Climate minister didn't expect National voters at debate

By Brendan Manning

Tim Groser. Photo / APN
Tim Groser. Photo / APN

National's Climate Change Minister Tim Groser said he didn't expect to see a single National voter in the audience when he walked into the lion's den which was the inaugural Climate Voter Debate last night and left confirming that was the case.

More than 57,000 "climate voters" - who have pledged to vote with the issue in mind - have signed up to the initiative since it was launched in June, and last night six political candidates attempted to convince a live audience to vote for them based on their party's stance on the issue.

Mr Groser said he walked into the debate on the assumption there would not be a single National voter in the audience. "And I'm glad to say that nothing tonight that's happened has [changed my mind]."

Mr Groser said there was a role a centre right government could play in tackling climate change and "as you could probably gather from my responses, you don't have to convince me that this is a huge issue the international community is facing".

One solution he proffered to reduce greenhouse gas emissions included the development of a flock of low methane producing sheep which was being developed to have same levels of protein as normal sheep, but with far lower levels of methane.

The sold-out audience which filled Auckland's Q Theatre erupted into laughter when the evening's host Samantha Hayes asked when National would be "rolling out" the flock.

Mr Groser also highlighted "the disaster that is climate change policy" in Australia as a warning for what could happen when parties didn't compromise on the issue.

Greens leader Dr Russel Norman unsurprisingly received the warmest welcome at the debate and described climate change as "the biggest threat facing the planet, but also the biggest opportunity".

He highlighted green economic opportunities had the support of Conservative parties overseas.

"The clean energy finance corporation in Australia has made lots of money by investing in clean energy."

Internet Mana candidate John Minto described climate change as "the great moral issue of our time".

New Zealand was "the mouse that roared" with its nuclear-free stance, and the country should take a stand again to prevent a "global catastrophe", Mr Minto said.

He conceded there would be those who would "never want to get on a bus or a train" but said that by improving public transport they would be able to drive on a gridlock-free road, negating the need for more motorways.

Labour party deputy leader David Parker said Labour favoured reviewing the Emissions Trading Scheme to include agriculture, rather than scrapping it and replacing it with a carbon tax system ? as was the Greens policy.

He added that the parties' differing stance on the policy was not a coalition deal-breaker, and they would work on a solution post-election.

NZ First deputy leader Tracey Martin said climate change was an issue wider than Auckland and public transport.

She also described the Emissions Trading Scheme as a failure, but said it was a problem that needed a cross-party solution, as opposed to adopting one party's policy. "Let's have a chat about it later on shall we...? The water's rising, let's just come up with solutions."

Maori party candidate Nancy Tuaine also spoke and said the country had sold a '100 per cent pure' brand world-wide, but hadn't been prepared to stick to it.

The Conservative Party didn't respond to its invitation, Hayes said.

- APNZ

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