Maiden Speech – Steffan Browning

Speech – Green Party

I acknowledge my parents both no longer with us, Ivan passing away a few years ago, and Alice just a week and a day before the election. I wish you were here. And my late half-brother Trevor, you also were so supportive of my vision.Maiden Speech – Steffan Browning Kia ora tatou katoa

I give my acknowledgement to this House, those that have gone before, to the Tangata Whenua of this region, and indeed Aotearoa.

I acknowledge my parents both no longer with us, Ivan passing away a few years ago, and Alice just a week and a day before the election. I wish you were here. And my late half-brother Trevor, you also were so supportive of my vision.

To the Green Party MPs before our current 14. The late Rod Donald that led such a full but short life inspiring myself and many others to remain resolute in the vision of a fair and sustainable Aotearoa and world.

To Jeanette Fitzsimons, now retired after 15 years of inspiring leadership and example, Nandor, Keith Locke, Mike Ward, Ian Ewen-Street, and the two Sues, Sue Kedgley and Sue Bradford, who have both shown such significant output. Thanks to you all for your support and friendship.

In acknowledging my fellow Green MPs, and their skills, knowledge and passion, I think of the great Green team in the Party that has reached the New Zealand public in such a way that we are now 14, AND WE WILL GROW!

Many of you have put so much of your life to the green cause. A very special thanks to you. To those Greens in my rohe of Marlborough, you and so many others have directly encouraged and supported me. I am scared to start naming you all because where do I stop. But for inspiration and leadership Alison and Nozz Fletcher, I think we all say thanks. Bob and Jenny Crum such special friends. Pam Nicholls and the great Green Campaigners, so much effort and what a great crew. The Van Pallandt family for your love and support.

To my son Jordan who cannot be here today, your love and support, as with Jamie’s is a rock for me. To all my siblings, all here in the gallery today, with my son Jamie over from Melbourne, and other close friends, it is so great to have you with me today.

To my many, many friends and colleagues in the NGOs I have worked with for years. You are fantastic and a big part of why I am here. Much of what you strive for so very hard, should be achieved for all New Zealanders by good leadership and vision from Parliament. You deserve better.

You are another great big family that make a wonderful world striving for an even more wonderful world.

Philippa Jamieson, Elvira, Matt, Marion, Bob Crowder, Margaret Jones, Kyra Xavier and the great Soil & Health team. The BioGro and OANZ teams, Brendan Hoare and Seager Mason and whanau.

The Friends of Nelson Haven whanau, what a strong, close, hard working group for coastal ecosystems. Pete and Tukutai Beech from Guardians of the Sounds. Tim Newsham and the Marlborough Environment Centre.

Susie Lees, Claire Bleakley, Zelka, Jon Carapiet and Jon Muller from GE Free New Zealand. Alison White from Safe Food Campaign, Meriel Watts on Pesticides, Murray Horton on Peace and Foreign Ownership, and many other NGO’s and friends. You all really do rock, we have achieved a lot.

There are other very dear friends whose close love and support have helped me and my vision. You know who you are, thanks so very much.

I would like to acknowledge my fellow members of Parliament; those that were returned , and those other newbies like myself, and those like yourself Mr Speaker that have been elected to further positions.

I would like to acknowledge the Parliamentary staff also, you have been so helpful already, thank you. I include especially today, in parallel to the Members of Parliament, our executive assistants and collective office staff.

You have also either returned or are another set of newbies, thanks to the results of last year’s General Election, and your skills.

Congratulations, especially to my Executive Assistant Angela McLeod, who is helping me find my feet and has so much experience to offer me, thank you.

What a great privilege to join the Green Party caucus in Parliament with portfolio responsibility in most of the areas that I am particularly passionate about, and also for getting onto the Primary Production Select Committee.

Primary production underpins our economy and most of the environmental issues New Zealand is grappling with.

My year started with the challenge of theoretically taking holidays, yet acknowledging the demands of many emails and face-bookers, about what was wrong with the Food Bill.

The Food Bill won overall. Time management, saying no, and prioritising among the many important issues; is certainly the biggest challenge for me, and I have already learnt a strong lesson.

My portfolios areas of Agriculture, Organics, Forestry, Fisheries, Biosecurity-Customs, Genetic Engineering, and Security-Intelligence all have immediate issues to start on. I am looking forward to them, the others that will arise, but especially to those that I will bring to the table. So, where did this Green Party MP come from?

My family moved to Marlborough when I was 4, in 1958, number 4 of six children, to an undersized house on a half-acre Blenheim section running down to the Opawa River. That was developed into a huge garden, and nut and fruit trees.

The outdoors of what seemed a huge section and the wilderness of the Opawa river bank gave us children a space from the constraints of the house and for mother, Alice, a reprieve from incessant children. There were boats and fishing from what was then a tidal influenced river, with shoals of mullet to try for, or the then endless eels, cowboys and indians, huts and all the childhood adventures.

From that home we were all given a sense of curiosity and to question beyond the obvious, and certainly encouraged to question authority. That clearly persists. As a child, I loved gardening and keeping lizards. With a keen interest in ecology I still recall in my 6th form Biology text, the wonderful drawing of a giant rimu including epiphytes and piwakawaka and showing the complexity of the indigenous ecosystem.

That interest persists in my works’ focus, in both marine and terrestrial sustainability. The interrelationships between organisms and ecosystem services, that work so well in nature, need to be modelled in productive and social systems for a sustainable humanity.

They should underpin every decision from Parliament. The Green Party’s guiding principles interlink them well.

I lived in the bush for over six years 300m (~1000′) up the side of my maunga, Aorere (Mt Stokes), the tallest mountain in the Marlborough Sounds (1200m) with an endemic daisy in its indigenous alpine floral summer mix. We could walk out the back door and climb to a snow covered crispy top in the winter, for views over Marlborough, over Tasman Bay, up the North Island, and past the Cook Strait to the Kaikoura Coast. My family, wife then, Diane, and our two boys Jamie and Jordan looked out over Forsyth and the Chetwood Islands to a distant Stephens Island/Takapourewa, and we were totally off the grid. My work on marine sustainability started there, when Anakoha Bay began to have mussel farms alongside nearly all its 12 km of coastline.

Having submitted to more RMA marine farm applications than anyone else in New Zealand I will focus on this just now. Friends of Nelson Haven & Tasman Bay remain involved in Environment Court proceedings from the last aquaculture gold rushes. WE have built the case law supporting good planning in the Marlborough Sounds. I am keen that the National government’s hunger for an aquaculture boom does not create the same environmental impacts or NGO workloads, as the last two gold rushes did.

Yet National are now clearly supporting New Zealand King Salmon and others through its aquaculture law reform.

Reform was necessary, but not so enabling to encourage King Salmon to try breaking down the community’s hard won protections of smart spatial planning in the Marlborough Sounds.

King Salmon in Marlborough are a prime example of foreign ownership and what is happening throughout New Zealand primary production. A dairy conglomerate here, multi-thousands of forestry land there. The potential ownership of Marlborough Sounds waters by the infamous Malaysian Tiong family needs to be prevented.

Planned change and resource consent applications by NZKS to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) for 8 new salmon farm sites in areas currently prohibited to aquaculture in the Marlborough Sounds were made following the October 1 aquaculture legislative reforms. The applications are for an initial 35 years as controlled activities, which without further plan changes mean an indefinite period of re-consenting, effectively ownership!

Mr Speaker; Foreign controlled salmon farming in New Zealand’s marine environment is akin to mining in the conservation estate.

New Zealand King Salmon’s operation is no more sustainable than the Tiong family’s other operations; clear felling rain forests in Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Burna, Africa, or the ancient forests in Russia. The fish fed to raise the salmon are from the ecologically collapsing fishery off Chile and Peru, and the high pollution effects of salmon farming in New Zealand need further research.

Human rights abuses attributed to Tiong’s Rimbunan Hijau companies in Papua New Guinea make for further reason why New Zealand should not be associated with this company.

The Tiong family already has extensive interests, especially in forestry, in New Zealand but must be prevented from further ownership, including our marine environment.

The 8 new areas applied for by the Tiong dominated New Zealand King Salmon, are public space that has been zoned by the Marlborough District Council as not being appropriate for aquaculture due to its amenity and wilderness characteristics, and the balance of uses of the Marlborough Sounds. It should be a marine park not an industrial park.

The aquaculture zoning by Marlborough District Council was the result of extensive public consultation and Environment Court processes, which are now intended to be overridden by New Zealand King Salmon, and the National led government through the aquaculture legislation changes. I am pleased to say Mr Speaker that the Green Party is opposed to foreign ownership and supports land ownership for New Zealand citizens and permanent residents only.

This has another twist in it, last year Mr Speaker, $500,000 was gifted by the National government for marketing of NZ King Salmon products off shore because it was tough times. A question for the House, Mr Speaker, could be “Who has shares in Direct Capital?” the other 49% of NZ King Salmon.. Well done National, giving a half million to Tiong to promote unsustainable production. Quite a subsidy for a 51% overseas occupier and polluter of NZ waters.

Mr Speaker; Foreign companies such as Tiong own or control the vast majority of logs or timber products going off shore, yet this government seems hell bent on making that easier for them. One is letting them keep gassing our communities and the ozone layer with spent neurotoxic and carcinogenic ozone depleting methyl bromide from the log fumigations. Labour and National have both dodged forcing recapture of the invisible, odourless gas that cannot be tracked with confidence. Giving the industry 10 years latitude, people are getting sick and dying. Dying for who Mr Speaker?

The same foreign dominated industry has this government forcing Councils back from implementing decent safeguards to stop the crude forest harvest practices loading our streams and estuaries with millions of tonnes of sediments. These are sediments which destroy fisheries habitats and nurseries. They just don’t make the links Mr Speaker or don’t care. The current iteration of the National Environment Standard – Plantation Forestry which limits Councils in crucial areas and will not measure sediment pollution, is still too tough apparently and Cabinet wants it further paired back.

The hundreds of people terrorised by flood waves of log plumes and debris from Pohara to Tapawera, Marlborough to Opotiki, and beyond and the thousands of kilometres of marine environment deserve much much better. I am looking forward to a GREEN GOVERNMENT.

Mr Speaker, time does not allow today, but I could speak for hours on the work I have done on exposing (GE) Genetic Engineering field trial abuses. How the last few governments have been complicit through their agencies in cover-ups.

How they have removed GE from the Food Bill as something we need to regulate for food safety, how they have allowed more than 70 GE food lines to be approved for New Zealand consumption, including the latest, GE soy and corn resistant to 2,4-D and other herbicides. 2,4-D on our kai, I think not.

Why National has continued funding GE crop and forestry research, yet sabotaged the organic sector, although our more civilised trading partners have set targets for organic production because they know that the environmental, health and other social benefits have so much value for their nations?

New Zealand farming the great unsubsidised producer is not what it seems Mr Speaker, as the gross externalities from New Zealand’s farming, fisheries and forestry are actually subsidies that are nicely tucked away by our free marketeers. Organic production can make us the 100% Pure Aotearoa New Zealand that Mr Key’s Tourism New Zealand dropped last year on behalf of Federated Farmers lobbying and the lack of an aspirational vision for cleaning this country up and maintaining a brand that New Zealanders can be proud of.

I am looking forward to a Green Government. ENDS

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