22nd Annual Bluegreens Forum Update

The 22nd Bluegreens Forum has just concluded in Nelson. Held over the 29th February and the 1st March it was attended by over 100 Environment and Conservation minded members of the Party, NGO’s and major industry groups including farming, forestry, tourism and waste. The Bluegreens are the ‘practical environmentalists’ who understand that change will not come about without consultation with the electorate and strong evidence-based science.

The keynote address by our Leader the Hon Simon Bridges reinforced the essence of what the Bluegreen philosophy reflects:

  • Resource use must be based on sustainability.
  • Economic growth and improving the environment can and must go hand in hand.
  • Good Science is essential to quality environmental decision making.
  • People respond best to change when engaged and given incentives.
  • We have a unique birth right to access and enjoy our ‘Special Places’.

These 5 principles are the same today as they were 22 years ago when just two enthusiastic National MP’s (Nick Smith & Simon Upton) gathered in Wellington to create the Bluegreens.

The Bluegreens is the most active of National’s Policy Advisory Groups. Their mission is to advise the Party on environmental policy. It is motivated by the dual objectives of making this country greener and wealthier. Nick Smith’s leadership and his passion to have the Bluegreens message heard in Caucus has helped achieve conservation milestones for the Party. From just 2 Bluegreen Caucus members 22 years ago, we now have 27 Bluegreens MP’s in our Caucus, showing the strong commitment our Party towards protecting and enhancing our unique environment. Nationals Environment team includes Scott Simpson (Co-chair & Spokesperson for the Environment and Climate Change), Jacqui Dean (Spokesperson for Conservation), and Erica Stanford (Associate Spokesperson for the Environment).

Our thoughts are with the family of Lance Coombes, who passed away late last year. Lance was a strong environmental activist, including being a member of our Bluegreens Executive for the past 21 years.

Bluegreens leadership on the environment is heard very clearly in Caucus and has helped achieve conservation milestones for the National Party.

  • In the last 10 years we have taken New Zealand from generating 65% to 85% renewable energy.
  • Established the Land and Water forum to strengthen monitoring, compliance and enforcement.
  • Established Predator Free 2050
  • Established ‘Battle for our Birds’ to protect our native species
  • Set up ‘War on Weeds’ to tackle invasive species such as wilding pines.
  • Created 11 new marine reserves, and we’re still working to secure the Kermadecs as the third largest marine reserve in the world.
  • We developed and funded a threatened species strategy to ensure our native species flourish.
  • Funded a kiwi recovery programme whose aim is to have 100,000 wild kiwi by 2030.
  • Helped tackle kauri dieback with funding of close to 22 million dollars for research to turn the tide on this devastating disease.

The Bluegreens believe that the huge effort volunteers play in helping restore our natural world and believe they need more support from Government. Our Leader Simon Bridges announced a $5 million dollar fund to assist volunteer groups to help clean up our beaches. This will be one of the many environmental policy announcements the Party will be making as we move into ‘election mode’.

We believe that DOC is underfunded and needs more support. Greater effort is required to achieve our ‘Predator Free 2050’ goal. This will not only include traditional methods but will include science-based solutions that we will become world leaders in. Restoring our environment is a task and responsibility for all New Zealanders. Our oceans also need help. You can join and/or donate (last page) to the Bluegreens and receive regular updates on new policy announcements by visiting: www.bluegreens.national.org.nz or visit our Bluegreens Facebook page.

Speakers at this year’s Forum:

David Howie (Waste Management NZ GM Lower North Island); Simon Andrew (Ag Recovery GM); Juliane Raine Oaklands Milk)

Dr Jeremy Helson (CEO - Inshore fisheries, and soon CEO Seafood NZ); Livia Esterhazy (CEO WWF); Grant Rosewarne (CEO King Salmon)

This session was chaired by Hon Dr Nick Smith, who set the scene, saying that New Zealand has the 4th largest EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone - covering 4,083,744 km2, which is approximately fifteen times the land area of NZ) in the world. He said that the key issues for our ocean are:

  • Bi-catch issues
  • Quota system
  • How to increase opportunities to increase sustainable fishing.

Nick is a strong advocate for an Oceans Ministry. DR JEREMY HELSON stated that NZ’s Quota Management System is unique and still fit for purpose – but it does need tweaking. “It’s not fishing, or the environment – it’s about doing both, but doing things smarter.”

He said that the QMS provides certainty for the seafood industry, which is very important. We need to think about how we can give better certainty – because that will drive investment to make improvements in our industry. “For every complex problem there’s an answer that is simple, clear, and wrong.” – HL Menchen

Jeremy, in response to Livia’s comment on cameras on boats, stated that the fishing industry isn’t opposed to cameras on boats – it’s just about the cost.

LIVIA ESTERHAZY (CEO of WWF) gave a compelling presentation, headed “A choppy sea can be navigated by a waka.” She noted that WWF (World Wildlife Fund) is the largest NGO in the globe, and has three key

  • Deliver field-based solutions
  • Create science-based policy
  • Aim by 2030 to make oceans 100% sustainable

She said “Yes – we do need to modernise the 30-year-old QMS”, noting that it still allows fishers to dump nonquota fish. She said “The original quota allocated 30 years ago may no longer be appropriate. We have to find a mechanism to allow quota holding fishers to release some of their quota, and we must move as a sector from volume to value.” She said we need:

  • “A real plan to roll out cameras on every fishing boat. Today, it is possible to economically put cameras on smaller boats.
  • Mitigation devices need to be developed – she commended the Precision Seafood nets, as an example.
  • Bi-catch legislation, saying the ocean is just as important environmentally, as are trees.
  • A “mountain to sea” approach to ensure our oceans are 100% sustainably managed. This will require an Oceans Ministry – rather than being managed across 4 to 5 different agencies.
  • 20% to 30% protection of the Hauraki Gulf – versus the current 0.3%.
  • Pacific Aid money to go into oceans research.

Livia urged National to “like the environment, and act now.” She concluded “Don’t get lost in policies and politics.”

GRANT ROSEWARNE (CEO of King Salmon) declared that open ocean aquaculture could be NZ’s most valuable export earner. He noted that Norway has identified salmon farming and fishing as industries to replace the NZ$70bn oil and gas industry Norway expects its king salmon production to increase by 500% by 2050. He said that the salmon market globally is 3m tonnes – most of which is now produced in Norway. He stated that Norway has 1,000 inshore fisheries, and has commenced a programme to include 5-600 offshore aquaculture sites.

Looking at our carbon footprint, Grant quoted EU data, comparing:

NOTE: CO2e is calculated by multiplying each of the 6 greenhouse gases by its 100-yr global warming potential

Fish eat (annually) less than their body weight; in comparison humans consume 600kg annually. Grant also noted that salmon farms all have “swimmable” water quality.

NICK SMITH summed up by saying that the regulatory regime to manage aquaculture is a total nightmare, and we urgently need to reform it.


The National Party is a ‘broad Church’ and listens to input from all groups in society. The Bluegreens, over its 22 years, has built a reputation that believes in collaboration, and ensures that all NGOs are invited to come and participate in our Forums. All we ask is respect, and we have never been let down.

We do not believe in receiving advice from a narrow section of the community. Those attending our meetings are welcome to ‘pitch a policy’ that will be listened to and put forward to the relevant Policy Advisory Group (PAG). Jacqui Dean, our new spokesperson for Conservation, chaired this panel of NGOs, that included Guy Salmon (CEO Ecologic); Dr David Burger (Dairy NZ); Joseph Thomas (Tasman District Council Scientist); Grant McCallum (Northland Farmer); and Annabel Young (CE of the Shipping Federation).

ANNABEL YOUNG, who is Executive Director of the Shipping Federation, spoke first noting that it takes 18 days for a ship to sail from NZ to Asia, and we need a dry dock that can cater for our medium sized ships. She strongly advocated for the fishing industry to support the discontinuation of using heavy diesel oil for their ships.

KEVIN HAGUE, CEO of Forest & Bird and ex Green MP, advocated for doubling the annual budget for conservation. He stated that there is a strong global push for countries to spend at least 1% of GDP on conservation - versus NZ which currently spends less than 0.5%.

ROB LANGFORD, said the Packaging Forum has 200 members, and his organisation supports promoting solutions that will enable packaging to be waste free by 2025. He noted that in 2018/19 NZ is currently recovering 73% of total capture glass. He did say that not all plastic is bad, with 3 out of 7 classifications being readily recyclable.

MIKE CHAPMAN, Hort NZ CEO, gave a plug for more and better water storage. He stated “Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink.” Mike noted that NIWA says that 80% of our rainfall goes straight out to sea. He said that the urban population is stealing rural NZ’s water. He stated that water storage

MATTHEW POTTINGER, TOP candidate gave a plug for his Party, saying they are keen to work with National.

NICK EDGAR, Landcare CEO, said the environment was all about critters, carbon and water. He recognised that a lot of farmers want to “front foot” this stuff. He said critters are about biodiversity, and carbon is about Climate Change.


Scott Simpson (Environment & Climate Change Spokesperson) & Todd Muller (Agricultural Spokesperson) co-chaired this session. The panel included Guy Salmon (Ecologic CEO); David Burger (NZ
Dairy); Joseph Thomas (Tasman Unitary Council Scientist; Nicola Wills (List MP Wellington) and Grant McCallum (Northland Farmer).

GUY SALMON (Ecologic CEO) noted that the challenge in the water quality debate is now around Jacinda Ardern’s ability to accomplish delivery. Guy said that we need to be better connected to each other, and that the capacity for innovation is increasing daily. He said that we all need to be accountable, and this includes farmers being more accountable to Regional Councils. However, we need a better transition process, as this is a manged generational issue.

Guy went on to highlight the challenges created by the marketing of the “impossible burger.” He said we need to face these challenges, including helping farmers to respond to them. Guy advocated for government to partner with farmers to improve stream management to prevent sedimentation.

DAVID BURGER (NZ Dairy) noted that it is incredibly hard to make a good submission to government when you are expected to respond to a 1,000-page document in just 6 weeks. He stated that this government had unrealistic expectations for this process. David stated that the Dairy sector is committed to stopping further degradation of our waterways. But he said thatthe key issue is that the evidence-base used for some of these policies is plainly not robust. He also stated that the implementation timeframes are not achievable. – he said that “a rushed job will be counter-productive.”

David lambasted government for espousing a policy where economic analysis is totally missing – saying the economic impact is grossly understated. David noted that all dairy farmers have to “hold the line” on environmental degradation. He said that we have to improve farm practices, and improve ecosystem health. David closed saying we need to have catchment-based solutions.

JOSEPH THOMAS (Tasman Council Scientist) talked about the potential of water storage. He noted that one of the biggest challenges is managing perceptions vs information and its impacts. Joseph stated that “no one shoe fits all solutions, as issues are multidimensional for each catchment. He concluded that water storage (in cases) may be a positive for both the environment and users/community.

GRANT McCALLUM (Northland dairy farmer) noted that farmers are passionate about the land, saying it is inter-generational, and “Enduring changes come from a collaborative methodology.” He said that the farming community is really engaged in this process, but Ministers failed to turn up to these meetings.

NICOLA WILLIS (List MP) gave a Wellington centric perspective, having also been a senior management employee at Fonterra. She noted that one in five Wellingtonians voted for the Greens in 2017, and yet Wellington streams and waterways are highly polluted.


National supports the Climate Change Commission and has agreed to sign up with all parties to the Zero Carbon bill. We were fortunate to have Jo Hendy (CEO of the Commission) and Jonathan Young (Spokesperson for Energy and Resources) to address us. JO HENDY talked about the strong makeup of the Commissions Board – chaired by Dr Rod Carr. She stated that today all the technology exists to solve the emissions issue, and soon industry/companies will be required to report annually on their emissions profile. Jo then went on to talk about the Zero Carbon Bill, which will require government to set 5-yearly emission budgets. She said that government then has to set the framework to ensure that it meets its 5-year target – saying the first target will be set in 2021.


RICHARD HARMAN of Politik, and a well-respected political journalist, spoke from a media point of view how all parties finally agreed to support this vital bill. Richard said that the Bluegreens are unique because we are such an open organisation, even inviting those who oppose us to speak and attend. Richard noted that the 2017 Bluegreens Forum invited Lord Deben, who travelled from the UK, to tell us of his English experience in the multi-partisan approach to establishing a UK Climate Commission. He went on to note that in 2018 at the Bluegreens Forum in Darfield, Simon Bridges undertook to redefine National’s policy on Climate Change. At the Fieldays that year, he announced that National would support the Zero Carbon Bill at its third reading. This defined National as a pragmatic collaborative player, who was committed to a multi-partisan approach to Climate Change.


We have a lot of depth in our Bluegreens Caucus. We asked several of them to discuss their thoughts on environmental and conservation topics and where there were opportunities to encourage New Zealanders to vote for the Party’s environmental and conservation policies. Scott Simpson (spokesperson for the Environment,Climate Change and Co-Chair of the Bluegreens), Jacqui Dean (Spokesperson for Conservation), Todd Muller (Spokesperson for Agriculture). Jonathan Young (Spokesperson for Energy and Resources) and Parmjeet Parmar (Spokesperson for Research, Science and Innovation).


DR ANDREW DIGBY, DOC Chief Scientist, gave a wonderful presentation on ‘Recovering NZ’s precious birds”. Dr Digby’s presentation highlighted the exceptional work he and his DOC team are doing in restoring the numbers of Takehe and Kakapo and the challenges they face to ensure the future success of these beautiful and iconic birds.


The Bluegreens awarded Maggie Barry with the inaugural “Takehe Award” for her exemplary contribution, with special reference to her time as Minister of Conservation. Maggie spearheaded “PredatorFree 2050”, “The War on Weeds”, “The Battle for the Birds” and so much more. FIELD TRIP TO ABEL TASMAN Another highlight of the weekend was the boat trip, bush walk and beach picnic in the Abel Tasman National Park, accompanied by Project Janszoon executives. We had a full muster of 78 attending the Sunday trip, and it was great to see some of the released kaka in the forest. The picnic on the beach was also fantastic.

A Message from the Bluegreens Co-Chairs – Chris Severne & Scott Simpson

Dear Supporters

The Bluegreens is the National Party’s Policy Advisory Group on environmental issues. Our Annual Forums take a multipartisan approach to ensure that our policy issues get a broad range of views to ensure a balanced approach. In other words, we include participation by non-Party organisations. For many years now we have espoused “the collaborative approach” to resolving sensitive environmental issues, and the results speak for themselves. The Bluegreens are committed to combining both a strong environment with a strong economy, recognising that to afford excellence in environmental outcomes requires a strong funding base. We are not a membership-based group but we do require funding to support our work for the environment, and ask for your help in this. We must work harder to get the message out to the wider public that National has an effective and deep environmental commitment that can be acted upon when you have the authority of Government.