Category Archives: Green Our World

Before you vote on Saturday….

I’ve just been thinking about some history, how we’ve often elected Governments which have enacted policies few people voted for, how we’ve tried to change them, always peaceably, via the ballot box, marches, peoples’ actions…yet still the forces of the New Right keep coming back and giving us more. In various guises, and in both parties of the New Right. In 1984 we voted to get rid of Muldoon and we ended up with Roger Douglas. IN 1990 we voted to get rid of that madness, to find ourselves lumbered with Ruth Richardson and the most dramatic social and economic revolution in our history.

We soon cottoned on to that, and just 3 years later in a complete reversal of fortune, National clung on by one seat, and only after Labour supplied the Speaker.

That government staggered on until 1999, when we finally had a government that was still committed to New Right ideology, but had enough humanity – in the shape of Jim Anderton – to repair some of the damage of the previous 15 years.

But the New Right was not done. They put up Don Brash, but that did not work – only just – in 2005. Then they found a smiling, easy-going investment banker, looking for a new game to play, with no political experience whatsoever, and no memory of any time in his life when he stood up for anything in particular.

They also had some new toys- highly refined spin machines , imported from Britain and the US, and bloggers, ready to do the dirty work that kept the Smiling Banker at an apparent arm’s length from the nasty stuff. Perfect. We the people – or most of us – bought it wholesale, and he was back in 2011, convinced that if he kept shrugging his shoulders at every problem that came his way and left it for a future government to worry about, the game could go on and on.

And so it did, and here we are on the cusp of another election, and all too many of us still have not figured it out. MAKE NO MISTAKE, National has plans for New Zealand to complete the experiment commenced in 1984. The past six years have been characterised by a huge increase in inequality, poverty, and the dismantling of the sort of society most of us hold very dear – what we believe is a decent and caring New Zealand that punches above its weight in the world on the issues that really matter.

National’s plans for the next three years are very frightening indeed, and have been spelt out by Gordon Campbell in his blog post which I put here earlier this week.

For those still toying with the Smiling Banker, I implore you to look carefully and to think deeply about how you will vote. No western country has the sort of extreme monetarist policies which exist in New Zealand. Polices advanced by the Greens, and (mostly) Labour, are mainstream almost everywhere else including Britain under its current Conservative government.  Market fundamentalism, says George Monbiot, is a “zombie ideology” that has prevented us from grappling with climate change the way we did with ozone depletion.

IT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE THIS WAY. Effective spin, lies and deliberate camouflage of real intent has to come to an end. Politics does NOT need to be a dirty, cynical, affair, and we CAN build the sort of smart, clean, compassionate New Zealand that we say we really want – and we so urgently need.

I urge you, if you have not already made up your mind to Party Vote Green, to think really really carefully about Saturday. The consequences of three more years of National will be nothing short of disastrous for ours and our childrens’ futures.
We are already looking at exceeding 2 degrees of global warming. We have to take all the steps we can to prevent that calamity. We have to address and reduce poverty which does so much harm to our country’s future.


For our children’s’ sake, Party Vote Green this Saturday.

Towards a history: The New Zealand Values Party and The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand


Les Cleveland in his “The Anatomy of Influence” (1972)  wrote that “green politics is essentially a reaction to the inability of the ‘old left’ to address the values and aspirations of the young post-materialist minority…the future of green politics is dependent on the way the social democratic party responds to new issues.”  This was certainly true for the establishment of Values, but I shall explore the extent to which this is correct for the arrival, and survival, of the Green Party.

The New Zealand Values Party was the world’s first national green party. It contested the 1972 General Election and again in 1975, when it secured just over 5% of the vote, but no seats in parliament due to the first-past-the-post voting system then in place1The party continued to contest elections but without success until 1989, when, in September of that year, the party’s newsletter Linkletter proposed that the party be wound up. A variety of reasons were given, chief amongst them the perception that the party had failed, that some of the policies had been taken up by other parties, and that they did not have the funds to continue2.

Values Party logo flag from the 1970s

Values Party logo flag from the 1970s

In the 1980s the word green began to be used internationally to encapsulate, in essence, a rejection of materialism and the promotion of environmental protection. In the early 1980s the election of hardline conservative leaders such as Thatcher and Reagan, and rising concern over nuclear power and other threats, gave fresh impetus to the environmental movement and its political expression, including in New Zealand. The Labour party had been elected in July 1984 promising to make New Zealand nuclear-free.

These concerns were to become merged with a desire to transform society to one that is less materialistic, under the umbrella term “green”.

The Formative Years

In June 1988 a “Green Gathering” had been held in Golden Bay, which formed the “Golden Bay Green Coalition”, with Heather Wallace as convenor.3 Other green groups began to form around New Zealand.

Values Party member Bernard Merwood proposed to the remaining 140 voting members of Values in September 1989 that the party continue, and be renamed ‘The Green Party of Aotearoa’.4

The name The Greens had its origins in the German party Die Grnen, which met with parliamentary success in the West German elections of 1983 and was a conscious model for those forming the New Zealand Greens in 1989.5 

At its Council meeting on 18th November 1989 “Values, the Green Party of Aotearoa” decided to drop the word ‘Values’ and at the same time adopt what was then the international logo for Green politics, a sunflower in a Green circle.    The constitution and policies remained unchanged[^7] .  The national spokespeople were appointed, Janet McVeagh and Nick Merwood.

The party, under the name of Nick Merwood, issued a press release, which noted that it is “vitally important that those who wish for a Green future are given the chance to vote for it and so are dedicated to providing a full list of candidates [in the election] next year.  We invite all those who share the vision of a just and sustainable society to join with us in obtaining it.” (7)

Janet McVeagh was a former Values Party activist from New Plymouth; Nick Merwood, then in his 30s, was from Matakana, north of Auckland.  Nick’s father, Bernard, was the party general secretary.  Louise Merwood was the party Treasurer and Membership Secretary at this time.  (8)  Tony Dromgool took on the task of compiling a newsletter to go to 300 selected individuals on the mailing list and to about 40 organisations including news media outlets, libraries and various non-governmental organisations, who were invited to subscribe.  The Green Alternative in Wellington, Tasman Greens in Golden Bay, Green Coalition in Russell, Green Lobby in Hamilton, Green Action in New Plymouth and the Mahurangi Greens in Warkworth were the Green groups who were invited to subscribe, and by doing so, to register their interest in joining the new party.

Logo of the German Green Party

Logo of the German Green Party

A Green Gathering was called and this was held in Wainuiomata near Wellington in November 1989. This meeting came to a number of conclusions which were carried forward to another gathering in Kaiteriteri, near Motueka, from the 23rd to 25th March, 19906.  The agenda for the conference covered such issues as deciding on the right Green structure for New Zealand; developing proposals for that structure; deciding on areas to be covered in Green policy; draft basic policy; and developing specific strategies for the 1990 election.

A Green Charter was decided upon.

Two Green Party of Aotearoa co-convenors were elected, Tony Hartnett and Janet McVeagh.

The Green Council of the Green Party of Aotearoa held a meeting over the weekend of 5th/6th May 1990. It decided to call a follow-up conference to Kaiteriteri. A letter came out of this Council meeting which was sent to all green groups around New Zealand under the name of Janet McVeagh. The letter explained that Chris Thomas, who was spokesperson for a group called The Greens and a member of The Green Alternative of Wellington, had written to The Green Party of Aotearoa proposing a merger of the groups, and a meeting was called for 25th/26th May at the Quaker Settlement in Whanganui to discuss the creation of a single Green Party.

Others who put their names to the green groups letter were Richard Davies, Andy Spence, Leon Roborgh, Nicole Morgan, Wendy Morgan, Tony Dromgool, Fernando Gusingo, Faith Read, Rosemary Shankland and Vic Shankland, Yvonne Amery and Nick Pyle. The letter was sent to the Wellington Green Alternative, Auckland Greens, the Canterbury Greens, the Golden Bay and Tasman Greens, “and other groups”.7

The topics discussed at Whanganui were:

1. A unification statement

2. What is this group and what is its relationship to other groups?

3. A summary of the Kaiteriteri discussions

4. The name of the party

5. A national structure

6. Process for resignation of officers

7. Membership and financial structure

8. Election strategies

9. The selection of candidates

10. Provision for a policy weekend

11. Marketing and publicity

12. Treaty of Waitangi issues

Member Andrew Spence took notes: “Those present…agreed to unify their Green political interests under a single organisation to represent their ideals and policies”. 8 “The Greens” was formed to represent the fifteen regionally autonomous groups which were present at Kaiteriteri under a single organisation, but “…not established as a political party, and many of the groups present did not wish to belong to a political party.” There was resistance to adopting the word “party”; some strongly felt that they did not want the Greens to become a traditional political party. After much discussion it was agreed to become a political party “The Greens: The Green Party of Aotearoa/New Zealand”, the name which remains today, but there was then and remains a sense within The Greens that we are as much a movement, as we are a party, and that this is even more important than being a political party.

During the conference the New Zealand Party, which had been formed in 1984 by Bob Jones in order to defeat the Muldoon government, made an approach to the representatives of the Values Party and the Green Party of Aotearoa to try to persuade them to join a three-party coalition whose aim would be to push for proportional representation. But the Secretary of the new political party The Greens was instructed to write to the groups concerned stating that “they did not wish to be involved with this coalition.”9 The Democrat party did decide to join the coalition, but the New Labour Party and Social Credit joined with the Greens in declining to join. Thus were the seeds sown for a future alliance arrangement.

The Whanganui gathering made three statements of intent:

(1) That they were united as one political Green group

(2) The Greens will consist of autonomous local groups united by a national structure as outlined in the Green Charter and

(3) The Green Charter represents the present state of discussions among the Greens

The proposed structure comprised an elected Council from the 23 regional Green groups, which in turn appointed a governing Executive. Janet McVeagh was appointed as the national contact for candidates. Publicity for the new party was to be the responsibility of Nick Pyle. A publicity working group was established consisting of Allan Hallett, Jenny-Kaye Potaka, Peter Davis, Lee-Ann Brownson, Martin Wallace and Jon Field. Vic and Rosemary Shankland were tasked with obtaining registration for the party with the Electoral Commission.

Three publications were set up: Green Print, Green Link, and Green Web (Green Web was already in existence; it was decided to continue it and to send it to local groups, with Chris Thomas as editor).

The membership system was placed in the hands of local groups. Chas Hamblyn was appointed National Treasurer, Secretary was Stuart Miller, Media Liasion Allan Hallett, Policy Secretaries were Leon Roborgh and Janet MacVeigh, and Tony Hartnett, Jenny-Kaye Potaka, Jon Field, Christine Dann and Yvonne Amery were all appointed Spokespersons. Wendy Morgan and Janine McVeigh were International Liaison representatives.

A policy weekend was planned for 23/24 June in New Plymouth, with Leon Roborgh as the organiser.

An issue of “The Green Web”, dated 30 May 1990, calling itself a “Regional Coordination networking newsletter”, was sent out to all regional groups setting out what had happened at Whanganui. It stated that the event was “an historic ‘tying of the knot’: The Greens and the Green Party of Aotearoa have merged to form a single political organisation….some of those present saw it as the final chapter for The Values Party.” 10

Already, candidates were coming forward for the parliamentary elections later that year.

Stephen Rainbow had been selected for Wellington Central; Gillian Hope for Island Bay; Denis Foot for Miramar; Gary Reese for Ohariu; Kari Haydon for Western Hutt; Leon Roborgh for New Plymouth, and another member standing in Wanganui.

The 1990 Election and the responses of other political parties; the party forms itself

In July 1990 the Green Party reached 8% in the polls; it had qualified for state broadcasting funding during the election campaign in October and scored 6.9% of the votes cast on polling day, 27th October – a remarkable achievement for a party that had only been formed just a few months prior.

The election was followed by a period of self-styled “navel gazing” by party members.  A South Island Green Gathering was held at the Old Vicarage in Governor’s Bay near Christchurch on 3rd and 4th November to reflect on what happened and where next, and the Rotorua Greens organised a similar event for the North Island, as a “post-election analysis weekend/experience on the same dates.

From 23rd to 25th November 1990 a further conference was held at Massey University in Palmerston North with 74 delegates and 38 observers. A formal structure was set up and meeting procedures agreed to.  The Green Council met on 24th/25th November 1990.

There was a National Conference at Tuakau from 29 March to 1 April 1991. Chris Thomas was appointed General Secretary at that meeting. Teddy Goldsmith from the UK came to speak.

The party elected national officeholders:

Wendy Lynch as female national convenor

Chris Thomas as male national convenor

Christine Dann and Judy Whatley as female speakers

Jon Field and Mike Smith as male speakers

Just prior to this conference Mike Smith has already met with Jim Anderton of the New Labour Party, Matiu Rata of Mana Motuhake and Garry Knapp of Social Credit to talk “of some sort of co-operation to assist the MMP campaign”. 11 This move was not met with approval from all members of The Greens. Smith wrote that “…after many, many, meetings, visits and phonecalls, eight of us – I was joined by Chris Thomas – met in Anderton’s office for the first ‘official’ meeting…we bashed out the basics of an agreement to co-operate on MMP [campaign for electoral reform], with a promise to look at what other areas of policy we had in common, and so the Alliance was conceived”. 12 Smith states that he was the person “most instrumental” in getting the Greens into the Alliance, and this formation of left parties was officially launched on 1st December 1991, but the Green party did not join the Alliance formally until May 1992.

As support for stronger environmental policy gained momentum in New Zealand, the Labour government had established the Department of Conservation and a Ministry for the Environment, as well as the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, in 1986. At the 1989 Labour party conference, then Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer made a keynote speech of which about a third was about the environment. “Environmental problems threaten to engulf us”, he noted, “…they pose serious questions for the whole future of our civilisation” (14).  The government was then in the process of drafting a massive piece of legislation called the Resource Management Act which passed in 1990, and Palmer addressed the United Nations that year calling for the creation of a new UN agency to protect the environment and that environmental issues should be added to the UN Charter.

The National party was more laggardly in its response, but had to move in reaction to the far-ranging reforms to environmental administration which Palmer had initiated under the previous government.  On 13 July 1990 National launched its Environment, Conservation and Resource allocation policy with a speech delivered in West Auckland by party leader Jim Bolger entitled “Keeping New Zealand Green”.    In the speech Bolger claimed to go further than Labour, by pushing for a ban on mining in the Antarctic and on drift net fishing, the creation of more marine reserves, and the setting up of “Taskforce Green”, to train the long term unemployed in new skills by paying them to undertake conservation and related work, amongst other specific measures (15).   However they were not prepared to support the Resource Management Act in the form proposed by Labour and clearly wanted to allow continued mining in New Zealand (except for national parks) and the promotion of the rights of landowners above the environment.

Although the Labour government of 1984-1990 had clearly taken on board environmental concerns and made significant advances, a great deal more remained to be done, and National – despite its claims – was not the party to fill the void.  The threat of climate change was looming on the horizon – the Rio Earth Summit was only two years away – but it was not yet within the vision or understanding of the two main political parties and was not mentioned at all in Bolger’s speech. Yet there was a recognition that all parties had to move to meet the challenges, and to address the public demand for strengthened environmental protections.

A Green politics seminar was held in Auckland in September or October 1991, which was attended by Green party members and interested others.

The party joins the Alliance in 1992

The party held a regular series of meetings in 1991 and 1992 as it began to work out how to it wished to govern itself, and its future political positioning and strategy.  The Green Council held a meeting in Ohakune in November 1991 and again from 7th to 9th February in 1992.

Regional meetings were also held in 1991, with the Auckland Regional Greens meeting on 19th June and a Christchurch Green festival on 14th July 1991.

On 22 July 1991 a meeting was held in Wellington to discuss the possibility of some sort of electoral cooperation with the New Labour Party.

[source: MS-papers-9207-03 at ATL]. on 23rd August that same year Mike Smith wrote to regional delegates and coordinators advising them at a meeting had been held with the Greens and Democrats, the New Labour Party and Mana Motuhake to look at options – merger, a full coalition, or an Alliance of parties, or other options – with a further meeting to be held in 6 weeks in Auckland.

In March 1992 the Greens’ Alliance Structure Working Group reported options to the party.

At the annual conference of the party at Nelson Girls College, Nelson, held from 9th to 12th May in 1992, the party decided to join the Alliance of political parties.  82% of delegates voted in favour [source: Greenweb].  The decision came with certain “safeguards”, one of which was that  “the decision to join the Alliance will lapse at the first conference following the next general election requiring a renewed commitment from the Greens if the Alliance is to continue” [source: Ms-papers-9207-03]. A further safeguard provided that a 75% vote of delegates to a conference would be sufficient to withdraw the Greens from the Alliance at any time.

The 1993 election

The Green movement splits, and re-forms again

The Alliance was an uneasy one, with many members sitting uncomfortably within the fold.  The 1994 conference reaffirmed the decision to remain part of the Alliance, but the Greens did lose members. Stephen Rainbow left to form the Progressive Greens with Gary Taylor and Guy Salmon.  The Progressive Green Party was committed to

Hans Grueber left to set up The Green Society in spring 1994, and took others such as Chris Marshall and Peter Whitmore from Auckland, with him. They styled themselves as “The party caring for your earth and her people”, and claimed that the Green Party had “abandoned the green space on the ballot paper.  They became part of another political party.  They abandoned a long tradition of being an independent green political force”.[17]   The Green Society committed to seven principles, similar in purpose to those of the Green Party but with an emphasis on personal self-reliance and autonomy, “where people and communities should have power over their own affairs to the greatest extent possible so far as there are no ill effects on the environment and on others” [17].  They sought a “balance” between the natural world and economic activities: “we acknowledge the function of the market economy and will provide a framework to achieve ecologically and economically sustainable development” [17].  The Green Society gained little support or membership numbers.

At around the same time, a third grouping, the tiny Green Centre Party, was also launched [17]. The founder was Robert Miles, a journalist working for the Timaru Herald and a contributing writer for the National Business Review in the early 1990s. He attacked the Green Party for lacking “the ability to formulate or implement an electable platform and political structure.  Joining the Alliance is a cop-out from making the hard decisions to form a viable party…the Alliance Combo is the vehicle for big, centralised Government”.  He similarly criticised Labour, for offering only “a picture postcard greenism”.  Chief amongst the Centre Green Party’s policies were the replacement of our armed forces with a coastguard, the sale of some state assets and a nuclear free New Zealand. The party appears to have gained no traction at all and was not registered as a party at the 1995 election.

Of these three offshoot groups, the alternative Green party that gathered  the most support was the Progressive Greens.

The Electoral Commission was unclear as to which parties could justifiably register as “The Green Party” and held a meeting in the spring of 1995 to which they asked The Greens, the Progressive Greens and the Green Society to appear and state their case. After months of debate and delay the Greens won the right to call themselves the The Green Party and registered the party as such with the Electoral Commission.13

In May 1995 the National Government sought to open talks with the Progressive Green Party to form some sort of political alliance, and announced a boost in funding for endangered species [Press release by Pete Hodgson, Labour spokesperson on Environment, 11 May 1995:” National’s attempt at buying Green vote desperate”]. Simon Upton, in announcing new measures in June 1995, noted that “Economic growth carries with it environmental risks”, noting that the government was committing some of the “dividend” from the “success” of its economic policies to environmental issues [Budget 1995 press release, Simon Upton, 1 June 1995].16

Green Party publications sometimes satirised the Alliance leader, Jim Anderton, for what some saw as his overly ambitious and overbearing style.

Summer gathering at Nydia Bay Lodge, Pelorus Sound, January 1996

The 1996 Election

The Alliance won 10% of the vote in the 1996 election and Rod Donald, Jeanette Fitzsimons and Phillida Bunkle were all elected as Alliance Green Party MPs, along with 9 others from the other parties in the Alliance, and Jim Anderton won his seat of Wigram. The party sat on the Opposition benches, however, as New Zealand First did an about-turn on its pre-election statements and allowed National to form a government.  This was the first MMP election, meaning that any party that scored above 5% of the party vote became entitled to parliamentary representation.

Finally, in 1997, and after much debate within the party, the Greens decided to leave the Alliance and to contest the 1999 election in their own right. Rod Donald and Jeanette remained Alliance MPs until the 1999 election however, which confused some voters, but was necessary, they stated, because they had been elected as Alliance MPs, and were honor-bound to remain so.  The decision to leave the Alliance was a very hard fought and contested one.  A Special General Meeting Meeting was held in Wellington to make the decision on 22nd November, 1997, and Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons made the announcement the following day.

The party flourished out of the Alliance. A series of regional conferences were held around the provinces in 1998: a Northern Conference (for Northern province, top of North East, and top of central) on 28th March; a Wellington Conference (for Wellington province, rest of north east, and central) on 29th Marc; Christchurch conference for Aoraki province on 4th April; Top of the South regional conference in Nelson on 5th April, with Deep South meeting in Dunedin on the same day; another meeting of Northern and North east Greens on 8th August; and a national gathering/conference/AGM at Queen’s Birthday weekend, 29 May to 1st June 1998, at St Hilda’s Collegiate School in Dunedin.


The 1999 Election

Written off by the news media, the party won both the seat of Coromandel and 5.1% of the party vote, entitling them to 7 list members of parliament in the 1999 to 2002 session.

In 1998 the party had one part time paid administrator, Sharon Stephens.  Sharon left at the end of 1998 and the party advertised for a replacement.  Michael Pringle was appointed to the role in April 1999 and commenced work from the spare bedroom in the “Green House” in Thorndon, Wellington, of the Green MPs Rod Donald and Jeanette Fitzsimons, at 15 hours per week.

The party also had a media advisor, Jacob Rawls, who was replaced by Jonathan Hill in April 1999, also on 15 hours per week.  In advance of the 1999 election, Kelley Auerbach was appointed as full time national campaign manager on 24 March, 1999, on a three-month contract.  At the termination of her contract, Roland Sapsford and Christine Dann took on the role of joint campaign managers, Roland from his work base in Wellington and Christine from her home on Banks Peninsula.  Given the very scarce human resources devoted to the campaign, the party relied heavily on the energy and commitment of its Co-Leaders and on the branch rank and file to get out and deliver leaflets, door-knock, and hold Saturday morning stalls in shopping centres.  Local candidates stood in most electorates and were therefore able to stand up at meet-the-candidate meetings to explain Green policy and appeal for the party vote.


1999 election outcome:

The Labour Party and the Alliance formed a coalition government with a brief coalition agreement signed between the parties on 6th December, 9 days after the election and one day before the final election result was known. The Greens were excluded because on election night we had failed to cross the 5% threshold and were therefore out of parliament, and it took ten days to count all the special and overseas votes and declare a final result.

The Alliance and Labour had a majority in parliament on the election night results (63 of 120 seats ). But once the final vote count was tallied this combined seat total dropped to 59 and the new government had lost its parliamentary majority.   However, the Greens had won both the seat of Coromandel and scraped in with 5.2% of the party vote, and the support of the Greens’ seven new MPs became essential to the new government to guarantee confidence and supply.   This was given at a meeting of the Co-Leaders (Fitzsimons and Donald) with Prime Minister Helen Clark on 8th December 1999.  The Co-leaders could have pressed for more formal involvement in the new government, but chose not to, preferring to form a “legislative coalition” rather than an “executive coalition” (Boston, in Left Turn, 2000) in order to avoid the complications of being in government and the potential pitfalls for a small and new party being involved in Cabinet-level decision-making.

In return for supporting the government on matters of confidence and supply and on procedural matters in the House, the Greens would give the government their views on policy and contribute to policy development.  This was a verbal understanding and although a formal agreement was drafted, this was never actually signed in the whole term of the government (1999-2002).  The Greens would support stable and effective government and the government was stable for its entire term.


The 2002 Election

The 2005 Election

In late 2004, Russel Norman was appointed Campaign Manager for the 2005 election.  Sue Bradford MP was appointed Convenor of the Campaign Committee.

On 5th November 2005, Co Leader Rod Donald died suddenly at his home in Christchurch.  He left a wife and three daughters, and a party in mourning.  The Prime Minister and hundreds of other people attended his funeral at Christchurch Cathedral. He died only a few weeks after his 48th birthday.  The shock at his death was considerable.  The House suspended day’s business and observed a minute’s silence in the House.  The party was left reeling, with Jeanette Fitzsimons continuing alone as party leader.

The 2008 Election

The 2011 Election

This election returned the best result to date for the Greens – 11.1% of the vote and 14 members of parliament. The total votes cast for the Greens were 247,372.

The 2014 Election

In June 2102 the Green Party was polling at 14.8% in a New Zealand Herald poll.  The final election result gave the party 10.7% of the vote, 14 list MPs and a total vote of 257, 329, an increase of 10,000 on 2011, but in an election where the overall number of votes cast also increased on 2011.  It was an extraordinarily difficult election for the progressive parties and one widely acknowledged to be perhaps the strangest election in New Zealand’s political history.

The 2017 Election

Prime Minister Bill English announced that the date of 2017 general election was to be 23rd September.

On xx August Co-Leader Metiria Turei made a speech to the party faithful in Auckland in which she endeavoured to draw greater public attention to the plight of those in poverty in New Zealand including those on welfare benefits.

The speech was to spark an impassioned debate in New Zealand which sparked an extraordinary series of political events, delivering the Green Party one of its greatest shocks since the death of Rod Donald in 2005.





Dann, Christine: “From earth’s last islands: the global origins of Green politics”. PHd thesis, Lincoln University, 1999.

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand papers, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.

MS group 1209: agendas, newsletters, minutes.

Personal collection of Green Party records, newsletters and membership records.

Vowles, Jack and Peter Aimer: Voters’ Vengeance. The 1990 election in New Zealand and the Fate of the Fourth Labour Government. AUP 1993.

1 Vowles and Aimer, 1993, p.127

2 Bernard Merwood, communication to party members, 19 September 1989

3 ATL MS-papers-9207-05; notes from early issues of Linkletter

4  Merwood, 19.9.1989

5 Dann, 1991

(6) Greenlink, newsletter of the Green Party of Aotearoa, Issue 1, December 1989

(7) Greenlink,  Issue 1, December 1989.

(8) Greenlink, issue 1, December 1989

6 ATL MS-papers-8634-1, notes by Philip Chubb

7 ATL MS-papers – 2003-176-1/14

8 Greens: Minutes and Agendas, ATL MS-papers-8634-1

9 ATL MS-papers-8634-1

10 ATL MS-papers-8634-1, notes written by Chris Thomas of Wellington

11  Mike Smith, Brief CV, in statement in support of Green Party co-leadership bid in May 1995

12  Smith, 1995

13  Greenlink: the newsletter of the Aoraki Greens, Spring 1995

14.  Palmer. The parliamentary years, by Raymond Richards, 2010, pp352-353

15. Speech by Jim Bolger launching the National Party’s election policy, 13 July 1990, sourced in the archives of the Environment and Conservation Organisations (ECO), 2 February 2016.  File “Election 1990”.

16. The Labour and National press releases quoted here were accessed in Environment and Conservation Organisations of New Zealand file POL H1/National.

17.  References to alternative Green parties are taken from papers in the Environment and Conservation Organisations file POL H1/Green politics.

A evening with Ai WeiWei

Just got back from seeing the movie:Ai Weiwei Never Sorry

which was shown as part of the Blowfest at Massey University here in Wellington.

A powerful story about an extraordinary, courageous man fighting, through his artistic creativity, for freedom and human rights in China.

We were taken through harrowing images of the victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which killed over 5,000 school students because of shoddy school construction: “tofu buildngs”, as they call them. Attempts to make this known and to protest the building construction methods were met with violent repression and arrests by the police and authorities. Ai Weiwei has represented the names of all the children killed in the quake in an art installation for which he has become famous – and people from all over the world collaborated in reciting the name of each of the children for an Internet installation.
Probably his most internationally famous installation was 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds at the Tate Modern in 2010.

After one hour a Skype connection with Ai Weiwei was attempted from the Pit at Massey where the film was being shown, but the link appeared to have been interfered with by Chinese authorities and the voice in both directions was scrambled. Communication was by typing only. Ai Weiwei was able to take pictures and to see us, and he has tweeted some of the photos of students asking him questions:

Tonight’s event was a rare and moving occasion, and being in live communication with the artist was given added poignancy with the attempts by his oppressors to shut down the whole occasion. Weiwei’s responses to the NZ student’s questions were noticeably guarded and careful. One man asked him about his obvious love of China, despite all that is done to him, and he replied; “In our lives, love is often unspeakable or at least hard for me to explain. I happen to be a Chinese, and since I have a lot of unfinished business here, despite the hardships and difficulties, most of the time I enjoy my time in China. The best art brings us joy and surprise”.

Here are two of our images of the evening:

A lot of reasons to be worried: The last tree on Easter Island is about to fall

I’ve just watched the Prime doco tonight on the climate and seismic upheavals of last year. What a tragic year it was. At this time in 2011 we saw appalling floods in Queensland, and freezing temperatures in Europe and the USA that closed ariports and whole cities, and killed many. Now, in February 2012, what do we see? Dreadful flooding in Queensland, and freezing cold temperatures in Europe that have killed many, closed airports and cities, and frozen even the canals of Venice. If this is what climate change is doing now, what will our world be like in 10, 20, 50 years? It is a frightening thought.

What is also of great concern is Iran’s determination to acquire nuclear weapons. It is hard to see how this can be stopped, short of regime change in Iran, which is most unlikely. Israel is threatening to bomb nuclear installations in Iran as early as April. Obama has stated that the US is looking for a peaceful solution, but is not ruling out support for Israeli military strikes. Iran will retaliate by firing ballistic missiles at Israel’s cities. Although Israel has bomb shelters, surely many will die and the destruction will be great. And what will the counter-retaliation be like?
Oil prices will soar – which they will anyway, as the only leverage the West has over Iran is to stop buying its oil, which will cause a supply shortage, which will send the price rocketing again – putting more economies, including ours, deeper into recession.

How long can the world continue to put up with this mad way of organising our affairs?? If we are not going to move our planet to a more sustainable way of living, then we can kiss goodbye to humanity, and much of the planet’s ecology.

In 2011, the pestilence that is the human race, topped 7 billion. More and more of us are crowded into cities. Many of these megacities – Jakarta, istanbul, Tokyo, Manila, cities in the Indian subcontinent – are earthquake-prone, or low lying and subject to rising sea levels, tsunami, hurricanes and typhoons, and flooding. Some are prone to all of these threats. The likelihood that millions of us will die in cities over this century due to one or more of these disasters, is growing greater by the day.

We are, as we have so tragically seen, also at risk from living on the Pacific Rim of Fire here in New Zealand. Our conservative government is supportive of our own version of utter human folly – “fracking”, extracting gas from deep underground by forcing water and sand into fractures in rock, created by setting off explosions deep underground. This is our own variety of cutting down the last tree on Easter Island; in our insane greed to get the last drop of everything from our planet, we’re setting off earthquakes in places that have never had them in recorded history – Lancashire in England, Ohio in the US – and surely will result in increased seismic activity in New Zealand too. As if we don’t have enough already.

And all in the name of prosperity and increasing growth and wealth!! What good is “growth” if we have no planet on which to live?
And prosperity means what, exactly? More and bigger TV sets, cars, shopping malls, heatpumps, heated towel rails, ocean cruises, botox treatments? It is not usually defined as bringing a basic and acceptable standard of living to all, oh no – we must protect American jobs/ UK pension schemes/Australian mining industry/New Zealand’s fracking industry and off shore oil drilling at all costs, we are told.

This is simply the same nonsense that got us into this mess in the first place. It is all such an intractable mess it’s almost impossible to know where to start to clean it all up. Leadership in the US, contrary to what we all hoped for on 20th January, 2009, is sadly lacking: the bankers were rewarded for wrecking the international monetary system, and continue to be feather-nested at tax payers’ expense. So no hope there. China, and inertia and self interest, hold up progress on commitment to greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. Every day’s delay means it will be so much harder to really make an appreciable dent in the level of Co2 in the atmosphere to avert disaster – and now, scientitsts warn, 6 degrees of global warming becomes increasingly inevitable, which will wipe out most life, including our own.

It is one of the great mysteries of life, on this planet, and perhaps in the cosmos, that a long, extraordinary and beautiful process of creation got us all to this point: we are standing, looking at the last tree, and wondering how it came to be that so many of us are anxiously, determinedly, sharpening our axes.

A day in the garden

I spent some of a sunny Wellington Anniversary Day in our Tawa garden, where three monarch butterflies have hatched from their pupae. What large yet delicate things they are! Exquisite and beautiful.

We’d returned from holiday to find that our swan plants were stripped of leaves and no caterpillars or pupae remained – but nature, of course, had determined otherwise. There in the vege patch, and on the odd flower, were pupae forming. Today, three hatched.
I watched them flex and test their wings, as they contemplated their options.Butterlies

I hope they fly with confidence into the world. Monarch butterflies are endangered, and need all the help they can get.

Hong Joo is now in Malaysia, so I am acting head gardener at Zande Tce. The swan plants have recovered from their stripping by the caterpillars: and the passionfruit is flourishing:

Our strawberries are enjoying the sun and another large and delicious one will be ripe soon:

and two more on the way:

The tomatillo is happy too:

Hong Joo will be happy to see I am looking after our plants! Our cranberry is doing well, it is growing over the stones, and even the orangeberry, which looked to have died, has sprouted a tiny new growth, and will bear fruit, one day.

I spent the day cleaning the house, I cleaned up the tent from our muddy Hawkes Bay travels, and cleaned floors and clothes. It was a lovely, quiet, sunny, Wellington day – a humble and gentle day, with a cool southerly breeze. An abundance of tui fluttered about the house in search of food and fresh roosts, chattering and squabbling til nightfall.

More thoughts on the UK riots

I am the last one to defend David Cameron, but my reading of his recent speech about the riots was that he broadened his condemnation of law-breakers to the sort of moral decay and sickness in British society that has gone on for “generations”, he said. He may have sounded harsher on the Hackney thugs than on the bankers, but that does not surprise when the public mood is so shaken. Miliband was more on the mark with his speech: “”It’s not the first time we’ve seen this kind of me-first, take-what-you-can attitude. The bankers who took millions while destroying people’s savings: greedy, selfish, immoral. The MPs who fiddled their expenses: greedy, selfish, immoral. The people who hacked phones to get stories and make money for themselves: greedy, selfish and immoral. Let’s talk about what this does to our culture.”

It is no defence to be immoral when those around or above you are, but it is comprehensible that those with little moral compass to begin with, or a lack of self-awareness and ability to think critically, might be more willing to engage in acts of thuggery, when they feel they have been given “permission” by the “system”, and don’t fear any consequences. I am currently reading AN Wilson’s “Our Times”, a curious and rambling account of post-war Britain. The sort of violence we saw last week was the very “moral and spiritual bankruptcy” that the Islamic world points to in its condemnation of the West.
Our culture no longer coheres, or even exists, writes Wilson. It is no longer possible to say what “British culture” is, or even “New Zealand culture”. No-one doubts that the moral crisis exists in the ruling class as well as in the gangs and the working class. Cameron should know that very well, brushing with danger himself over the Rupert Murdoch scandal, and which may yet destroy him once the Commons is back from its summer recess and there are further inquiries into the phone hacking scandals.

Challenging gang culture is one thing. Taking on the Establishment is quite another. That’s hard for any Prime Minister to do, never mind a Tory one with a very unstable governing majority. We can’t expect that. There has to be a call for unity, a declared willingness to seek out the perpetrators of these crimes and punish them, to institute measures to stop it happening again. To not do that would show a lack of capacity to govern, which would cause a crisis in Britain.

As to taking on the Establishment, consider that after the 1986 crash in Britain, the City and all the institutions it contained, were no longer owned by the British. It is now enormously complicated to take on the financial power structures of Britain without becoming ensnared in vast international networks. To do so would require a Prime Minister and Government with an overwhelming mandate – such as Blair had in 1997, and he tried and nearly succeeded in abolishing the House of Lords, for instance – and Cameron does not have that. A capitalist system can never address the causes of poverty, by definition.

One system has been swept away – largely by the upheavals of the Second World War and its aftermath – and replaced by what? Consumerism? That is the best we can come up with. No wonder there is selfishness and greed and lack of self control. Even here our old fashioned Tory government runs up a $70 billion loan bill with reckless abandon to pay for its tax cuts to the highest-paid. The tremendous upheavals in our international money system continue and will keep on doing so, causing constant anxiety and volatility. Governments are elected to see that somehow the shibboleth shuffles forward in a way that essentially keeps faith with the middle classes. Key’s government is a classic example of this. He knows that he messes with the contract with the middle classes at his peril.

Personal behaviour and social deprivation are both factors, as the Guardian said this morning, that must be addressed by any government serious about tackling the causes of the riots: “Britain has not found an effective and sustainable way, under any modern government, of addressing these problems.”

Blair was very moralistic in tone in many of his pronouncements,being a very religious man. Tackling the causes of social deprivation is never going to be top of the agenda for a democratic politican elected by the middle classes, unless there is religious or moral zeal in his character. Polly Toynbee wrote about this in the Guardian in 2006: “Were the middle classes a political necessity? Until Iraq blew everything off course, disabling his political radar, Blair was adept at balancing the needs of the poor with middle-class demands. But it was a constant source of conflict as Gordon Brown fought to keep money flowing into tax credits to hit the child poverty target Blair announced in 1998 (but perhaps later regretted)”. Blair’s government was under huge pressure from the middle classes to improve the NHS and that is where the money went.

I have not got any solutions beyond the epoch-changing ones the Green Party stands for, which rely upon citizens having rather more sense of involvement and goodwill than those on the streets of Britain’s cities demonstrated last week. However, what we are talking about is a revitalisation of the human spirit. If we can get beyond consumerism, that will be good for us and for the planet. If we can learn to live with less, and working less, and having more time for the important things in life – family, exercise, recreation, making and growing things – we may move beyond deprivation, social exclusion, and the endless thirst for more credit to buy more things, which is making money for a few whilst keeping the majority on a ceaseless treadmill of work and debt.

These riots will spark a big debate in Britain about all that is wrong with their society. Britain is the only country left in the English-speaking world with an intelligent, robust and free press, so that is one good thing. Let us hope they can sort it. I love the place!!!

Upheavals on the streets of Britain’s cities

I don’t think that this rioting was about class or ethnicity. It was – is – about a number of different things, but mostly about spoilt white kids actually – not black or Asian – smashing up High St shops to get the latest mobile, or three if they could, and general thuggery of the type seen sometimes at football matches, unleashed on anyone who looked “normal” and might have a nice watch or phone. Nothing can excuse absolute criminal depravity as we’ve seen on the streets of many British cities. No matter how despicable this Government is here or there I am still not of a mind to go mindlessly through the streets of Tawa burning down houses, bashing pregnant women or defenceless Malaysians students, cracking open skulls for the fun of it, and so on and so on. It was a breakdown of law and order which gave permission to every uneducated goon to come out onto the streets and take advantage of the general lawless state to literally get away with murder. There has always been this tendency in the UK. It is ironic that it started with a peaceful demonstration over the police shooting of a black man in Tottenham that got gatecrashed by thugs, that turned into rioting, then whole blocks got burnt down….and the very people whom the thugs and kids live amongst suffered the worst.

Britain is sick and rotten from top to bottom, we’ve seen that in the two major scandals there this year, the difficulty in forming a Government after the failure of Labour with its lying Prime Minister Blair then incompetent Brown, and people don’t know how to bring up their kids any more and everyone thinks they are entitled to the latest mobile or a widescreen TV and took advantage of the lack of police presence to go and nab one.

The 12 year old brats out stealing were obviously not the product of a home that has good values, that is bringing up their children with a sense of respect for other people and the limits of the planet, and no doubt their parents give their children little sense of right from wrong. They are parents who read the Sun and News of the World and would not have well-formed political views; most I heard were barely able to string a coherent argument together.

To claim as a defence that “the toffs are ripping us all off, so f**k them” and then go down the High St smashing and bashing is simply Lord of the Flies stuff and is completely unacceptable in a democracy, which can only work when there is civil peace and a society based on the rule of law, fairly applied.

Economic disparity is increasing in every country. It is outrageous and the only solutions are Green. It’s not a solution to attack innocent people. To defend it is to condone terrorism, for it is a kind of terrorism.

There were clearly attempts to turn it into racial violence as black people felt more attacked by the police as the police tend to see them as more likely to be involved in crime, which enrages law abiding black citizens who were simply walking down the street to their home. That does not mean it is a racial riot, but it inflames racial tensions.

Britian also has too many people, crammed as they are into high rise housing estates and it does not take long at all to get thousands of people onto the streets. Combine that with a hot summer, boredom, alcohol, the human desire for a bit of action and excitement – especially when it subverts social norms – it’s all a breeding ground for what we’ve seen over the last week.