The Government has put earthquake recovery costs "on the credit card" rather than implementing a nationwide $1 billion levy, Green Party co-leader Russel Norman says.
In the final act of the party's annual conference at Silverstream, near Wellington, yesterday, Norman focused on the environment and the economy.
Soon after the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake last year, the Greens proposed a quake levy that it calculated at the time would raise $457 million a year, which would be tagged for disaster relief and reconstruction.
Norman said yesterday a levy set at a higher rate than originally proposed would have raised more than twice that – $1b.
That plan would have seen a levy of 1.5 per cent applied to an individual's income between $48,001 and $70,000, 3 per cent on income greater than $70,001, and the corporate tax rate bumped back up to 30 per cent from the 28 per cent it was lowered to this year.
Business would have contributed an additional $340m to the levy under that scenario.
"This is one of the best ways to get in behind Cantabrians at their time of greatest need. An earthquake levy is our way to say, as a nation, that we're all in this together," Norman said.
"National chose to put the earthquake on the credit card and leave the cost for another generation to pay off."
The Greens would use new taxes to help rebalance the economy, including by a capital gains tax, excluding the family home.
Subjecting the agricultural sector to the emissions trading scheme and a series of other "eco-taxes" are Green Party policy.
Norman said the country had lived for decades off its "natural capital", which was now "much depleted".
"The forests of the plains have been felled, burnt and ploughed to within a few hectares of disappearing completely," he said.
"We've damaged and eroded our soils. We've polluted the majority of our lowland rivers and streams. We've pushed the wildlife – animals found nowhere else in the world – to the brink of extinction."
Attention was turning to "what remains", he said.
"The lignite under our feet, the freshwater that still makes it out to the sea, and the oil that may lie deep under our oceans. From the beginning of colonisation there have been those who see Aotearoa simply as a place to make a quick buck."
The Government had "given up" on building a more balanced economy, Norman said.
"Like the Labour government before them, National is hoping we can simply grow our way out of our structural problems," he said.
"And to kick-start that elusive growth, they've backed nearly every get-rich-quick scheme they can think of – asset sales, risky mining, dairy intensification, even casinos – and running up record levels of government debt to help fund it."
The Greens wanted to take $14b of spending out of "uneconomic new motorways" and use it for public transport and making walking and cycling safer, he said.