When I was growing up in the 1990s, Maggie Barry was a beloved television presenter. Her gardening expertise was unparalleled. Whether your question was where to plant your hyacinths or how to really bring out the colonial Victorian side of your rose garden in Epsom, Auckland (it’s a bit like England, only more English), Maggie was the one to ask. She even has a rose named after her.
But somewhere along the line, things changed for Maggie. She took a darker turn. In 2011, voters in my home electorate on Auckland’s North Shore elected Maggie to Parliament. Last year, Prime Minister John Key took a break from tweaking ponytails to appoint her as Minister of Conservation. But deprived of her trusty sidekick, ‘bug man’ Ruud Kleinpaste, Maggie has strayed into the dark, dark realms of climate denial.
Or, to use her own words, of refuting facts.
She’s not the first member of her caucus to deny basic climate facts. But she has done so with remarkable zest and vigour.
New Zealanders deserve better than this. We care about our unique natural environment and our native flora and fauna. We know what the solutions are. And they don’t include declaring a Battle for the Birds, which Maggie has done. It’s a bizarre move, reminiscent of the still failing wars on drugs and terrorism. Solutions aren’t about aggressive rhetoric and ad hoc opportunism.
Real climate solutions, of the type a Minister of Conservation should be thinking about, must come through developing meaningful national plans to both adapt to and mitigate climate change.