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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard

STEVE ABEL (Green): Kia ora, Mr Speaker. Mōrena, Aotearoa New Zealand. It’s Saturday morning, you’d like to be watching your kids playing football. Because we are human beings, we’re not just ciphers for capitalist annihilation, but this crackhead coal-ition Government smashing through—[Interruption] That’s right, That’s right. You said it. You named yourselves the coalition Government. They are wanting to—

Simon Court: Point of order, Mr Speaker. Point of order. Point of order. Mr Speaker—

SPEAKER: I heard the comment.

Simon Court: Yeah, I think the comment is unhelpful to maintaining order in the House at this time in the morning.

SPEAKER: It was, and I’ve had discussions about this very matter with whips at the Business Committee, so I would ask the member to reconsider the use of that term in the House. It’s unacceptable to make blanket allegations against other parties. Carry on.

STEVE ABEL: Thank you, Mr Speaker, I’m presuming I can call them the coal-ition Government, though? That’s OK? Yeah. Because, you know, they’re barking coal from the other side of the House, proudly, all the time. That is relevant to this bill because whilst we may be wasting our time and wasting nature and indeed—

Tanya Unkovich: It’s called democracy!

STEVE ABEL: —wasting democracy, that’s right. Wasting democracy because the public don’t get a say on this, but this Government listens intently to its lobbyists. One of the interesting cook-arounds on this particular piece of legislation—one of these interesting factors here—is that they’ve been listening well to the big polluting lobbyists. So, yes, as my colleagues to that side of me—on the left side of the House, but on the right side of me—point out, rightly, we need a waste levy. A waste levy is a good thing—that is broadly supported—but it should be a waste levy.

When the minister says that it’s for improving and protecting the environment from harm, in fact, what this Government is doing is removing tens of millions of dollars in this Budget that are there for protecting the environment from harm. To protect the environment for harm is not remediating previous harms or existing harm, and this waste levy that people are paying to reduce waste—they say it’s for waste minimisation—is, in fact, going to be used for cleaning up the mining industry’s mess.

It says here from mining and industrial sites decontaminating. That is not what a waste levy is for. If we are to accumulate the necessary funds that we need to rightly build the infrastructure to deal with waste, which is a cost burden to our society and to our environment, we should be putting that money towards reducing waste, not to cleaning up industrial contaminated sites. But, of course, what the very effective lobbyists from the mining industry say to this Government and whisper in their ears—and this Government does listen intently to its lobbyists—what they say is, “You can spend that money that people think they’re spending on cleaning up waste. You can spend it on cleaning up our mining mess that we left behind; our acid mine drainage; our massive cyanide-laden tailings dams in Waihi. And when an extreme weather event causes that tailings dam to fail, you can take money from the waste levy to clean that up.”

Absolutely we should be cleaning up contaminated mine sites. Absolutely we should be cleaning them up, but we should be making the industry most closely associated with that mess pay for it, not the construction industry. So when someone dumps their landfill and they’re going to get charged more for the levy, they’re thinking, “Why am I paying more for this?” “Because we’re trying to reduce waste. Oh, but also, we’re actually going to use the money you’ve just paid on that levy to clean up the coal industry’s mess.” That’s actually what this legislation now does.

This is why broadening it beyond waste minimisation is not what this is for. This is why broadening it as it does is, frankly—I’m not allowed to say the word that I want to say.

Simon Court: It’s a great idea, Steve. These are orphan sites.

STEVE ABEL: Orphan sites that the industry that created that mess, the legacy industry—are you telling me the construction industry should be playing to clean up the mess of the mining industry? No. Why doesn’t the mining industry have a levy to pay for cleaning up of orphan sites?

Simon Court: Well why should good operators pay for bad operators?

STEVE ABEL: Exactly, that’s what it should be. It should not be coming out of the waste minimisation levy. I actually wonder what the legality is of saying it’s a waste minimisation levy and then spending it on something other than waste minimisation. Because that’s frankly not saying what it says on the tin, and that’s not what the public of New Zealanders—they’re trying to watch their kids play football and sitting there on the phone going “What? What’s going on here?” You don’t get a say on this, by the way. I think the construction industry would have loved a select committee on this. They could have given their opinion on how good they feel about you using their money for cleaning up mining industry waste.

It is not protecting the environment to clean up a mess made by an industry that this Government is removing all the protections for the environment, including water catchment—I’ll get back to that. Thank you, Mr Speaker.