The Climate Emergency Response Fund, CERF, played a conspicuous role in the narrative around this year’s budget. It is a multi-year fund that receives money from the NZ emissions trading scheme, ETS.
Treasury says the ETS revenue has fallen dramatically, forecast to be a loss of $2.7 billion. This is a consequence of Labour’s reluctance to allow the ETS price to rise. This money is used to fund carbon mitigation initiatives - a host of which have been dubious.
An obvious example is the clean car discount scheme that offers a subsidy to purchasers of expensive electric cars. It should not be a shock to know this hustle has been oversubscribed.
It does not assist working-class whānau or rural residents. It is a subsidy to those who can already afford electric cars. Meanwhile, firms in fisheries, farming, and forestry pay an ever-increasing tax when their new diesel vehicles are imported.
Electric vehicles are not common in Tai Tokerau, where the emphasis is on trying to keep cars roadworthy and compliant while the roads deteriorate. Before the bureaucracy funds any more charging stations here, they will need to substantially invest in roading resilience.
As rural Māori seek to expand their investments within marine farming and other primary sectors, crumbling infrastructure is a major barrier to growth. A major reset is needed to ensure flooding resilience and highway accessibility. If not, our overseas revenue will be significantly harmed.
As an example of this, fresh oysters from Whangaroa can fetch up to $35 a dozen in Asian markets. Unreliable transport, however, means that this opportunity goes begging. Not unlike rural communities pleading for Waka Kotahi to fix the potholes.
Apparently, a multi-billion fund for transport has been set aside in the budget. However, given the ongoing drive to build light rail in Auckland, the whānau in the sticks could be hitchhiking before the money seeps north.
Within our Te Aupouri tribal estate, there is considerable scope to boost the amount of renewable energy. Solar farms, generally driven by middlemen, are regularly pitched. Such initiatives however often flounder because our Māori land is not proximate to the main grid and there is limited transmission capacity.
To date, CERF funding has not gone on such initiatives to boost Māori involvement in climate mitigation. The Ministry for the Environment is supposed to give weight to te ao Māori perspectives as such money is allocated. Unfortunately, the ministry approach is airy and rural whānau dismiss it as globetrotting gas.
Now the ETS has fallen within the crosshairs of the Climate Commission and the chairman Rod Carr, also a member of the UN global climate experts group formed at COP26 in Glasgow.
Domestically, he is opposed to industries using ETS-based offsetting. His view appears to have infected the work of these global busybodies. In giving feedback on his UN trip, he described offsetting as a “veil of virtue” designed to prolong emissions.
Fortunately, such thinking is not in charge of local climate policy-making. Such responsibilities properly belong within ourselves. We are a sovereign nation that should seek out the most efficient manner of addressing decarbonisation.
The vast majority of Māori climate commentary coming from the Government overlooks least-cost options. It is almost as if commercial analysis is a swear word. But such an attitude does not pay tribal bills.
During the upcoming election, rural Māori primary producers will need to remind candidates that cost implications do not vanish just because someone mentions Papatūānuku.
Te Aupouri has received land, fisheries quota and forestry interests through the settlement process. Such an endowment of assets means cost-efficiency is essential to our role in the zero-emissions journey.
The durability of our settlement will be undermined if the Ministry for Environment heeds only politically-palatable voices.
The ETS is actually a regulated market. For those willing to invest in carbon forestry on marginal blocks of land, ETS certainty is critical. It enables owners to earn income from idle land. Revenue from such an operation can then be directed to fresh Māori ventures.
Unfortunately, the opponents to offsetting are bent on disruption. As the Climate Minister blows hot and cold on the future of Māori carbon farming, investment slows down.
Ideally, adjustments to the rules around Māori land and the ETS ought to have been developed collaboratively. This opportunity has been scorned by the bureaucracy and litigation cannot be ruled out.
Labour Cabinet Ministers should be seeing red. They ought to remember, 45 years on from the Bastion Point, Māori land rights remain potent.
Such concerns may be dismissed by Rod Carr and the Greens co-leader James Shaw.
However, in about 120 days, voting for the parliamentary elections will commence. With a change of government, the chairman of the Climate Change Commission may be leaving the position early.
So too might others as the climate in the regional Māori constituency heats up.
- Penetaui Kleskovic is operations manager at Te Aupouri Commercial Development.