At the National Party conference over the weekend, the Hamilton West National Party MP Tim Macindoe had a flippant response to the question of climate change.
But for the farming families of the Central North Island severe droughts, wildfires, flooding, salt-water intrusion and increasing invasive weeds and pests are serious issues.
Over the last six years the National government has done little to combat climate change. At its Central North Island Regional Conference climate change was, once again, left off the agenda. This, despite the fact that last summer residents of the central North Island experienced one of the most extreme droughts in NZ on record and that within the next 75 years the time spent in drought for the Waikato region is expected to more than double.
To get delegates talking about climate change we sent along our polar bear to act as the elephant in the room. She was refused entry to the conference room but was outside as people arrived for the conference.
When asked whether they were worried that climate change wasn't on the agenda for the weekend only one delegate said ‘yes’. Others answered; “There's not a damn thing we can do about it" or just plain “no”. When invited out to discuss climate change, Minister of Economic Development Steven Joyce declined.
According to the Ministry of Primary Industries the 2013 drought cost the primary sector industry $1.3 billion in total last year. Surely this is something the Minister for Economic Development should be willing to discuss?
The stress and hardships these droughts cause hard-working farming families across the country is devastating. The omission of climate change from the weekend’s agenda shows that this Government is not up to the job of managing our economy, our environment and the health and well-being of NZ families.
Since late 2008 the government has been hell-bent on subsidising some of the richest, most polluting foreign companies on the planet. It has failed to reduce pollution and embrace the opportunities that moving to a cleaner way of powering our future will bring. It has also failed to acknowledge the impacts climate change is already having on our primary sector. It’s bad economic management and it’s simply not good enough that the government is leaving Kiwi families that are reliant on our primary industries to fend for themselves in the face of climate change.
Two weeks ago our polar bear turned up John Key’s post budget briefing. She was there to highlight that the budget failed to help build a cleaner, smarter future. A future that backs the Kiwi innovators who could deliver the solutions to climate change, provide tens of thousands of jobs and give the economy a multi-billion dollar boost. Solutions that also mean polar bears have a home in the Arctic and that mean the Central North Island does not have to suffer.
If we allow the Arctic to melt, the issues that Tim Macindoe considers frivolous will continue to hurt the people of Central North Island and create climate refugees all over the world.
But our plucky polar bear is not giving up.
Watch this space.