Monday, July 19, 2010

Nick Smith faces anger at ETS meeting - Carbon Trading Scheme

There were fears for the safety of Climate Change Minister Nick Smith last night as he faced a barrage of abuse from mainly irate Southland farmers at a meeting to discuss the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

More than 300 people from across Clutha and Southland packed the Gore venue, where it was obvious even before the meeting began that opposition to the scheme was strong.

Farmer and businessman Richard King took the chance to have his say face-to-face with the minister before the start. Following a heated exchange, Mr King told he had been a National Party member for more than 40 years. "I'm here to say 'to hell with it'."

Dr Smith struggled to give his 20-minute presentation as he was continually interrupted by hecklers. At one point it appeared the chairman, Invercargill MP Eric Roy, almost lost control of the meeting as he repeatedly yelled for order and had to stop one man from advancing toward Dr Smith.

A National Party insider told the Herald organisers were concerned people could become violent and had considered calling the police.

Dr Smith told the crowd it was the 32nd presentation he had made during his nationwide road show but the first where he had been repeatedly interrupted.

Order was finally restored when there was the opportunity for questions from the floor. Bruce McGill asked the minister why New Zealand wasn't following Portugal's lead and promoting soil carbon as a means of gaining credits.
Dr Smith said if the government had opted to include soil carbon in the scheme farmers would have had to take the up side with the down side. "It's true some farmers are building up their top soil, but the amount we are losing from erosion and storm means overall (our soil carbon) is negative."

He said the inclusion of agricultural emissions into the scheme had been deferred until 2015 and that it would only enter the ETS if New Zealand's trading partners made progress on tackling climate change.

Until then, farmers were no different from all other New Zealanders, who had to pay more for electricity and fuel as a result of the ETS, he said.

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