Where do political parties stand on conservation, biosecurity and genetic engineering? The New Zealand Science Media Centre quizzed each main party* contesting this election on their positions.

How will your party support the Predator Free 2050 initiative - what role should aerial 1080 drops play in pest eradication efforts?

NATIONAL: In July 2016, the Government announced Predator Free 2050, to control pests and help protect our native wildlife. It is the most ambitious conservation project attempted anywhere in the world.

The Government is leading the effort by investing in a range of projects such as $21.3m for Battle For Our Birds, $2.8m for a sea lion threat management plan, and released the first ever Threatened Species Strategy.

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Through Battle for the Birds, which supports Predator Free 2050, we are working to protect a dozen priority species of birds, bats, frogs, lizards, and snails at risk of serious decline or local extinction.

Predator control will also benefit many common native species and whole ecosystems.

Aerial 1080 will be used at around 29 sites to knock down rat, possum and stoat numbers as it is the most effective pest control method across large areas and difficult terrain.

We'll also be using traps and other ground-based methods at other more accessible sites.

The Department of Conservation is spending more than ever before on natural heritage and recreation work.

There's also more conservation work being done in New Zealand now, than at any time in our history.

DoC continues to spend more on biodiversity work than it does on recreation - even with the $76m tourism infrastructure increase this year.

LABOUR: Labour will back New Zealand being predator free by 2050, or earlier, with mammalian predators being eradicated as technology and techniques allow.

We believe aerial 1080 application is the best available option for possum, rat and stoat control particularly in difficult to access country, and its use is strongly supported by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

Labour will at the same time encourage research into and development of new and improved alternatives to 1080.

GREEN PARTY: The Green Party will double the number of rangers working on the front lines to defend nature and double the amount of pest control on conservation land, within five years.

Our Thriving Nature package will:

• Restore the Department of Conservation's (DoC) role as nature's primary defender. By doubling DoC's baseline conservation budget within five years we can double the number of people working on the frontlines of conservation - DoC rangers and the technical staff and scientists who support them - and double the amount of pest control on conservation land.
• Stop all new mining on the conservation estate, strengthen legal protection for threatened species and the places where they live, and create a strong, overarching conservation action plan.
• Support community-based conservation and conservation on private land by doubling the government funding they can receive and better co-ordinate the great work of conservation volunteers nationwide.
• Increase funding for Predator Free 2050 through a $20 levy on international tourists entering New Zealand, raising $65 million per year for Predator Free New Zealand by 2021.

Our native birds are in serious trouble, and their number one threat is from pests.

The Green Party supports the appropriate use of 1080 poison in remote or hard to access areas where aerial drops are the only practical way to control pests.

MAORI PARTY: Our overarching policy supporting Predator Free 2050 initiative is kaitiakitanga.

The spiritual and cultural guardianship of Te Ao Marama; our responsibility to care for our environment.

The Maori Party opposes the use of 1080 on conservation land in New Zealand, but at the same time understands over 90 per cent of conservation land is difficult to access and therefore 1080 is currently the most efficient form of pest eradication.

As such, the Maori Party will support research and development into alternative methods for 1080.

ACT: ACT believes Predator Free 2050 is a promise with no intention of being kept.

The politicians who made the promise will have long since retired by 2050 and so will not be held accountable.

Act's policy is more realistic - we would sell Landcorp and use the proceeds to fund community groups who would like to set up publicly-accessible conservation sanctuaries.

They will be contracted to achieve targets such as producing sustainable native bird populations which could be interbred with other sanctuaries.

Act supports the use of 1080 for pest eradication.

TOP: TOP is completely committed to Predator Free 2050. In fact, Gareth was a founding member of Predator Free NZ! We want to levy a $20 per tourist border levy that will raise $60+ million per annum to go towards funding the predator free effort and war on weeds.

The Predator Free effort should invest in projects that will offer the greatest biodiversity return on investment for the conservation dollar.

This is a major scientific and analytical challenge and at the moment we are not convinced DoC has the capacity to make these strategic calls.

Any investments have to include control operations such as aerial 1080.

This will remain an essential tool in maintaining our native fauna until the predator free effort is able to successfully eradicate predators from areas and protect them from reinvasion on the mainland.

Is it time to lift the moratorium on the commercial release of genetically modified organisms? Do we have a competitive advantage internationally or are we missing out by not being able to apply this science in NZ? Can we achieve the predator free goals without it?
NATIONAL: The Environment Protection Agency is the independent controlling authority and has not approved any GM crops for release here to date.

Food imports are a Food Safety issue but it is possible that some imported processed foods could contain GM ingredients.

Some work is going on at the development stage involving the genetic modification of vegetables (eg, onions that are herbicide resistant and potatoes that are resistant to disease).

To date, no fresh produce (fruit, vegetables, meat or milk) originating in New Zealand is genetically modified.

Some processed foods may, however, contain genetically modified ingredients sourced from overseas (eg, soy or corn flour).

There is some frustration by those in the science community that similarly low-risk biotechnologies developed since 1998 have not been included in the new "not GM" regulations.

The rationale for our cautious approach is that New Zealand is an exporter of billions of dollars of food products and we need to be mindful of market perceptions as well as the science.

We will continue to monitor global rules around the regulation of GMOs and adapt our system over time in line with international developments.

LABOUR: Labour will maintain the status quo of new GM techniques requiring EPA approval for use.

Labour will also maintain the ability of councils to decide on economic grounds whether and where release and commercial use of GMO plants and animals is allowed.

We'll also protect farmers who do not wish to adopt GM technology by ensuring the liability regime for use of GMOs that cause harm is strengthened.

GREEN PARTY: Genetic engineering should occur in a contained laboratory setting only.

Our food and environment should be GE Free.

This definitely gives us a competitive advantage as it means we can market our agricultural exports as high-end boutique products.

It's a powerful marketing tool to have on our export goods.

On predator free, the lines of research should remain open.

One big breakthrough could be as simple as creating a long-lasting and effective lure for stoats.

Our Thriving Nature plan significantly increases funding for Predator Free 2050, doubling pest control on DoC land and for community conservation groups.

Via those means, we will make significant progress towards the goal of eliminating all predators from New Zealand by 2050.

MAORI PARTY: The Maori Party supports communities and their right to determine whether there are genetically modified (GM) crops in their regions.

We preserve a region's ability under local plans to regulate all types of GM crops in their territories including forestry and grasses and any activities involving the growing of GM crops whether for commercial or other purposes.

We believe that it is for regions to determine whether they have a competitive advantage to have GM-free communities and whether the moratorium on the commercial release of genetically modified organisms should be lifted.

We support iwi, tribal trusts, whanau trusts, landowners and incorporations to identify lands and resources to grow food for overseas and local markets, at the same time initiating new employment.

We encourage the return of iwi trading in specialist kai, including organic food and GM free kai production.

ACT: Act supports the commercial use of GMOs.

However, we also respect the rights of individual local authorities to set their own GMO policies.

TOP: Based on current technology, it does seem unlikely we would achieve our predator free goals without the use of genetic techniques.

However, technology can change and it makes sense to invest in a variety of techniques.

In the meantime, TOP favours having a public conversation on this issue, in line with the recommendation of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright that we need a public engagement process on the potential use of genetic techniques to control predators.

Following a string of biosecurity responses in recent years - from myrtle rust and Bonamia to velvet leaf and the Queensland fruit fly incursion - what will your party do to strengthen our biosecurity preparation and response?
NATIONAL: Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has always said that biosecurity is his number one priority and this has been backed up with major funding boosts and new initiatives.

This year's Budget included a funding boost for biosecurity of $18.4 million, taking total funding to $248m - a record high.

In the past few years MPI has employed 50 new biosecurity staff and 20 extra biosecurity detector dog teams, introduced new X-ray scanning machines, a dedicated Border Clearance Levy to meet rising passenger numbers, an inflight video for arriving air travellers, and a new animal health laboratory is under construction.

We've also released the Biosecurity 2025 Direction Statement, setting out a long term strategy for engaging all New Zealanders.

National's full primary industries policy will be released soon and continue the strong focus on biosecurity.

On average the overall number of incursions per year has been consistent with previous years going back to 2000 - this is despite strongly increasing passenger and cargo volumes. We have around 12 million passenger movements a year across our borders and 175,000 items a day cross our border.

Even if we shut down all trade and people movements, incursions can still happen via wind (myrtle rust) and the ocean (bonamia).

LABOUR: Labour will establish an independent biosecurity authority sufficiently resourced and capable of maintaining a robust, pro-active and fit-for-purpose biosecurity framework.

We'll also conduct a review of, and invest in improvements to, existing GIAs to ensure they are responsive to future risks and opportunities, not just current threats, and we'll continue to support sectors and research organisations working to reduce the impact of introduced biological pests that threaten the viability of existing industries.

GREEN PARTY: Aotearoa New Zealand should have stricter border security, quarantine and internal biosecurity regimes and capacity.

The Green Party wants to see even higher standards including more stringent inspections overseas.

Our biosecurity strategy will:

• Be based on a precautionary approach and promote the lowest practical risk;
• Ensure MPI and others constantly improve biosecurity protocols, including controls on seed importation, GE and micro-organisms;
• Only permit new species of biological control after extensive risk assessment.

MAORI PARTY: We place whanau at the centre of everything we do because whanau/fanau/family is the foundation on which Aotearoa thrives.

We are driven to advance the interests of our people, and to protect and defend their rights.

Philosophies of Te Ao Maori:

• Manaakitanga
• Kotahitanga
• Kaitiakitanga

Maori needed to be active participants in decision-making and implementation of plans for the management of pests and diseases.

This includes a clear understanding of the complexities of the relevant Maori landscape relating to myrtle rust and the key strategic priorities for Maori.

We are deeply concerned about the impact of myrtle rust on native species such as pohutukawa and manuka and believe that iwi and hapu need to be at the decision making table in terms of solutions.

ACT: Act does not have a biosecurity policy.

Any changes in this area should ensure environmental benefits are weighed proportionally against the privacy and freedoms of travellers.

TOP: We are an evidence based party.

We have not researched this issue but if it came up we would talk to the experts to understand the issues.

Obviously on one hand biosecurity costs money and on the other hand incursions inflict a massive cost on our economy.

A precautionary approach is needed.

New Zealand First is yet to respond to the questions.