Political party leaders urged to protect environment

Environmental groups have written a letter to political party leaders urging them to prioritise protecting the environment.

The letter from groups including Forest and Bird, Greenpeace, WWF and Fish and Game said there was a strong public expectation that which ever parties form the next government make clear gains for fresh water, the climate and conservation.

The letter was sent to four party leaders: National’s Bill English, Labour’s Jacinda Ardern, James Shaw from the Green Party and New Zealand First’s Winston Peters.

In the letter, the groups said they would continue to offer their help to achieve what had been promised.

“The ability of New Zealanders to safely swim in their rivers and lakes, will be a key measure of environmental success for the new government.

“This can only be achieved if the government facilitates and supports a transformation of the primary sector toward new, environmentally-friendly land use and practice,” the letter said.

The letter also asks for a more structured and transparent approach to climate change and for an increase in the Department of Conservation’s funding so they can protect the country’s native species.

Environmental Defence Society chief executive Gary Taylor, who signed the letter, said this election had been unprecedented when it came to the environment.

“The prominence it has had in the campaign and public concern and awareness has been huge we have not seen it like this before, I think fresh water has undoubtedly stimulated people’s interest in the environment.

“The important thing now is as they negotiate coalition arrangements, is parties don’t lose sight of these environmental issues and they don’t get relegated as they so often have in the past,” Mr Taylor said.

He said the next government had to act fast to address environmental issues.

“The Department of Conservation has more funding for tourism infrastructure – but its core job is still to take care of the environment, and so we need to see a substantial increase in their funding so they can administer the third of the country which it has under its wing properly.”