'My record on the environment is strong' - Simon Bridges

Simon Bridges has defended his record on the environment in his first appearance on Newshub Nation as leader of National.

He said the party's policies needed to evolve, and it would place new emphasis on environmental issues - but wouldn't give any new policies.

Asked by Newshub Nation host Lisa Owen if he could work with the Green Party, he said there was a case "on genuine environmental issues".

"I think we do have a difficulty frankly, though at the moment, which is it's a Green party that's red as well, its default position is to go with the Labour Party. A true Green Party in the middle that could work with both, in my view, would achieve a lot more for the environment."

Newshub Nation host Lisa Owen asked Mr Bridges about his environmental record, particularly during his time as Energy Minister.

In 2014, he signed off on mining exploration on Department of Conservation land at Victoria Park forest. In 2017, he opened part of the Maui's dolphin breeding ground for oil exploration off the Taranaki coast. In 2015, he said mining had been a mainstay on the West Coast for 150 years "and long may it continue".

National's energy policy from 2017 says New Zealand's "oil and gas potential is huge, we could be the richest little country in the world".

"Do I resile any of those things? No, because actually resources are important, whether it's for cellphones, whether it's in houses and so on. We do need to do that, but we also need to transition," Mr Bridges said.

He said he'd also pushed for public transport funding, cycle ways, electric vehicles and renewable energy.

"My record on the environment is strong." 

He said he had new policy ideas for the environment, but would not give any examples.

"National emphasises the environment, and under me I think we'll emphasise it a little more, because we understand that it's important to New Zealanders and it's important to me."

And asked to name the top three things his party stood for under his leadership, Mr Bridges said the economy was all three.

"One, two and three, if you wanted to be glib, is the economy - because that's what provides opportunities to New Zealanders.

Ms Owen also asked the 41-year-old to explain his plans for generational change.

"The values of the National party around free enterprise, around competition, around law and order and safer communities, around strong families they're the same. But I'm making the case that… we need to continue evolving."

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