National’s Simon Watts speaking at the Student Issues Election Debate 2023


Amid the spirited debates at the Student Issues Election Debate one unifying thread emerged – a resounding commitment to bolstering New Zealand’s climate resilience from major political parties in attendance. The livestreamed debate can be found by clicking here.

The University of Auckland Debating Society organised the Student Issues Election Debate in collaboration with Ngā Ara Whetū and other student clubs and societies. With the 2023 General Election campaign season in full swing, the debate aimed to ensure that New Zealand’s student population wasn’t left behind in the political discourse.

In Auckland alone, the cost of the flooding and cyclones we had at the beginning of this year, it’s going to hit around four billion dollars – Lloyd Burr

The debate brought together candidates from some of New Zealand’s major political parties, including Labour, Greens, National, Act, and The Opportunities Party (TOP). Each party’s representative took the stage, ready to share their party’s solutions to the critical issues affecting students nationwide.

Lloyd Burr, Newshub’s political correspondent, moderated the event, ensuring that the discourse remained engaging and informative.

Burr started the debate with a question submitted by Ngā Ara Whetū. “In Auckland alone, the cost of the flooding and cyclones we had at the beginning of this year, it’s going to hit around four billion dollars – It’s probably going to go more than that – I want to know how each of your parties are going to address the climate crisis.”

The Green’s Chloe Swarbrick was the first to comment and said New Zealand needs to both reduce emissions and adapt to climate change that is baked in.

Most notably, Swarbrick said agriculture, New Zealand’s largest emissions polluter, must be included in the Emissions Trading Scheme. “We have to include agriculture in it, we also have to look at transport in our largest cities.”

We’ve committed to doubling the amount of renewable energy in the country by 2050 – Simon Watts

In response, National’s Simon Watts — National’s spokesperson for climate change — said the idea put forward by the Greens to reduce the number of livestock in agriculture was “economic suicide”. Instead, Watts said we needed to focus on biotechnology to reduce the amount of methane emitted by agriculture. He said National was committed to meeting our 2030 climate change and 2050 targets.

Regarding climate change, Watt said New Zealand’s 2030 target is only 75 months away, which shows how fast we need to accelerate the change to reduce and lower emissions. He said the key element for the country was increasing the amount of renewable energy. “We’ve committed to doubling the amount of renewable energy in the country by 2050.”

Camilla Belich from Labour said her party had worked hard to get emissions down with the passing of the Zero Carbon Act, which has helped see emissions come down over the last three years.

“Our agriculture emissions has been a hard subject to approach for New Zealand. And so, the way we’ve approached it has been to work really closely with farmers, with the agriculture sector to try and nut out an agreement that’s going to work and be constructive long term. We don’t want to bring in a scheme that gets chucked out as soon as the government changes.

On climate change, Belich said that after the floods and cyclones, everyone seems to be on the same page when it comes to addressing climate change.

“It’s here, and it’s now, and we have to reduce our emissions and adapt.”

The other major topic in the debate was housing with many in the audience asking what each party would do to slow the soaring prices. The political candidates delved into housing supply, affordability, and incentives for homeowners to make their properties available for rent. The candidates discuss the potential impact of policies such as land value taxes and capital gains taxes on the housing market.

Ngā Ara Whetū, the University of Auckland’s research centre for biodiversity, climate and society, topics chose to support the event as it aligned with the goals of fostering informed discussions on topics that matter most to the next generations.


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