The last three years have been an interesting time for the Green Party.
Back in 2017 for a short period of time the Greens looked like they may overtake Labour in terms of voting preference and become the dominant opposition party. I remember Metiria Turei’s speech about her time on a benefit and the surge of support it generated. I also saw push back by progressives who had a different recollection of what happened. And I also saw the push back from ordinary people that thought that Metiria had gone too far.
Then there was the perfect storm. Andrew Little was a great leader, so great that he realised that he was not optimal for the time and he stood down as leader. Then Jacinda took over. She was the worst possible Labour leader as far as the Greens are concerned. A young liberal urban female leader who is deeply concerned about climate change will eat into their support. And so it happened. Labour’s support surged as the Green’s support declined.
Then everyone went into Government with the Greens provided a supportive role. They have been careful in their approach to governance, totally pragmatic and professional, and occasionally as Eugenie Sage has shown their totally rational and legally defensible approach to decision making has upset their base.
Recent turmoil generated by James Shaw’s decision to back funding for a shovel ready project for a private school, albeit one with a decidedly Green bent, is being lapped up by the right and used by some lefties keener to practice the politics of the inner glow than the realpolitik of election campaigning. Thomas Coughlan at Stuff has the details.
Green party co-leader James Shaw has been asked by party members to explain why his name appeared on a press release announcing $11.7 million of public funding for a private school.
The Greens support the phasing-out of public funding for private schools. Despite this, Shaw announced funding for a project at the Green School in Taranaki, which charges more than $20,000 a year in fees.
The announcement was made in his capacity as minister, rather than Green co-leader and went out on ministerial rather than party letterhead. Shaw is an associate finance minister and is jointly responsible for the $3 billion shovel-ready projects fund, which is where the money has come from.
He backs the project as something that will help create jobs in the Taranaki economy, and support the green construction industry, which aims to reduce emissions from construction.
“It’s not perfect but if you’re trying to achieve a number of objectives it achieves a number of those: it creates a number of jobs in the region, it supports the green building industry, and it’s in Taranaki, the region we’re trying to move on from oil and gas,” Shaw said.
To deal with matters Shaw last night called a zoom meeting of members and apparently hundreds attended. Radio NZ described the meeting in these terms:
Shaw apologised to members in a Zoom meeting last night, saying he would not make the same decision if given another opportunity.
He told the group of 460 people he had thought of the project as a building and construction project rather than an education one.
He said he has listened to the concerns raised and is working to find a solution.
I feel for Shaw. Politics is difficult and when you have a pandemic and a major economic hit and you need to shovel lots of money out the door into projects that have to be ready to go you can quickly get yourself into awkward positions.
There is lots of money flowing around, shovel ready projects that will create jobs. Many will go into roads which to be frank is the wrong decision. Wanting to divert some of those funds into a private school that teaches the importance of the environment is not something that I am unduly upset about. Sure public schools should be getting resources, and they are with their own separate allocation. But the overwhelming goal behind the shovel ready projects is to create and maintain employment.
Of course National has responded in the same way that Labour and the Greens have for the past few years relating to internal party issues and have kept well away from it. Nah just joking they are lapping it up big time. Their hypocrisy levels are off the chart. A party that can spend the same amount of money flying sheep to Saudi Arabia and building a sheep farm on private land in the middle of the desert in an effort to solve a non existing legal problem are not in a position to point the finger at anyone.
I hope the Greens sort this out quickly and get on with campaigning because this election is important, more important than possibly any previous election. If they were to dip under 5% the prospect of a Judith Collins stint as Prime Minister increases significantly. I cannot think of a more vital time for there to be a Green presence in Government, let alone Parliament.
As someone with long standing affiliation with the Labour Party pretty and a deep family commitment to the movement I will go into the voting booth and without hesitation vote for my Labour candidate, the talented Deborah Russell.
And I will then exercise my party vote. It will almost inevitably be for Labour. But I will think of my granddaughter and wonder if a Green Party vote may mean that the next Government may be braver in the decisions that it makes concerning our future and especially her future. And I will then decide.
So to the brothers and sisters in the Green movement please sort this out. See you on the campaign trail.