Environmental policies given airing

Labour MP David Clark addresses a Dunedin North candidates forum last night watched by other candidates (from left) National list MP Michael Woodhouse, Legalise Cannabis candidate Abe Gray, Internet Party candidate Robert Stewart, Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei, Democrats for Social Credit candidate Miriam Mowat and Conservative candidate Jonathan Daley. Photo by Linda Robertson. While the leaders of the two main parties were duking it out in Christchurch last night, the Dunedin North candidates were showing off their environmental credentials.

National list MP Michael Woodhouse presented a lone figure at the forum at Otago Museum last night as he defended the Government's environmental record in the face of an almost united front from the other candidates.

In the face of criticism from all sides, Mr Woodhouse said the National Government had done a good job on the environment in what were ''difficult times''.

After accidentally ripping his speech notes in half, Dunedin North Labour MP David Clark told the audience of about 100 that a Labour-led government would strengthen the emissions trading scheme and rivers being safe enough for swimming would be its starting point for water quality.

The environment would be a high priority for a Labour-led government.

''If you don't have an environment, you don't have an economy.''

He stressed there was a united front on the environment among the major opposition parties, with the only disagreements being about ''how to get there''.

''We are ready to work together when this Government is gone on September the 20th,'' he said.

That sentiment was shared by Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei.

''Amongst those of us on the left side of the spectrum there is much greater commonality in our environmental positions than there has ever been.''

Like Labour, the Green Party was promising to introduce water standards, so rivers were ''clean enough for swimming''.

One of its points of difference from Labour was it was pushing for a carbon tax, rather than an emissions trading scheme.

The cornerstone of its ''beach protection plan'' was to prohibit deep sea oil drilling.

''There are no deep sea oil wells in New Zealand right now, so now's a good time to make sure there are never any in New Zealand waters.''

Mr Woodhouse accepted not everyone would be happy with National's record on the environment, but it had done a good job in difficult times.

''I think we have done a very strong amount of work in the environmental space.''

Under Labour, large-scale coal fired power stations were consented, but under the National Government none had been.

There was no management of the country's fresh waters under Labour, while National had introduced water quality bottom lines, which were a ''very good start''.

Conservative candidate Jonathan Daley said it would remedy the unnecessary red tape caused by the Resource Management Act and seek business-led - as opposed to academic-led - advancements, as the country faced a future when ''oil reliance becomes obsolete''.

Internet Party candidate Rob Stewart shared similar ideas to other parties on the left, but focused on technological solutions, such as ''smart houses'' and better internet connectivity, as a way of reducing carbon emissions.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz