With the environment the backbone of the NZ economy, is a National/Green government a possibility in the future? Andrew Campbell and Bryce Edwards share their views

By Jenée Tibshraeny

Let’s do the unthinkable one day out from an election and consider New Zealand’s future - politics aside - for just a moment.

Our comparative advantage on the world stage is that we live in a fertile and beautiful environment. We have a decently educated population, with the skills to monetise what this environment has to offer through tourism, agriculture, viticulture, forestry, and the film industry for example.

The environment also makes New Zealand a desirable place to live, so we don’t have too much trouble attracting skills and talent from around the world.

Sure, we have good things going for us that don’t involve soil and trees and water, but our economy is largely linked to the environment.

One would therefore consider it logical for any forward-thinking government to be focussed on maximising what our most value asset - our environment - has to offer, while preserving it.

It is only prudent to take care of whatever it is that is making you money.

Time to bring politics back into the discussion

In light of this, what are the chances of National and the Green Party becoming more aligned in, say, the next two or three years?

This does of course largely depend on the outcome of the election.

In what could be perceived as a slap in the Green Party’s face, Jacinda Ardern has made it quite clear that the Green Party will get the first call on election night, but won’t be guaranteed an offer to become a coalition partner.

While it is highly unlikely National will knock on the Green Party’s door on election night, Bill English hasn’t ruled this out.

With ACT, United Future and to a lesser extent the Maori Party, all performing pretty poorly in the polls, it is clear National is going to have start making a few new friends in the future.

Nonetheless, whatever eventuates from the election, the question is, is there a chance the Green Party will re-focus on its environmental mandate and makes itself more versatile across the political spectrum?

This has been the issue plaguing the Green Party for some time. Can it become more mainstream, without losing its heart, and core support? Would it actually be more successful in getting some of its environmental policies heard if it became more National-friendly. Could it do so without compromising too much? Does it need to do so?

I asked Otago University academic and political commentator, Dr Bryce Edwards, and former Green Party communications director and chief of staff (who’s now a Green Party member and volunteer), Andrew Campbell.

They both have quite different views.

Should the Green Party just stick to environmental issues?

Edwards believes the Green Party we’ve seen since the fallout with Metiria Turei, which has emphasised the fact environmental, not social, issues are at the top of its agenda, “is a glimpse of the Green Party of the future”.

“They need to stick to their knitting - not exclusively - and go back to being a bit greener,” he says

Campbell on the other hand says the Green Party has never just been about the environment, with social responsibility being a part of its mandate.

A lot of its voters see the two as interconnected, so Campbell believes the Green Party would lose more votes than it would gain, if it ditched the social stuff and went for the Epsom, Grey Lynn, Herne Bay, ‘our corporate jobs mean we can afford to only eat organic food’ type voters.

“I don’t think it would be worth it,” Campbell says.

Can the Nats and Greens even find enough common ground when it comes to the environment?

Their social and economic differences aside, Campbell believes National and Green Party’s views on the environment are fundamentally too different.

If New Zealand wants to capitalise on that clean green brand, “that actually does mean action on climate change and action on water”, he says.

“Because that has to be more than a marketing slogan. And that does require action, which I think in this election we’ve seen National is allergic to.”

“We’re happy to move, and obviously if we go into a coalition with Labour, we know that we will have to move and compromise on certain issues, but I think the level of compromise to make a coalition with National would be too unpalatable and wouldn’t actually advance the issues that are important to us.”

What’s more, the memorandum of understanding National had with the Greens when it first came into government, was discontinued.

“In a sense, National was testing the waters to see whether the Greens were a real coalition option beyond just doing projects together. And I think they kind of determined at that stage they weren’t,” Campbell says.

What about the personalities in the parties?

Nonetheless, Edwards believes that if push came to shove, the Nats would find it easier to work with the Greens than New Zealand First.

“There’s quite a strong dislike and distaste in National for many elements of New Zealand First. There is some of that for the Greens as well, but I think there’s probably more people in the Greens that National MPs think they can get on with,” he says.

What’s more, if National loses the election, and English goes, Edwards doesn’t believe his replacement would have too much difficulty working with the Greens (unless English is replaced by either Judith Collins or Gerry Brownlee).

Edwards says younger MPs like Simon Bridges, Jonathan Coleman and Nikki Kaye would be “at ease” working with the Greens.

So if the Green Party adopted a more centrist position, independent of Labour, would James Shaw be the man to lead the change?

“I don’t think James Shaw is any sort of closet right-wing green, but of all the Green leaders so far, he’s the one that’s most business-friendly and most amenable to working with non-left-wing politicians,” Edwards says.

“I’m not suggesting he’d be driving that shift, but he’d certainty fit in very well with any re-orientation by the Greens towards the centre, towards independence and towards a closer relationship with National.”

And what about Metiria Turei? Could she regain her prominence in the party to the extent her commitment to social justice gets in the way of a move to the centre?

Campbell believes not.

“Clearly her parliamentary role has finished,” he says.

“I think she still has a really important role to play in the party… kind of potentially something akin to the role Jeanette Fitzsimons still played, which is a very valuable, wise head position. We still call on Jeanette from time to time to do certain things."

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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39 Comments

".. if the Green Party adopted a more centrist position"

In my opinion this is the key. It is one thing to stage marches waving flags of support for land rights for gay whales and polar bears, but quite another to run a country.

Absolutely no, and for the reason for that is just precisely what you said.

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The Gnats have been the Environmental Disaster Party ... prior to their ascension to power we had 20 % of freshwater fish species on the endangered list ; that figure has now ballooned out to a staggering 78 % ....

... and , having seen the Al Jazeera doco on dirty dairying in NZ ( I was in the Philippines at the time ) ... this thing is going worldwide ... everyone is gonna know how we're wrecking our environment in the name of profits or capital gains for the benefit of several thousand dairy farm owners ...

The Gnats need the Greens as a coalition partner , much more than they need NZ First , as a wake up call ---- to give them some conscience about the environment ... the Al Jazeera doco said that given the effluent put out by dairy cows ( the equivalent of 14 human poops per day per animal ) NZ suddenly has an effective population of 100 million people ... but only efficient effluent disposal for 4 million .... YUKKY POOOOOO !!!!

It was a bit odd to be sitting in London with a bunch of twenty somethings discussing the Palm oil industry and the couple of million tonnes of PKE NZ buys, the damage to rain forests and how to take action to halt it.
If we just taxed N fertiliser and reduced inputs we would reduce our footprint so much and it's such a simple fix.
It was also odd sitting in coffee shops and having everyone order some alternative milk, soy, oats, almond, hazelnut there are a lot of choices today.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/09/23/fizzy-milk-could-hit-supermar...

This is going to have a large impact on farming - https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/95510619/new-zealand-farmers-up... the cost to create it has fallen significantly, whilst the taste/texture has improved.

... I flew over Malaysia recently ...the little Gummy arms flapping in the tropical breeze ... and the monoculture of endless miles of palm plantations below me was truly staggering ... much alike the seemingly endless treeless plains of dairy farming around Ashburton in NZ ...

All for a product that we don't need ... we like it ... but dairy products are not an absolute necessity in our diet ...

... and the best butter I had in hotels around Asia ... was French ... two brands from France ... far more flavoursome than anything produced in NZ !

Irish butter is good too, and very popular. USA production up 2% EU should be up 1%.

".In January-March 2017, the export of dairy products from Ukraine amounted to 25.7 thousand tons, which is 37% more than in the first quarter of 2016, the analytical department of the Ukrainian Food Export Board (UFEB) reported."

Ukraine entered the TOP-5 world's exporters of butter -

https://frontnews.eu/news/en/2816

Re: "for the benefit of a few thousand dairy farmers."

I did some research recent on dairying in Canterbury. and found there is approximately 1000 diary herds of approximately 1000 cows in Canterbury. Making about 1 million milking cows for the province. Given Canterbury has the biggest chunk of irrigation -subsidised with taxpayers money and by removing regional democracy -this is an amazingly stupid benefit for a relatively few people.

No.
The adage that Politics makes for strange bedfellows is by passing this combo.
Forever.

Watermelons aka Greens = The NZ Fraud Party. The Greens would need to change a lot to ever get on with centrist National

LOL, love when the right wing extremists come out to play. Fraud would suggest some sort of deceit when in fact the Green's are pretty much the most upfront party on where they stand on issues.

So, National isnt very centralist nor environmentally friendly, you just had to listen the the recent environmental debate to see just how far out of sync National is to all other parties except ACT.

So for National to work with the Greens would require a major shift in policy and removal of most of its MPs, aint gonna happen.

Just because MT admitted her fraud doesn't make it go away. Even if she paid the money back doesn't erase the fraud. James Shaw has not said one single word of censure about this fraud. Similarly Jacinda too has not condemned the act. I wonder why?

The issue is between Turei and MSD it is not Shaw's crime, it is not Ardern's. It is entirely possible they simply like her as a person.
My take on this before you start attacking me again, I nearly turned away from the Greens with this, as it became obvious to me that she was not that badly off at the time, well it looked that way to me and she may well pay dearly for it. I can understand someone resorting to something like this if they were desperate, but I am not convinced she was.
However, I find James Shaw extremely impressive and Julie Ann Genter is as well. The Green's look to the future, so do I, even though the future they/I look to, I probably won't be in, but my kids and grandkids will. I vote for that.

It is pretty clear that at the time she committed the fraud she wasn’t overly bothered by laws. The electoral fraud is proof of that. The fact she tried to score political points from it was disgraceful. The greens could do very well if they could focus on environmental issues and develop actual workable solutions to them. They need to be able work with both parties if they truely are for the environment. They are the only political party that haven’t been part of a government. To deliver for your supporters you need to be in government. They can save the socialist stuff for when labour are in. They should be able to work with both sides on environmental issues

To "look to the feature" they need to address the past ( or present ? ) - the role of MT in the party. They have not ; they could disown her fraud - but they choose not to.

"Similarly Jacinda too has not condemned the act. I wonder why?"

I'm not sure why she would be talking about it one way or another, she has other concerns. I suppose if someone asked "how are you with benefit fraud" she might.

Probably took their lead and guidance from the billshitter - you remember ol Double D and young Toddy don't you.?
The billshitter has lowered the bar to a level where an MP, guilty of a crime punishable by 2 years in the clink can swann around for several months on full parliamentary wage without even bothering to turn up for work.

Kiwis so dumb lah.

"Kiwis so dumb lah" - are you a Kiwi ?

Kiwi but that's what my Chinese friends say.

Throughout the coverage (that I have seen) Bill English was let off the hook completely. When he delivered his smug responses that National had solved the housing crisis and house prices were now stable/falling, he should have been asked:
1. What action will you take if prices start increasing 20% again immediately after you are re-elected;
2. if the above occurs, will it mean your policies have failed (and you have failed FHB’s);
3. What price to earnings ratio would you like to see long term.
He should have been made to answer those questions on the record in order to be held to account. I predict the market will take off again in October 2017 whatever government is elected and Bill English has just sold the NZ public a massive dummy (to use a kiwi as rugby based cliche).

I think it will become apparent in the next few years that it is National that has to adopt a more centrist position.
Private prisons, the attempted commercialisation and outsourcing of poverty and the fire sale of the public assets to their political donors are the policies of hard right ideologues.
Perhaps a decade in opposition will do them good.

Agree, though with BE there is a more centralist /softer look and feel IMHO (if its actually genuine). However I expect he'll be "Bolger'd" and we'll see Judith Collin's briefly at the helm of National if he "goes too far".

Anyway, whomever gets in needs to step up and seriously starting fixing the various smouldering crisis's we are seeing eg with the homeless in motels etc. I dont think National wants to, so we need a change of Govn to improve the situation. Otherwise its going to be ugly IMHO.

It will never happen; a blue-green TOP govt would just make too much sense for some.

It surprises me that TOP are seen as Blue - Green . They are proposing a universal basic income , how much redder can you get than that ? Not that I am saying it is a bad idea.
It just goes to show these whole red - blue labels are silly , if we spent as much time analyzing a policy for what it is , rather than trying to work out wether it is red or blue, we would be a lot better off.

Nats in bed with Greens?
It MAY never happen but the Nats would sell their grandmother into slavery to retain POWER.

If the very high number of hurricanes (cyclones) currently occuring in the North Atlantic prove to be a turning point in climate change events, then our environment will become of major importance. Our last NZ cyclone season saw some near misses so i will be watching our coming season with interest. If the green's contain suitably educated persons, then they should become strong influences on government. Of course they do not have to be in power to exercise such influences but it would help.

No, deniers will keep denying.

The Greens need to loose the hippy alternative lifestyle bent that they have. The environmental problems are deadly serious, but it is hard to take the Greens seriously when you see the sort of silly carry on we witnessed from ex Legalise Cannabis party member, Metiria Turei. A significant amount of the Green Party support comes from higher socio economic liberals. They may do a lot better if they smartened themselves up, realised that their principal focus is the environment and moved more to the centre.
The Nats are practically anti environment so it is hard to see them having much in common, unless they change one hell of a lot.

National would lose a huge chunk of its support base if it teamed up with the much-maligned Greens.

Actually, I have always thought it's shame that the Greens are so far on the left. Personally, I would love to vote for a National/Green coalition if the Greens took care of the environmental issues and National took care of the Economic issues

If National can relinquish environmental issues to the Greens and the Greens can relinquish economic issues to National we'd have, in my opinion, a great balanced government for New Zealand

in your world the economy exists outside the environment

Wow, you know "my world", are you bulimic ?

Why would an eating/mental disorder help the poster understand your world?

I can't see the Greens working with National, they are diametrically opposed on social and environmental policy.

Long may it stay that way.

Economic growth from where we are now (ie way in excess of any sort of sustainable footprint) is the polar opposite of being green.
So if the greens were green their modus operandi would clash with all other parties.

Lot of talk about Centrist, Leftist - nothing about right-hand or rightist

and worst of all

Total silence about doing "the right thing"

It's about time someone formed a right leaning or centrist green party. Call it True Greens, in contrast to the current communist greens

If the Greens spent more time focussing on environmental issues rather than socialism they would improve their credibility. We're one of the only first world countries that has no vehicle emissions standards, and hence all the smokey vehicles on our roads. I've never heard the Greens champion this cause even once, which is incredible given that air quality should be as important as water quality. What about urban pollution? Oh, and by the way, where is your man made global warming exactly because I'm freezing!?