Just three weeks till the election and while the polls are tightening up a bit I probably wouldn’t be a making wildly speculative punt in predicting that they might be rearranging the furniture in the Beehive soon.
That thought has been exercising the minds of environmental types lately, in particular thinking about what a change of government would mean for conservation.
Mostly (but not entirely) the thinking among them is that a centre-Right government wouldn’t be a good thing. Me, I’m prepared to wait and see. In a past life as a press gallery journalist I spent far too much time in daily close proximity to politicians to maintain any delusion that any particular party had a monopoly on good policy in any given area, conservation included.
In the same way that the Left has been presumed to be the natural home for women voters, Maori, ethnic minorities, gays and the poor, so too the Left assumed “ownership” of environmentalism. The old fashion rule had it that you should “Never be seen in blue and green,” but maybe the old rules – both in fashion and politics – don’t hold sway any more.
Obviously the Green Party proposes “green” policies but it has also been very much a “Red-Green” arrangement (would you like anti-smacking legislation with your greens, Sir?) and a Green-National coalition has been unthinkable.
This year our Envirovote election guide outlined what we see as the most important conservation-related issues on which our elected representatives can make a difference – and let the parties’ own answers to those questions speak for themselves. Voters don’t need to be told who to vote for – we hope they make up their own minds, and that conservation is something they think about as an important factor when they cast their vote.
National Party leader John Key told Forest & Bird’s AGM a year ago that Labour would promise much more for the environment, but National would actually deliver more. He might soon get the chance to prove it.
Labour’s track record on conservation in nearly a decade in office certainly hasn’t been bad: some of the many “wins” for conservation under Labour have included establishment of new conservation parks, better protection for seabirds and Hector’s dolphins, and increased funding for conservation, to name just a few.
However, in the last decade we have also seen our rivers and lakes deteriorate due to the impact of dairying, the Department of Conservation still struggling with inadequate funding to do their job, introduced pests running rampant over much of the conservation estate, fish stocks collapsing and painfully slow progress in protecting the marine environment in marine reserves.
What’s the chance of a National-led government doing any better? Certainly there are some concerns about its “Blue-Green” policy – such as proposals that hunters manage conservation land – but there are also some positive signs there.
If a week is a long time in politics, as the old cliché has it, then anything could happen in the next three weeks. We’ll be talking to whoever is in Government – and in Opposition – to advocate for conservation.