its caucus. 

West Coast-based list MP Maureen Pugh on Tuesday said she was still waiting to see the evidence that climate change was affected by humans. 

It's a stance the Prime Minister called staggering and one Pugh was forced to walk back. 

Climate change is not lapping at our doorstep. It's barrelling through homes.

In Gisborne, Carl Brandt is trudging through his new lawn of silt and trying to salvage whatever Cyclone Gabrielle left behind.

"These guys here are digging horrible crap. They've been at it an hour and a half, sweating it up, just volunteers you know," he said. 

But in the wake of two climate catastrophes - the Auckland Anniversary floods and Cyclone Gabrielle - a National MP still isn't convinced on climate science. 

Asked if she thinks humans are affecting climate change, Pugh said: "It is not what I think. It is what I can prove. I am waiting on the evidence from the minister."

That was news to her leader. 

Christopher Luxon said climate deniers or minimalists should be "under no illusions it's real".

When he was told Pugh had said she hadn't seen evidence climate change is man-made, he said: "I would be very strongly saying climate change is real and you only need to look at the events over the last 15 years, 10 years in New Zealand to see that is exactly the case."

There was disbelief from her own colleagues - well some of them. 

Asked if climate change is man-made, Paul Goldsmith said: "Well I'm not the weatherman."

Erica Stanford said: "Of course it is. You can see the effects of it."

"Yes, obviously, man has an impact on the climate," said Chris Bishop.

"The science is very clear that climate change is happening," said Nicola Willis.

Pugh said the earth has cooled and warmed over millions of years. But she said she's yet to see the evidence it's down to humans. 

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said he is "staggered the National Party is still having this debate".

"Climate change is absolutely man-made".

Labour's Michael Wood said: "I think Simon Bridges made some comments on that a couple of years ago I won't repeat them here." 

Those comments are from 2018, when Bridges said Pugh is "f***ing useless". 

To help Pugh out, the Climate Change Minister brought a climate report to Parliament.

"I honestly don't have time to respond to people who just don't believe in science, but I am happy to help," James Shaw said.

But don't take it from him - take it from a climate scientist.

"Human influence mainly through greenhouse gases is warming the world," said Professor Dave Frame, director of the New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute (NZCCRI) at Victoria University of Wellington.

"There's a tonne of evidence. There are tens of thousands of papers on this topic. It is the most studied question in earth sciences in the last quarter century."

Brandt is unimpressed with Pugh, imploring political parties to do more to tackle climate change.

"I just hope we're not too late and this is what people are going through because of it."

By mid-afternoon, Pugh had had a come-to-science moment.

"I accept the scientific consensus that human-induced climate change is real," she said. 

She said they were her own words and she hadn't been instructed to say them.

Pugh has also apologised to her leader. 

"That was part of our conversation and she will be reading a series of books that I have read and that I want her to read as well," Luxon said. 

Because it is real, it is us, and it's us that's going to have to clean it up.

The Prime Minister reflected on the devastating floods in his opening address to Parliament.

"These weather events have wreaked havoc on millions of Kiwis' lives." 

The Finance Minister is also not ruling out a flood tax to pay for the cleanup. 

"This is a significant event and the Government has to work through both how we're going to pay for things and what we have to pay for."

He said no decision has been made about a flood tax. 

Taxes and climate denial - political minefields in the midst of a national disaster. 

Jenna Lynch Analysis

A flood tax is actually an idea pinched from Queensland, implemented following their devastating floods in 2011. 

The way they did it it worked out to about 50c to a dollar a week for an average wage earner - about $5 a week for someone on $100,000. It was designed to pull in $1.8 billion.

Introducing a tax is like a red rag to National in an election year and while this is probably the best reason to revenue raise, to help rebuild the country, the Finance Minister would only take that political hit if he needed to and the revenue gathered was worth it.

Newshub understands the Government was told on Tuesday it's going to cost $200 million just to clear the silt from this cyclone. That's before you even start thinking about a rebuild.

So rightly the Government is keeping every single option to pay for this on the table.