Editorial: A vote for the future

Last election, New Zealand voters were apparently most concerned with taxes (to cut or not to cut?), the trustworthiness (or otherwise) of the main protagonists Helen Clark and Don Brash, and the shadowy dealings of the Exclusive Brethren.

How quickly time has passed (and how quickly those “pressing” election issues have become the issues of yesterday) and already we are again in election year.

It feels as though there has been a real change in the air since the last election. New Zealanders have become increasingly concerned about the growing pressures on our environment. The alarming frequency of reports of “one in 100 year” weather extremes of floods, droughts and storms suggests their concerns are well founded.

Certainly issues such as climate change, sustainability, and the need to achieve actual substance behind New Zealand’s often undeserved clean green reputation have become high profile topics for public debate.

We need to harness this re-invigorated public and political interest in environmental issues, and make sure that the environment is right up there as a top election issue. Health, education, welfare and of course the economy are typically the big election issues. We need to make sure the environment is up there with them.

That’s why this year we want to make sure that all political parties vying for your vote are aware of the important environmental challenges we are facing – and ensuring that they make serious commitment to providing genuine solutions in terms of policy and legislative change that will last long after the election-year brouhaha is over.

Our advocacy team has put together what we see as the most pressing environmental issues on which our elected representatives can make a real difference. The focus is on the achievable – whether the issue is protecting our most pristine river catchments from hydro development, or saving our most vulnerable endemic species from extinction.

You can read those questions in this issue of the magazine, and we hope you (and the political candidates) will be hearing more of them as we head into the election.

The Save Manapouri campaign of several decades ago, which is also covered in this issue, highlights how much influence can be exerted on national decision-makers by an effective campaign which truly captures the support of the New Zealand public, especially in an election year. Manapouri showed that public opinion can make a real difference on conservation issues.

With this in mind, Forest & Bird plans to put the most pressing conservation questions we face today to our candidates at national level in the lead-up to the election, and I strongly encourage all our branches to also put them to candidates in their own electorates at local “meet the candidates” meetings.

By ensuring that those who wish to represent us in Parliament hear loud and clear that the environment is a high priority for voters, we can achieve real and significant gains for conservation this election.

Peter Maddison
Forest & Bird President