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Is this the ‘game changer’ we need?

Opinion Piece

Voting alliances in this country since the introduction of MMP have frequently produced strange bedfellows, but the make-up of the current government has reached farcical levels when almost every decision of Cabinet is filtered through the chook entrail brew overseen by Winston Peters' favourite soothsayer.

Incredibly, it seems as if most voters are resigned to the ridiculous nature of this folly and the damage it is doing to the nation's prospects for growth.

Well, maybe that is about to change.

Successful politics in New Zealand these days is achieved when independent voting factions are prepared to swallow differences when putting together a coalition that has the ability to govern — albeit, as in this case, at the behest of its smallest partner.

It wouldn't be so bad if the minor party operated as a support simply on matters of confidence and supply, enabling legislation to be passed which reflected the will of the majority of Kiwis.

Unfortunately, today the opposite is true.

Virtually every major decision of this cabinet must be vetted by the Deputy Prime Minister and a close handful of his non-elected political cronies.

As a result, we are witnessing a nation holding its breath waiting to see where Father Christmas (Shane Jones's PGF) lands next. To be fair, many of the dollops of financial assistance received in the provinces (some quite large) are long overdue funds critical for regional infrastructure, and it is unlikely that this money would have been forthcoming as readily had it not been for the NZ First initiative.

We may never know, but the PGF concept was probably a major factor in determining the survival of NZ First at the last election and also, in turn, the main reason behind this Government's existence in the first place.

Sadly, like many other good ideas, it has morphed into something of a monster that is now taking on influence way beyond the original intentions of its designers.

Here in the provinces, the Minister responsible has allowed himself and his fund to be used in extracting agreements for unnecessary planting of pine trees on some of our best hill country that should remain part of our livestock farming estate.

He might say it is all part of the help being given to farmers to reduce methane emissions from our livestock — ie, a way of reducing stock numbers without shooting the animals. How humane!

The truth is that this Government is ideologically committed to a reduction of carbon emissions to net zero, and it just so happens that increasing the size of the carbon sink is the only acceptable way the other coalition partner's farmer-hating ministers will do business with the rural community in order to achieve its objectives.

When reflecting on this latest dilemma, it is easy to speculate on what might have been had the coalition partners of government been the result of an agreement between political factions to act solely in the best interests of all New Zealanders, while adopting policies which reflected the majority viewpoint.

It would appear that this possibility is now more than just a utopian dream.

The recent announcement of a new political party offering voters a true environment-focused alternative at the next election may be just the vehicle to turn the political landscape on its head.

If the Sustainability Party can impress a conservative old codger like me as a potential ally for National — trying to introduce a more balanced, less vindictive approach to our nation's defence against climate change — surely there is hope that others will see things in the same light; particularly those Kiwis who are being screwed by this mob all in the name of unsustainable, selective morality.

One feature of the new party that appeals to me is their preparedness to look at compromises that are just common sense.

For example, climate change may force the adoption of radically-different feeding systems for our livestock, so it makes perfect sense to use this forced opportunity to change the type of food ingested by our animals. Scientists have developed a GM species of ryegrass that can reduce the amount of methane gas emissions by 40 percent. Even more impressive, reductions of up to 90 percent can be gained if we feed them a species of sea kelp which is also the fastest-growing plant on the planet.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out just how much more acceptable our responsibilities to make a meaningful contribution to a worldwide goal of reducing carbon emissions would be, if our political masters were more interested in what works best in the hinterland — rather than forcing us all to be foot soldiers in the campaign for ideological purity.

From where I stand, we need rational heads who are prepared to work unselfishly in our best interests. Who would have thought the cavalry is just about to come over the hill!