Well, we come to the final question this evening,
which is about the environment, and especially water quality. Max Thompson is asking; should
water quality – that is the rivers et cetera – should that be governed as it currently
is by a kind of national standard or should this be in the hands of local bodies – regional
councils and the like. John: I think the dilemma for local government
is always it’ s always terribly under-resourced, and struggles to actually implement and carry
out a lot of policies. So, the example would be the Resource Management Act. The struggles
that you have – regional differences in what was intended to be more of a national idea.
As I look at the Waikato River for example; the regional authority has struggled there
to deal with local community interests and local councils the river flows through, and
it’ s also been drawn into convoluted and very emotive debates around pollutants from
farms, pollutants from industry, pollutants from towns. If Central Government says, this
is the standard we’ re going to meet, then that’ s it. In some ways I suggest that the
whole of the environmental global issue is of such urgency we don’ t have the luxury
and the time to much around with local niceties or local arguments that are not necessarily
based on good scientific evidence that says our waterways are in trouble.
David: Could I add to that, John; was it the Ruataniwha dam in the Hawke’ s Bay – for a
number of years farming community and I think Local Government wanted to build this dam,
and quite clearly National Party policy was that this would be a very good thing in terms
of the economic benefits, but at every step of the way they were declined, and it went
through a couple of court appeals, and finally they’ ve said, no this is not the right thing
to do by the environment. Unfortunately, Bill English said, oh well we’ ll change the Resource
Management Act. I thought that was an act of political suicide amongst the blue-greens.
You know? There are quite a few people within the National scene who are blue in terms of
their politics, but have a definite green tinge about it.
I think that cavalier attitude to dismissing the – and I’ ve heard it said by a number
of National aspirants that the Resource Management Act has to be changed because it’ s stacked
against development. Actually, it’ s stacked for the environment, and that’ s what it was
set up to do. Winston Peter’ s made the very telling point on the minor parties debate
that the vast majority of New Zealanders simply know that the state of the rivers is not right,
and there’ s no point, as you said, in dividing town and country and rural communities against
city developments. We’ re all drinking the same water. We’ re all swimming in the same
rivers. We’ re all trying to make our livings off the same land where the water is going
into those rivers – the run-off into them. So, we’ ve got address this as a matter of
urgency. For me, it’ s the prime issue of the debate; the environmental issues. Uesifili
and Ian; how do you feel about it? Uesifili: Well, I’ m interested in the conversation
that was on TV this morning, and the perspective by the Maori Party about the involvement of
iwi, which I suspect is partly local and partly central in terms of waterways and the environment,
and so forth. I think it does come down, as John had alluded to, to the fact that local
governments are under-resourced, but are also, I suspect, not really wanting to get into
the kind of arguments that all of the other things get into like transport and so forth.
So I don’ t know what the answer is, but I suspect that depending on which perspective
you’ re coming from whether it’ s local or central government or iwi, there’ s vested
interest in all of us, and I’ m not sure who’ s to benefit.
I think it should be looked at from how the community can benefit from the environment,
and I’ m not sure whether that’ s part of the argument at the moment, or whether throwing
around the idea of who’ s going to benefit politically, and whether it’ s business or
the farmers who are going to benefit in terms of the economic returns. I’ m not quite sure
where the conversation is at in terms of that, or in the future, but I suspect iwi and Maoridom
might have the stronger arguments in terms of some local responsibility.
Ian: I would only comment, just to follow up on David’ s point that water is something
that is essential to all of us, and from my view we shouldn’ t lose site of the fact that
in some way we are all responsible for what happens to this vital resource, because without
it there is no human race to follow. Uesifili: Could I just make a comment there,
David? David: Exactly – very well put.
Uesifili: [39:49] situation up North where the Russian billionaire has asked the local
council to give consent to him draining the local river to water his garden. The Maori
iwi has objected, and it’ s the only time the regional council or the local council
listens to the local community. I’ m not sure whether Central Government could help here
because I think they were very encouraged when the Russian billionaire came up north.
So I’ m not sure. I’ m pretty cynical, but I suspect that there is some real input that
the local community might have in this, because it affects them at that grass root level.
So yeah, I don’ t know. John: I wonder whether the dilemma always
for politics and argument about the environment is that politics are about promising something
now. To talk about the environment is to talk about the future. In some ways, the immediate
game might not be that much in comparison to the long term cost. I think the classic
example was again the in the Waikato region, with the nitrates; it’ s not what you do now
as an impact on the river now – it’ s what you do now and the impact of the river in
50 years time, when those nitrates actually enter the river. Now, there’ s no political
mileage to be made out of thinking that far ahead. That’ s the tragedy of it all, and
unless we can actually say we’ ll put aside our personal needs for now, and take into
account those really long term needs, then the debate is always going to be – it’ s always
fighting – pushing water uphill with a rake, if you like.
David: Well, I think John, you’ re highlighting the last topic that we want to look at tonight;
you’ re talking about the future, and the topic that I thought would be really great
to end with is that some of you have stood for political office or been approached to,
and I wondered what your perspective was about, do you actually think the way candidates present
themselves, because you’ ve been in that process – do you think that they are really thinking
about the good of the country first, or are they thinking about getting elected first?
Now, Uesifili I think you’ ve been approached by just about every political party under
the sun in New Zealand. What do you think; if you look at these candidates that are standing
now, asking for your vote in your electorate – are they there for the good of the country
or are they there because they want to be in office?
Uesifili: [42:46] David is, thank God I had the sense to turn them all down. I think political
parties is a team game, and I think it doesn’ t matter what your intentions are or your
aspirations are for your political career; you’ ve got to play the team game. I think
most of them are pretty much team players. Whether we like their policies or not, or
whether we like their partisanship or not; it’ s a team game, and it’ s difficult I think
for some of them to actually present themselves in light of the party, but I think that’ s
the nature of the beast, and I think it’ s a very difficult career, and life choice to
be part of a very big organisation like a political party, but I think from what I’
ve seen they’ ve done very well. They line up behind the leader, they nod their
heads when they’ re behind the leader on camera, and they seem to be saying the things that
the leader wants them to say. So, you can’ t fault them. The only saying is, you’ ve
got to swallow some dead rats. I think they do that pretty well, but that’ s the nature
of the game, I think. David: Ian Faulkner, what’ s your observation?
Ian: Well, never having been in the position of anybody wanting me to stand for a national
political scene, I think there’ s truth in what Uesifili is saying there, because I just
watch the various candidates lining themselves up in order of seniority behind the leader,
and following what they have agreed to do. David: That’ s a fair answer, Ian. John, yourself;
you stood for the far left didn’ t you? John: Well, I was Chairperson of the East
Cape Electoral Committee – in fact, ran one of their campaigns, and prior to that had
actually been nominated as a possible candidate. Like Uesifili, I would have to say that even
those people I find despicable, in actual fact stood with good intention. I didn’ t
like those intentions, but actually they believed in what they believed in, and they were committed
to, in their view, bettering society and the world. The other part is I think in order
to be a candidate; you have to have an ego. Let’ s not beat around the bush; you’ ve actually
got to believe you’ re God’ s gift to this local community and they need to get out and
vote for you. If you can’ t believe that you’ re not going to make it. The other part is
then I think, whether you like it or not, as Uesifili said, you not only have to swallow
dead rats – I think sometimes you live inside the carcass of an elephant.
The simple reason is that your ideas are just one of the whole cluster of ideas of a group
of parliamentarians, all of whom believe their ideas are better than anybody else’ s, and
at some point you’ re going to have a good idea – most of your ideas are never going
to see the day light. The other part is that even in the last year since I was involved,
the shift has really been away from the personality of the local candidate to the charisma of
the leader. That’ s it. It’ s the only thing that people vote upon, and I think watching
the polling today, one sees that Labour didn’ t have to change any policies; they simply
changed the leader – Jacinda is a charismatic young person, and their polling up through
the roof. David: Yeah, and in fact some of her announcements
are sort of the policies of yesteryear. You know? They’ re no longer relevant today, but
it’ s the wow factor – it’ s the x-factor, and I think New Zealand politics has become
far more USA presidential in how it runs itself for office these days. I’ d like to say thank
you very much for all of you coming along tonight, and also to our studio audience;
thanks indeed for coming in.