It does not mean they are not worth trying; it means they will be fights against entrenched power.
If you take a small plane from Queenstown to Stewart Island on a clear day you have about as vivid an illustration of the difficulty of Green policy.
Lifting off in a diagonal line above Queenstown airport where streams of private helicopters ferry the elite to high snowy plateaux above the Remarkables about one every 8 minutes in season, one then travels at about 5000 feet over the least affordable real estate in New Zealand with a median price of $1.5m and rising no matter what the rest of NZ does. It is some of the most concentrated wealth in New Zealand.
The foothills of the Remarkables around Jack’s Point show woven squares of further suburbs formed in which house and land packages are indeed remarkable couples who when asked ‘how do you sleep among such inequality’ may note that they sleep with deep underfloor heating under sustainably hunted multi-thousand fur duvets beside a partner whose beauty would make you weep with desire.
This radiating economic power of Queenstown airport now extends south to Kingston.
Beyond Garston the great plains of Southland have some of the most concentrated dairy production on earth. The land around Winton from 5500 feet shows just a few remaining wetlands from the tens of thousands of hectares that were there just 159 years ago. Four of the Greens’ hardest policies hit here:
“Introduce a price on agricultural emissions …
“Increase support for farmers to transition to more sustainable forms of agricultural production through finance mechanisms …
“Phase out synthetic nitrogien fertiliser use in Aotearoa … and
“Ban palm kernel expeller and ensure all supplementary feed is sustainably sourced …
The remaining inland patches are fenced enclaves rapidly drained no matter the occasional prosecution. Somewhere in here the Greens will be faced with their commitment to “doubling the extent of natural wetlands by 2050, including helping landowners identify where wetlands can be restored to provide nature-based solutions to flooding.”
Heroic exceptions, exceptions they are, in a land scraped of native fish, fowl or flora.
Even travelling that high one can see at Invercargill and Bluff no signs of wealth. Just specific massive dairy and smelter factories, the occasional ship to its port. Steam and smoke pushing out the commodities that drive Southland’s highest salaries and strongest exports, against which Invercargill governance has no time for PC partnership bull.
Restoration around heavy industry has really only begun as an idea, after 60 years.
Landing at Stewart Island’s privately owned airstrip you can see in the circling descent one of the final Rimu+Totara forests we still have in any scale. On the Oban noticeboard there are dozens of separate conservation initiatives but no detectable unity across them. The path towards success will take generations to complete.
With deer on Stewart Island ‘managed’ as they are in Fiordland, the Green policy is to “increase funding and support for the Predator Free 2050 goal, weed and pest control, including for Raukumara Pae Maunga, and ensure conservations values guide control of browsing species such as deer and tahr.” It is uncomfortable whether in Te Anau, Wanaka, Queenstown or Winton to see the number of gun racks on Ford Rangers with bumper stickers asserting their right to hunt deer of all kinds.
Only finally at Ulva Island inside Stewart Island’s sounds does one get a small respite from human chaos and that is where you can get whole flocks of Brown Creeper or Pipipi, Weka by the dozen in the beach chasing each other for beaks of silver flounder, Kaka stumbling and crashing low branch to ground and back, seals flapping and grunting on the forest path in front of you. Frankly if you have made it there you are of an elite few anyway.
On Halfmoon Bay there’s the difficult tension of extractive fishing, Paua far too expensive at $120+ a kilo to ever make it to the local 4 Square, tour operators waiting for the season, and a museum stacked with a mausoleum of clubbing seals and boiling whales to near extinction.
In a straight flight distance of 230 kilometres you pass over distinct boundaries of expanding international leisure capital, elite real estate capital, entrenched dairy and factory agribusiness, and deep into the south’s disaggregated conservation embedded into complex whakapapa intermarried over 230 years.
Across those three delineated zones lies both New Zealand society and New Zealand’s economy. Each of them have their booms and busts, each with clear mechanisms operating well beyond the grasp of public policy emanating from the centre.
I like all of these Green policies. A flight across Southland says they are going to make 3 Waters look like a walk in the park.