PM's policy bonfire: Chris Hipkins defends scrapping series of climate policies

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has defended scrapping a series of climate policies as the Government continues its reprioritisation. 

Hipkins said on Monday the Government was reprioritising further spending as Labour continues its refocus on the cost of living and recovery from Cyclone Gabrielle.

This policy wildfire, along with previous reprioritisations, is estimated to save the Government about $1 billion. 

The Government on Monday announced significant increases to Superannuation, main benefits and student supports as part of a "bread and butter support" package that comes into effect on April 1. It's expected to cost an additional $311 million, but the Government said it means about 1.4 million New Zealanders will "not go backwards" as most of the changes are aligned with increases in inflation.

The Prime Minister told AM on Tuesday there are simply better, more cost-effective ways to reduce emissions.

"I think the two schemes yesterday that I indicated we're not proceeding with that were most connected with the climate ... they were likely to reduce somewhere around about 7000 tonnes of carbon emissions during the current budget period in terms of the carbon budgets," Hipkins told AM co-host Ryan Bridge. 

"There are other things we can do and we are doing that is having a much greater impact on our emissions reductions and for a smaller price than that.

"The analysis has been done and those schemes were going to be difficult to implement and weren't going to deliver the sorts of emissions reductions that we could achieve in other areas in a more efficient way."

The two main climate policies scrapped by the Government are the clean car upgrade and the social leasing car scheme.

Former National Party MP Steven Joyce said in an opinion piece for NZ Herald Labour has had no fiscal discipline for five years and "every brain fart of an idea has been funded".

Hipkins said he doesn't agree with that characterisation but added when he became Prime Minister he thought the Government was trying to do "too many different things too quickly". 

The Prime Minister added his focus has been "narrowing" the focus to a smaller number of policies and doing them "thoroughly". 

But Bridge hit back, questioning the Prime Minister if they had been doing too many "dumb things" and things that didn't make any sense.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins. Photo credit: AM

Hipkins defended scrapping the climate policies saying some of them are "worthy". 

"Providing lower-income New Zealanders with the opportunity to move from a combustion engine to an electric vehicle is something that over time we want to be able to look at how we can better incentivise," Hipkins said.

"Once the analysis was done, it wasn't going to deliver the sorts of benefits that were envisaged when that was first proposed."

Hipkins said all Governments need to "run the ruler over everything" and question whether they're achieving what they set out to achieve.  

The Prime Minister said he will continue to reprioritise and try to save money where he can. 

When questioned if this was a huge indictment on former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Finance Minister Grant Robertson that he can cut a $1 billion without affecting Kiwis, Hipkins told AM he "completely disagrees" with that.  

"In every budget we've had as a Government, we've identified savings and reprioritization and this year's budget will be the same," he said.

"In the first few budgets that I oversaw as Minister of Education identified hundreds of millions of dollars in savings that we were then able to reinvest in other education initiatives. That's part of the budget process. I think that's what responsible Governments do." 

Watch the full interview with Chris Hipkins in the video above.