National MP Simon Watts responds to School Strike 4 Climate activist's scathing criticism of party's infrastructure plan

  • 19/08/2023

With this year's election only a matter of months away, crime and the cost of living are front of mind for many politicians and voters.

But, in the meantime, the climate is providing a threatening backdrop.

The reality of extreme weather washed through New Zealand earlier this year, changing communities forever.

So, how should New Zealand tackle this threat?

To debate this important question, Newshub Nation was joined by the climate change spokespeople for both the Green and National parties - James Shaw and Simon Watts.

As part of the debate, several people - including School Strike 4 Climate activist Aurora Garner-Randolph - and Federated Farmers president Wayne Langford - put questions to the MPs.

Garner-Randolph took the opportunity to quiz Watts on National's infrastructure plans.

"Why on earth, in a climate crisis, is your party prioritising 'roads of national significance' when what would benefit ordinary New Zealanders is actually [the] investment into passenger rail and investment into free public transport?"

Watts responded by pointing to the fact roading infrastructure was still needed for the likes of public transport and electric vehicles.

"I think it's a completely illogical argument to say, 'We don't need roads' because, the reality is, as we transition off fossil fuel buses to green and hydrogen, we transition off fossil fuel cars to electric - we're going to need roads to drive on," Watts said.

Shaw, the incumbent Climate Change Minister, agreed roading infrastructure was needed for public transport but said building "yet more roads" wasn't the answer.

James Shaw.
James Shaw.

"If you actually want to reduce congestion and reduce emissions, you actually have to get people into the most effective and efficient way of moving them around and between our cities - and that is with rapid transit modes as well."

Watch the full debate above.

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