Green Minister criticised for ‘rubber stamping’ foreign purchases of land

Green MP and Minister of Land Information Eugenie Sage is under fire again, this time for approving 21 applications to sell land to ‘foreigners’.

I think this illustrates the contrast between the ideals when in opposition and the reality of Government responsibilities – “I’m bound by the law, and as a minister, I implement the law.”

RNZ:  Green MP Eugenie Sage accused of ‘rubber-stamping’ land sales to foreigners

Eugenie Sage is being accused of continuing National’s practice of “rubber-stamping” the sale of sensitive land to foreigners.

New figures reveal the land information minister and Green MP has approved nearly every application to cross her desk over nine months, rejecting just 30 hectares out of almost 60,000 hectares.

Between 1 November and 26 July, Ms Sage approved 21 applications covering about 55,957 hectares. She turned down two requests relating to 30 hectares.

But Ms Sage said most of approved land – roughly 40,000 hectares – related to the sale of Mount White Station, a sheep and beef farm in Canterbury.

In that case, the Czech buyer already had permanent residency and his wife and children were New Zealand citizens.

“There was very limited opportunity for discretion because … it had only been triggered as an application under the Overseas Investment Act because he was out of the country for a period.

“I’m bound by the law, and as a minister, I implement the law.”

Many of the other applications related to forestry which was a government priority area, she said.

“We need more investment in forestry to meet the billion trees’ commitment to ensure that we are sequestering enough carbon to meet our climate change objectives.”

There appears to be a clash of policy priorities here – something common in Government, especially when several parties want different things done.

But I think that Labour and NZ First had both campaigned against foreign purchases of land, so all three parties seem to have taken different positions on this once in power.

Former Green MP Sue Bradford is warning the news will stir up more disquiet among the party’s supporters after an earlier backlash over Ms Sage’s decision to allow a Chinese water bottling giant to expand.

“Her role is meaningless. The party’s role is meaningless,” Ms Bradford told RNZ.

She was shocked Ms Sage approved the sale of so much land to overseas people.

“It’s virtually just rubber-stamping.

“You’d think that either [the Greens would] move their person out of the role or they’d negotiate a damn sight harder with their coalition partners about changing policy on it.”

Bradford has never experienced being in Government.

Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa spokesperson Murray Horton said the approval rate made a “mockery” of the government’s promises to curb foreign investment.

“The Greens need to be a bit bolder, frankly. They’re in government for the first time ever.

“They have a mandate from their members and the people who vote for them to actually establish a point of difference.”

A mandate from 6% of voters is hardly a mandate to make bold changes.

It could also be argued that there is no mandate for Labour+NZ First+Greens to slash foreign purchases because that was never put to the voters as a joint policy.

However some changes have been made, and it is subject to one of the many reviews initiated by the current Government:

The government extended the Overseas Investment Office’s oversight in November and banned house sales to most foreigners in August.

Ministers also directed officials to review the Overseas Investment Act with changes expected by 2020.

Perhaps they can jointly seek a mandate in the next election for stopping foreign purchases.


More pressure on Sage: Minister challenged over Mackenzie greening (Newshub)

Crown decisions are allowing greater agricultural intensification in the Mackenzie Basin, new research has found.

The academic research, published last week in the Journal of NZ Grasslands, and funded by the business ministry, reveals two-thirds of intensive development in the Mackenzie since 2003 has been on Crown-owned land or land freeholded through tenure review. (Tenure review is a voluntary process which allows farmers to buy a portion of a Crown-owned pastoral lease, with the balance added to the conservation estate.) That reversed the trend before 2003, when almost two-thirds of intensification was on land that was already privately owned.

A big factor in the increase in farm developments was discretionary consents issued by the Commissioner of Crown Lands on pastoral leases.

Given Eugenie Sage is minister of both Land Information and Conservation, the article says it’s clear who has the power to make enduring and effective changes, to protect vulnerable land. “It is the Crown itself that can change its patterns of decisions to alter the trends in intensification. The choice and the power reside with the Minister of Land Information.”

Being a Minister can be a tough job.

Predator free project in the Mackenzie Country

When the National Government proposed a goal in 2016 of a predator free country by 2050 – see Predator free by 2050 – it raised both doubt (that it could be achieved), and praise.

Since then a number of projects have been announced as steps towards this, including some around Dunedin (one affects me directly, which I support). See also Predator free far north,and Twelve more Kiwibank Predator Free Communities announced…

Yesterday Green MP and Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage announced the biggest predator free area so far: Inspirational predator free Mackenzie project announced

A large predator free area featuring some of the South Island’s most majestic landscapes is the long-term vision of a multi-million-dollar predator control project announced by the Minister of Conservation, Eugenie Sage today.

“Encompassing 310,000 hectares between the snowy mountain lands of Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, glacier fed lakes and the iconic drylands of the upper Mackenzie Basin, the Te Manahuna Aoraki ‘mainland island’ is inspirational,” Eugenie Sage said.

“I am pleased to launch this fantastic project. Te Manahuna Aoraki will help to preserve and protect the habitats of 23 threatened species including wrybill/ngutuparore, robust grasshoppers, kea, and the world’s rarest wading bird, the kakī/black stilt.

The Department of Conservation (DOC), NEXT Foundation, Te Rūnanga o Arowhenua, Te Rūnanga o Waihao and Te Rūnanga o Moeraki are the project’s founding partners. They are joined by high country landholders, and investors Aotearoa Foundation, Jasmine Social Investments, Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC) and Predator Free 2050 Ltd.

“A $4.5 million investment will fund an initial three-year phase to extend protection for threatened species and to test predator and pest control techniques for the rest of the 20-year project.

“The project will use natural barriers including 3,000 metre high mountain peaks, ridgelines and waterways to prevent or reduce re-invasion of predators like rats, possums and stoats – keeping them away from our precious threatened species.

“Building on existing partnerships with Ngaī Tahu, landholders, and local councils this nationally significant biodiversity project builds on decades of DOC’s biodiversity work and the help of many volunteers.

“Supporting this work is the opening of the new captive breeding facilities for kakī/black stilt at Twizel. Funded by Global Wildlife Conservation, the new hatchery and aviary will play an important role in boosting the population of this cherished but threatened bird.

“For the kakī population to thrive, it needs its braided river habitat to be healthy and riverbeds to be clear of introduced weeds and protected from introduced predators. Te Manahuna Aoraki will go a long way to ensuring threatened species calling the Mackenzie Basin home are protected.

“DOC biodiversity ranger, Scott Theobald played an important role in the Te Manahuna Aoraki restoration project before he was tragically killed in a recent helicopter crash in Wanaka along with his colleague Paul Hondelink and their pilot Nick Wallis.

“All three men were committed to conservation and pioneers in their fields.  Scott’s knowledge and advice regarding control of black-backed gulls and rabbits, and his expertise in the construction of the robust grasshopper protection fence will be remembered always as Te Manahuna Aoraki is brought to life,” Eugenie Sage said.

It’s great to see this. Time will tell whether these are unattainable ideals or not, but significantly reducing predators (and keeping numbers down) will make a big difference to the country.

In the area I live they have had a big campaign over the last couple if years to reduce possum numbers after a bovine TB outbreak on several farms. This has made a big difference to plants and gardens and the area of native bush on my property and in the adjoining hills.  It hasn’t eliminated the problem (a possum or possums have been making a mess of rose plants recently) but both plant life and bird life have improved noticeably.

The Mackenzie project and other predator free zones are a beginning. Hopefully they will be largely successful, they will grow, and different areas will eventually merge.

 

Consultation leads to tahr cull concessions

After belated consultation with hunting groups it appears that concessions have been granted by the Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage on tahr cull plans.

RNZ (21 September): Tahr population out of control

There’s concern not enough is being done to control Tahr in New Zealand.

Numbers of the Himalayan tahr have shot up, the population is now five times what it should be, which could threaten our native alpine ecosystems.

A plan has been proposed to reduce the population, but hunting organisations are opposed to it.

To explain the situation, we’re joined by Forest & Bird’s Regional Manager for Canterbury, Nicky Snoyink.

Your NZ (27 September): Conservation minister versus hunters, National on tahr control

National have been having a spat with Green MP and Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage, in support of hunting interests opposed to the cull.

…this is an unresolved issue put on hold for now.

RNZ (28 September): Bid to take government to court over Tahr cull plans

A fighting fund of $145,325 has been raised through Givealittle to pay for lawyers, if talks between the government and the hunting sector, set for Monday, do not go well.

The cull is opposed by the National Party as well as by hunters, and there is even confusion about when it will start.

But the Minister for Conservation has given parliament details about how it will happen, with the animals herded into groups with helicopters, and then killed with shotguns.

Eugenie Sage was answering a question from the National Party MP Todd McClay about slaughter by helicopter-borne hunters.

“I have not instructed the Department [of Conservation] to do that,” she told MPs.

“But the department will be using aerial control, it needs to do the control operation now, and yes it will be using shotguns in the same way that hunters use guns to kill Tahr themselves. ”

Ms Sage said the operation had to be done quickly before a new breeding season started.

RNZ (2 October): Hunting lobby wins concessions over tahr cull

A meeting was held yesterday between Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage and hunting groups including the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association and the Game Animal Council as well as conservation groups such as Forest and Bird, and iwi Ngāi Tahu with the hunting industry emerging confident at the outcome.

The hunting fraternity say Ms Sage has pulled back from positions which the industry had found unacceptable and forced her to re-think plans to cull 10,000 Himalayan Tahr from the Southern Alps.

Former president of the Deerstalkers Association Bill O’Leary told RNZ that a draft operational plan was agreed on at the meeting which would reduce the number of tahr to be killed – but he did not give a number.

He said it was agreed that the original plan put out by the Department of Conservation was not fit for purpose and needed modification, including the number of animals that would be culled.

“The agreement as such was not so much that they had to be reduced, which we all agree on, as by how many and where and who would do the job,” Mr O’Leary said.

He also said there would be changes to the locations of the cull and a reduction in the numbers of males to be killed, which would preserve horned tahr for trophy hunters.

Mr O’Leary said the meeting was productive and attended by virtually everyone with an interest in tahr, with a set of general principles being agreed to.

Initially Ms Sage had proposed culling 10,000 tahr over the next eight months, but she said last night that DOC had taken on an adaptive management approach, and would cull 6000 over the next six weeks.

Ms Sage said this would be reviewed after the summer, but that DOC still had a commitment to cull 10,000 tahr by the end of July.

She also said DOC would not be targeting bull tahr outside of national parks.

Ms Sage said there are an estimated 35,000 tahr on public conservation land and the original Himalayan Tahr Control Plan forged back in 1993 was to limit the numbers to 10,000.

It may be that Sage is learning that consultation as a Green MP/environmental activist is quite different to the wider considerations and consultation required of a Minister. It is good to see that she has been prepared to listenand act on concerns.

Conservation minister versus hunters, National on tahr control

National have been having a spat with Green MP and Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage, in support of hunting interests opposed to the cull: Hunting group threatens legal action over DoC’s mass cull of Himalayan tahr

A recreational hunting group is threatening court action in an attempt to prevent the Department of Conservation’s (DoC’s) mass cull of the Himalayan tahr.

The New Zealand Tahr Foundation is unhappy with DoC’s decision to cull 10,000 tahr on public conservation land in the South Island, including the Westland-Tai Poutini and Aoraki Mt Cook National Parks, over the next 10 months.

DoC estimates there are at least 35,600 tahr on public conservation land – 25,600 more than allowed under the Himalayan Thar Control Plan 1993.

The Tahr Liaison Group, made up of organisations with hunting interests and Ngāi Tahu, will help reduce the numbers by hunting an extra 7500 – overall halving the population if successful.

New Zealand Tahr Foundation Treasurer Kaylyn Pinney says the group just wants its consideration to be heard by DoC.

“It think this is pretty clear this is important for everybody,” she says.

“You can’t just walk in and take away the biggest resource to the hunting industry and expect us not to stand up for ourselves.”

Yesterday from National MP Sarah Dowie:  20k signatures calling on Sage to cut the tahr cull

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage needs to listen to the almost 20,000 Kiwis who have signed my petition in less than 15 hours and halt her cull of tens of thousands of tahr, due to start this weekend, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.

“Ms Sage’s decision to kill these tahr based on anecdotal evidence and without a proper consultation process with recreational hunters and the hunting industry is appalling.

“This is not based on science and is an unacceptable slap in the face for the hundreds of thousands of recreational hunters who make a difference on the ground for conservation.

“Not only that, Ms Sage has also specifically instructed Department of Conservation to cull bull tahr – worth an estimated $14,000 each to the booming hunting tourism industry.

“National believes that conservation should be based on science, not ideology. Like the hunting community, National believes tahr numbers do need to be sensibly managed.

“Instead of taking a pragmatic approach, Ms Sage is ignoring advice from hunting representatives like the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association who have proposed a managed hunter-led population reduction over three years.

“The Minister is arming DOC rangers with guns and chartering helicopters as we speak.

“The cull starts Sunday. It must be stopped.”

The petition calling on Eugenie Sage to Stop the Tahr Cull can be found here.

There was some controversy over the petition that I don’t have details on.

Sage responded:  National prioritise invasive species above alpine ecosystems and landscapes

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage says the National Party’s petition to stop control of Himalayan tahr shows that National doesn’t understand conservation, and is resorting in opposition to a bizarre form of shouting for the sake of political point scoring.

“Truly, a petition by National to “save tahr” is absurd,” Eugenie Sage says.

“Whilst in government, National were missing in action protecting our special alpine landscapes and ecosystems from heavy browsing and trampling by a ballooning population of Himalayan tahr.

“Despite the international importance of New Zealand’s alpine plants, many of which are only found here in Aotearoa, the Department of Conservation was starved of funding and tahr numbers were allowed to explode.

“Once again, this government is having to clean up after nine years of neglect. I am taking the necessary steps to fix the damage done, and making decisions that protect our biodiversity and beautiful indigenous plants. I am proud to stand up for our native taonga in the Ka Tiritiri o Moana/Southern Alps.

“The previous government did not ensure that the limits in the Himalayan Tahr Control Plan from 1993 were kept, and numbers of tahr have ballooned three times higher than allowed.

“We’ve resurrected the Tahr Liasion Group that provides hunters, conservation and other stakeholders with input because we recognise that communities love our alpine landscapes.

“I will continue to engage with the Tahr Liason Group and with hunting groups such the Game Animal Council and NZ Deerstalkers on this important issue.

“I’m not sure if National are aware of the science on this, but tahr are an invasive species that eat their way through our precious native plants. They are destroying the unique New Zealand biodiversity in the Southern Alps, a stunning part of New Zealand that New Zealanders want to protect.

“Would National seriously rather protect invasive tahr than protect our world-renowned natural landscapes? That is what at risk here.

“I suggest National do some homework before continuing to peddle this petition,” Eugenie Sage said.

Deerstalkers Association is against this (ODT) ‘Search and destroy’ tahr cull criticised

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage’s proposals to cull 17,500 Himalayan mountain tahr has been described as an unnecessary ”large-scale search and destroy” operation – destined to end up in court.

Almost $120,000 has been pledged to the Tahr Foundation toward legal costs by hunters during the past five days, since Ms Sage announced the cull.

In a letter to members of the New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association, national president Trevor Chappell said yesterday Ms Sage’s proposal to cull so deeply into a herd was ”unprecedented”.

”If it means that a court injunction needs to be sought – so be it,” Mr Chappell said.

He believed Ms Sage’s stance could escalate further into a ”wholesale slaughter” of introduced Fiordland wapati and red deer and the sika deer of the Kaimanawas and Kawekas.

”Minister Sage has already indicated there will be no recognition of Herds of Special Interest on her watch. As these herds have relatively defined areas, they may be next on the list.”

Mr Chappell said ”We will oppose unnecessary 1080 poison drops on our game animals and we will vigorously oppose the unconsulted decimation of the tahr herd.”

NZDA agreed tahr numbers were too high, but proposed a reduction over three years.

Late Wednesday (National Party): Minister Sage forced to postpone her tahr hunt

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has been forced to postpone the mass tahr cull she ordered to start this weekend because of huge pressure from recreational hunting and tourism industry, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.

“Ms Sage personally ordered the culling of tens of thousands of tahr without adequately consulting with the hunting industry and recreational hunters who would be directly affected.

“While I welcome the fact that Ms Sage has delayed her cull this weekend, I am disappointed it has come to this.

“While National supports managing tahr numbers the Minister has no excuses for not adequately consulting with the hunting industry and recreational hunters.

“The hunting sector is advocating a responsible plan to manage tahr numbers rather than the slaughter of tens of thousands of animals. If Ms Sage had properly consulted, she would have a better understanding of this.

“Ms Sage must halt the cull until she has listened to advice from hunting representatives like the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association who have proposed a managed hunter-led population reduction over three years.

“Almost 23,000 concerned New Zealanders have signed my petition calling on her to stop the cull. She must listen to them.”

So this is an unresolved issue put on hold for now.

Sage again seems to have discovered that Green ideals can be tricky to implement in the real world of politics.

 

Greens trying to attract attention on social, environmental issues

The business end of the Green Party – their ministers – have had a low profile and have been overshadowed by Labour and NZ First. This hasn’t been helped by Julie Anne Genter being on maternity leave, but James Shaw and Eugenie Sage aren’t attention seeker types of MPs anyway. They have largely pout their heads down and got on with their new jobs.

But they are trying to change this, albeit in a very low key way.

Stuff:  Greens look to social issues and rivers in second year of Government

The Green Party is keen to advance social policies in their second year of Government, like a promise to give free mental health services to anyone under 25.

The party put out a release looking ahead to their second year of Government on Saturday morning, despite the anniversary not falling for another month and a half.

Remarkably I went looking for this and can’t find anything other than the Stuff report – I can’t find it on the Green Party website, nor on their Facebook page, nor on the Green or Shaw’s Twitter feeds. What are their PR people playing at?

In it, co-leader James Shaw talks up the party’s priorities for the second year of the Government.

“Our key objectives for our second year in a Government with Labour and New Zealand First will include transforming our social safety net so no child is left in poverty,” Shaw said.

“We’re going to work really hard to address the mental health crisis in New Zealand, working towards accessible mental health services irrespective of where you live or what you earn, with free mental health services for anyone under 25.”

That mental health policy was campaigned on by the Greens and is included in the Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Labour Party – so has a good chance of actually happening.

If NZ First don’t hobble it. Shaw doesn’t sound overly confident here.

But other changes to protect New Zealand’s waterways and introduce a rental warrant of fitness have not been agreed to by the other governing parties.

“No one said this was going to be easy. This Government holds a diversity of views, just like our community does, and everything we work on must be worked through together, as adults,” Shaw said.

It won’t be easy. Not only do Greens need to get Labour into giving their policies some sort of priority, they also have to convince NZ First to back them as well, or National.

“That is the beauty of a diverse Government and a world-leading MMP voting system, the alternative is US-style politics with mega parties that hold all the power, representing the few.”

Lipstick on a pig of a governing arrangement?

The tussles between Labour and Winston Peters are looking ugly enough, and Peters is likely to be even less willing to concede policies and power to Shaw.

As much as Shaw may like to promote a Green wave of progress, he doesn’t seem to be a strong leader and he has a weak political hand to play with.

He isn’t a politician that naturally attracts attention through controversy, and especially after Metiria Turei’s disaster last year he is unlikely to want to risk a stunt approach.

So what else can Shaw do but plug away nicely and quietly? Probably not a lot.

It doesn’t help when the party puts out a release on a Saturday morning, a very slow political news time, and does not make it available on any of the major social media platforms nor their website as far as I can see – and I went looking.

Green differences over 1080

Groups and individuals have staunchly opposed the use of 1080 to control pests like possums and rats, but the Department of Conservation and conservation groups see it as an essential tool in protecting native species.

Some take extreme measures. RNZ: Loose nuts threaten DOC staff safety

There are fears for the safety of conservation workers and contractors after recent attacks on their vehicles.

In three instances wheel nuts on the vehicles were loosened in acts believed to be connected to protests over the Conservation Department’s use of 1080 poison for pest management.

In the most serious case a contractor avoided injury when a wheel came off while he was driving, after its nuts had been loosened.

DOC director-general Lou Sanson said toxic bait had been put in a staff letterbox and he had also seen other threatening posts on Facebook recently.

“Threats to put wires across gullies to bring down helicopters and a number of brochures put on DoC vehicles depicting targets of helicopters.”

He said it was extremely disappointing as DoC staff were working hard to try and preserve New Zealand’s native birds.

“Rats, stoats and possums have been winning. We know we can turn it around and we have.”

“Keas have made a great recovery in nearly 20 percent of the Southern Alps and there has also been an amazing recovery in kākā and mohua in South Westland.”

Mr Sanson said people had a right to protest but it had gone too far.

There seems to be a difference within the Green Party on this.

Newshub: National MP accuses Marama Davidson of undermining Conservation Minister

National MP Sarah Dowie says Marama Davidson has undermined fellow Green Party MP and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage with comments over 1080.

Ms Davidson said on Wednesday protesters who threw dead birds and fake pellets on the steps of parliament had “valid concerns”.

“We need to listen, and we need to have community-led conversations about this,” she told Stuff.

“They are trying to be heard, and we will need to keep listening.”

“There are some concerns about 1080 but it is the major tool we’ve got in the tool box to assist particularly in the more remote and mountainous areas,” Ms Sage told Stuff in June.

Ms Dowie said it was not a good look for the Greens to have two MPs apparently disagreeing about the poison.

“Ms Sage will be highly embarrassed by Marama Davidson’s comments to the anti-1080 lobby,” she said.

“She’s basically undermined Ms Sage’s efforts with respect to the protection of our biodiversity.”

Ms Dowie said the division may go even further, considering another governing party’s stance on the poison.

“New Zealand First actually campaigned on banning the use of 1080,” she said.

Both National and Labour say 1080 is the most effective pest control tool New Zealand has. They have the support of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, the Department of Conservation, the Environmental Protection Authority, and lobby groups including Forest and Bird, Federated Farmers, WWF and Ospri.

A tweet from ex-Green MP Kevin Hague yesterday:

 

There seems to be a clash between the environmental Greens and the activist Greens.

Shades of Green – “cracks in the green revolution”

Greens have not been united on everything in the past, but in opposition they were at least able to appear to be largely working together.

A simple reality of being in Government means that those MPs who are ministers – James Shaw, Julie Anne Genter and Eugenie Sage, and to a lesser extent Parliamentary Under-Secretary Jan Logie, have heavy workloads, and have had to make decisions that follow the will of Government rather than the ideals of the party.

The other four MPs have much more of a free rein, and three of them in particular are fairly prominent doing their own things on social media.

Image result for shades of green

It is now effectively a party of two halves.

And party has been particularly divided over their historic strong opposition to ‘waka jumping’ type legislation and their current opposition, and their decision to vote in favour of Winston Peters’ controversial bill.

Green supporters often react badly to criticism – some of them fervently believe their own hype and can’t countenance any possibility they and their ideals may not be perfect.

So they are not likely to take Matthew Hooton’s column in the Herald today very well – Cracks in the green revolution

True Greens are not concerned about climate change, poverty or endangered species per se, but see them as mere symptoms of the real problem, which is capitalism and the population growth it allows.

I wouldn’t call them ‘true Greens’, that’s a label more appropriate for Jeanette Fitzsimons and Rod Donald, but there is a strong green mantra that social revolution is the main aim, with the claim that that will somehow fix environmental problems.

Hooton describes the current shades of Greens. James Shaw:

Far from having Norman’s True Green whakapapa, Shaw is a Wellington technocrat more at home at his former employer PwC than at a radicals’ rally.

He is part of a three-strong faction in Parliament but the other members are Labour’s David Parker and National’s Todd Muller, with whom he is trying to establish a multiparty consensus on climate change that might not save the planet but would certainly destroy the party.

Many Greens seem to abhor any attempt to work with ‘the enemy’, National.

Recently appointed co-leader Marama Davidson:

Davidson joins Hone Harawira as the only genuine radicals to have become party leaders.

It’s unsurprising that Davidson declined to participate in post-election negotiations with Labour.

Such processes are far too bourgeois for someone who deeply believes the New Zealand state is illegitimate.

Davidson may lead a faction of one in Parliament but she is a cult figure among Green activists who plan to insert her disciples into key party positions at its AGM this weekend.

The rest of the Green caucus:

Julie-Ann Genter is the smartest Green Minister and a genuine expert on transport and urban planning but her American heritage is a problem among the base.

Eugenie Sage is a genuine environmentalist rather than True Green but gets no credit for her wins on oil and gas, conservation funding and plastic bags.

Jan Logie worries more about the spirit of Te Tiriti o Waitangi than about the details of the Paris Climate Accord.

The party’s longest-serving MP, Gareth Hughes, is on the outer, having been overlooked for promotion despite more than eight years in Parliament.

Hughes has a very low profile. He has championed environmental issues, but seems to have lost any drive he may have had – and that’s debatable. He is perhaps best known for his ‘Hey Clint’ moment, asking a staffer what he should say.

Chloe Swarbrick, 24, and Golriz Ghahraman, 37, compete to be the darling of the party’s millennials with their eyes on the longer term.

Swarbrick seems to have taken on her job as MP seriously and has been prepared to work with any other MP or party to try to achieve some wins, especially on cannabis law reform. I think that her efforts so far have been impressive, more so because she is a first term MP.

However Ghahraman has stumbled from controversy to controversy on social media. She joined with Davidson and supporters this week claiming to be female and non-white victims.

Are Davidson and Ghahraman a serious threat to ‘the establishment’? Or are they more of a threat to the Green Party.

While the Green ministers have low profiles buried in their portfolios, the party revolutionaries have time to get attention. I’m not sure this face of the Greens is attractive to the soft Green voters they need to rebuild party support.

All the Green MPs are learning the realities of being a part of Government, and this will evolve over the current term.

They have major challenges in trying to avoid being split by fights for power that any political party (ok, except NZ First and ACT) have.

If Davidson and her supporting faction see a revolutionary takeover within the Greens as necessary on the road to drive out ‘the establishment’ then the Greens are in for challenging times.

Will they split or grow?

Plastic bag ban

The Government announced today that a ‘single use’ plastic bag ban will be phased in over the next year.

I’m all for drastically reducing plastic bag use, and plastic use. Waste plastic is creating a lot of problems.

Some large retailers are already at least working towards this, so the ban will just push some of this along.

I’m less sure that a one year phase in. It mat depend on the detail of the plan – especially whether suitable alternatives become available quickly and economically.

There is a risk this will add to business uncertainty, but it will be difficult to quantify that.


Single-use plastic bags to be phased out

Single-use plastic shopping bags will be phased out over the next year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage announced today.

“We’re phasing-out single-use plastic bags so we can better look after our environment and safeguard New Zealand’s clean, green reputation,” said Jacinda Ardern.

“We’re listening to New Zealanders who want us to take action on this problem. This year 65,000 Kiwis signed a petition calling for an outright ban. It’s also the biggest single subject school children write to me about.

“Every year in New Zealand we use hundreds of millions of single-use plastic bags – a mountain of bags, many of which end up polluting our precious coastal and marine environments and cause serious harm to all kinds of marine life, and all of this when there are viable alternatives for consumers and business.

“It’s great that many people are already changing the way they shop. But it’s important we take the time now to get this right so we can help all New Zealanders adjust their shopping habits.

“We need to be far smarter in the way we manage waste and this is a good start.

“We are a Government determined to face up to New Zealand’s environmental challenges. Just like climate change, we’re taking meaningful steps to reduce plastics pollution so we don’t pass this problem to future generations,” said Jacinda Ardern.

Eugenie Sage said many countries and major cities around the world have successfully taken action on plastic pollution in recent years. She was confident New Zealanders would also embrace the change.

“Public calls for action have encouraged a significant number of retailers, including supermarkets, to move on single-use plastic bags. We want to support their efforts by ensuring the retail industry moves together in a fair and effective way.”

She encouraged people to read the discussion document and share their views.

“The Government will work alongside supermarkets and other retailers to help people make the change to reusable bags and we want to hear from New Zealanders as to how we can best do this.

“We’re proposing a six month phase-out period and we’re confident this is a change we can make together.

“New Zealanders are proud of our country’s clean, green reputation and we want to help ensure we live up to it. Phasing out single-use plastic bags helps do that,” said Eugenie Sage.

People have until Friday 14 September to share their views. This includes options for the date the phase-out is to be complete by, what bags should be included, any retailers that should be exempted, and how best to help people with the transition.

To have your say visit www.mfe.govt.nz.

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.