Greenpeace director Russel Norman gives Simon Bridges some environmental advice

Greenpeace director Russel Norman gives Simon Bridges some environmental advice
Photo credit: Getty.

OPINION: In the dog day afternoons of the interregnum - that month last year when we had no effective Government - a new concept gained resonance.

A Blue-Green Alliance. A Teal Deal.

It helped fill the pundit blogspace at a time when Winston's backroom machinations were yielding little in the way of real news. And it got some traction.

Seemingly the appeal of "teal" didn't escape the canny radar of National's leader-in-waiting Simon Bridges.

On Newhub Nation last weekend he took out the green dog whistle to signal his new credentials.

"We're New Zealanders, and we represent nearly one in two of them in Parliament, we care passionately about the environment."

But how passionate is Mr Bridges himself? He told Lisa Owen his record was strong on the environment.

What do his past actions tell us?

As Owen points out it was he who signed off mining access to DoC land at Victoria Forest Park near Reefton, Bridges saying at the time, "Mining has been a mainstay on the West Coast for the last 150 years, and long may it continue." There's nothing very teal-coloured about that.

As Energy Minister he's cosied up with offshore oil companies, and opened up the endangered Māui dolphin habitat for oil exploration. There are an estimated 60 Māui left in the entire world.

Mr Bridges also introduced a new law designed to suppress protest at sea against oil exploration. The so-called Anadarko amendment that will see myself and another Greenpeace activist in court next month after we put ourselves in the water to protest seismic oil research vessel the Amazon Warrior.

If Mr Bridges and the National Party really want to be taken seriously on the environment, genuinely wanting to turn over a new green leaf, we'd love to offer him some direction.

Here's a few starters:

  • Support an immediate end to oil and gas exploration. Climate science clearly shows that to avoid catastrophic impacts, we can't afford to burn even half of the known reserves. Seeking new oil and gas is plain stupid

  • Support a new direction for transport funding away from more motorways and towards cycling, trains, buses and walking.

  • Support the rapid roll out of solar generation to provide the power for the electrification of transport, and help finish off fossil fuel generation

  • Stand up to the conservative farming lobby and help put agriculture into the Emissions Trading Scheme (Mr Bridges told Owen he was giving a speech later in the year on this) - the rest of NZ taxpayers are tired of subsidising ag to the tune of $500m per year

  • Back a rapid shift away from industrial agriculture by ending irrigation, PKE imports, chemical fertiliser, over stocking, and investing in better ways of farming (We are happy to arrange an introduction to the handful of Regenerative Farmers who are looking to protect our rivers and go carbon neutral. Failing that, this video might help.)

  • Support efforts to control the fishing industry

  • Educate Judith Collins on the value of wetlands - OK maybe that's mission impossible

Political impersonator Tom Sainsbury has just lampooned Simon Bridges' new green stance, "I see the environment as an ice queen b**** who won't give up her goodies."

That might be overly harsh. But a new political leader looking to build environmental cred does need to know what's happening with  greenhouse gas emissions in his own country. Owen asked him how much they'd climbed while the Nats were in Government.

"Look, I couldn't give you a percentage," replied Mr Bridges. "It's 20 percent," chimed in Owen.

Simon, I know you lived under the cold dark shadow of Stephen Joyce for years, but now you have no excuse to consistently attack the environment - he is gone and you are the leader. So show some courage and change direction for the sake of your kids and mine.

Russel Norman is the executive director of Greenpeace NZ.

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