Three parties laid out their wares last week. Nats and Labour gave us a left-right choice: Robin Hood-style tax-grab, or partial SOE sales. Thanks to a tidy paint job, when the ‘Bluegreens’ and Greens offered theirs, the difference was harder to spot, but no less large

It took me a while to parse the speeches. The blue one looks green enough to pass muster, and the Green one says as much between the lines as in them — which is fine, if you speak the language.

Green party co-leader Russel Norman summed up the ‘state of the planet’ at the Green party campaign conference last weekend. Coincidentally or otherwise, down in Akaroa at the ‘Bluegreens’ conference, Bluegreen co-founder Nick Smith and colleagues painted themselves environmentally concerned and responsible, with a slew of eco-policies.

Both claimed credit for Green initiatives.

Nick Smith: “in July 2009 [we] introduced the $10 a tonne waste levy. This levy is helping support new recycling initiatives all over the country”. And, “… That is why we’ve put $347 million into home insulation”.

Ahem. The Waste Minimisation Act, and what is now called ‘Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart’, were Green party-driven. Home insulation was, in the end, a joint venture, that is true. The $10 per tonne waste levy was introduced because that is what the Act, passed in 2008, provided for. Here is the other side of the rubbish story.

Russel Norman, too, audaciously wanted credit for his own party’s ideas — the home insulation, and MMP, on which his predecessor Rod Donald led the charge. It’s up for grabs this year in the referendum and, of course, it’s the lifeline, on which the Greens depend.

There were other themes in the two speeches: summer forays into nature, protecting our natural capital, the environment is the basis of a strong economy for New Zealand, green clean-tech jobs. Fresh water management (in Canterbury). Climate change, and the need to respond.

Smith channelled Groser: “It is ridiculous and incoherent to be negotiating cuts to emissions while also subsidising them, and Bluegreens can be proud of the work Tim is doing to advance this global debate”. Yes. He said they should be proud of the emissions trading scheme, too — which, it’s true, he’s kept. But the coal industry is leaping into massive new investment with gay abandon.

Smith had a theme of his own: papering over the cracks, in election year.

The ETS is being reviewed this year. A report is due pre-election, but advisory work will continue until the end of the year. He neutralised other issues, the same way. Gazetting a 50 by 50 emissions reduction target (projections are up 30 by 20). The new ‘Advisory Group on Green Growth’, from whom a final report is expected by the end of the year. Talk of a new way forward for the Mackenzie country, with the emphasis on the talk part:

A third key idea we Bluegreens have promoted is a more collaborative approach to environmental issues. … This thinking has driven the very constructive work on freshwater management in 2010 by the Land and Water Forum … Jacqui Dean will today be talking about how this new approach might be a way forward for resolving long and protracted debates in the iconic McKenzie [sic] Country.

The Advisory Group on Green Growth:

“is another part of the Government’s plan to build a faster growing economy,” Mr English said … . Dr Smith said: “… This is about New Zealand applying some of our best private sector minds to how we ensure we take up these green growth opportunities to support the Government’s broader economic growth strategy”.

Growth, growth. Did they mention growth? Also, “leveraging our brand”:

“We are keen to help businesses — particularly our export industries — leverage New Zealand’s clean, green brand …”

“The terms of reference focuses on how Government agencies can help exporters leverage greater value from New Zealand’s clean, green brand …”

Business New Zealand Chief Executive and Chair Phil O’Reilly told Morning Report he wouldn’t be interested in doing this job for the government, if it was just ‘greenwash’. Advisory Group members also include Ecologic Foundation Executive Director Guy Salmon, and winemaker and businessman Peter Yealands: high profile greenies both.

A pithy piece of advice from them might say that the best way to “leverage greater value” from the brand would be by making it true.

Norman wasn’t ruling out green growth either, in fact, he was counting on it. Economic growth, or growth in consumption, he danced around a bit, but it was there:

“The true test of an economy is not the rise or fall of GDP.”

“Smart Green economics takes the best from Keynesian economics and the best from free market economics and places it within the framework of a planet with finite resources.”

“This is the path to a treadmill of working ourselves and our natural environment harder and harder until we all collapse. The Green way is to work smarter within the limits of the natural world.”

He challenged National’s record, on growing inequality, and poor economic management. These things are not sustainable, therefore, not green. He called for active, not passive, government: pollution needs proper pricing and, “we have been forced to relearn the lesson of the 1930s — markets need regulating”.

The Greens, he said (either bold or stupid) are going where others won’t dare: fronting the election charge with a capital gains tax. There was a wee message for Labour here, too. The trouble with cherry-picking the nicest Green policies — the populist ones — is that one does get into a bit of a bind, explaining how they’ll be paid for.

The fundamental difference between Bluegreens and Greens is this. Norman was talking about something bigger. “The old economic order is dying, and we have a choice to make.”

Blue is the old order.

It was a policy speech, more than a concept speech. But there were two quite simple concepts in it, that could have been simply stated.

The Greens can deal with the big issues, the ones that matter to people in their day to day lives: cost of living (cost of fuel), climate change (the ultimate environmental threat), jobs. The Greens are the party trying to help people maintain their standard of living, in a changing world.

Comments (14)

by Save Happy Valley on February 03, 2011
Save Happy Valley

The bluegreens got a bit of a tongue lashing by some who went to the conference. It has been said by some that the group, which is for policy advice.. is rather cosmetic and unwilling (or national is) to tackle the hard stuff. See, at the heart of the Government's thinking is an hypocrisy that undermines climate action. The Government talk about a clean economy, yet they invest millions in subsidising the fossil fuel industries of yesteryear. It  backs moves to dig up six billions tonnes of the dirtiest form of energy in Southland - which would amount to a climate crime of global significance - and have just declared open season on BP-style deepwater oil drilling in some of our most pristine environments.

The message in the clean energy, clean tech low carbon future is also continued elsewhere this time in energy potential: “New Zealand has more potential than most to advance this transition to safe, clean energy and by doing so, create new jobs and increase prosperity. With appropriate planning and development we could be in a position to showcase New Zealand-made technologies to the world.”

Auckland Mayor Len Brown has mentioned a willingness for Auckland to do its part in emissions reductions and perhaps in time be using the ecocity concept, A crucial difference between Green thinking and National's actions is support for Auckland and Wellinton public transport plans.

National is still wedded to motorways and trucking, and a continued reliance on fossil fuels in all forms. No ETS, green branding or advisory group can change that, leadership and action are what is missing from the senior levels of an ungreen Government.





by Gotham on February 03, 2011

Thanks for this, Claire.

I watched Norman's speech online and I was quite impressed. Can't say I bothered to find Smith's speech to compare, so I appreciate your efforts. Also, can't say I am surprised by your summary comparison. I have been told several times that, in fact, Smith does care about the environment and does want to make a positive contribution. Pity he represents a party that couldn't really give a rat's arse though. 'Bluegreens' are a joke.

The issue I see facing the Greens (ok, one of a few) this election is how much they allow themselves to slip towards the centre, in the goal of gaining more mainstream approval and achieving the golden ticket 10%.

Bryce Edwards (ever the Green supporter) summarised my concerns fairly well in his piece:

Now, apart from the 6-9 things I totally refute, the general gist of his argument reflects my main concern about our future positioning (and I know I am not alone here among Green members). How can we finally grind down the 5-7% barrier and really achieve the respect to be a true influence in government, and NOT compromise the integrity of our green kaupapa?

I am proud that Norman focused a lot of his speech on the Capital Gains Tax, as it is one of the least popular Green's policies, but such an integral one, especially for the point you made - to answer the general response from the right: but where will the money come from?

I just hope we continue being being bold in our assertions, and not compromise to chase the acceptance of the 'mainstream'. After all, by the simple fact that there are 'Bluegreens' it seems self-evident that the mainstream has finally come to us.

by Claire Browning on February 04, 2011
Claire Browning

Thanks for your thoughts, Gotham. That is a characteristic piece from Bryce! I read Nikki Macdonald’s feature pretty closely, when it was in the paper, but it is hardly recognisable, through his warped lens. And inevitably, the cheap shot: actually, it’s the red-green difference Russel has trouble with, I believe, which would refute Bryce’s whole argument [1], if he spun it the other way. As per.

James Shaw beat Gareth for the Wellington Central candidacy because he is golden. It’s that simple. One to watch, more likely than anyone else on the radar right now to be the first Green prime minister, in my view, or the next male co-leader. Perhaps I should let the poor bloke at least get himself sat down in Parliament, before I stick him with these labels.

Ken Graham’s done plenty, too. Bryce may find wee indie ‘lefty’ Pundit a better source for that, than the, um, mainstream media. "Academic reads Dom Post [collective gasp] and quotes it at length, verbatim ... proof, he's moved to the right!" 

He’s on the tele, and everything, most impressive, but he only blogs one analysis, with two dimensions: you’re left, or you’re moving to the centre and the right. Here’s another interesting effort on 'understanding the latest Maori party schism'.

The grown-up world has three.

How can we finally grind down the 5-7% barrier and ... and NOT compromise the integrity of our green kaupapa?

I think that your logic is flawed. I understand the concern. Here’s a bold - liberating? - idea:

  1. Nothing wrong with looking like a unit capable of running the country, when you’re applying for the job of running the country.
  2. If you want to be in politics, sometimes you have to do some politics.

Being ‘establishment’, philosophically, doesn’t follow - Bryce’s assumption - nor does yours, of being suddenly bereft of core principles.

The Greens have the option, if they choose it, of being different from the 'establishment' in a way entirely consistent - in fact more consistent - with what I understand the first Green philosophical Values to have been.

I think that Bryce’s logic is flawed, too. I mean, if anything, the ivory tower ought to give one a bit of perspective. It all seems to proceed on the basis that the genesis of the Greens was the Alliance, and any evolution from that is regressive. It wasn’t, so it isn’t.

Of course, by definition, 'mainstream' isn’t 'radical'. 'Radical' by definition is also 'marginal'. Here's your choice, politically: being a perpetual 5-7% ginger group? Is that the height of Green ambition? Here was I thinking that you all wanted to change the whole world.

[1] Meaning, it’s just as capable of supporting a ‘watermelon’ type analysis,  as a ‘beige’ one.

by Save Happy Valley on February 04, 2011
Save Happy Valley

Sue Bradford I believe some time back said the greens need to go for 15-20% to be really in a position of power, and the greens are aiming for a minimum target of 10% this year.


It is worth noting as a diffiference between the greens and the bluegreens who has policy influence on the bluegreens - a policy advisory group:

Business New Zealand's energy, environment and infrastructure manager has a new job advising the government on climate change and emissions trading.

George Riddell finished at Business NZ on Friday. Yesterday, he started work as a political adviser to Environment Minister Nick Smith.

again a member of Business NZ: John Carnegie was a member of the New Zealand Government’s official delegation to the international climate change negotiations in Cancun, Mexico.

and again: inance Minister Bill English, Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee and Environment Minister Nick Smith today announced the establishment of an Advisory Group on Green Growth The eight-strong Advisory Group will be chaired by Business New Zealand Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly

In Business NZ are organisations like Straterra and the Coal Association of NZ




by Save Happy Valley on February 04, 2011
Save Happy Valley

Judicious minerals use welcomed

Mineral, coal and petroleum resources could create a step change in New Zealanders’ prosperity. Business NZ Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly says New Zealand has in-ground natural resources worth thousands of billions of dollars.


Carbon tax would make business less competitive

A carbon tax will tend to make New Zealand enterprises less competitive and less able to afford energy efficient technology.


Chris joined Saunders Unsworth in 2002 having played a lead and successful role at that time in arguing the business case against the proposed carbon tax.

Chris has been engaged in a number of roles over recent years.  Current roles include; CEO of Straterra (an organisation that represents the mineral sector in NZ); director for 5 years and now Chairman of Auzex Resources Ltd (a mineral exploration company listed on the ASX); Executive Chairman of the NZ CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) Partnership; Director of the CO2CRC (a world leading Canberra based Federal and State Government and industry funded CCS research organisation), Executive Chairman of the Coal Association of New Zealand.


[Please try to keep comments on topic, thanks Ed.]

by Save Happy Valley on February 04, 2011
Save Happy Valley

It would seem that the Bluegreens do not advise National on Environment policy, but are advised to instead...

policy capture?

by Gotham on February 06, 2011

That's a pretty good assessment of Bryce's article - I did say I didn't agree with a lot of it!

Maybe I didn't clarify my point well enough though - I wasn't suggesting that the Greens be happy with their fairly weak election results. I want the Greens to get to 10% (and then some). I want them to be in a real position of influence. I think we have earned it. When you espouse a different paradim as the Greens have always done, it takes time for those ideas to become palatable to the general public. But they are getting there now. What I don't want, is at this point, to start diluting our core environmental and social justice focus. This is what makes us Greens. We are different, we always have been. That is why we have been the only party to achieve the 5% threshold and remain in Parliament consistantly. And why we have pulled through a high profile leadership change, and a total replenishment of our caucus ranks.

That is why I was impressed with the focus on the Capital Gains Tax in Russel's speech - because it indicated to me that the leadership is being bold. Because, let's face it, a lot of Green policies aren't the most attractive to many voters (I mean, when it's a choice between a tax cut and a Captial Gains Tax...). But I believe the Greens speak to the very heart of the matter, even when the answers are more complicated or more challenging. For example: I want to campaign for a reduction in car dependence, not simply a replacement of hydrogen or biofuel. I have supported the Greens, and I know many members feel the same way, because out of all the parties they are the ones who are geniunely focused on solving the whole problem, not merely 'fixing' it with some kind of half-arsed cosmetic application that makes things look good, but actually create even more problems. (Again- the hydrogen/biofuel application diversion.)

And that's a glowing endorsement for James Shaw! Certainly people who know Shaw say he is an Awesome Guy. And it sounds like you know him much better than I do - I have been a member for around 8 years, and I live in Wellington Central but I know very little about him. Except he has recently returned from spending a long time overseas, he makes great speeches, and he only needs to work a few months a year. (Which is excellent, because he has a HUGE job ahead of him in retaining let alone building the 20% party vote in Wellington.) So, I guess personally I will withhold my own enthusiasm until he has a chance to show some more substance as well as style.

And interesting you also highlight Kennedy Graham too. I know Graham is also a Nice Guy, but I can't say I have heard much about his work in Parliament. Organised an economics conference I think. Something about pecuniary interests. The only profile he seems to inspire in the media is he does really boring speeches. Out of all the new MPs, I wouldn't highlight him as 'doing plenty'.

And essentially, I don't believe our Green messages are radical - as I said - our issues and solutions have finally become mainstream. The people who perpetuate the myth of 'radical' Greens are general people who are trying to sustain the status quo for their own benefit. As is the repetitive reference to Morris dancers, pot smokers, and organic vege eating hippies.

by Claire Browning on February 07, 2011
Claire Browning

It was quite a breathless endorsement of James Shaw - he‘s only coming down, from that one (Winston Peters, Shane Jones … ) - and based on random slight evidence I must admit. So random and slight that I thought he had a high-powered job, ex-PwC consultancy or something, and still keeps popping up doing this that and the other thing, running the Mana by-election campaign, for example, or coordinating the Greens’ expats. Maybe cos that’s not a million miles away from what his own profile says ... Turns out he’s just the Green John Key ("only needs to work a few months a year"). What’s JK doing with himself, these days? Oh, PM, that’s right …

If he does “make great speeches”, thus avoiding “dull political speechifying” - thus keeping Fairfax entertained - they’ll love him. Only a matter of time before he’s tipped as next male co-leader, by somebody other than me. Betcha a million bucks.

I highlighted Kennedy Graham because Bryce had lowballed him (under cover of Dom Post). At least some of the rehashed comments about some others, eg Kevin Hague and David Clendon (“sticking up for a river”, “sustainable business breakfasts”) had some - vague - bearing on things they actually do in real life. KG might be too cerebral for Fairfax: he hasn’t come to Parliament with his knickers on his head, climbed into a sow crate lately (or at all), run down Broadway in the buff (or nowt but a lick of body paint), scuffled on the forecourt … He went to Copenhagen, though. He represented Parliamentarians for Global Action for the ICC review, and back home afterwards tried to get domestic action on international non-aggression and the lawful use of force. That Member's Bill was voted down, pecuniary interests is being considered, a third - Public Finance (Sustainability Indicators) - is in the ballot. A lot of work lies behind the Public Finance Bill, writing it and promoting it - economics, meh - but the idea in it is radical and at the heart of green politics: it was about putting the environment into economics. He organised the cross-party economics conference at Parliament as you say. In the weeks after the Canterbury quake, he was doing the job of a local MP ("I have been splitting my week between Wellington and Christchurch – early flights, intensive days, late nights ..."); he stood up for ECan. He speaks pretty often in the general debate. He’s a whip, I think … oops, ‘musterer’.

Mostly, what I like is that you know what he’s done, to represent his constituents this week or this month, and I feel like he represents me. If you don’t know what he’s done, does it count? I guess I’d just - gently - observe that making some basic effort to find out what your party and MPs are actually doing might help with worries about whether or not they're doing it right ...

by Gotham on February 07, 2011

Ok. Got it. Thanks.

by John O'Neill on February 09, 2011
John O'Neill

Did I hear a news report on Bill English address to the Blue in the face Greens to the effect that Alternative Energy was just a lot of hot air and real energy demanded mining?? I have failed to trace or verify that revealing comment.

by Ian Dalziel on February 10, 2011
Ian Dalziel

On the mat with the Bluegreens

How apt that National should call their non-political environmental alliance Blue Green...

The Greater Wellington Regional council has their number:

"Blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) are an ancient group of organisms with characteristics in common with both bacteria and algae."  ...and...   "Under favourable conditions, cyanobacteria cells can multiply and form blooms in lakes or thick mats attached to river and stream beds. Some species produce natural toxins called cyanotoxins which are a potential threat to people and animals if present in drinking water or if people and animals come into contact with the water during recreational activities."

also interesting that Nick Smith seems to imply that they backed successful Canterbury Nappy Recyclers, Envirocomp from scratch:

<from his speech> "This levy is helping support new recycling initiatives all over the country. In Dunedin we launched a new anti-freeze recycling business. In Canterbury, Envirocomp, which is recycling disposable nappies..."

...when really all they've done is recently give them a $30,000 grant for a feasibility study on expanding their business to Wellington!

The Upstons, Hot Rot Organic Solutions and Huggies did most of the work

(admittedly Hot Rot benefited from Govt funded research thru WRONZ towards the end of the 20th century)

"The HotRot technology emerged from a New Zealand government-funded research programme undertaken by the Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand. The technology then underwent further development and was launched by HotRot Composting Systems Ltd of New Zealand to the local market in July 2001. "





by Claire Browning on February 10, 2011
Claire Browning

Thanks Ian.

also interesting that Nick Smith seems to imply that they backed successful Canterbury Nappy Recyclers, Envirocomp from scratch ...

It's the same pattern, isn't it. Not quite a tissue of lies, but thin enough.

"Blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) are an ancient group of organisms with characteristics in common with both bacteria and algae."  ...and...   "Under favourable conditions, cyanobacteria cells can multiply and form blooms in lakes ...


by Claire Browning on February 10, 2011
Claire Browning

Oh, and John ... if Bill English did say that, he's wrong.

by on March 07, 2012

Steer clear of wearing a pair of running lunettes Carrera to execute basketball, as athletic shoes are suitable for forward measures only. Dress in a pair of cross trainer if you happen to anticipate so that you can play a game after your run.

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