Green & Labour ministers decline mining application

Green Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage has released some good news this weekend, but it hasn’t shut down criticism of an earl;ier decision on water bottling.

along with Minister of Energy and Resources Megan Woods, announced on Saturday that an application to mine coal on conservation land on the West Coast has been declined – Government declines application to mine conservation land at Te Kuha

An application to mine coal on public conservation land near Te Kuha in the Buller District has been declined, Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage and Minister of Energy Resources Megan Woods announced today.

Rangitira Developments Ltd had applied for an access arrangement under the Crown Minerals Act to mine 12 hectares of public conservation land in the Mt Rochfort Conservation Area, near Te Kuha, as part of a large opencast coal mine.

The Ministers declined the application to mine 12 hectares of conservation land because it was not considered that the mine’s potential economic benefits were large enough to outweigh the irreparable damage to an area with very high, unique and nationally significant conservation values.

“Under the Conservation Act, this land is held to preserve and protect its natural and historic resources.  This application is inconsistent with that purpose,” said Eugenie Sage.

Minister Woods said the proposal had been closely scrutinised against the relevant criteria in the Crown Minerals Act.

Recently Sage came under strong fire from Green supporters – see Greens bottling it as water fallout continues. so may win back some credit for this move.

It’s interesting that this news was released from the Beehive yesterday, the only one on Saturday.

Most ‘latest from the Beehive’ media releases are during the week. There were nine on Friday, two on Thursday, twelve on Wednesday, five on Tuesday and three on Monday. There were none last Saturday (one on Sunday).

It looks like Sage could have pushed out a good for Greens decision to try to dampen criticism.

Unlike Consent granted for overseas purchase of Whakatane water bottling plant Sage didn’t try to explain this decision on the Green blog (which isn’t a forum because comments aren’t enabled). However it was promoted on Facebook:

However comments there suggest that Sage is far from forgiven for her water bottling decision.

Mustn’t have been applied for by the chinese

Protected my a…. Eugenie Sage is earning $249,839 as a Minister and selling our souls to the highest bidder rather than stand up for our environment. What is worse is that the Green MPs are trying to say her hands are tied.

Why can’t you stop the water bottling plant for China?? Didn’t you promise pre election??

Ok on the path to redemption, but a long way to make up for aiding and abetting the theft of our water…SORT IT…

Nice for the West Coast but we in the Bay of Plenty will never forget the disregard shown to us (and Green Party policy) when our precious groundwater was given to a Chinese corporation and they were able to buy sensitive land.

What about protecting our water? The Green Party recently allowed a Chinese water bottling plant to expand its business in Whakatane? Is this article’s purpose to deter the public’s attention away from that

It wasn’t until the seventh comment that there was praise.

Thank you @Eugenie Sage, credit where credit is due. It’s certainly been a week of highs and lows! Keep the kaupapa Greens…and take care of yourselves, I don’t envy you your jobs

It looks like ten steps backward and one forward this week for the Greens – and that’s just within the party.

There has been some applause for declining the mining application, like from Forest & Bird (now led by ex-Green MP Kevin Hague) – Stuff: Government declines controversial application for coal mine at Te Kuha

The decision was welcomed by Forest & Bird chief executive Kevin Hague as “a hugely significant, forward-thinking decision that future generations of New Zealanders will be thankful for”.

Obviously the company applying to mine was disappointed.

Stevenson Mining chief operating officer Anne Brewster said the decision was short sighted. Stevenson Mining is owned by Rangitira Developments. “We are very disappointed,” she said.

“The Government has made this decision and it is very short sighted … These decisions are made by people who have vested interests in the community.”

And Buller District Mayor Garry Howard said…

…he wasn’t surprised by the decision but still couldn’t understand the logic behind it as the proposed site was only 12 hectares.

“The Department of Conservation has 1,596,000 hectares on the West Coast and this was just 12. It would be a commercial  venture that is only going to be operating on 144 hectares and an open pit of 10 hectares. “Modern day mining is totally different to what historic mining has been. The restoration work is outstanding.”

But there is a good case for protecting wilderness areas.

Because of extensive mining elsewhere, the Te Kuha area was one of the last two intact, elevated Brunner coal measure ecosystems, and home to threatened plant and animal species, including the great spotted kiwi, South Island fernbird, West Coast green gecko, and the largest known population of the rare forest ringlet butterfly.

“It is an undisturbed area which is precious and unique,” Sage said.

“The economic benefits assessment for the mine showed it was at a poor risk with a perfect storm if operating costs were higher than anticipated, if there wasn’t as much coal as anticipated, and if coal prices continued to be at low levels.

“The economic benefits of the mine didn’t outweigh the permanent loss and destruction of conservation values.”

While it doesn’t help business and jobs on the West Coast this looks like a decision Sage made within the parameters allowed – as was the one she made on the water bottling plant.

Greens bottling it as water fallout continues

Ructions in Green ranks continues after the decision Green MP Eugenie Sage was required to make a water bottling decision as part of her ministerial responsibilities: Overseas investment for Otakiri Springs bottling giant approved in principle

Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage, and Associate Finance Minister David Clark, have granted an application under the Overseas Investment Act 2005 for Cresswell NZ Ltd to purchase land to expand the existing Otakiri Springs water bottling plant near Whakatane.

Their approval is conditional on Cresswell NZ obtaining consent via the Resource Management Act and that 60 new jobs are created and if these jobs do not eventuate enforcement action will apply.

“This includes the possibility of requiring the company to sell the land. Budget 2018 provided an extra $7 million in new funding for the OIO to undertake compliance and enforcement work,” Eugene Sage said.

I posted about this on Thursday: Greens struggling in Government

There struggles appear to be continuing. Here are some interesting reactions on Twitter:

@LewOS:

I think Eugenie Sage and Julie-Anne Genter have been exemplary on this water bottling decision. “We don’t like it, but we have to obey the law” is strictly correct but it will win them no fans among the Green activists who never really wanted the responsibility of government

I have received the following response from someone with knowledge of the situation, who also now wishes they had added more swears in this assessment of their party

@danylmc

I don’t know if it’s just activists. The party explicitly campaigned on changing the laws around this so I think non-activist normie voters are completely entitled to feel outraged without being lectured about the constitutional and legislative complications.

They can express outrage as much as they like, but it won’t change the decision, it increases impressions of a flaky party in a flaky Government, and increases the risks of Greens crashing and burning before or during the next election.

@GuyonEspiner

Interesting isn’t it – Greens Ministers are saying: It goes against my values and politics but we must follow process. NZ First Ministers are saying: I don’t care about process these are my views!

@LewSOS

This, and not the underlying ideological differences between parties, is Jacinda’s bugbear running this govt. Ideological differences are reconcilable and negotiable, but when you have a bunch of people who just basically don’t believe in the democratic process, you got problems.

He may be referring the behaviour of NZ First Ministers but Green Party members also don’t seem to believe in democratic processes when they don’t like the results.

@philosphy

If anything activists are only ones nerdy & partisan enough to be persuaded by reasons they gave. Normie voters won’t read details, will come away with impression Greens have changed position.

Hadn’t looked before, but scroll through the almost 2k comments under Eugenie’s FB post. The people still refusing to accept explanations are mostly supportive non-members.

I don’t know if the most fuss is coming from non-members or not.

Is Sue Bradford a Green party member these days? She weighs in: Greens in mortal danger – Bradford

The Green’s water bottling decision exposes potentially fatal flaws and complacency at the heart of Green parliamentary operations.

The Green parliamentary wing seem to be clueless about the mortal danger they face following news this week that its own minister, Eugenie Sage, has signed off on the sale and expansion of a water bottling plant at Otakiri Springs.

When Ms Sage’s role in approving the sale as Land Information Minister became public there was immediate anger from party members. It was reported that the co-leader of the Young Greens Max Tweedie said on an internal Facebook page that he was ‘extremely disappointed’ about what had happened. Some members threatened to leave the party.

Apart from a bland government media release and a ministerial blog closely replicating the official line there appeared to be no effort to forestall the inevitable sense of betrayal which would arise from the blatant turnaround on core party policy.

It seems that it was only when mainstream media picked up on the high level of internal unrest that the Green caucus realised they might have a problem on their hands.

Their responses, for example in this TV1 report, seemed defensive and obscure, focused on explaining why they believed the Minister’s hands were legally tied in making the decision.

But perhaps it’s time the Green leadership in Parliament realises that it’s not just the unhappiness of members that needs to be assuaged. Voters are the ones who ultimately make the difference between survival and electoral disaster.

Whether members or supporters doesn’t really matter when it comes to elections.

It’s one of the most common political truisms that small parties in government get eaten by their larger partners.

But this isn’t being eaten by a larger partner, it is being eaten from within their own party over a fairly basic function of being a part of the Government. Ministers have to often make decisions they are bound to make regardless of their own party policies.

Surely the Green caucus focus from day one of government formation should have been on honing their political and strategic strategy and capacity so that the sort of situation which happened this week would never arise.

Perhaps they could have handled things better this week, but the parliamentary part of the party was very busy setting themselves up in Government and learning how to do their jobs.

And given the reactions of Green members and left leaning activists for years there may have been no way of preparing for government decisions that clashed with their ideals.

As things stand, it feels as though the caucus and those around them do not think ahead about the consequences of some of their decisions, water bottling only being the latest of a string of stuff-ups (think waka jumping and giving National some of their parliamentary questions).

The Green caucus has certainly had to grapple with a few issues.

It looks like the Greens gained the oil and gas exploration decision at the cost of having to support the waka jumping bill. Oil and gas should be a big deal for the Greens – while the waka jumping bill is contrary to long standing Green policy the actual effects of the bill are likely to be minimal if not zero in practice.

Behind this fateful lack of capacity lies a political question too – to what extent, if any, are the Greens really prepared to carve out their own path in this term of Parliament?

Once again, it appears the real agenda here is a sodden acceptance that being a safe pair of hands for Labour is all that counts, and that those pesky members and voters are something to worry about in maybe a couple of years’ time.

Greens have long championed MMP, but some of their supporters don’t seem to understand how it works.

Despite only having eight seats in Parliament out of 120, and only 12.7% of the vote in Government, some Green supporters seem to think that all their ideals should be achieved.

Greens need to find a way of avoiding being eaten by partner parties, but they also need to find a way of avoiding being eaten by their own members and supporters. It could be a challenging couple of years for them coming up if this much fuss is made over a relatively minor decision made by a Green minister.

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.

Plan and money for pest eradication in Taranaki

A major project aimed at eradicating pests from Taranaki has been announced.


$11.7 million for Taranaki predator control

An ambitious plan to eradicate pests from Taranaki will get an $11.7 million funding injection from Predator Free 2050 Ltd, Conservation Minister, Eugenie Sage announced today.

Taranaki Taku Tūranga – a region-wide collaboration between Taranaki Regional Council and rural landowners, aims to eradicate introduced predators from native habitats.

The project starts near New Plymouth and will be progressively rolled out across 4,500 hectares of farmland surrounding the Taranaki/Egmont National Park.

The area will be defended from re-infestation by a ‘virtual barrier’ created by a network of intensive trapping.

“Government funding of $11.7 million invested via Predator Free 2050 Ltd into Taranaki Taku Tūranga, aims to suppress or eradicate rats, stoats and possums in the area so our native birds and other wildlife can thrive.

“This funding is being matched by local government and other funders at a ratio of more than three to one, with a total project budget of $47 million over five years.”

PF2050 Ltd is a government-owned charitable company established to support co-funding arrangements to help expand and upscale predator control operations. It aims to work towards a predator free New Zealand by 2050.

“New Zealand has a predator crisis – 82 percent of native birds are threatened with, or at risk of extinction. We must invest in a comprehensive programme of predator control initiatives, to save Aotearoa’s indigenous wildlife,” said Eugenie Sage.

“Taranaki Taku Tūranga will build on significant predator control work already being undertaken by the Taranaki Mounga Project – a large scale ecological restoration collaboration between Department of Conservation, eight Taranaki iwi, the NEXT Foundation and other sponsors, covering the 34,000 ha of the national park,” said Eugenie Sage.

In late 2017, PF2050 Ltd issued a request for expressions of interest in collaborative landscape-scale predator control projects. Forty-five groups, representing six percent of New Zealand’s land area, expressed interest.

In addition to the funding being provided by Predator Free 2050 Ltd, Budget 2018 provided an extra $81.3 million in new funding to the Department of Conservation (DOC) for landscape scale predator control as part of an extra $181.6 million in operational funding for DOC over the next four years. That funding allows DOC to plan ahead and target the pests that are devastating the habitats of New Zealand’s unique species.

More details:  Taranaki Taku Tūranga – Towards a Predator-Free Taranaki


Predator Free 2050 was set up in 2016 by the National Government when they initiated a goal of making New Zealand predator free by 2050:

Predator Free 2050 Limited is responsible for directing a significant amount of Crown investment into the Predator Free Programme, with a focus on breakthrough science and large scale predator control and eradication initiatives.

Predator Free 2050 Limited was formed in 30 November 2016 by the New Zealand Government via the Department of Conservation to realise New Zealand’s Predator Free 2050 goal.

The company invests around $5 million per year in large landscape projects and scientific research, and leverages new funding to rid New Zealand of the possums, rats and stoats which threaten its unique fauna and flora.

Its current science strategy is focussed on achieving interim goals for 2025.

Predator Free 2050 Limited works closely with other parties in the Predator Free 2050 movement, including tangata whenua, the Department of Conservation, the Predator Free New Zealand TrustNew Zealand’s Biological Heritage National Science ChallengeZero Invasive Predators LtdSanctuaries of New Zealand, regional councils and community groups.

It is good to see this continued by the new Government. It is a very ambitious plan for the country, as it is for Taranaki, which borders other areas that will leak predators into Taranaki unless they are controlled or eradicated as well.

Bickering over pest eradication funding.

Three headlines from RNZ:

Govt puts extra $80m towards eradicating pests

Efforts to eradicate rats, stoats and possums are set to get a boost of $80 million in next week’s Budget.

DOC funding barely keeps up with inflation – National

National’s conservation spokesperson has accused the Green Party of making a u-turn on its election promises.

National Party conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie said during the election the Greens promised to double DOCs budget and this increase was barely more than inflation.

She said in last year’s budget, National committed more than $107 million to DOC.

“I think they’re failing to convince their conservation partners of the value of conservation and adequately advocate for the environment,” she said.

Ms Dowie said the Green Party talked a big game during the election and the public needed to see it now they’re in government.

Govt will double what National spent on predator control – Sage

The National Party is wrong to claim the Greens aren’t following through on their election promises on conservation, the government says.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said yesterday’s announcement won’t be the only funding on offer.

“This is part of the conservation package in Budget 2018, there’s more to come on Thursday, but we have a biodiversity crisis because of possums, rats and stoats,” she said.

Ms Sage said when looking at predator control specifically, the government was funding more than double what National had over the past four years.

She said the funding package in 2017 was largely for tourism facilities, not for backing nature by doing extensive predator control.

“National is comparing apples with pears,” she said.

She added, under National, DOC’s core baseline funding only allowed it to control predators on around 200,000 hectares annually.

“We are going to ramp that sustained control up to 1.85 million hectares on an ongoing basis, that’s almost 25 percent of the conservation estate,” she said.

Quibbling aside, continuing to target the eradication of pests is a good thing.

Sage is talking of the funding as ‘a big win’.

Our native forests, birds and other wildlife are the big winners in the first ever Green Party pre-budget announcement.

Yesterday I was delighted as Conservation Minister to announce that the Greens have secured significant new funding in Budget 2018 to help save our wildlife from predators like rats, stoats and possums.

We have won an extra $81.3 million over four years so the Department of Conservation can protect New Zealand’s precious native birds and wildlife over its largest area ever – a whopping 1.85 million hectares. That’s about the size of Northland and Auckland combined. The extra funding means DOC can do sustained predator control over nearly 25% of public conservation lands by 2021, more than it has ever been able to do before.

It will not only be bigger, but better as the control will target rats and stoats, not just possums.

And there is more to come for conservation in Thursday’s budget. This is just the beginning.

Odd terminology. Government is about doing, not winning (that’s for elections).

Winning the fight against predators is a long way away, if it can ever be achieved. It is likely the Government (DOC, people) will always come second – but at least they are aiming at an honourable second.

The first budget for the current Government will be announced on Thursday, but there has been a drip feeding of pre-budget announcements, especially from the support parties who are no doubt keen to get some positive attention spending our money.

 

 

Budget boosts DOC predator control

A pre-budget announcement of a significant funding boost for predator control will help towards the ambitious goal of making New Zealand ‘predator free’ by 2050.

In July 2016: Government sets target to make New Zealand ‘predator-free’ by 2050

The Government wants to make New Zealand predator-free by 2050, formally adopting a target to eradicate all pests that threaten New Zealand’s native birds.

Prime Minister John Key announced the goal, alongside Conservation Minister Maggie Barry, as well as a $28 million funding injection into a joint venture company to kickstart the campaign.

“Rats, possums and stoats kill 25 million of our native birds every year, and prey on other native species such as lizards and, along with the rest of our environment, we must do more to protect them,” Key said.

By 2025, the Government has set four interim goals, which include:

• Having 1 million hectares of land where pests are suppressed or removed;
• The development of a scientific breakthrough, capable of removing entirely one small mammalian predator;
• To be able demonstrate that areas of 20,000 hectares can be predator free without the use of fences like the one at at Wellington’s Zealandia sanctuary;
• And the complete removal of all introduced predators from offshore island nature reserves.

“This is the most ambitious conservation project attempted anywhere in the world, but we believe if we all work together as a country we can achieve it.”

See department of Conversation Predator Free 2050

Predator Free 2050 (PF2050) brings together central and local government, iwi, philanthropists, non-government organisations, businesses, science and research organisations, communities, land owners and individuals like you.

Reminds me I have to deal to some nuisance possums. They are lot better around here after a TBFree eradication programme over the last year.

From the Labour-Green confidence & supply agreement:

6. Safeguard our indigenous biodiversity by reducing the extinction risk for 3,000 threatened
plant and wildlife species, significantly increasing conservation funding, increasing predator
control and protecting their habitats.

a. Budget provision will be made for significantly increasing the Department of
Conservation’s funding.

From the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement:

  • Significantly increase funding for the Department of Conservation.

The Government is following through on this:


Backing Nature – funding a future for native species

Possums, rats and stoats are the big losers in Budget 2018 and our forests, birds and other wildlife the winners, Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage announced today.

“We need to invest in comprehensive predator control in order to save special wildlife like kiwi. We have a biodiversity crisis, where 82 per cent of native birds are threatened with or at risk of extinction,” says Eugenie Sage.

An extra $81.3 million in operating funds for predator control over four years is part of a major boost in conservation funding in Budget 2018. This will enable the Department of Conservation (DOC) to undertake sustained predator control over more than 1.8 million hectares – the largest area ever covered, and about the size of Northland and Auckland combined.

DOC’s previous funding enabled it to achieve possum control across 1 million hectares. The additional funding in Budget 2018 enables the greatest threats to biodiversity – rats, stoats and possums – to be continually controlled over a larger area in an integrated way.

“For the first time, predator control funding will be locked in. Budget 2018 means DOC won’t have to divert funding from other priorities or scramble to get one-off allocations from Government in order to do this essential work,” says Eugenie Sage.

“Both the Coalition Agreement and the Confidence and Supply Agreement recognise the need to increase conservation funding. Budget 2018 delivers on those commitments.

“After years of neglect and piecemeal funding, Budget 2018 is backing nature. DOC can now plan ahead with secure funding to target the predators that are devastating New Zealand’s unique species.”

Eugenie Sage made the announcement at Otari-Wilton’s Bush in Wellington, an example of thriving native forest that we will have more of as a result of this initiative.

“DOC’s pest control improves forest health and the breeding success of threatened species like kākā, kea, rock wren, whio/blue duck and bats,” says Eugenie Sage.

“When 4,000 of our native plants and animals are threatened or at risk of extinction, every single conservation dollar counts. This injection of $81.3 million is only the start of this Government’s investment in nature,” Eugenie Sage said.

Greens return leftward, away from National

Green’s sole leader over the last eight months, James Shaw, is seen as relatively moderate, almost centrist-ish (in some ways at least). He is regarded as business friendly, not a particularly NZ green attribute.

The Green Party has just chosen a new co-leader, Marama Davidson, by a wide margin of 110 delegate votes to 34 over the more business savvy centris-ish Julie Anne Genter.

Davidson has been active on left wing issues as an MP. She is likely to remain so. And she has much more scope than Shaw to promote her more radical views and policy positions – while not in Cabinet Shaw has some responsibility as a Minister not to rock the Government boat too much

As she doesn’t have any ministerial responsibilities Davidson is not so constrained, and without a ministerial workload she will have much more time to work on issues of interest to her and the Green membership.

Both Shaw and Genter are learning the realities and compromises of working in a Government. Davidson doesn’t have this, she is firmly in the Green idealist activist bubble.

And that bubble is staunchly anti-National.

Henry Cooke at Stuff: Greens swing left with Marama Davidson in the co-pilot seat

This should finally and completely end the notion that the Green Party could consider going into Government with National. It was never going to happen under James Shaw and it is really never going to happen with Davidson, who took care in her victory speech to trash-talk the former National-led Government for the massive problems at Middlemore Hospital.

Just as some Green Party members threatened to leave the party if Davidson didn’t get selected, similar threats have been made in the past when any suggestion of a Green-National deal.

By supporting Davidson so strongly the membership of the Green Party have shown their desire to make the party more than just a junior partner in Government, pushing Labour to the left in the areas its ministers are responsible for.

We just have to accept that the Greens are two parties in one – a strongly pro-environment party, and a staunch hard left social issue socialist-type party. They claim that the two are co-dependent, but that’s more of an attempt to justify their more hard-left policies.

Environmental issues are acknowledged across the political spectrum, to different degrees, but both National and the business world know they have to work more on sustainable practices and lowering pollution. They do differ with the Greens on the preferred levels of socialisation and socialism.

Big business and big money are going to be important influences in New Zealand, especially with farming practices.

In tone, tactics, and perception, however, Davidson was always the left candidate, even if she prefers to say “progressive”.

‘Progressive’ is a left wing populist attempt at deception.

Many Green members don’t want to put more women in the boardroom, they want to destroy it. Davidson made clear in her acceptance speech her distaste for the fact that two men held more wealth than the poorest 30 per cent of New Zealanders. In our debate she professed support for a new top tax rate on higher earners and free dental care for all Kiwis.

Davidson-Green is to a large extent anti-business (and pro socialism). Shaw-Green promotes more responsible business.

Of course, the Green Party hasn’t lost the more suit-and-tie Shaw as co-leader. There will be plenty of members who voted for Davidson because they want balance at the top, with the environmentally focused climate change minister fighting besides the new co-leader for a holistic Green vision.

It’s impossible to know how many Green members and Green branches preferred the far more left wing leanings of Davidson, or chose her for balance. The Māori  factor can’t be discounted either.

But for the next wee while –  at least –  Davidson has the mandate to make some real change to how the Green Party operates in Government. Ardern and Winston Peters should expect some well-publicised disagreements – which will be particularly biting as non-Minister Davidson isn’t bound by Cabinet collective responsibility.

The party now enters into a somewhat strange two-year period, where the Green ministers actually making change arguably represent the wing of the party just rejected by the membership.

It will be interesting to compare the so far moderate ministerial missives of Shaw, Genter and the third Green minister, Eugenie Sage, and the more radical activism of Davidson and her activist Green supporters.

Genter has been seeking attention during the two month leadership contest but may well retreat to her ministerial responsibilities. She probably won’t want to compete with Davidson for attention now.

Shaw has been fairly anonymous as he gets to grips with working in Government. Sage would have also been barely noticed except for her embarrassing involvement in publicity over allegations of interference in state agencies, and her changing claims due to ‘poor memory’.

So Davidson may well get a disproportionate amount of attention. This will please the activist socialist Greens, but how will this affect wider green support?

But there are over a hundred thousand more Green Party voters than there are members. For that number to keep steady or properly increase both wings of the party will need to rack up some decent wins in the real world, not just the tiny landscape of internal party politics. Everyone in the party will be watching the next poll with a whole lot of interest. It’ll be what makes this whole thing finally real.

It will take more than the next poll, it will take several months and several polls to see how things pan out. It will also take that long to see how the Green Ministers perform and get attention, versus Davidson’s freedom to promote a more radical agenda.

Shane Jones ‘genuinely forgot’, Sage ‘memory let her down’

Earlier this week Minister of Regional Handouts Shane Jones said he never received advice that a waste-to-energy scheme he granted funds to was badly flawed, but after evidence was released that showed he had been fully briefed he now says he forgot about it.

RNZ: Jones says he forgot about officals’ warnings project was a lemon

Mr Jones granted $350,000 for a feasibility study for a West Coast waste-to-energy scheme – despite experts rubbishing it.

He then had to put it on ice after RNZ told him the main man behind the scheme had been referred to the Serious Fraud Office.

When asked earlier this week why he had backed the scheme given Environment Ministry experts were saying the project was a total lemon – Mr Jones responded that he’d never received the advice and even if he had it would have made no difference.

“If [the Ministry for the Environment] believe that they are an authoritative source for all that kind of information, then the fact that they had one email that I have never seen, knew nothing about, suggests to me that it’s just part of the Darwinistic bureaucratic debate.”

A few hours after that story aired some public servants got in touch with RNZ and provided an email trail showing their minister was fully briefed by his official John Doorbar and he knew full-well experts considered it a lemon.

Mr Jones said he genuinely just forgot all about it.

“Obviously so busy and so many things floating around in the square head that I overlooked that one.”

Jones is at risk of appearing like a loose cannon with what he says, and a law unto himself and with the billion dollars a year he has to hand out to projects in the regions.

Another minister who has had trouble remembering who she has had meetings with is Eugenie Sage – Green Party MP changes tune on EPA meeting

Eugenie Sage now says she didn’t meet with the EPA’s chief executive Allan Freeth when she previously said she did, and doesn’t think she discussed the EPA’s controversial chief scientist with him like she said she had.

The scientist Jacqueline Rowarth resigned this year after Ms Sage, the associate Environment Minister, and others raised concerns about her conduct with Dr Freeth.

As well as forwarding a highly critical article about Dr Rowarth to the EPA, Ms Sage told Parliament 10 days ago she met with Dr Freeth and discussed her.

“I advised the EPA chief executive that my office had received correspondence expressing some concerns about media comments by the chief scientist – I was told the matter was in hand, there was no substantive discussion,” Ms Sage told the House.

Those comments led to accusations from National that Ms Sage had inappropriately interferred in staff matters at the EPA.

They have led to Dr Freeth returning to Parliament today, to explain why he told MPs he’d had “absolutely no discussions” with Ms Sage on the matter.

Now Ms Sage says she was wrong all along – and that her memory let her down.

“I was relying on my memory, and when we checked it was actually a meeting with the Ministry for the Environment – not with the EPA, so when I raised that (Dr Rowarth’s behaviour) it was with the chief executive of the MfE.”

Modest wins but big possibilities for the Greens

Compared to NZ First the Greens had modest wins on policy and ministerial positions, but they still have a big opportunity to achieve some of their goals.

Their ministerial appointments:

James Shaw

  • Minister for Climate Change
  • Minister of Statistics
  • Associate Minister of Finance

Dealing with climate change is Shaw’s big ambition and he now has a chance to do that, especially given similar ambitions of Labour (Jacinda Ardern has named it as the ‘nuclear issue’ of the current generation) and NZ First.

I don’t know whether he will have a major influence with Grant Robertson in Finance (they know each other well, having competed in the Wellington Central electorate for three elections now.

But it will be invaluable for a Green leader and MP to learn the realities of juggling needs, wants and not a bottomless pit of money, compared to the naive idealism of many Greens.

Julie Anne Genter

  • Minister for Women
  • Associate Minister of Health
  • Associate Minister of Transport

Learning the ropes as a Minister for Women will be useful experience, but Genter may make most impact as an Associate.

Minister of Transport Phil Twyford has a huge workload (Housing and Urban Development) so Genter, recognised within the transportation industry as an expert, may contribute strongly.

And as Associate Minister of Health I presume she will take over the role Peter Dunne had dealing with drugs, both medicinal and recreational.

There is a promise to lift restrictions on medicinal cannabis almost immediately, plus a promise of a referendum on recreational cannabis. There is also support across Labour, NZ First and Greens to treat all drug problems as more of a health issue than a crime issue.

On these issues Genter may be a high profile and popular Associate Minister.

Eugenie Sage

  • Minister of Conservation
  • Minister for Land Information
  • Associate Minister for the Environment

Despite a low profile Sage is probably one of the more sensible and better respected Green MPs. She has a background in Forest & Bird and Environment Canterbury.

She will be working with Minister for the Environment David Parker, who has a very heavy workload with other portfolios, but also alongside another associate Minister Nanaia Mahuta.

Jan Logie

  • Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice (Domestic and Sexual Violence Issues)

A relatively minor role but an important one. Sexual violences issues have been addressed a bit better than in the past but still neglected too much, with support organisations struggling for funding. Logie could make a real difference here, and if she does she will be applauded by many. She will need to take care she doesn’t alienate a demographic that she needs to have onside with her – men.

As stated these are fairly modest responsibilities compared to what NZ First MPs have, but they enable the Greens to address core issues they have been championing from Opposition for two decades.

If they do things well they could make a significant difference.  Perhaps their biggest challenge is transitioning from being advocates and activists and critics to very different roles as movers and shakers.

I hope they succeed in shaking things up and moving New Zealand society in a better direction.

Cross-party support for earthquake legislation

Parliamentary parties are working together on emergency legislation to help sort things out after the earthquakes.

NZ Herald: Emergency quake legislation on the way after cross-party meeting

The Government has today met with opposition parties to discuss what emergency legislation could be introduced to skirt usual consenting processes and aid the earthquake recovery.

A spokeswoman for Acting Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee confirmed the approach.

“There was a cross-party meeting this morning to discuss legislative options but it is very early days.”

Labour Party leader Andrew Little, speaking to the Herald from Kaikoura, has indicated his party will support the emergency legislation.

“The Government put up the things they have in mind. All the parties were there. There are more meetings to go before legislation is introduced, which the plan is to be next week.

“We have indicated support, subject to appropriate checks and balances…but our people who were [at the meeting] described it as constructive.”

It’s good to see this inclusiveness, putting the needs of the affected people and regions first.

Little said he believed the Government had learned lessons after the introduction of emergency legislation following the Canterbury earthquakes.

“I think it [emergency legislation] is natural in order to get stuff done – particularly now you have a town the size of Kaikoura and its importance to the tourist industry totally isolated at the moment, you do want some expedited powers.

Little has taken a responsible approach to the earthquakes, and has been included from the start by the Government in assessing the damage and the problems.

The Whale Watch boat berths have been uplifted and can now only be used at high tide.

Yesterday Little said that repairs to the harbour at Kaikoura should be fast tracked rather than go through a lengthy consent process so that tourist and fishing businesses can resume as soon as possible.

But there may be some tensions.

The road freighting industry has lobbied the Government not to be “sensitive” about repairing SH1 and to bulldoze rubble into the sea.

Some of the slips have already covered sea shores. If they were left to weather naturally there would be further subsidence into the sea, it is part of normal erosion processes. But:

Green Party primary industries spokesperson Eugenie Sage said today that view was shortsighted.

“Fixing the road and rail links is obviously quite critical and urgent, but dumping thousands of tonnes of rubble into the sea risks killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

“Nature-based tourism, whale-watching, swimming with dolphins and fisheries like the cray and paua fisheries are absolutely critical to Kaikoura’s economy.”

Whales and dolphins shouldn’t be an issue, they are found further out to sea.

Seals congregate and breed on the rocky shores. They will have been affected but their numbers have increased markedly over that last fifty years so should have no trouble re-establishing themselves.

The crayfish and paua fisheries have already been badly affected by the natural affects of the earthquakes, in the main by uplift of shallow shores.

“We don’t want to reestablish the transport link at the expense of a healthy coastal marine environment and healthy fisheries.”.

In the main it’s unlikely that pushing slip debris a bit further out into the sea will have a major effect. Obviously they will have to take care if any of the slips are in ecologically sensitive areas, but the vast majority of the coastline will remain unaffected by slip debris.

It will be good if all parties are on board with emergency legislation.