James Shaw defends travel expenses

News 01/03/2019
James Shaw. Photo: Getty.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw has defended his high international travel expenses, explaining it's offset by planting trees. 

The Climate Change Minister's approved international travel expenses were the highest out of all ministers from October to the end of December, at $77,771, compared to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's $54,487. 

When asked to justify the expenses, Mr Shaw told Magic Talk on Friday the Green Party offsets all travel through tree-planting, something he said he'd "recommend people do". 

"Those programmes have to be verified and part of the verification process is that the tree planted has to be additional to what's already being planted. We do that through a programme that's run by Enviro-Mark."

"I am carbon neutral. But, the best thing to do would be to reduce emissions - that's the main thing you've got to do. You can't just buy your way out of trouble with offsets," Mr Shaw said. 

"The Climate Change portfolio is actually a foreign affairs portfolio in part, because it turns out climate change is a global problem and we've got to spend a lot of time working with people in other countries, so yes I do travel as part of my job."

He credited Air New Zealand for "working really hard on reducing the emissions profile from their travel".

"They've got a commitment, that even if the business expands - and they obviously want the business to expand - that the total amount of carbon emissions coming out of their airplanes is flat or shrinks."

Mr Shaw explained earlier on Friday that his international travel expenses were high because he attended multiple international events during that time on climate change, including the Katowice Climate Change Conference in Poland. 

"I understand that as Climate Change Minister, I have to weigh up the value of my travel. These events last year were significant international climate change conferences. They allow us to put New Zealand's case to the international community," he said. 

Mr Shaw was also pressed on the Green Party's polling. The latest Newshub-Reid Research Poll showed the party on 5.1 percent down 0.6 percent, leaving them perilously close to the 5 percent threshold for a party. 

But Mr Shaw said this is normal for support parties: "If you look back on every Government since MMP came in, it's always really tough on support parties in Government."

"I have to say, given the history, I'm actually pretty pleased that we've been able to hold our vote from the election, because the conventional wisdom would be that we would kind of drop and then it looks a bit terminal after that point.

"But actually, I think as long as people see that we're delivering what we said that we were going to deliver, and that we're a good partner in Government, and that we're helping to shape the Government, that they'll give us another whirl next year."