The health of our ecology has emerged as a key issue this year
New Zealand's environmental performance has been given the largest platform at a general election since the GE debate, in part because it comes hot on the heels of the worst environmental disaster in New Zealand's history.
In the last electoral term the gap between New Zealand's 100 per cent Pure brand and its environmental reality has become a source of embarrassment for many Kiwis.
Environment Minister Nick Smith has admitted that the country's environmental health fell short of its tourism branding, but hopes a complete overhaul of the way the country measures its land, air and water will signal a turning point.
At the heart of the National Party's environment policy is a law change which will introduce independent monitoring of all environmental factors.
This would see lakes and rivers ranked in terms of cleanliness, and provide a platform for cleaning them.
In the regeneration of waterways, National was not willing to go as far as Labour and the Greens, who supported a charge for large-scale water users such as farmers. This levy would finance remediation of waterways.
National also feel farmers should not be included in the ETS until at least 2015. A Labour-led government would draw them into the scheme in 2013.
Labour feel there is no rational reason why intensive farming should be left out of the scheme because it produces half of New Zealand's emissions.
Prime Minister John Key has emphasised New Zealand would not be a leader in carbon pricing, but would closely observe international movements and try to align its scheme with Australia.
Fossil fuel exploration has been elevated to one of the election's biggest environmental talking point, with most parties taking a hard line against National's promise to surge ahead with mining efforts.
Polls indicate that the majority of the public are satisfied with how the Government responded to the Rena oil spill off Tauranga's coast. But the disaster has reignited the discussion of New Zealand's preparedness for offshore drilling at depths of up to 3000m
National believe it would be a knee-jerk reaction to suspend oil exploration in the wake of the Rena grounding. Dr Smith is confident law changes will ensure world best practice for future petroleum extraction, and permits will be publicly notified and scrutinised by a new Environment Protection Agency.
The Labour Party has said it would stop all deep sea drilling until it could be proved safe.
It also promised an urgent review of oil spill responses, and said that it would ensure polluters paid for any clean-up.
Labour and the Greens have said they would stop the mining of low-grade, carbon-heavy lignite in Southland, and the Greens have also expressed concern about opencast mining on the Denniston Plateau on the West Coast.