The Government has proposed cutting $10 million in funding for climate change research in a move described as disheartening for New Zealand's highly capable climate scientists.
Treasury documents showed that Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has recommended scaling back funding for Climate Change Research Grants by $2 million in the next financial year, $3.75 million in 2014/15 and $4.25 million in 2015/16.
This would reduce the pool of funding from nearly $10 million a year to $4.5 million a year by 2016.
The contestable grants were used to finance research by tertiary institutions and government agencies on adapting to climate change, reducing emissions and creating carbon sinks, and tapping into business opportunities which arise from climate change.
Treasury backed Mr Guy's proposal, saying that the funding was introduced in 2007 to support the introduction of the Emissions Trading Scheme and other climate change policies.
Treasury officials said those policies were now fully operational, and "an argument can therefore be made for reviewing the amount of funding for this purpose".
Mr Guy was travelling in China and was unable to be reached for comment.
Associate minister Jo Goodhew, through a spokesperson, said it was important to note that Government was still committing more than $4 million a year to research, and the criteria for funding would not change.
She said Government would continue to invest in climate change research but this research would be more closely aligned with current Government policy - in particular the Business Growth Agenda, the Primary Growth Partnership and the Sustainable Farming Fund.
Opposition MPs noted that the Business Growth Agenda focused heavily on mineral exploitation.
Green Party climate change spokesman Kennedy Graham said New Zealand had some of the best climate scientists in the world.
"This Government believes that it can hide behind a fig-leaf of indifference from the New Zealand public.
"It thinks the public won't notice, and if they do, they'll think the public doesn't care - wrong on both counts."
The funding changes will be decided by Cabinet.