Green Party energy policy in 2017 election

Today the Green Party released their energy policy for the 2017 election.

The reaction from Business New Zealand has been largely positive. Other than the commitment to 100% renewable energy, the lobby group believes that it is constructive and comes about as a result of working with the party.

I support parts of the policy too. One area which is encouraging is the Green Party plan to support inter customer trading of electricity that private users generate and put back into the grid. Likewise encouraging the lines companies to amalgamate in places means that the management of the grid across New Zealand should hopefully become less fractured than 29 separate entities at work.

New Zealand is rich with options for renewable energy. It sits in the “Roaring Forties” belt of latitudinal westerly winds, which upon contact with the Southern Alps give rise to substantial rainfall enabling hydroelectric power generation, as well as significant opportunities for wind power. The reasonably high sunshine hours in towns like Blenheim, Whakatane and Nelson ensure the natural potential for solar power also exists. Around the coastal environment there are also several locations where tidal power can be potentially harnessed.

I am aware of significant investment in geothermal energy in New Zealand that has most likely utilized the available capacity. Geothermal systems are quite delicate in nature and thus a fine balance exists between re-injecting too much water back into the ground and not enough.

Another source of power that is heavily utilized is hydro power. Although it has lost a portion of the market as other sources have come online, hydroelectric power makes up about 60% of New Zealand’s total electricity supply. However it is dependent on reliable northwest rainfall feeding the Upper Waitaki Power Scheme, and the Clutha, Roxburgh and Manapouri power stations in Central Otago and Southland.

But there is undeveloped and under researched potential in New Zealand energy resources as well. One example is that New Zealand has a thriving waste stream of bio-waste ranging from waste cooking fat and oil, that at least on a small scale has been demonstrated to be suitable for refining. New Zealanders discharge a huge volume of green waste at refuse stations each week. On a local scale there are a few operations where the gas is captured and used to power onsite facilities. However these are few and far apart. Due to the uncertainty and a lack of interest by Government in biofuel, I support research into whether or not a nation wide bio-fuel programme can be developed in New Zealand.

There is one concern I do have though and that is that the Green Party might try to mothball with the intention of decommissioning thermal plants that rely on coal and oil, such as Huntly, Stratford and Whirinaki. These power stations would prove useful in maintaining energy supply during dry periods when the hydroelectric storage lakes are running low, or if there has been a problem with other sources.

The growing delusions of the English Government

As New Zealand moves into 2017 and begins ramping up towards the 23 September 2017 General Election, the problems facing the three term National-led Government are substantial. All three are issues that the Opposition will try to tackle the Government on in these coming months. But with a Prime Minister and Cabinet more or less in denial about the seriousness of any of them, it is time to have a look at the most potent ones.

Primarily I see three major problems on the horizon for Prime Minister Bill English:

  • The increasingly undrinkable, unswimmable and possibly ultimately unusable fresh water resource
  • The housing crisis, which runs the risk of a sharp and potentially quite painful readjustment – no knowing how big any readjustment would be or how abruptly it may happen
  • Crime – in particular drug related crime

The fresh water one is potentially the most dangerous for National since if there is a large scale decline in fresh water quality, it could impact on the economy, the environment and society. It could potentially cost billions in the long term as tourists decide not to come here because the fresh water that made our unique ecosystems possible is no longer there; the gains made by dairy farming get eroded by the increasing environmental cost and the health threat to humans and animals alike from contaminated water may force some sharp revisions to acceptable fresh water standards. If they perceive that the quality one of the two most live giving elements on the face of the planet is in an unacceptable danger, no amount of muddying the waters, fudging the statistics is likely to change public perception.

This has been simmering for sometime, but may now be near the point of no return. National can build all the houses they like, but if the root cause of the housing market being unsustainable – immigration – is not addressed, then it is all a waste of time, money and resources. National’s stubborn refusal to see housing as being in a state of crisis is causing large numbers of people to turn away. National however are not the only ones refusing to take a serious look at the cause of the problem. Labour will have to do a deal with the Green Party of some sort, which will include some sort of sweetener on immigration. Like National, Labour is finding that many people are opting to look at New Zealand First Leader, Winston Peters, as a potential alternative Prime Minister.

Demand for drugs and tobacco is fuelling a surge in violent crime including petrol station ram raids, armed hold ups and acts of fraud. The perpetrators are generally looking for tobacco or the means to buy more cannabis, methamphetamine and cocaine to sustain their lifestyle. Some dealers are making $4000 a week selling their product to buyers. The Government has failed to admit that a combination of police underfunding, socio-economic circumstances and a soft justice system are all contributing to the problem.

New Zealand First in the kingmaker spot

Three weeks after Prime Minister Bill English set the date for the election – 23 September 2017 – the campaign machines are rumbling into life. In the last week four Green candidates and one major Labour candidate have been announced. The incumbent National Party is down in the polls, but its leader has increased his popularity. But how ready are the parties for the New Zealand Election 2017?

I will be honest on two counts now.

  1. I do not want National to win the election, and preferably not in a coalition deal either
  2. Labour have seven months to look like they are capable of winning an election, or they are can probably classified as a terminally ill political party

On the first count history generally does not favour four term peace time Governments. The exception is the Government of Keith Holyoake whom my mother told me the other day was well regarded as a Prime Minister, and had an exceptional command of the English language. But he had a major failing in that he looked down in a contemptuous way on people who were less well off – in much the same way, the left accuse the likes of the current National-led Government today of being.

It also has to be said that there are issues brewing in the background which National have had 8 full years to deal with, and have not done so. These issues are ones that are a consequence of the economic policy of the last two decades, but exacerbated by changes in Government policy in the last 8 years, namely:

  • Deliberate admittance of large numbers of immigrants to New Zealand, not all of whom intend to live and contribute here long term
  • Subsequent heating of the housing market that has made affording a house in many areas simply unaffordable to many New Zealanders
  • Deliberately forcing people into jobs that they cannot hold down; refusing to address a myriad of interconnecting social issues
  • Escalating crime problems related to drugs that the police simply do not have the resources to deal with

National might be the most popular party, but the last poll showed that New Zealand First is steady on 11% (13 Members of Parliament), which probably translates in real terms into being on about 14% (16 Members of Parliament). National itself is probably more likely to be on about 43% than the 46% given in the latest Colmar Brunton Poll.. That would mean National needing all of its support parties plus New Zealand First to pass legislation. Which brings me nicely to the other side of House.

Labour, in all of their 9 years of Opposition never been stronger. But that is not a difficult thing to say for a political party that has barely moved in that time. In all that time, despite having Phil Goff, David Shearer and David Cunliffe and now Andrew Little lead the party, Labour have not released any large scale policy changes, seem happy with minor policies and still do not seem to have united behind their leader.

Rather for a political party that wants to be the bedrock of the next Government in seven months time, it is quite a damning thing to say. But even with the 32% (38 Members of Parliament) support that I think Labour probably have, they and their Green Party allies combined are still not enough on their own to form a Government. Like National across the House, Labour and the Greens would need New Zealand First to make up the numbers. Labour desperately need to release some big and bold policy, like maybe a comprehensive change to the legislation governing the Ministry of Social Development or a radical overhaul of the justice system acknowledging that – something that is going to make people stop and take notice.

However Labour have had a few bright spots. They took the Mt Roskill by election, caused by David Shearer’s departure comfortably and will probably take Mt Albert comfortably as well in a few weeks time. And the former police boss Greg O’Connor has just agreed to stand for them in Ohariu, against Peter Dunne.

And then there is the Greens. People have often expressed fears about the social policies that the Greens might introduce and the problems with order and crime that they claim will come with them. Others are concerned that the Greens will stifle economic growth and . But for all the claims against the Greens, I think there are some very good things that they could do around transport, the environment, human rights and energy. I have concerns myself, especially around defence – which is the primary reason I refuse to join, donate or vote for them, but some of the damage being down to the environment that draws in huge numbers of tourists every year is becoming too big to ignore.

Finally there is New Zealand First. If an election were held today, whoever the larger party turned out to be, would have to work with New Zealand First – if assuming we did not have Trump/Brexit type magnitude 9.0 political earthquake that installs New Zealand First on top. Winston Peters has hinted he is not a fan of working with the Greens, but he may have no choice. And much as Mr Peters might not want to admit it, the Greens and New Zealand First see eye to eye on a couple of issues such as killing the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement

Small wonder the pundits think this is going to be a big year.

Dirty political deals nothing new in New Zealand

So we are heading into another election. We have a target date: 23 September 2017. The political parties in Parliament are mobilizing for an election campaign that promises to be the muddiest, grubbiest one ever fought in New Zealand. And among the arsenal of dirt and political poo that is being stored for this massive crap fest is a popular weapon called the dirty deal.

The dirty deal has been strategically used in the past. In 2014, when A.C.T. Party was in danger of being obliterated across New Zealand, National cut a deal with its youthful leader David Seymour to not actively back its own candidate Dr Paul Goldsmith, so that A.C.T. could win the seat and still exist in Parliament. The left was revolted by the deal that enabled a party they heartily despise to live to fight another day knowing their support in virtually every other electorate was non-existent.

Now we hear the screams of revulsion again. Except that they are not coming from the left, but from the right – from people like Newshub’s Patrick Gower and Seven Sharp co-host Mike Hosking. Convieniently they seem to have forgotten their right wing heroes did said deal with A.C.T. in 2014. They also seem to forget the infamous cup of tea that Prime Minister John Key and then A.C.T. leader Don Brash had in 2011, where a recording device was left on the table where they sat. In that year, A.C.T. was also in survival mode, having had a cataract of disasters of its own making in the previous two years, which involved perk buster Rodney Hide coming unstuck; M.P. David Garrett being found to have committed passport fraud using the identity of a dead child; revulsion at the brazen attempt to revive “Rogernomics” – the controversial market economics of Sir Roger Douglas.

The cause of the screams is a deal between Labour and the Greens to support the Labour candidate, former Police officer, and Police Association chair Greg O’Connor. Mr O’Connor is a well known, high profile figure who the Greens in another time would have had difficulty supporting as Mr O’Connor supported the arming of Police among other things, which the Greens oppose(d). Their ease of working with him now stems from a change of heart by Mr O’Connor.

So, yes this is a dirty deal and it is not the sort of deal I necessarily want to see any party participating in. Labour and the Greens have shown themselves to be no better than the A.C.T Party and National. But that is where the similarities stop. Labour are standing a strong candidate in the Ohariu electorate, whereas the Greens candidate has no chance based on the past performance of the Greens in Ohariu. By standing a candidate who have easily taken Epsom electorate in 2014, and then saying they will support a candidate whose party is getting thrashed nation wide and who does not have much chance in Epsom, National and A.C.T still have ownership of the dirtier deal.

Fair comment?

Party performance in Parliament a year out from 2017

By this time in 2017, New Zealand will either be in the throes of an election campaign or be watching the next Government in whatever form it may come, be taking shape in Wellington. With a year or less to go, how are the parties in Parliament shaping up?

National: Old and tired. This party has enjoyed the limelight for 8 years now and despite its high polling a year out from the 2017 general election a swag of issues including crime, housing, social welfare, education, the environment and health are beginning to combine to drag down support. None of the Ministers have sought to excel, much less actually done so, with communication (or a lack of)dragging them collectively down. Third term blues counting against it winning a fourth term. GRADE: C

Labour: Showing the first real signs of promise in the polls with an 8% climb recently. However it is still a long way behind National, and Andrew Little is struggling to gain popularity in the preferred Prime Minister stake. It has much work still to be done on policy, as well as matching them with the strongest voices in their Parliamentary ranks – the exception being Jacinda Ardern whose consistently strong voice on social welfare. Possible that New Zealanders may vote for Labour just to get rid of a third term Government. GRADE: C+

New Zealand First: Doing well in its traditional areas, and showing promise with Fletcher Tabuteau on economic policy and Tracey Martin on education, both of whom have solid experience in these areas. The media prefer to ignore the party or give them a couple of sentences at the bottom of articles. Denis O’Rourke has been working steadily on Christchurch and railways. Needs to run a well organized election campaign. Could cause the shock of the 2017 election if well organized. GRADE: B

Greens: Holding ground, but do not seem to be scoring any large hits. Whilst having clear support for environmental policies, the party has been less successful on justice, housing, and an array of other issues. It has capable Members of Parliament in Julie Anne Genter, Gareth Hughes and James Shaw. Their ongoing appeal to younger people needs to be tapped into if they are to get more seats in Parliament. Competing with New Zealand First for Labour’s attention. GRADE: B-

United Future: Peter Dunne has always been a mystery to me. On one hand we see eye to eye on a Republic, civics in schools and human rights – he has often been on the apologies list for Amnesty International New Zealand Annual Meetings – but on the other his support for the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, for National in office on legislation I thought a centrist would have voted against, I have found disappointing. Can Mr Dunne become more than a one man band? Maybe, but United Future would have to lift its game substantially. GRADE: C

A.C.T.: That other one man band, has – for a party of the far right (I won’t call them libertarian, because their corporate nous is stronger than their small government principles permit) – done well with David Seymour’s die with dignity bill getting praise from corners that would normally want nothing to do with A.C.T. Mr Seymour has also been able to see his charter schools idea get advanced by National. But that is where it stops because National could destroy A.C.T. in 2017 simply by standing a strong candidate in Epsom and not doing a deal with a party New Zealanders rightfully thought was dead and buried. GRADE: D

Maori Party: Regardless of what mana Te Ururoa Flavell and Marama Fox might have with Maoridom, there is no doubt in my mind that this party has been a colossal failure. Oh sure it was formed by Tariana Turia to oppose Labour’s Foreshore and Seabed Act, but a one issue part is never going to get far in the New Zealand Parliament. Its failure to advance the social needs of Maori and stem the shocking rates of involvement in crime, poverty and other negative socio-economic assessment areas. It is only because of the Maori seats that the Maori Party exists at all – would it be a loss to New Zealand if it disappeared? GRADE: D