Election 2023 – SMC questions the political parties on science policies

The Science Media Centre has put questions on key science-related issues to the political parties ahead of the General Election scheduled to be held on 14 October.

This is the sixth time the SMC has canvassed political parties on their science-related policies. Previous election Q&As can be found on the centre’s website – 2008201120142017, and 2020.

Clicking on the links below will provide the answers from responding political parties:

Research sector


Drinking water


Genetic technologies



Te Pāti Māori declined the SMC’s invitation and suggested the centre’s staff reference polices already posted on their website.

NZ First did not respond by the SMC’s deadline.

The centre will update its information with any further responses received.

AgScience is focusing here on three of the key issues covered by the SMC’s survey.


Research, science, and innovation sector


  • What are your intentions for the Te Ara Paerangi Future Pathways overhaul of the research, science, and innovation system?

Labour: Last year, Labour launched the Te Ara Paerangi Future Pathways, a multi-year programme focused on the future of New Zealand’s research, science, and innovation system. We are building a modern, future focused research system for New Zealand to meet the challenges and make the most of the opportunities ahead of us.

  • Such a system should reflect New Zealand’s unique opportunities and challenges. It will embed Te Tiriti across the design attributes of the system, and enable opportunities for mātauranga Māori
  • It will also recognise that research is a global undertaking and seek to stand alongside the best systems in the world
  • The Future Pathways programme looks to better understand and resolve these issues and create a research, science and innovation system that continues to be critical for New Zealand’s success

The programme has framed potential responses in 6 main areas:

  • Exploring the role that whole-of-system priorities could play in focusing research activities and concentrating resources towards achieving national goals
  • Exploring how the research system can best honour Te Tiriti obligation and opportunities, give life to Māori research aspirations and enable mātauranga Māori
  • Exploring potential ways to reshape the RSI funding system for the future. It covers how funding can be used to give effect to national priorities, reduce unproductive competition, and ensure our institutions can respond to emerging opportunities
  • Re-examining how we design and shape public research institutions (focusing on CRIs and Callaghan) to enable them to give effect to national priorities, encourage greater connectivity, and be adaptable in a fast changing world
  • Exploring how we best develop our workforce, ensure the RSI workforce is connected, diverse and dynamic and they are offered attractive and flexible careers and career pathways
  • Exploring effective funding, governance and ownership arrangements for national research infrastructures and how we should support sustainable, efficient and enabling investment in research infrastructure

National: The government lost an opportunity to look at growing the research, science, and innovation system and bring positive change to enhance New Zealand economy. National does not support Te Ara Paerangi Future Pathways.

ACT: ACT will withdraw Te Ara Paerangi Future Pathways science vision and replace it with a simpler and clearer set of priorities focussed on funding internationally-credible scientific research for productivity and public good science.

Green: The Green Party acknowledges the need for an overhaul of the research, science, and innovation system. We largely support and would act on the reforms included in Te Ara Paerangi. In particular, we support its commitment to:

  • Focus RSI on improving environmental sustainability and individual and collective wellbeing
  • Advance Māori aspirations and priorities
  • Invest in mātauranga Māori
  • Establish long-term funding for public good science services
  • Promote transdisciplinary research

The Opportunities Party (TOP): The Opportunities Party supports the general direction of Te Ara Paerangi Future Pathways, and we support the overhaul of the current system. Significantly increasing funding into RSI up to 2% of GDP is an important goal that we also support. The structure of that funding needs to change to better support early career researchers and build a stable science career pathway. The move towards honouring Ti Tiriti o Waitangi is to be applauded.

  • How will your party respond to funding pressures and widespread job cuts in the university and tertiary education sector?

Labour: Labour knows that a strong tertiary education sector is a core pillar of our research, science and innovation sector. Labour is committed to supporting the sector, which is why we’ve provided the most significant funding increase in 20 years. This includes the $128 million investment announced in June, in addition to increased funding in Budget 2023.

We understand that the sector needs to be sustainable in the long term. For this reason we’ve announced a review into the higher education funding system, with a decision to be taken by the end of 2023.

National: The tertiary education sector is struggling with rising costs, low international student numbers, declining domestic student numbers, and lower retention.

The main job for the next government will be to get inflation under control to reduce cost pressures and accelerate the return of international students, which help to keep costs down for domestic students.

National will also undo the disastrous polytechnic mega-merger and return control to institutions and local communities, while implementing a funding model that provides stability and accountability

ACT: ACT intends to retain overall levels of funding for university and vocational training, but deliver funding to universities through per student basis (rather than through “fees free”). ACT will disestablish the failed Te Pukenga experiment and return to regional polytechs and industry-governed industry training organisations.

Green: It is well-past time for Government to develop a sustainable funding model for tertiary education. Green engagement across staff, students and universities throughout Aotearoa has found clear consensus that the status quo is unsustainable, failing to meet the needs of learners, educators, our communities and country. We will continue to work constructively with staff and students to ensure we invest in education as the public good that it is.

TOP: The Opportunities Party would work collaboratively across the political spectrum to stabilise the tertiary education sector. We recognise the difficult position that the tertiary sector currently faces with chronic underfunding and rapidly inflating costs.

The Opportunities Party would seek to work with all parties to find a viable long term funding model that would support Te Pūkenga. It would be a colossal waste to attempt to undo that change now, but serious action is needed to move forward.


  • What commitments will your party make to ensure NZ reaches its global climate targets (e.g. under the Paris Agreement)?

Labour: Labour is committed to New Zealand becoming a world leader in climate change action. A new domestic emissions reduction target by 2050 was set into law in November 2019 with the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act. The Climate Change Commission was also established to provide advice to the Government on climate change mitigation and adaption and monitor progress towards the new 2050 target emissions budgets and the implementation of a National Adaptation Plan.

In May 2022, we released New Zealand’s first Emissions Reduction Plan. It lays out how we are going to meet our emissions budgets and make progress towards meeting our 2050 target.

National: National will focus on stabilising the Emissions Trading Scheme. The ETS is the main tool for achieving our 2030 and 2050 targets. However, Labour‘s proposed radical reforms of the ETS have affected confidence and stability of the ETS.

National will focus on our highest emitting sectors including transport, energy and agriculture.  National has launched policies in each of these areas with a goal to double renewable energy by 2050 as well as harness biotechnology include removing the effective ban on gene editing to lower agricultural emissions.

ACT: ACT strongly supports the Emissions Trading Scheme as the vehicle to do the heavy lifting to achieve this. The ETS should have a cap on net CO2 emissions, declining to achieve the net zero 2050 goal modified by a weighted average of our largest trading partners reductions. This sets a hard cap on CO2 emissions, while ensuring it creates a price to drive reductions. ACT has opposed the politicisation of the ETS by this Government which has contributed to the collapse of the last two ETS auctions. ACT opposes wasteful Emissions Reduction Plans when those schemes only achieve reductions at costs that exceed the market price of CO2 but don’t actually change the cap. The most equitable way of dealing with the effects of climate change will be a climate change rebate to every New Zealander.

Green: Over the last six years, with the Greens in government, we’ve taken more action on climate change than in the previous 30 years. For the first time ever, our emissions are tracking downwards. We’re proud of the progress we’ve made, but it’s no secret that the actions taken, with the governments we’ve been given, have only been a fraction of what we aspired to.

We know the job is far from done, and the time is now to accelerate the pace and scale of action. The Greens will:

  • Empower the Climate Change Commission to directly set unit supply in the ETS and in line with Emissions Budgets
  • Strengthen the Zero Carbon Act, including by requiring government decisions to be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5 degrees
  • Introduce a price on agricultural emissions which ensures methane and nitrous oxide reductions are met
  • Ensure the ETS includes all scientifically credible forms of sequestration such as indigenous reforestation
  • Ensure Aotearoa meets our Paris Agreement commitments through strong domestic action and environmentally and socially responsible initiatives overseas.

Two of our priority areas for next term are our Climate-safe Communities plan, which will redesign our towns and cities to work for people and nature, and our Clean Power Payment which will help bring warm homes, good jobs, and cheaper energy bills to every part of Aotearoa.

TOP: The Opportunities Party is committed to honouring the Paris Agreement and getting our emissions down. We can’t just offset our way to net zero. We will:

  1. Strengthen the Emissions Trading Scheme by excluding new forestry, instituting a hard cap on units, empowering the Climate Change commission to set the carbon price, reinvesting the ETS revenues into renewable energy and emission free transport and a carbon dividend.
  2. Electrify our streets with a fully electric national urban bus fleet by 2030.
  3. Empowering farmers to be biodiversity champions by introducing biodiversity credits.
  4. Encourage a mode shift away from cars amongst our young people with free public transport and a $1500 credit for our young people to purchase a bike, e-bike or e-scooter (via our Teal Card policy).
  • How will your party handle managed retreat in areas affected by natural hazards and make infrastructure more resilient to climate change?

Labour: In August 2022, we released the National Adaptation Plan, the first in a series. The first plan focuses on getting the foundations right. It sets out what we will do to enable better risk-informed decisions, drive climate-resilient development in the right locations, help communities assess adaptation options (including managed retreat) and embed climate resilience into all of the Government’s work.

National: National will work with Local Government, Insurers, Banks and communities to develop a framework for Climate Adaptation. The key issue is to decide how responsibilities between these different groups should be assigned. If we work to invest now in high quality infrastructure we can keep more people in their homes and communities. Where managed retreat needs to occur, a framework will set the rules for who pays the costs and how retreat is managed.

ACT: The best way to handle risk in areas exposed to natural hazards is to ensure accurate and reliable data is available to all, to enable insurance premiums to adjust and for price over time to drive the right behaviours. ACT believe that there needs to be greater investment in ensuring public infrastructure is more resilient. ACT supports more flexible funding arrangements for local councils, to allow for projects to improve reliance. ACT will also change the Policy Statement on Transport to ensure that resilience is one of the three funding priorities.

Green: Extreme weather events will become more frequent, and it’s critical to establish a durable framework that responds to climate disasters in a fair and equitable way. It’s important that the approach be cross-party, long-term and in line with public consensus.

Green Climate Change Minister James Shaw has requested Parliament’s Environment select committee to undertake an inquiry on climate adaptation to help build cross-party consensus around the legislation so that it endures across governments, and so Government’s policy response is certain.

A Green priority for next term is to pass a Climate Change Adaptation Bill that includes specific measures and targets to drive a long-term policy response through an equitable, Tiriti-based framework. Our Climate Safe Communities policy package promotes greater use of nature-based infrastructure to make our cities and towns more resilient. More urban trees and green spaces, including wetlands, can help reduce urban flooding from Stormwater.

We will establish a standalone Ministry for Climate Change, which would include both mitigation and adaptation functions. Adaptation functions would focus on reducing the impact of disasters, and improving resilience.

TOP: The Opportunities Party is committed to developing policies that focus not just mitigation, but adaptation also. We will:

  1. Review urban planning & development practices to ensure our future homes and communities are not built in harm’s way.
  2. Explore urban greening programmes to manage heat in our cities.
  3. Support managed retreats where they are necessary.
  4. Green finance (e.g. New Zealand Green Investment Finance).
  5. Regulate the insurance industry to ensure support for those New Zealanders impacted by severe weather events.
  6. Ensure national security and disaster relief capabilities are fit for purpose.
  7. Introduce a Teal Visawhich will invest in a climate resettlement programme for climate refugees, with an initial focus in the Pacific region.
  • What are your intentions for managing agricultural emissions, exotic and indigenous forests within the Emissions Trading Scheme?

Labour: Labour is committed to implementing a system to measure and price agricultural emissions at the farm level by the end of 2025. The revenue raised from this levy will be ring-fenced to drive the technology we need to contribute to our Nationally Determined Contribution targets and meet consumer expectations.

Labour believes it’s important we have the best tools available to us to cut carbon pollution. The NZ ETS is our main tool for meeting our domestic and international climate change targets. It puts a price on carbon emissions, charges polluters for every tonne of carbon they emit, thereby sending price signals to producers, consumers, and investors to pollute less.

The Climate Change Commission’s most recent advice to the Government is that, in its current form, the NZ ETS may not be incentivising emissions reductions at source. We want to make sure the NZ ETS is doing the job, as well as it can be, for the work it was created for.

In its current state, the price of carbon is not high enough to drive significant change. We know a higher carbon price leads to faster emissions reductions. We want to find out whether changes are needed to provide a stronger incentive for businesses to transition away from fossil fuels.

That’s why Labour has proposed four new potential design options for the ETS ranging from using existing levers within the ETS to increase the price of carbon, to incentivising reductions and forestry plantings through separate markets.

National: National is committed to pricing agriculture emissions in a fair and sensible way that avoids closing farms and sending production overseas.  National believes farmers should have the tools they need to respond to a carbon price before pricing is introduced. National will establish an Agricultural Emissions Pricing Board in 2024, farm level measurement of greenhouse gases by 2025, and a price on agricultural emissions no later than 2030.

National will also take steps to prevent the conversion of productive farmland to forestry for carbon farming, and expand sequestration to recognise other carbon capture like from wetlands.

ACT: Agricultural emissions cannot be included in the ETS, as CH4 has a completely different warming effect compared to CO2 (not to mention the obvious impracticalities of putting at least 20,000 farmers into a trading platform dominated by a few large companies). ACT notes that NZ farmers already have the lowest emissions per kg of equivalent animal protein in the world. ACT believes that farmers should only pay a price when competitors do so and technology exists to bring down emissions – reducing production in NZ will only result in carbon leakage. ACT supports landowners, including farmers, being able to recognise sequestration in the ETS for smaller areas and areas of bush. ACT opposes changes to forestry in the ETS that undermine property rights, and supports foresters who are faced with the Government changing the ETS rules for forestry for reasons that have nothing to do with emissions.

Green: The Green Party will introduce a price on agricultural emissions as an urgent priority. It is essential we set an annual cap on methane and nitrous oxide emissions and reduce it every year to ensure the targets in the Zero Carbon Act are met.

We would take advice from the Climate Change Commission on how to allocate methane units within the cap in a way that recognises the circumstances of different types of farming. Famers and growers would be required to hand in units for their on-farm emissions of methane and nitrous oxide and could trade between themselves. This creates a powerful incentive to invest in action to reduce emissions.

Revenue generated through the ETS can help farmers reduce emissions and shift to more sustainable agriculture. We would reduce the cap on synthetic nitrogen fertiliser and ban unsustainable imported feeds such as palm kernel expeller to help that shift.

The Greens do not support a levy-based system where Cabinet sets the level of the levy on agriculture, because it is too vulnerable to lobbying. Dealing with agricultural emissions is a challenge that has defeated successive government. We can’t leave it to another generation to inherit the burden of slow progress. We need a stable climate for our farmers to thrive. The Greens will also ensure that the ETS  includes all scientifically credible forms of sequestration, such as indigenous reforestation and restored wetlands. We will build capacity to maximise the opportunity for nature-based solutions and biodiversity co-benefits, including dedicated support for Māori landowners.

On forestry, the Greens support the review of the ETS in response to Climate Change Commission’s 2021 warning that under the status quo there could be an oversupply of forestry-generated NZUs in the 2030s which could crash the whole ETS system. Trees will continue to be part of the climate solution, but we need to ensure that supply and demand settings within the ETS are balanced so we get the type and scale of afforestation we need.

TOP: The Opportunities would introduce a national system that rewards land-owners who regenerate marginal landscapes for biodiversity, carbon sequestration and other environmental gains. We’ll create a natural capital economy by incentivising farmers to change their land-use practices where it makes most sense to them. This includes investing in data-mapping, analysis, land-guardian training & support and biodiversity credits.

We would also exclude new forestry from the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Genetic technologies

  • What is your party’s position on gene editing technologies and their use in conservation, medical, primary sector and other potential applications in New Zealand?

Labour: From cancer therapies to expanding our knowledge of biology, the use of genetic technologies has advanced rapidly over the past three decades. New Zealand regulations have not kept pace with better understanding of the benefits of GMOs. We want to ensure GMO regulations contribute to better outcomes for New Zealanders through more research, innovation and development, and improved access to biomedical therapies and medicines.

We recognise some New Zealanders have strong views on GMOs, and we want to take measured steps to update the regulatory settings. That’s why the changes we’re seeking feedback on would only apply to laboratory settings and for biomedical therapies that use biology and organisms, like cells, to create products that improve human health.

National: National will remove the effective ban on gene editing and GMO technologies in New Zealand to help deliver on our climate change goals and potentially unlock access to breakthrough technologies in medicine and conservation. National made this commitment in our Harnessing Biotech policy (link).

There are many examples of the positive impacts of gene edited technologies being applied globally that were highlighted in Harnessing Biotech. For example, Kiwi company Lanzatech’s GE microbes which can convert pollution from factory smokestacks to low-emissions fuels, and a genetic engineered new type of T-cell that is capable of hunting down leukaemia, a treatment that is effectively banned in New Zealand.

National will establish a dedicated Biotech regulator to support access to the latest advance in science and innovation while protecting New Zealanders against adverse outcomes.

ACT: The GE debate is pretty much over. As the PM’s Chief Scientific Adviser writes, “Our current legal and regulatory frameworks are not fit for purpose”. The rest of the world has moved on. ACT will repeal HSNO and replace with a new biotech Act, that is (1) based on science and (2) assessed against the risk to the public. We believe that (3) harmonisation with equivalent jurisdictions also be a principle – if it is acceptable to the EU, then an importer of a compound shouldn’t have to go through the same tests for New Zealand. Lastly, (4) decisions should be made by a technically and scientifically competent regulator without political inference. We would seek to pass a new biotech law to replace HSNO and enable gene editing technologies.

Green: The Green Party supports the limited and ethical use of GE biotechnology in containment and supports maintaining a zero tolerance approach to the import or release of viable GE-derived organisms/products.

We need a wide and robust public conversation about the role of ethical genomic science, scientific developments in gene editing and related technology and whether any changes are appropriate to the regulatory framework in Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act.  Any law change must be based on public agreement and understanding and sound science and the result of a robust public consultation process.  We have unique indigenous biodiversity in Aotearoa and Te Ao Māori perspectives which need to be recognised. We support the EPA continue its role as regulator.

Consumers remain suspicious of GE foods and increasingly make decisions on based on the integrity of the supply chain from paddock to plate. Fonterra and Lewis Road Creamery have both adopted a non GMO Project label on products such as butter in the US market. That is a response to market signals.

Our organic exports grew 20% between 2017 and 2020 to $723 million. The reputation of Aotearoa’s clean, green, sustainably produced organic products needs protection. Field release of GE crops puts the reputation and success of our growing organics sector at Risk.

There is no GE silver bullet for dealing with pest challenges in conservation; nor in helping agriculture respond to a changing climate.

TOP: The Opportunities Party would like to update our regulation on gene editing technology. We would introduce a tiered system based on the level of genetic change that has occurred that would be more permissive of minor genetic changes, while maintaining rigorous regulation for more substantial changes. We would move away from technology based regulation where newer, more precise, technologies are more heavily regulated than their outdated Counterparts.

There is huge potential in conservation, medicine and in the primary sector for genetic technologies and we need to empower New Zealand scientists to make the most of it.

Source:  Science Media Centre




Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog