Rating the government's progress on environmental issues: Rod Oram

6:28 pm on 3 January 2020

As we enter the new year, the prospect of the coming election looms. The government's performance will be under more scrutiny than usual, and its performance will be weighed. So with that in mind, how has a government whose leader made statements like that about climate change being a generation's nuclear-free moment done by the environment?

RNZ asked a range of experts what they thought. This is part three of a six-part series, concluding with the minister:

Business journalist Rod Oram

Rod Oram

Business journalist Rod Oram Photo: RNZ/Dru Faulkner

Rod Oram's knowledge of business, politics and environmental issues runs deep. He's critical but fair and practical in his consideration of the government's efforts.

  • What's your short assessment on environmental action?

"Long on investigation and as yet still rather short on decisions and proposals, let alone implementation. But that's understandable, given the complexity of the issues, the linkages between them and the power of vested interests."

  • What's something you think the government has done well?

"The Zero Carbon Bill is the outstanding one … for the unwavering commitment to the goal, the quality of the process, the large and engaged public response (and parliament's hard work in responding to that), and the political management."

  • What's something you think the government has dropped the ball on?

"Our farmers need to respond to massive shifts in the global food, farming and land use debates. But they have lost their mojo … they have hunkered down, saying they're already among the best in the world (which is true in part, but not in other ways) and there's not much they can do to be better.

"They are failing to understand how great the global transformations have to be, and will be. I'm not expecting the new Primary Sector Strategy, which will be realised on Thursday, will be much of an improvement. While the sector has to be the lead on all this, the government has not been encouraging/pushing them anywhere near hard enough."

  • What's one thing you'd like to see the government achieve before the election?

"Much more on the above food / farming / land use issues."

  • How does the government's progress on environmental issues stack up?

"Pretty much what I expected … because they have so many other things on their plate and the vested interests (economic and political) are so strong and defensive."

  • Is there anything the government is doing (or failing to do) that the public should be more aware of?

"Some members of the public (and in the primary sector and business more widely) are very engaged on these food / farming / land use issue … but many more need to be.

"Because they are so crucial to NZ achieving deep sustainability across all domains, not just climate; because they can encourage famers / land users to respond much more positively; because these issues are critical to our identity, brand and reputation as a country…though other issues such as a functioning society and political system are also very crucial."

  • Do you think the government pays enough attention to environmental issues?

"It, along with pretty much every other organisation and collection of individuals, still doesn't see the interdependence of these issues … or the massive benefits from addressing them in integrated ways."

  • What would you score the coalition out of 10 for its action on environmental issues?

"I'm a hard marker … 4 out of 10."

  • Rating the government's progress on environmental issues: School Strike 4 Climate
  • Government's environmental scorecard: Gary Taylor