Greens struggling in Government

I suspected that Greens were naive about the responsibilities and requirements of being in government, and this is being proven by an outpouring of green angst over the granting of water bottling rights to a Chinese company.

Some Green supporters (presumably party members) and some Green MPs are showing that they still struggle with the reality of governing.

Government 101 – you can’t get into power, especially weak power overshadowed by one much larger party and another party whose leader holds most of the bargaining power and influence, and change the law every time one of your own party ministers is required to follow procedures and fulfil their responsibilities.

Stuff: Green Party members revolt over water bottling decision

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson is facing intense backlash from members threatening to quit over a decision made by one of her ministers to allow a Chinese water bottler to expand.

Davidson has said she “doesn’t like” the decision after the co-leader of the Young Greens Max Tweedie wrote on an internal Facebook page that that he was “extremely disappointed” in the decision.

Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage, one of three Green ministers, announced the decision on Tuesday which allows in principle a Chinese water bottling giant to purchase land in order to expand their existing Otakiri Springs water bottling plant near Whakatane.

The decision was made with associate finance minister David Clark based on advice from the Overseas Investment Office.

In other words, doing what her job required. But Sage was obviously uneasy about some Greens would think so tried to explain to them.

Sage put out a blog post on the decision on the Green Party website.

She acknowledged it was surprising the call had been made by a member of the Green Party as it had an election policy to ban new water bottling consents, impose a levy on water exports, and more concretely respect Treaty of Waitangi rights around water.

“Some people might wonder why a Green MP who is a Minister has allowed such a land purchase involving a water bottling plant to go ahead,” Sage wrote.

“Basically the law is clear about what Ministers can and cannot take into account.”

The Overseas Investment Act only allows Ministers to take into account “substantial and identifiable” benefit to New Zealand and conservation values – but not Treaty of Waitangi rights.

That sounds fairly obvious.

Despite this post, prominent members of the party were fuming on an internal Facebook group on Tuesday night, and asking the Greens to publicly disown the decision.

“What the f… is the point of us being in government and having this portfolio if we throw our Te Tiriti [Treaty] obligations in the bin,” wrote Tweedie.

“This is an absolute joke, I’m extremely disappointed in Eugenie and so angry that this came from us … This is a test for us as to how we respond to this, I would like the non ministerial part of our caucus to oppose this publicly, I’m actually livid.”

Tweedie also seems ignorant of how a democratic government reliant on law works.

Davidson, who ran for co-leader on a platform of greater connection with members, acknowledged in a comment on that post “we don’t like this decision.”

“There were strong legal implications for us opposing this. We will have to seek changes in the legislation to avoid legal consequences. While there are definitely Tiriti implications in this issue, it’s not a core Treaty issue in this case,” Davidson wrote.

A prominent member of the party wrote he was “fuming”.

“I don’t know if I can stay in the party, on principle after this. Ngāti Awa people (who almost universally oppose this) are absolutely livid.”

Davidson responded that this position was “valid and shows how much we need to be accountable on this.”

Speaking on her way into the House Davidson repeated that the decision was not consistent with Green Party values or policy.

“This decision does not sit with Green Party kaupapa and long-time policy.”

Simple fact – Greens have 8 seats in a 63 seat MMP government, so proportionally they have about 1/8 of the power. They don’t have a mandate to change every law they don’t like.

Sage told Stuff she understood why Green Party members would be upset.

“I absolutely understand members’ concerns about the decision. The Green Party leadership and MPs understand our members’ concerns,” Sage said.

“There are opportunities to improve the law and I hope people will get involved in that. Green MPs will push hard for changes to the law and for a charge on bottled water exports.”

“I made a decision under the current law.”

That’s pretty basic stuff. What did Green members think they would be able to do in Government with 8 MPs?

Sage was put on the spot on this in Parliament yesterday, which resulted in Davidson asking patsy questions to try to address party concerns:

From Question No. 11—Land Information:

Hon David Bennett: Has the Minister discussed with the Minister of Trade and Export Growth how the overseas investment criteria could be changed to implement core Green Party policy to impose an immediate moratorium on new bottling?

Hon EUGENIE SAGE: I am confident that the Minister who has responsibility for that issue of water bottling is looking at all the issues, and we will have discussions.

Marama Davidson: Was the Minister able to consider the environmental impacts of taking the water when she made this decision?

Hon EUGENIE SAGE: That is not a matter that the Minister for Land Information can take into account under the Overseas Investment Act; it is a matter that is considered under the Resource Management Act. The Bay of Plenty Regional Council notified its application.

Marama Davidson: Was she able to take into account Te Tiriti concerns and the opposition of mana whenua when making this decision?

Hon EUGENIE SAGE: The application concerned the purchase of sensitive land under the Overseas Investment Act. That Act limits the issues that can be considered. I considered those issues, and I wasn’t able to take those concerns into account.

A Minister has responsibilities beyond their party ideals. No Minister can quickly change laws to appease their party members, especially small relatively weak third parties in Government.

It could be a difficult term for the Greens, and a challenging campaign in 2020 – if they haven’t self destructed before then.

22 Comments

  1. David

     /  June 14, 2018

    She could have refused to sign the deal with the outcome being, and I doubt it would happen, a lawsuit in years down the track. They were happy to torpedo the oil and gas industry at the stroke of a pen but a Chinese water bottling plant not so much.
    Death by a thousand cuts for the Greens..or perhaps a dozen nicks but they are gone for all money.

    • Blazer

       /  June 14, 2018

      Merely a lesson for the faithful about the pragmatism of…Govt.

    • Corky

       /  June 14, 2018

      They have been handed the chalice of poisonous Tofu, Dave.

  2. Zedd

     /  June 14, 2018

    Im guessing the ‘Green Ministers’ (inc. Ms Sage) are OK with ‘swallowing a few dead rats’ & perhaps pissing off some of their core supporters.. in order to ‘be in Govt’ (baubles of office ?) :/

    “Thats Politics Folks”

    • Zedd

       /  June 14, 2018

      btw; I noted Ms Sage has taken on a more ‘stylish look’ recently, rather than her usual ‘hippy/earth mother look’ ? :/

      • Gezza

         /  June 14, 2018

        Eugenie might have to change parties. In a party of otherwise largely normal people the sole leader would take the complaining members out the back and say: “We are in government. You are idiots. In future please confine yourself to just following JAF on Twitter. Now piss off.”

        • Gezza

           /  June 14, 2018

          Bugger. JAF = JAG

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  June 14, 2018

            A minister needs to look the part, I think.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  June 14, 2018

              It’s tempting to say that JAF is more appropriate; Just A F………, but I am too refined,

            • Gezza

               /  June 14, 2018

              Looking the part – yes, it does make a difference. Turning up to work in your weekend wear conveys an impression of sloppiness as a Minister. Jones is like MCully, I notice. He always manages to look untidy.

              Re JAG – I nearly said the Feminführer, but I’ll save that for another time.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  June 14, 2018

              Some people just don’t pay for dressing, as the saying is, Some do. A university friend made his old tradie’s overalls look like cutting edge cool. Someone I knew here made a Warehouse dress look as if it came from an expensive designer,

              The PM looks very slovenly today; a shirt barely meeting over the bulge, leggings under it….most unprofessional, especially with that messy hair. She looks anything but a leader.

  3. Corky

     /  June 14, 2018

    Yep , maybe my prediction of a Green split with a New Green Party being formed may come to fruition by 2020.

    We know a big Labour clean-out is coming in 2020, and maybe some in the Greens will decide to clean house knowing they will be joining Labour in opposition.

    As for Marama Davidson. She’s only a co leader because she is a Maori. That Genta believed she had a chance during the leadership process shows how deluded Greens can be.

    • Gezza

       /  June 14, 2018

      JAG wasn’t necessarily deluded. Were either Rod Donald or Jeanette Fitzsimons Maori? She just not quite have adjusted to the fact it’s not only ecofeminazis like her who have hijacked the party, they’ve made the decision to try & pull votes from feminmaori as well.

    • Zedd

       /  June 14, 2018

      ‘As for Marama Davidson. She’s only a co leader because she is a Maori.’ sez corky

      how totally ignorant/racist, corky..
      the green members get to vote on their MPs, unlike some parties that leave ‘it all at exec. level.’

      btw; Marama said because she does not have ‘ministeral duties’ (as JAG does) she can focus on the co-leadership role. “tautoko ahau” 🙂

      • Gezza

         /  June 14, 2018

        Marama is really in the wrong Party. She should be in the Maori Party, but she may have read the writing on the wall there. Factionalism led by a co-leader is going to split what little support & cohesion the Greens already have. She & JAG are poles apart on the relevance & importance of Maori issues.

        • Blazer

           /  June 14, 2018

          the Maori Party were supposedly pragmatic in supporting National…that’s why the MP are brown..bread.

          • Corky

             /  June 14, 2018

            What are Maori Labour MP’s achieving with Labour as ”House Maori?”

            • Blazer

               /  June 14, 2018

              you may have to wait longer than…5 minutes.

  4. David

     /  June 14, 2018

    The Greens have never been in a place where reality has encountered their idealism and the two are totally incompatible. Reality has hit a few times recently.
    If the Greens go the pragmatism route then they cease to be relevant and a percentage of their base goes and they are then under 5%. Like NZ First a good percentage of their voters are low information people and vote without proper thought and neither party can afford to lose a percentage of those low intellect vote on virtue people.

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