29 Aug 2023

Grant Robertson offers apology to James Shaw over climate fund cuts

12:05 pm on 29 August 2023
Climate Change Minister James Shaw and Finance Minister Grant Robertson. File photos.

File photos. Climate Change Minister James Shaw and Finance Minister Grant Robertson. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Finance Minister Grant Robertson says he will apologise to the Climate Change Minister over cuts to climate spending announced without James Shaw being informed.

On Monday, the government announced $4 billion will be freed up through cuts, savings, delays, and reprioritisations. It will not be made available for new spending, and will be treated as savings.

While some of the money will come from trimming future Budget operating allowances, as well as a directive to public sector agencies to cut their baseline spending and reduce their use in consultants and contractors, $1.018b will come from immediate savings.

Some $236m will come from the Climate Emergency Response Fund, which is supposed to be ring-fenced for climate spending, but instead will be returned to the general savings pool.

According to Newsroom, James Shaw knew the government was doing a savings exercise and was briefed on a $10m cut to a waste priority - but only found out about the remaining $226m at the same time the public did.

Robertson admitted Shaw was supposed to be informed.

"Yes, he should have," Robertson said.

"It appears there was a communication breakdown around that, and so I'll have a chat with James and apologise to him for that. He definitely should have known about it."

But Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said there was no need for Shaw to be informed as much of the climate savings came from programmes and portfolios Shaw was not responsible for, such as transport, agriculture, and forestry.

"These were savings that were identified by the ministers concerned. I wouldn't have expected necessarily, if they weren't in his portfolio area, I wouldn't have necessarily expected that he would be," Hipkins said.

"Almost every aspect of government activity has an impact on climate change. That doesn't mean he gets consulted on every individual decision."

Shaw said this afternoon he had accepted an apology from Robertson over not being informed some climate policies would be cut.

Shaw said he knew there was a savings exercise happening, but did not know what was happening outside his portfolios.

The Greens still had a constructive relationship with Labour, he said.

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