New Zealand Labour Party

Protecting our environment

A healthy economy depends on a healthy environment.

All things are interconnected, and we are kaitiaki of land, sea, freshwater and air. Labour rejects the notion of “balancing” the economy and the environment, an equation in which the environment always loses. There are environmental bottom lines that must not be crossed. Labour will uphold high environmental standards.

Labour will future-proof the New Zealand economy by transitioning away from our reliance on fossil fuels to a high-tech, low carbon economy – one that creates jobs by taking full advantage of renewable resources and existing and emerging technologies.

Labour will urgently address issues around water quality, deal more effectively and efficiently with waste, and ensure Kiwis are breathing clean air. And we will safeguard the right of local communities to have their say on proposals that affect their environment, regardless of wealth or status.

The Earth is warming rapidly, biodiversity is being lost at an alarming rate, and acidification is pushing the oceans close to their ecological limits. Under Labour, New Zealand will be part of the global solution to these problems.

The United Nations has a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals for the period to 2030, within which environmental goals are integrated – clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, sustainable cities and communities, climate action, life below water, and life on land. Labour’s approach to the environment is similarly all-embracing. It includes our policies in such key areas as Climate Change, Conservation, Economy, Energy, Water, Primary Sector and Transport. This Environment policy covers subjects not dealt with in those policies.

Labour will:

  • Uphold high environmental standards, recognising that a heathy economy depends on a healthy environment
  • Future-proof New Zealand by transitioning to an environmentally sustainable, low-carbon economy and society
  • Retain the Resource Management Act, while improving processes and ensuring that local communities can have their say.

Click here for our environment policy

 Our water is New Zealand’s most important natural treasure.

Clean water is the birth-right of all of us, and vital to our continued prosperity. Our rivers and lakes are a taonga of huge significance to Māori, a favourite place of recreation for New Zealanders. Water underpins our agriculture.

Our fresh water resource needs to be protected and restored, and that can only happen if all water users and the Government work together. The Government will assist in this work by employing young people who are stuck on the dole and getting them working on improving the health of waterways.

Everyone owns our water, but some have interests in it that others don’t. Large commercial users who profit from our water should pay a fair and affordable royalty – for example, water bottling companies. This revenue can help councils restore our waterways for future generations.

Labour will:

  • Restore our rivers and lakes to a truly swimmable state within a generation
  • Help farmers and other owners of waterways with fencing and riparian planting through our Ready for Work programme 
  • Give the regional councils the resources to clean up their waterways through a water royalty.

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Climate Change

Climate change is the greatest challenge facing the world. If we do not urgently reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases, warming will disrupt the climates our agriculture and other industries depend upon, sea-level rise will affect our coastal cities, and ocean acidification will affect the marine food chain.

Labour will:

  • set a target of net zero for greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with legally binding emissions reduction targets, and carbon budgets to keep New Zealand on track to this goal 
  • establish an independent Climate Commission to recommend interim emissions reduction targets and provide advice on the ramifications of not achieving them 
  • encourage young people to take part in the effort to end our climate pollution through a Youth Climate Change Challenge
  • show government leadership by requiring state-owned enterprises and other government organisations to actively pursue low-carbon options and technologies including all future purchases of all Government vehicle fleets to be electric vehicles unless there is an exceptional reason otherwise
  • restore the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), including bringing agriculture into the ETS by the end of our first term, with 90% of emissions free 
  • ensure that farmers operating at best practice are recognised so they can be directly credited for emissions reductions they achieve
  • support a just transition for workers in industries that need to reduce emissions and the creation of jobs in sectors that are carbon-free or carbon sinks, such as forestry
  • establish a Transitions National Science Challenge to consider the science, research and development required for the transition to a low-carbon economy.

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Conservation is the preservation and protection of New Zealand’s unique natural environment, as a good thing in and of itself – not just as a resource for the tourism industry, as the current government seems to think.

Labour will:

  • Aim that in 10 years’ time New Zealand’s indigenous wildlife population is stabilised and increasing, with species coming off the threatened list regularly.
  • Introduce a Tourism and Conservation Infrastructure Fund to improve DOC biodiversity funding and tourism infrastructure.
  • Keep the critically threatened Maui’s dolphin safe from being harmed by activities such as fishing or petroleum exploration.

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More than three million people a year come from all over the world to visit New Zealand. They enjoy our unique natural beauty, culture, and Kiwi hospitality. International tourists spent $10b here last year, supporting more than 300,000 jobs. 

Labour will:

  • Establish a $75m a year Tourism and Conservation Infrastructure Fund to pay for projects that will improve the experience of visitors to New Zealand and enhance our natural environment
  • Provide this $75m a year of investment through a $25 per visit levy on international visitors who are not citizens or residents of New Zealand.

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New Zealand’s plentiful renewable energy resources – hydro, wind, geothermal and solar – mean we are ideally placed to build an energy system that is affordable, sustainable and reliable.Labour’s Energy and Climate Change policies overlap in the need to improve energy use and slash greenhouse gas emissions.1 The challenge is to ensure a just transition swiftly but smoothly towards a fully renewables-based energy system and a low-carbon economy.

To keep the global average temperature rise well below 2°C – in order to meet the Paris Agreement commitment and so avoid the worst effects of climate change –most known fossil fuel reserves must be kept in the ground (in the absence of widely-deployed, and still unproven, carbon capture and storage technology).

New Zealand has a significant petroleum production industry in a world still heavily reliant on oil and gas. But we and the rest of the world must nonetheless transition rapidly to renewable energy.

Renewable energy and energy efficiency make great sense economically and will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Huge investments are being made in renewable energy internationally with the cost of solar generation in particular dropping dramatically in the recent years. Local energy solutions with distributed generation are becoming a viable part of the renewables mix. 

Labour will ensure that New Zealand is at the forefront of this renewable energy revolution and the economic, social and environmental benefits it will bring. A restored Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will underpin this by putting a serious price on the use of fossil fuels. See Labour’s Climate Change policy for further detail on the ETS. 

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