This should be the Greens’ time in the sun. For decades, the Green movement has been concerned about the future impacts of climate change, peak oil, and resource depletion. The future is now. These once far-off concerns are having impacts today and people are finally becoming aware of the importance of sustainability and demanding government policy to match. The Greens have done a good job pointing out the danger ahead with change and individual Greens often have well-developed ideas for what needs to change but they have done a much worse job communicating a positive policy alternative.
Add to that, voters are looking for a change from Labour, and many are looking to National only by default. Despite perfect conditions the Greens have failed to seize their opportunity, thus far.
The Greens need a positive, visionary, and practical policy platform worthy of a major party that will seize the public imagination. They need to present themselves as the other alternative to Labour. Forget the negativism, forget punishing polluters, and, for god’s sake, forget the snails; the Greens’ policy must reward positive action, relate to big issues people are fimilar with, and be big spending.
One element should be an energy independence strategy for New Zealand. This would rationalise and, possibly, renationalise the energy sector so that we can protect our energy reserves in the face of peak oil. It would involve investing massively in renewable electricity generation, public transport, rail, and coastal shipping, and providing incentives for businesses and individuals to become more energy efficient above and beyond good measures such as removing daily charges on electricity connections and raising unit costs. As part of this programme, money should be invested in making New Zealand a world leader in renewables research, which will generate intellectual capital we can share (and sell) to the rest of the world.
Another pillar of the Greens’ campaign should be slashing income and corporate taxes, and replacing the lost income with the proceeds from auctions for permits to extract resources and pollute, and capital gains tax on property. If the Greens provide a simple, implementable eco-taxation policy that puts the income taxes up front, the public will be receptive.
The third pillar for the Greens should be ensuring New Zealand’s economic independence by protecting and renationalising, where appropriate, strategic assets, so that profits from these businesses no longer flow overseas.
The Greens can’t seriously pretend they would govern with National. Nor should they, it only risks driving away their base. What they can offer is a more courageous policy platform than Labour would provide on its own, a platform that doesn’t flinch in the face of the problems ahead of us but tackles them head on.