Labour deputy leader and environment spokesman
GrantRobertson rejects Chris Trotter's interpretation of one
of his recent speeches.
In his column last Friday, Chris Trotter ascribes all kinds
of motives and hidden meanings to phrases in my recent speech
outlining Labour's views on the environment, but fails to
look at the whole speech and the direction Labour believes
New Zealand should go to protect and preserve our
As David Shearer has made clear in speeches since becoming
leader, the Labour Party is committed to growing a
sustainable economy that doesn't try to find some mythical
"balance" between the economy and the environment, but rather
one that sees them together as the core elements of a clean,
green and clever future for our country. An economy that
still has an important role for the primary sector, but not
one where we try to quadruple the number of cows we have, but
one that leverages off our skills and talent and our
The idea that the environment and the economy are locked in
some kind of battle still pervades the policies of the
current government, evidenced most recently by Steven Joyce's
out-of-hand rejection of the report of the Pure Advantage
business group which is seeking a path for green growth for
My speech makes the case for the fact we have to change that
attitude, not just for the sake of economic success, but also
because New Zealanders have an intrinsic belief in protecting
our environment for its own sake as well. This is woven into
our national identity. It is what brings many New Zealanders
home, and links Maori and non-Maori New Zealanders in a way
that few others issues do.
In order to get this change of attitude, we as politicians
have to take the people of New Zealand with us. In my speech,
I make clear that we need to move on from the word that is
most associated with the environmental issues being "No".
While there is much to be stopped or opposed, we must all
present a positive vision for how we can protect our
beautiful environment and develop a strong, sustainable
economy if we are to get New Zealanders behind the ideas.
It was this part of the speech Chris Trotter zeroed in on, in
particular my view that we need to avoid "uncompromising
dogma" in some environmental areas where evidence and science
does not back up concerns. The specific area I mentioned was
"inside the laboratory" genetic modification processes. I
have heard from green businesses frustrated by not being able
to undertake work because of the rules that govern this
aspect of genetic modification.
These were rules introduced by Labour, and I continue to back
a cautious approach to GM. But to continue with rules that
are not supported by evidence and are blocking safe science
that will actually improve our environment just does not make
sense to me.
Labour has a positive vision for our environmental future. We
think that in addition to protecting our pristine land,
rivers, lakes and streams, we also need a greater focus on
the health of our urban environments. Eighty-seven percent of
New Zealanders live in cities, and this is where the
environment intersects with most of our daily lives. We need
to focus on the energy, transport, planning and building
aspects of cities to ensure we are creating a healthy and
sustainable environment. That is a major focus of Labour's
It's always possible to lift one phrase from a speech and
build an argument around that. But the point of this speech
was to outline Labour's vision for the environment, not to
send a signal to the Greens or anyone else.
That vision is one where we protect and preserve the
environment for its own sake, and as part of developing a
sustainable economy and country for generations to come.