A division in the Greens?

There was a cartoon by cartoonist Al Nisbet in The Press the other day that got me thinking. Whilst not normally a fan of Nisbet, some of whom’s ideas seem rather dated, his cartoon on of the Greens co-leader election did seem oddly appropriate.


It was of the Greens as a stalk, which had splintered in two threads, each with a head. One was Julie Anne Genter who was challenging Marama Davidson for the co-leadership of the party. And the other was Mrs Davidson.

Each represents a different part of the Green philosophy. One usually thinks of the Greens as being pro social justice/environment/peace. The flip side for the Greens is militarism/market economics/conservative justice.

Mrs Davidson tends towards the social part of the party platform, which is about looking out for the little guy. She tends to social justice issues such as animal rights, human rights whilst dealing with major portfolio’s such as health, education and social welfare. Prior to entering Parliament Mrs Davidson worked for the Human Rights Commission, part time for the Breastfeeding New Zealand and helped to found Te Wharepora Hou Maori Women’s Collective. Working in Mrs Davidson’s favour is her strong Maori heritage, descending from three Iwi which will give her influence across Maoridom.

Ms Genter, who holds a Masters of Planning Practice from University of Auckland leans strongly towards the environmental wing. She focuses on reducing the impact of transport on the environment . Working in her favour are her strong environmental credentials and solid knowledge of policy processes. Perhaps working against Ms Genter is that she is not a New Zealander by birth. This gives her a disadvantage in dealing with Maori and on constitutional issues.

Whilst I hope there are no divisions in the Green Party, I do have concerns that Mrs Davidson will not apply due focus on the environmental wing of the party. I have seen nothing in her record to suggest that she has a major focus on it.  Ms Genter and her colleague Gareth Hughes, who has been working on energy issues are going to have to confront the beast of climate change and the considerable technological and planning challenges that it throws up.

Time – as it is prone to doing so – will tell whether the Greens have made a leadership call as good as their past. Metiria Turei, who preceded Marama Davidson was a solid and popular leader who lasted from Jeanette Fitzsimons’ retirement until she admitted having deceived Work and Income New Zealand last year – her failure to have the issue bottled by paying back the monies owed before she went public was her downfall. Can Mrs Davidson do as well?

Greens pick Marama Davidson

Yesterday the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand chose Marama Davidson to be the new Green co-leader, over 3 term Member of Parliament Julie Anne Genter.

I wish to congratulate M Davidson on her ascension to the co-leader role. It was not a rule I was expecting her to take on. Mrs Davidson replaces former leader and now ex-member of Parliament Metiria Turei who made the mistake of failing to be honest with New Zealanders about past financial support from a Ministry of Social Development aid. I will admit that my preference was definitely for Julie Anne Genter. Ms Genter has been in Parliament since 2008. Her substantial workload includes being Minister for Womens Affairs, Minister of Transport.

Ms Genter recently had a major policy victory when the Government announced its transport policy would include a significant change in direction.Among the changes included an ending of emphasis on the National Party’s “Roads of National Significance”, substantial investment in railway transport and more funding for rural and urban transport needs. However she has also courted controversy with her comments about old white men from a board background. Despite being essentially correct in terms of the context, the indignant howls from the people that were a target suggest much work still to be done in this area.

So I wait with interest to see how this new leader will turn out to be.

The Government’s looming water fight

There is an issue simmering in the background of New Zealand politics that threatens to split the Government. For all the scenes of unity and co-operation coming out of the Beehive, a combination of an ideologically divisive issue, indigenous claims to ownership and fears of a gravy train is threatening to erupt into a major three way water fight.

There are several major issues with the way the use of fresh water is governed in New Zealand, not least:

  1. Iwi have significant claims vis-a-vis the Treaty of Waitangi to how water is used, and the aesthetic properties of fresh water bodies such as the mauri or life force
  2. Everyone by biological default needs clean drinking water – which makes this a medical issue, as well as a planning issue for councils
  3. The rate of use in New Zealand is not sustainable – the known fresh water resource in many catchments is 100% allocated
  4. On numerous waterways, the minimum flow set by regional councils is too low and subsequently the creeks, streams and rivers in question are not able to perform its natural functions as well as they should

The politics of water became complicated long before the Government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern took office. Having a minority Government with two significantly smaller minority parties propping up a larger party and all of them having significantly different views of water as a resource, has only served to complicate the picture further.

So, why do I say a fresh water fight is looming? Simple. The Green Party is categorically opposed to further irrigation projects siphoning off more of New Zealand’s precious fresh water resource. New Zealand First’s drive for the rural vote might intersect this. But it will not be that which starts the water fight. It will be the Government attempt to address water rights with Maori and the potential – as New Zealand First believes – to start a gravy train of other claims.

I am of the belief no one person, company, party, country or other entity can claim ownership of water as a resource. Its common physical properties mean everyone needs water to survive. Everyone needs it for hygiene, drinking, cooking purposes at the very least and that the totally fundamental common nature of this resource means that by default if a claim can be made at all to ownership, that claim is made by all people. All people have a common responsibility to ensure the stewardship of water is sustainable.

I agree with New Zealand First that Maori should not have ownership rights per se. One reason is the potential for a gravy train of other claims to form in terms of natural resources. The slippery nature of the slope and where New Zealand might end up as a result of being on it, suggests to me that this is an issue that might be best avoided altogether.

And so, New Zealand First and Labour’s first big scrap is looming. Unavoidable, but perhaps too big to want to try to avoid. Before anything happens in Parliament, a lot of water is going to flow under the proverbial bridge.

Labour surges; National dives – and a smorgasbord of issues demand action

A new political poll came out yesterday, which put Labour ahead of National. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s popularity is also well ahead of out going National Party leader Bill English.

The recent poll of support for our political parties should not really come as a surprise. Despite the best attempts of the National Party to get a fix on Ms Ardern and her Labour led minority Government, Ms Ardern’s popularity is soaring just like her party’s.

At 48%, Labour’s support is the highest it has been in 15 years. It would have have enough to be able to jettison one of its minor support parties and govern with the other. In this case it would not have any choice, as on current support of just 5% the Greens would be the only one returned to Parliament. At 3% New Zealand First would not be returned to Parliament, the lowest support that the party of Winston Peters has seen in nearly a decade.

If an election were held today, these results would show a radically altered Parliament.

  • LABOUR = 48%/58 seats (59 seats)
  • NATIONAL = 43%/52 seats (54 seats)
  • GREENS = 5%/6 seats
  • ACT = 1%¹ = 1%/1 seat

¹David Seymour holds the Epsom seat, thus A.C.T. has a place in Parliament. ²Remaining seats needed to fill the 120 seat Parliament come from the party lists.

But the real pressure on Labour is still to come. The real pressure comes from the smorgasbord of issues demanding action from a Government that promised much. Issues with crime, the economy, mental health, waste, education and a host of others are ringing loudly. In a year where the rise of particular social movements – one calling for better recognition that sexual harassment is totally not okay, and the other a seemingly sudden declaration of war on single use plastic – Labour can grab an opportunity to steal a march with legislative changes or other support to shore up its base.

Labour needs to be careful though as many of the other issues are ones where normally one hears an emphasis on them from conservative parties, such as justice and the economy. Labour needs to move on one or more of these to deprive National of political oxygen. With almost daily violent crime being reported up and down the country, and an alarming level of it involving drug addled individuals wielding weapons, it is not a great look for a country that prides itself on being safe.

So, whilst Labour can take some pleasure in the results, there is much to be done and the public are hungry for action.

New Zealand First betrays members with T.P.P.A. support

For six years New Zealand First was one of the stalwart parties in New Zealand opposing the Trans Pacific Partnership. From the first rumblings about the danger it posted in 2011, through to Fletcher Tabuteau’s Bill of Parliament attempting to derail the T.P.P.A. New Zealand First consistently campaigned against it.

As a former New Zealand First member, their decision to support the T.P.P.A. is a major betrayal of the party. It is a major betrayal of the principles on which the party was founded and completely undermines the hard work done by so many party members and Members of Parliament who attended and organized protests and public meetings, petitioned the public, made submissions and so forth.

In the end the only party that has steadfastly opposed the T.P.P.A. from start to finish has been the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand. This will likely draw some people who might have otherwise voted for New Zealand First away from the party that supposedly stood for common sense.

I do not know if I can continue supporting New Zealand First. One of the primary reasons for voting for them was toderail the T.P.P.A. Another one of the reasons donating to them up to May last year was to help get more anti-T.P.P.A. candidates into Parliament.

The reasons for steadfastly opposing the T.P.P.A. are pretty simple. It is not a free or fair trade deal in that much of it was written at the behest of faceless corporations. The Investor-State-Dispute-Settlement clauses were never fully removed or effectively neutralized. Thus a corporation can still take the New Zealand Government to court for passing legislation that the corporation does not like. The T.P.P.A. also threatens to undermine the social, environmental and human rights framework of New Zealand. That is not okay.

I am too conservative for the Green Party, but I can see them doing well at New Zealand First’s expense in 2020.