2 Dec 2020

National Party opposes climate emergency declaration and festival drug check law

9:43 am on 2 December 2020

The government will declare a national climate emergency today, but the National Party is opposed to the move.

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Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called climate change her generation's "nuclear-free moment" and will introduce the motion in Parliament this afternoon.

National Party leader Judith Collins told Morning Report the government has been big on talk and small on delivery.

"If it was really an emergency then it could've been done yesterday rather than today. We think it's all very well to declare an emergency but there's no proper plan in place as to how to deal with it and it's not much more than a bit of virtue signing from the government.

"It can do harm and that harm is making people think that by declaring an emergency that something has happened when it hasn't. It's quite false and misleading to people.

"The misleading part is by thinking that just by declaring it, something is going to happen."

Collins said a better move would be committing again to the promise of turning the government's fleet of cars to electric ones. The government only managed to add 135 electric vehicles to its fleet in its first 18 months in power in the previous term. At the time, then minister of transport Phil Twyford hit back at the criticism, saying they had achieved more in a shorter period than the National government.

But Collins said: "They've failed on all their own measures and promises so I just don't think declaring an emergency is going to do much other than to give the government a free pass so they don't have to do anything."

On cutting emissions, she said they were opposed to a ban on new exploration for natural gas, because it was a cleaner burning for generating electricity than coal.

"We told the government at the time that when they banned exploration offshore for new natural gas, that they would end up having to use more coal, which they have had to use."

During election campaigning, the Labour Party promised to bring forward its goal of 100 percent renewable electricity generation by five years to 2030, with support for projects like pumped hydro.

Earlier this month, the government announced a $70 million fund to help industries switch away from boilers run on coal and gas, to cleaner electricity and biomass options.

"They haven't got a plan to put it into place," Collins retorted, adding that the pumped hydro plans would take a long time to implement and be costly when other options existed.

"Our plan is also to have approved some of the mini hydro schemes that the current government actually didn't approve. We would also have allowed more things like geothermals."

Drug checks at summer festivals

Legislation allowing for drug checks at festivals over the summer break passed its first and second readings last night, with support from all parties, except National.

The law change will provide volunteers, who set up stalls at events to check people's drugs for high-risk substances or dangerous impurities, some protection from prosecution.

Green Party drug law reform spokesperson Chlöe Swarbrick said while parents wanted their children to make the right decisions, they also wanted to know that if they did take drugs, they would be safer.

The National Party's youth wing supports the move, but the party caucus view was firmly against it. Collins told Morning Report that the checks were providing a false sense of security about the drugs.

"In fact one of the things we don't like with the government's proposal is that any of the evidence of what's in these drugs cannot be used for evidence in a court case.

"We already know the testing of drugs at festivals is going on and nobody's being prosecuted for doing it.

"They're telling them some form of safety in it when there's not, some of these are Class A drugs."

Asked about minimising harm in a situation that's already happening, Collins said they were classified as Class A drug for a reason.

"It's because they do immense harm, we're very concerned as a party that we give a false sense of security that it's okay to take these drugs and no harm will come from them because they don't have some other additive to them.

"We believe very clearly that the law already allows this to happen, there's no need to give a false sense of security that there are some drugs that are okay, well they're not okay, they're actually very harmful for people."

She said if the government wanted to deal with the harmful effects of drugs, then roadside drug testing was what was "desperately needed".

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