'Sellout' claims over Maori ETS deal

02:28, Nov 28 2009
Pita Sharples
PARTNERS: Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples and Climate Change Minister Nick Smith. The Maori Party is supporting the Government's climate change law, which includes concessions for iwi.

The Maori Party is being accused of "selling out" Maori families after a deal over the Government's climate change law that delivers concessions to big iwi.

In exchange for the party's support, the Government will make conservation land available to some iwi to plant trees for carbon credits, but says public access is guaranteed.

There is also more money to insulate low-income households.

A last-ditch bid by ACT to delay the legislation failed yesterday after the Government agreed to concessions, including a $25 million to $50m forestry deal for some iwi and an extra $24m in home insulation.

The Government needed Maori Party support to get the legislation through under urgency this week to put an emissions trading scheme in place on July 1 next year. That is six months after Labour's scheme was to kick in.

The scheme will mean higher petrol and power prices as households are forced to share the cost of pollution.

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ACT leader Rodney Hide urged the Government yesterday to delay rather than do a backroom deal with the Maori Party and iwi.

But Climate Change Minister Nick Smith said a delay was unacceptable as it would have meant going another year without an emissions trading scheme in place.

Prime Minister John Key said the scheme struck a balance between the desire of New Zealanders to "play their part" on climate change while mitigating the effects on business and households.

Labour's scheme would have meant steeper price rises, he said.

Under the deal with the Maori Party, 8000 more low-income homes will get insulated and a Treaty of Waitangi clause will be included in the legislation.

The Government has agreed in principle to hand over 35,000 hectares (86,500 acres) in conservation land to five iwi to plant trees for carbon credits in recognition that they had been disadvantaged by Treaty deals in the early 1990s.

Ngai Tahu is the biggest winner, accounting for about 30,000ha.

Labour MP Shane Jones said the Maori Party had "sold out" low-income Maori families "to protect a narrow privileged southern elite".

But Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples rejected suggestions the deal benefited mostly Ngai Tahu.

Under changes previously announced by the Government, the cost of power and fuel price rises on households has been softened from those projected under Labour's scheme.

But farmers and big business are the biggest winners because the Government has delayed their facing the full cost of their emissions.

Under the deal with the Maori Party, forests will be planted on South Island conservation land within Ngai Tahu's boundaries.

Dr Smith said it had been made "very plain" that public access must be maintained.

Ahead of yesterday's announcement there was speculation the deal could be worth as much as $2 billion but the Government rejected that yesterday, saying it was worth only $25 million over the course of the agreement, which is 70 years.

Free trip offered to iwi leaders

The Government has offered to fly iwi leaders and kaumatua to Copenhagen for climate change talks at taxpayers' expense.

Concessions to the Maori Party over the Government's emissions trading scheme include a promise to pay for two members of the Iwi Leadership Group to travel to Copenhagen with the official delegation at taxpayers' expense.

Much of the negotiation over the shape of forestry concessions was done through the group. In a letter to members last week, Climate Change Minister Nick Smith also suggested kaumatua might go to Copenhagen as well, to help the Government push for a change to forestry rules.

Dr Smith said yesterday that he made no apology for the trip by group members Roger Pikia and Chris Karamea Insley being funded by taxpayers. Both had relevant experience and would be able to put New Zealand's case strongly to developing nations.

Other industry groups were sending delegates to Copenhagen but a list had not been made final yet.

In Opposition, National sparked a stir after it labelled Maori objections to things like roadworks "PC nonsense".

Dr Smith once said the cost of a handing-over ceremony for Nelson city's new chief executive was "way over the top" and hypocritical in the face of the Labour government's emissions trading scheme after six staff flew from Wellington to Nelson for a day.

Climate change top of Trinidad agenda

Climate change will dominate the agenda as Commonwealth leaders meet in Trinidad and Tobago this week.

Prime Minister John Key said global warming would take centre stage at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which is being held a week before the United Nations' summit in Copenhagen.

Combating global warming was a major challenge for the Commonwealth's many developing nations, which would need technical and other support to come up with solutions, he said. "We'll be working constructively to maximise prospects for the success at the UN talks at Copenhagen."

He would use the meeting, which brings together the leaders of 52 nations and will be attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, to lobby for his proposed "global alliance" to research ways to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from farms. Agriculture accounts for the biggest share of New Zealand's emissions.

Mr Key said he would also seek support for New Zealand's bid for a seat on the UN security council.

THE SCHEME

* The emissions trading scheme is a market for trading carbon units. Polluters pay to buy carbon units, while foresters and others who reduce carbon emissions get credits.

* An ETS is supported by both National and Labour as a mechanism for getting polluters to reduce their carbon emissions, which they are required to do under international treaties such as the Kyoto protocol. But Labour disagrees with National's proposals, which include giving big emitters more time to adjust to the changes, a longer phase-out of Government subsidies and keeping farmers out until 2015.

* The scheme comes into effect from next year and the price of petrol, electricity, gas and other products made with fossil fuels is likely to rise. Taxpayers will also have to underwrite the initial cost of giving big emitters time to adjust.

* Under a deal with the Maori Party yesterday, the Government has agreed in principle to several measures, including a Treaty of Waitangi clause, making Crown-owned land available to iwi to plant trees for carbon credits, and an extra $24 million to insulate low-income households.

The Dominion Post