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New Zealand, it's a clean, green paradise where handsome young folk amble without cares or worries, through bush-clad tracks, on high alpine peaks and along wide sandy beaches.
Well if you watch the tourism videos and browse the brochures in travel agents and you'd never actually been here, you could be forgiven for thinking so.
Don't get me wrong, there *are* spots around the country which are gobsmackingly magnificent in their beauty, grandeur and spectacle. It's just that theres a growing amount of the country that's far from worthy of showcasing to the world.
In fact, we're making a bloody mess of the country and it seems the only real thing being done to reverse this situation is the creation of huge piles of rhetoric.
Farmers are planting trees beside some of the streams that run through their properties -- whoopee! Yes, it does have a tiny effect at capturing some of the nitrogen that would otherwise pollute those streams but the key word is "tiny".
The farming industry talks the talk but when it comes to taking effective action, they're a long way from becoming nitrogen and carbon neutral. Of course one would have to ask "why bother?".
I mean, although they are one of the biggest carbon emitters, farmers are still largely exempted from the carbon taxes that other industries must pay. It's worth remembering that *we* pay about 5% in carbon tax on every unit of electricity we use -- even though around 80% of our power comes from renewable sources.
Those methane belching dairy cows have a carbon-tax exemption though.
Because dairy farming is one of the backbones of our economy and therefore we must (effectively) subsidise it.
Woah... hang on a minute. Wasn't it a labour government back in the 1980s that decided all subsidies for farming should be removed? So why is this Labour government (and the National government that preceded it) moving back to subsidies by way of carbon-tax exemptions?
And if we're talking about "backbones of the economy", what about the growing conflict for resources between Tourism (our #1 export earner) and dairy?
Tourists want to see clean rivers and a "pure" NZ. Intensive dairy farming produces exactly the opposite. Surely this is a conflict that can't be allowed to continue.
But let's look a little further...
Many countries offer tax-incentives for EVs. The USA is a great example. Residents of states like California get a huge chunk of money back from government if they buy an EV because the environmental benefits of these vehicles (tenuous though they might be in a nation where most electricity comes from coal) are recognised.
I believe Norway also offers hefty incentives for EV buyers and, as a result, has the largest (as a percentage of all vehicles on their roads) EV fleet in the world.
What does NZ do?
Well you get an exemption from road-user charges. Big deal!
The reality is that NZ's rivers and streams will continue to degrade into waterways unfit for human consumption or even swimming.
The reality is that we continue to emit far more greenhouse gas than we should, thanks to our highly intensive dairy industry and our unwillingness to recognise (by way of incentives) the importance of transitioning to an electric vehicle fleet.
The reality is that tourists are being lied to and if any retailer lied to customers about the product they were selling to the same degree... the Commerce Commission would have them before the courts in double-quick time.
But hey... tourism and dairy are the darling children of our nation and must be accorded immunity from the laws and rules by which the rest of us must play.
Sometimes I feel very sad when I see what NZ is becoming... compared to what it *could* be.
Imagine a nation (like Norway) with a very high percentage of EVs in its vehicle fleet. A country where traveling was virtually carbon-neutral and used renewable energy.
Imagine a nation where (once again) we could drink from our streams and swim in our rivers without fear of being struck down with debilitating illness caused by coliform bacteria in the water.
Imagine a nation that leads the world in the reforms essential to mitigate future climate change.
Imagine a nation that was honest and didn't have to engage in deceptive advertising to bring tourists to its shores.
Am I asking too much?
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