Eugenie Sage’s farewell

Written By: - Date published: 11:14 am, August 25th, 2023 - 7 comments
Categories: eugenie sage, greens - Tags:

Green MP and former Minister of Conservation and Minister for Land Information, Eugenic Sage gave her valedictory statement in parliament this week. As always, if you want to understand green politics, listen to what the Green MPs say themselves, and this is no exception. Video below and on vimeo, and transcript here.

The speech lays out Sage’s own history. She originally stood for parliament after being sacked as an Environment Canterbury councillor,

Mr Speaker, I never intended to be an MP, especially after working in the Government research unit and then as a ministerial press secretary in the late 1980s and seeing the hours MPs worked. But Nick Smith and Rodney Hide changed that when, in March 2010, they axed elected regional councillors on Environment Canterbury, me included, to install commissioners more sympathetic to irrigation development. I was angry that a Government could so easily cancel an election, overturn local democracy, and pass legislation under urgency with no public submissions. Anger became action.

There is a good overview of parts of Green Party history too. Anyone wanting to know what the Greens have achieved on key environmental issues in New Zealand, as well as how the Greens achieve change, should listen to this speech,

One of the things I am most grateful for in the Green Party is our strong kaupapa. MPs move on, but we keep pushing on our priority issues until we get change, even if it takes years. The “dirty rivers, clean water” campaign which Russel, Catherine Delahunty, and I all worked on at different times during six long years in Opposition is just one example.

Alongside NGOs and local communities, we highlighted the damage to rivers and streams from agricultural intensification, we helped stop the Ruataniwha dam, and built the public mandate to end Government subsidies for irrigation in 2017 and for David Parker to implement stronger national direction on freshwater.

Stronger regulation is now making a difference, but cow numbers and nitrate pollution of waterways and methane emissions remain too high. I look forward to Steve Abel and Lan Pham being elected and continuing to push on issues such as tighter drinking water standards for nitrate.

There are many other examples in the speech, as well as Sage’s view on what hasn’t been achieved and still needs to be done.

The speech is full of acknowledgement of the many people Sage has worked with and been helped by. 

One of the failings of our democractic system is the winner takes all approach even under MMP. Given her experience and wisdom Sage should have been the Minister of Conservation for the past 6 years, but lost her position in 2020 when Labour gained a majority. Most of us don’t vote thinking about who will be Minister, and we still largely have an adversarial approach between parties despite changes in the relationship between the Greens and Labour in the past decade. I’m imagining a time when we value and retain people beyond the confines of party politics and current parliamentary power structures.

Sage doesn’t know what she will do next, but  understands “there’s no shortage of issues where people and nature need a helping hand”. All the best Eugenie, New Zealand is lucky to have you. 

7 comments on “Eugenie Sage’s farewell ”

  1. Mike the Lefty 1

    Another female Green MP who has had to put up with a load of shit over the years, but has stood up to it. Much braver than those who anonymously sling it.

  2. Ad 2

    The nicest minister I've dealt with bar none.

    Also full respect to her for generating the only significant expansion to the national park system since Rakuira in 2002.

    Hope to see her usefully employed in an NGO like Forest and Bird or similar, rather than retiring.

  3. higherstandard 3

    I've always had a lot of time for Eugenie, as Ad says a genuinely lovely person.

    I recall she was a very vocal supporter of a Kermadec marine sanctuary which was knee capped by Winstone and Shane Jones

  4. Tabletennis 4

    Eugenie Sage is an outstanding MP who kept her head down and worked and worked for the, legal, protection of the environment and conservation.
    She was well informed, thought through problems, showed vision, as observed at a public meeting that I attended to hear her speak.
    Eugenie had no problem answering questions from the public.

    She is sincere, hard working and very knowledgeable and knows how to net-work.

    I have great respect for her, she is an honest politician. She will be missed.
    I do hope we will hear from her again very soon.
    Her talent should not go to rest, we need people like her more than ever.

  5. Shanreagh 5

    A great and knowledgeable person and back in the day I worked with her, along with others, as part of a departmental team on draft legislation. I think her knowledge of the way draft legislation procedures and the house worked, enabled her to almost get the entrenchment clause in Three Waters through.

    https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2022/12/three-waters-government-dumps-controversial-entrenchment-clause.html

    More's the pity that it was not successful. While I often agree with strong academic takes I was disappointed in this particular piece of writing especially as it seemed this was their strong point:

    from the article above

    Given entrenchment had only previously been used on electoral law…….

    To which I remember thinking at the time, 'so what' and say it again 'so what'. especially as it was coming the back to front way that progressive-ism in law making usually occurs. Surely legislation by parliamentary law makers is, or should be, progressive or be a better position than existed before.

  6. newsense 6

    Sounds like she’s deserved a break though! There’s got to be other people coming through. Don’t do a good job, people will keep giving you more to do!

    An interesting academic project might be the change in the way the Greens were treated in the media. I felt that in the 90s Jeannette and Rod McDonald were treated in an almost saintly manner and them and their caucus recognised for the life time of principled opposition or campaigning they had done. Perhaps coupled to or mirroring the Sam Cash/Man Alone they stood for nature and the wilderness and got respect for that I feel. Memories of the wave of anti-nuclear patriotism perhaps.

    Perhaps it’s the splintering media environment, but I don’t feel Eugenie Sage got anywhere near that respect or public profile. It feels like the last two generations of Greens have been dismissed more, celebrated or respected less and had lower profiles.

    Before we had left wing pollies who could do the Emperor’s New Clothes:

    Bruce Jesson and co giving the finger to TINA and keeping Auckland assets through running them competently, Sandra Lee facing down a mining protest and telling them they didn’t need an open cast mine (and what do you know a non-open cast mine with most of the jobs did open up)….those were two things that stuck with me.

    Maybe we’ve still got those pollies, but perhaps not.

  7. Patricia Bremner 7

    I listened to all three ladies who were retiring, and thought what a wonderful group of women, but you are right Weka, Eugenie Sage is a remarkable person. Sage by name and action.yes

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