Have the Greens peaked?

It is sad to say so, as getting a few more seats would certainly be advantageous for the left-wing of New Zealand politics, but the Greens seem unable to advance beyond their current 14 seats.

There is no doubt that the Greens much coveted position is to be a respected coalition partner for Labour. With no other credible party on the left to assist Labour, it is imperative that the Greens establish themselves as *that* partner. The far left wing of their party might feel alienated and concerned about dealing with a party that is pro-trade and seems happy to occasionally deploy the New Zealand military overseas. However politics is about the art of the deal and compromise is an essential skill, which is something the Green Party should know by now.

Whereas Labour back benchers apparently have good relations with the New Zealand First caucus,.how much has been done to reach some sort of working arrangement with the Greens?

Could the Greens also make some sort of peace with New Zealand First leader Winston Peters? In fairness to them, Mr Peters is a social conservative and has never quite shown the respect that has been due the third largest party in New Zealand. The idea of “Black Green 2014” being a motivating catch cry unfortunately came unstuck for a lack of willingness despite similarities in several policies between the two parties to work together.

It is not like their party is lacking talent. It has Gareth Hughes as its energy spokesperson and Julie Anne Genter as its transport spokeswoman. Both are young, well liked and well educated and know their portfolio’s inside out. Their candidates standing at this election are also among the most diverse ever fielded and include Golriz Ghahraman, a human rights lawyer from Iran. None of this guarantees seats around the Cabinet table

For all their strengths, it is unfortunate to note that the Greens have an annoying habit of occasionally shooting their mouths off. Random comments about one issue or another on a particular day have misjudged the public sentiments or come across as kowtowing to one party or another, and in doing so have lodged in their memories, to have consequences for the Greens on polling day.

The Greens are an essential part of the New Zealand political landscape. Although I am too conservative for them when it comes to foreign policy, defence, justice and the economy, I can see several other policy areas of the Greens working out very well for New Zealand. To lose the Greens or see them unable to grow any further puts a lot of pressure on the left-wing of New Zealand politics that is simply not needed.

Labour is going to have to hope that it can resolve its own problems and make inroads into National in the next four months. If it can half of the challenge of forming a Government has been achieved. The other half one of the other parties will be there to make up the numbers when New Zealand First decides what form the next Government will take. And that might well mean the Greens needing more seats.


Labour has four months

127 days. In just 127 days New Zealand will head for the polls. At the end of Election Day, Labour will find out whether or not it is doomed to spend a fourth, possibly permanently crippling, term on the Opposition benches.

That night New Zealand will make a historic choice:

Does it want a Labour Party still stuck in first gear nearly full terms after it was defeated in the 2008 election, leaving it with no clear successor to former Prime Minister Helen Clark? This is a party that has been led by Phil Goff, now mayor of Auckland; David Shearer who gave up his United Nations job in Africa to come back to New Zealand, and has since decided to return to Africa; David Cunliffe, who after succeeding Mr Shearer, and leading Labour to a catastrophic defeat has retired from politics.

Or does it want a National Party that somehow seems to still have the teflon touch of former leader and Prime Minister John Key, where no matter what got flung at it, nothing stuck? This is a party that has navigated through three terms with no clear vision other than economic growth, keeping its backers happy all the while letting housing, violent crime, mental health, environmental issues and dodgy military forays at the request of the United States.

I predict that if Labour gets rolled in the election there will be a general purge. Few will be spared. Mr Little will be just one of a wave of M.P.’s heading for the door. The knives are still sharp from the 2014 election and there will be a fair few in the party braying for blood. The need for fresh ideas, faces, and a change in direction plus a willingness to be brave and stand up for Labour principles is loud and clear enough now, but few seem to be paying attention.

But let us suppose the miracle that Labour needs, actually happens. Let us suppose that just for whatever reason, Labour lead the centre-left to victory and are in a position where they plus the Greens are able to comfortably form a coalition with New Zealand First help. Winston Peters might despise the Greens, but the party has good relations with Labour, and there are many many people in the New Zealand First party who have no desire to see a fourth term National-led Government. Some will be wanting to see Mr Peters get revenge for being outed in 2008 by denying National a fourth term Government.

But let us be honest.

On current performance, the only way Labour will see the ninth floor of the Beehive is either with significant New Zealand First and Green Party help, or a miracle of major portions.

127 days Labour.

That’s all you have.

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.