Five environment policies - and where each party stands on them

The environment is having its moment in the 2017 election.

It seems more voters are concerned about it than ever before.

What are the ways a Government could address these concerns? And where do the parties stand on these ideas?

1. Increase the Waste Disposal Levy 

The levy, designed to discourage dumping with a $10 charge on every tonne sent to landfills, was introduced in 2008.

Ministerial reviews of the levy in 2014 and 2017 recommended investigating extending the levy to cover a larger number of landfills, beyond the household waste landfills it currently covers but there has been no change.

In the meantime, since 2014, waste has increased by 16 per cent.

National has repeated their recommendation of extending the levy to a greater variety of landfills. They have also made a recommendation to investigate different charges for different types of landfill..

Labour has no plans to change or increase the Waste Disposal Levy.

The Greens  say the levy is too low, and should be extended to more landfills. They want to assign different levies to different waste materials depending on their harm.

New Zealand First would not increase the levy, but extend it to more landfills.

2. Introduce an international tourist levy.

When Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright released her report on the plight of native birds in May, she recommended the Government investigate a border levy to create new funds to aid the 80 per cent of native birds currently threatened.

National rejected the idea. Conservation Minister Maggie Barry said it was a "blunt instrument" and not all tourists came here to enjoy our natural environment.

National has announced a policy for international tourists to be charged double to stay overnight in huts along the country's top five walking tracks. This was expected to create $4 million extra revenue for DOC.

Labour intends to establish a $25 levy for international visitors.

A spokesman said the fund would contribute $45m a year to tourism infrastructure and training, and $30m a year for protecting and enhancing  the natural environment, as well as the infrastructure tourists use on conservation land.

The Greens intends to introduce a $20 tourism levy for international visitors. Revenue would be split 75:25 between conservation and tourism.

3. Add agriculture to the Emissions Trading Scheme

Agricultural emissions make up 47 per cent of our greenhouse emissions, yet dairy, as our second largest export, is exempt from the ETS.

National said agriculture would only be included in the ETS if practical technologies were available to farmers to reduce emissions.

No other country in the world includes agriculture in similar ETS schemes, a spokesman said, and "given that NZ only contributes 0.15 per cent of the world's carbon emission, such a policy would be shooting ourselves in the foot while doing little if anything to improve the environment."

Labour intends to include all emissions in the ETS, including those from agriculture.

"We acknowledge that some industries, like agriculture, are facing the front end of climate change. As such, we need to ease the path for them rather than bring them in with a sharp jolt. We want to make sure, for instance, that they're only picking up 10 per cent of their emissions. The cost of doing nothing is so much more," a spokesman said.

The Greens said agriculture needed an incentive to reduce emissions, and should be included in the ETS.

"Putting a price on agricultural emissions will drive investment into low-emission, high-value farming like organics. It would also reward farmers that take advantage of technological and research developments to lower on-farm pollution," a spokesman said.

New Zealand First would abolish the ETS entirely and replace it with an internal carbon pricing scheme, which would not require the purchase of international carbon credits.

All sectors would be subject to the scheme, but NZ First said they would work to ensure the viability of the primary sector was preserved.

4. Increasing the number of marine reserves

National has created 11 new marine reserves and successfully negotiated with the US to create the largest marine protected area in the world in the Ross Sea.

"National is the only government to have created marine reserves and will continue to do so where they are justified," a spokesman said.

Both National and Labour said they would support the creation of a Kermadec Rangitahua Ocean Sanctuary.

The Greens intend to create New Zealand's largest marine mammal sanctuary off the South Taranaki coast in order to protect a blue whale feeding ground from destructive activities, including seabed iron sands mining.

NZ First said they would increase the number significantly, and within a "reasonable period".

5. Introduce a plastic bag levy.

A third of seabirds and turtles washing up dead on Kiwi shores have been found to have eaten plastic. Early results from the Auckland University study show of eight species common in New Zealand, only one did not eat plastic.

In the UK and Ireland, levies have seen plastic bag use plummet by over 80 per cent.

National has rejected a levy.

Branding it as "heavy handed legislation", Associate Environment Minister Scott Simpson said National prefered to continue working with the industry.

A Labour spokesman said the party would consider the model rolled out in the UK, which applied to large employers, rather than small businesses such as dairies, and which led to drops in usage of around 80 per cent.

The Greens have a bill in Parliament's ballot modelled on the UK legislation, seeking to introduce a charge of 15 cents on every bag at the check out. Waste spokeswoman Denise Roache said the money would fund charities involved in clean ups.

A NZ First spokeswoman said they did not support a statutory levy on supermarket plastic carry bags, because it would increase food prices.

However, supermarkets would be required by regulation to phase out the use of non-biodegadable plastic carry-bags within five years.

 - Stuff