It's just over a week to go until the election on September 23, and the race is tighter than ever.
For many voters, one of this campaign's most pressing issues has been the environment, particularly the state of our waterways.
Earlier this year SunLive brought you the story of protesters outside the Tauranga offices of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. They were demanding more prosecutions for water users who breach the terms of their consents, as well as highlighting the plight of our region's waterways.
The rally was organised by Lance Talstra who said there were more than 20 sites in the Bay of Plenty that carry either temporary or permanent health warnings for recreational use or shellfish gathering.
“The main things I want to know is the timeline. Are these permanent bans forever? Or will they be sorted out? And how long will that take?”
That was in March. Since then, National has announced $44 million to improve the freshwater quality of more than 100 rivers and lakes, while Labour has announced a potential tax on all water users to help rehabilitate our rivers and streams.
So which party has the answers?
Simon Bridges – National
In the National government I have been Associate Minister for Climate Change Issues, Minister for Energy and Resources and am currently the Minister of Transport. These portfolios have given me direct engagement in dealing with climate change and the environment and so are matters I take very seriously. I went to Paris for the signing of the Paris Climate Change Treaty where we signed up to a fair and ambitious target of reducing emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
In transport, we have invested a record $2 billion in public transport, $300 million in the Urban Cycleways Programme and put incentives in place to encourage the update of electric vehicles. We've also reached more than 85 per cent renewable electricity, with a target of 90 per cent by 2025. We want to protect our country and its landscapes for our grandchildren and their children.
Simon is standing in Tauranga.
Tamati Coffey – Labour
There are nine water bottling plants in Waiariki. Who owns the water they sell? Does it have any value? If its valueless, as the National Party has stated over the past nine years, then why are we paying more per litre of bottled water then we are for milk! And absolutely none of that money they generate goes to helping the communities the water comes from.
Labour will end this by doing something the government and its friends with benefits haven't done – and that's get control of our water resource back for all the people of New Zealand. But we will also make sure Maori have a fair say over this resource too by tackling this issue with the Waitangi Tribunal's recommendations at the heart of our actions. Water is the source of life. As kaitiaki we need to protect it, use it wisely and ensure it's there and clean for generations to come.
Tamati is standing in Waiariki.
Clayton Mitchell – NZ First
Once again, it's not rocket science. New Zealand First believes all of our rivers should be clean enough to swim in, and you shouldn't get sick if you accidently swallow a bit. National's lowering the bar on what counts as ‘swimmable' will achieve nothing. Labour's taxing it, with no distinction between domestic agricultural use and foreign companies exporting. It will just hurt the rural sector that keeps New Zealand fed. Our royalties for the regions policy will ensure a levy is put on bottled water for export only and at least 25 per cent of that charge will go back to the region it was extracted from.
Under this government, 93 per cent of transport spending goes on roads, and only five per cent on rail – mostly Auckland's CRL project – that's clearly not a balanced approach. We are calling for more investment in rail nationwide, and a full investigation into the future mobility of Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty, looking at all modes, including rail.
Clayton is standing in Tauranga.
Scott Summerfield – Greens
We stand for serious action on climate change. Sea level rise will disproportionately impact communities in the Coromandel and Bay of Plenty, on the Hauraki Plains and in low lying coastal areas. To reduce the impact of this all parts of New Zealand need to commit to lowering our emissions. We also need central government to step up when it comes to preparing for the effects of climate change and supporting those communities, like ours, who have so much to lose in the face of climate change.
We are committed to protecting conservation land from all mining – conservation land is for protecting biodiversity, heritage areas and promoting public access. Commercial destruction of our natural heritage is not acceptable.
Sixty per cent of our rivers are not fit for swimming in. Different rivers have different causes for their pollution but what's missing is common – political will to make sure our environment is protected. The Greens are the only party with a strong track record on environmental issues.
Scott is standing in Coromandel.
Stuart Pedersen – ACT
ACT values the environment. Clean water, fresh air, climate stabilisation, efficient disposal of waste and the preservation of natural and historical features are all important for quality of life.
We believe that free markets, far from being incompatible with good environmental custodianship, are essential to it. It is wealthy countries (prosperity), where people take ownership (property rights), people pay the true costs of valuable resources and pollutants alike (pricing), and communities have opportunities to get out and make a difference (private initiative), that have the best records on the environment. These are ACT's four Ps of smart environmentalism.
In future governments ACT will push to better price roads and water, and set up more wildlife sanctuaries. Tauranga voters wanting to fix our environmental, housing and social problems, but not give Labour an open cheque on tax, must vote for a dynamic, refreshed National-led coalition by giving their party vote to ACT.
Stuart is standing in Tauranga.
Te Ururoa Flavell – Maori
I am committed to ensuring Aotearoa's natural resources and environment is healthy for everyone.
This means addressing the environmental degradation occurring in our country. Maori have a role as kaitiaki but everyone has a responsibility and right to protect, restore and enhance the health and well-being of the environment.
Water rights is a huge issue this election with Labour saying everybody owns it, National saying nobody owns it, but the Waitangi Tribunal says Maori have proprietary rights akin to ownership.
Any discussion around water issues, be it rights, interests, management, ownership, pricing or quality must involve hapu and iwi.
The Maori Party are the only party that will advance and protect those rights.
Te Ururoa is standing in Waiariki.
Rusty Kane – Independent
Concerns about the environment are real, with a decline of the biosphere and a plethora of catastrophic climatic events, cyclone, wind and floods, etc. happening more frequently and severely. Add to this man-made pollution from power plants, factories, cars and trucks that emit carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxides, burning oil, coal, gasoline and other fossil fuels, and the world's eco-system is in danger of collapsing.
So it is more vital than ever to conserve and protect our natural healthy environment, especially clean air and clean water. We can help do this with accelerated deployment of technological and socio-economic environmental solutions such as cleaner production, cleaner technologies, and waste minimisation. But we have to make it a priority for the sake of our environment, ourselves and future generations or we will not only destroy ourselves, but life itself.
Rusty is standing in Tauranga.