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Green Party at a crossroads

The 28th annual conference of the Green Party at Palmerston North at the weekend found them at something of a crossroads — they are in Government for the first time, and because of that have had to make what are for them some unpleasant decisions.

Party co-leader James Shaw faced up to that strongly with his comment that being in Government meant they had to sometimes swallow the occasional “deceased rodent”.

Shaw was up front saying “our values, our Green kaupapa are being tested in ways that I just don’t think we faced when we were in Opposition”.

The two most obvious examples of that of course are being forced to accept the waka jumping bill which is anathema to many, including former co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimmons, and also to have to sign off on water extraction for export.

Now the Greens are in Government, albeit only with a confidence and supply agreement, they are forced to support Government policy. That applies even more to Shaw, Eugenie Sage and Julie Anne Genter who also have ministerial responsibilities.

As opposed to the deceased rodents, however, the Greens can point to some wins that might not have happened if they were not in Government.

That includes the decision to ban future oil exploration, support for light rail, greater acceptance of the risk posed by climate change and the biggie last week, the government’s decision to ban single-use plastic bags.

There is also the chance to revisit the issue of water exports through a review of the overseas investment legislation.

And the conference did come up with one classic Green cause. A possible levy on landfills, something that will be of interest to Gisborne District Council as we export our refuse that cannot be recycled.

On numbers alone, it has not been a good time for the Greens. Their election result was the worst since 2005 and saw them drop from 14 to eight MPs. But Shaw and co-leader Marama Davidson have taken the high ground promising a bright future for the party. It may still be a good time to be Green.