Outrageous attack on officials

Saturday 17 May 2008, 8:42AM
By Hon Jim Anderton

An attack on public servants by the so-called Flexible Land Use Alliance is being condemned by Agriculture and Forestry Minister Jim Anderton.

At a select committee hearing on emissions trading yesterday, officials were accused by the FLUA of not being fair or impartial. Jim Anderton said today that FLUA was wrong.

"This group of businesses want the government to increase taxes by $300 million to give it to some of the country’s wealthiest people.

"Officials have spent hundreds of hours meeting with FLUA and analysing its proposals. Tens of thousands of dollars have been spent getting independent advice from sources such as Waikato University and Covec. I personally met with FLUA several times.

"Knowing all that, the attacks on officials are cynical and outrageous. If they want to attack the policy, they can do so, and politicians will defend the policies. Public servants have done their job.

"To meet FLUA’s wishlist, taxes would have to be raised or spending cut to fund the $300 million FLUA wants transferred to them in the first Kyoto commitment period. The people who would receive the subsidy are some of the least-needy people in the country. They are property developers who had five years warning and admitted to me that they took no notice.

"They want a change in the rules to allow for land swapping. But the international rules do not allow for land swapping.

"The government has looked at their arguments very carefully and we are trying to change the rules for the second commitment period to meet the requests. But until the international community accepts what they want, land swapping can only go ahead at immense cost to the taxpayer and at considerable risk to New Zealand internationally.

"Last year, some of the same individuals ran a campaign to get the government to devolve the credits and liabilities to forest owners. I warned them that if they got what they want, it would mean liabilities would go with credits, and they accepted that. Now they have the credits, some of the exact same people are saying liabilities should stay with the taxpayer. That just makes their attacks on officials even more self-serving and disgusting.

"These attacks are being orchestrated by a well-known National Party activist’s PR firm and, if National stays silent, it shows National is sympathetic to polluters and prepared to use our taxes to give out subsidies to big polluters. Struggling families trying to make ends meet do not want to pay more tax for subsidies worth hundreds of millions of dollars to businesses owned by some of the wealthiest people in New Zealand."

Jim Anderton says responsible businesses that have participated in FLUA should disassociate themselves from the ugly attacks, orchestrated by a National Party-aligned PR firm, or risk being dirtied by its behaviour.

"I notice that Fonterra has done just that earlier today."