22 Feb 2023

Luxon: Maureen Pugh 'does a really good job'

12:02 pm on 22 February 2023
Christopher Luxon

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

National Party leader Christopher Luxon says Maureen Pugh - who yesterday questioned whether human activity caused climate change - is a great local MP.

On Morning Report, Guyon Espiner questioned the National leader on his MP Maureen Pugh, who yesterday made comments questioning whether climate change was caused by human activity.

Pugh later retracted her comments, shifting from "waiting on evidence" to accepting "the scientific consensus that human induced climate change is real" within a few hours.

"We need to talk about Maureen, don't we?" Espiner asked, saying her retraction "looked like a hostage video".

Luxon said Pugh initially had a "shocking and a poor interview" and made unclear, unhelpful comments.

"It wasn't a hostage video. Her and I had a conversation and we talked about it, and she understands the National Party position which has been our position for a long time."

"Living in New Zealand or living anywhere in the world in the 21st century, you just can't deny that human-induced climate change is real and the National Party's position is really strong on that. We signed this country up to Paris, we actually deeply committed to the Carbon Zero 2050, NDC, the emissions budgets, all of that stuff."

Pugh, a list MP, yesterday was adamant she had not been instructed in her statements. Luxon was asked if he had confidence in her.

"Yeah, look, Maureen's a great local MP representing the West Coast incredibly well. She's deeply passionate about her portfolios - around disability in particular - and she does a really good job.

"She expressed herself poorly and I've asked her to do some reading to alter her understanding to make sure she understands the science base."

'We'll support the government whatever number that ends up being'

He was also questioned about his criticism of the government's response to the extreme weather events of the past few weeks. Luxon yesterday - in opening statements to Parliament for the year - spoke on one hand about the need for bipartisan solutions and on the other expressed grave concerns about the government's ability to lead the response.

He told Morning Report they had first and foremost been supportive and constructive.

"We've tried to take that line and I think we've done that really well over the past week," he said, and offered to support government funding and borrowing.

"We'll support the government whatever number that ends up being that they think's appropriate - we need to ringfence that, we need to borrow for that - but just as importantly we need to get it done."

The government has expanded today on its announcement of a $25m fund, providing up to $40,000 for silt removal and cleanup for growers, and up to $10,000 for repairs for pastoral and arable farmers. It follows a $50m fund set up to support cyclone-hit businesses announced on Monday.

Luxon earlier in the week was saying the government response was too slow and inadequate, and was asked if that was still the case.

"You've got workers today going to work not knowing whether they're going to get paid, or whether they could be redeployed to do some cleanup work or something else and whether they can therefore pay their rent or food this week ... what people on the ground need is real specificity."

He harked back to the wage subsidy supports offered after the Kaikōura earthquake, but was unspecific about whether he supported a wage subsidy.

"Well, what I'm saying is there needs to be support to go to workers that have been deeply impacted, and we should have specificity around that."

National has also been proposing a doubling of sentences for crimes committed in areas under a state of emergency, warning of gangs committing crimes in cyclone-hit areas.

Some arrests have taken place, but Police Commissioner Andrew Coster told RNZ on Monday that reported crime levels - including dishonesty offences - were below normal.

Luxon refused to directly answer whether he would accept Coster at his word, saying he had "strong evidence" of people on the ground taking advantage of others.

"What I'm saying to you really clearly, having been there on the ground and what people are saying in the community - they are feeling it, they're seeing it, whether they're reporting it that's a different story.

"Look, I mean there's something clearly going on because on the ground there people are talking about it, it's clear that generators from cell towers are being stolen.

"All we've said is look, I think some lowlifes have actually taken advantage of vulnerable people at this time and very simply what we would encourage the government to do is just double the sentences from burglary and looting."

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