Political ups and downs

From Stuff’s weekly summary of political ups and downs.

UP

Social Housing Minister Amy Adams: If you can’t beat ’em join ’em. Adams announced the government’s plans to build 34,000 new homes in Auckland over the next 10 years and got big ups even if, as her critics claim, she nicked the policy from Labour and there’s some trickery over the numbers.

It’s not exactly nicked policy. National had to be seen to be doing something to address the severe Auckland housing shortage, and their plans are significantly different to Labour’s.

Labour leader Andrew Little: The Labour congress and Little’s property speculator tax got his agenda back on track and got people talking about Labour policy again rather than splits and divisions.

Prime Minister Bill English: Japan’s commitment to the trans Pacific Partnership Agreement is a huge boost to New Zealand and ensured English’s trip there was a success.

DOWN

Greens co-leader James Shaw. Shaw claimed  Donald Trump was the “worst world leader since Hitler“, SAD. SILLY.

Alfred Ngaro. The junior government minister earned himself a dressing down after crossing the line and threatening financial reprisal to groups that disagreed with the government line.

Shaw’s claim was embarrassing for him but probably won’t be very damaging.

Ngaro’s threat was seriously embarrassing for National and could lurk through the election campaign as an example of the arrogance of third term power.

From: Below the beltway: Amy Adams gets the plaudits for policy some say she nicked and James Shaw ends up with egg on his face

 

Shaw embarrassed by Trump-Hitler comparison

James Shaw accepts “it wasn’t really an appropriate comparison” when he likened Donald Trump to Hitler. It was a dumb thing to say.

NZ Herald reported on it here (with some irrelevant reactions from Andrew Little and Bill English):

Shaw said Trump was “the most dangerous person since Adolf Hitler” on TV show Back Benches on Wednesday night as part of a panel of politicians.

Shaw said he accepted it was not an appropriate comparison.

“I said that in the context of a pub politics show and I was being hyperbolic, and it wasn’t really an appropriate comparison.

“However, I do think Trump has the capacity to plunge the world into chaos. The US does have safeguards, which he is testing at the moment.”

It’s understandable that some people are concerned what may happen in the world with Trump president of the United States, but there is no comparison to Hitler in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s – nothing is likely to come close to that again.

But it was way over the top and a silly thing to say no matter what the situation. This is quite embarassing for Shaw.

How Green is this PR?

When I saw this headline I thought it was relevant to a post I wanted to do:  How PR ‘completely transformed’ New Zealand politics: Metiria Turei, Green Party co-leader

But it was another sort of PR – proportional representation. The post was by the UK Electoral Reform Society.

What I wanted to write about was this ‘Public Relations’ exercise by the Greens:

c8ziucyu0aad1if

That image is very young female dominant.

Remember Jeannette Fitzsimons and Rod Donald? The current crop of Greens seem to have forgotten about the past.

The Greens are obviously trying to repackage themselves and attract more voters.

The target of this PR is not the hippy greens, nor the impoverished people the Greens say the represent, nor the Maori that Metiria Turei had seemed keen on targeting not long ago.

This is certainly a new Green image, without much green showing at all, in colour and in character.

It’s a curious combination of personal. The only ones on the North & South cover who are current MPs are co-leaders Turei and James Shaw, neither of whom look like they would be at home in a garden.

The others are all candidates for this year’s election.

Only one of them, John Hart, has stood for the Greens before. He was 18 on their list last election, and has climbed to 12 on their ‘initial list’ announced last week. If he remains around that position on their final list (after members vote on it) he stands a very good chance of becoming an MP. It doesn’t look it in the cover photo but he’s a farmer.

Next is Chloe Swarbrick, placed at 13 on the initial list so a god chance of success. She is young (22) and was given a lot of publicity by media in the Auckland mayoral contest last year, and more since then. She chose Greens to advance her political career, but she’s a young urban whose green credentials aren’t clear.

Then there’s Golriz Ghahraman, at 15 on the initial list in the maybe zone. They currently have 14 MPs and will either have to increase their vote or Ghahraman will have to improve her position on the final list. She has impressive credentials – Barrister, United Nations Consultant (International Human Rights Law, Justice), United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime – but is far from a typical Green.

And there is Hayley Holt, she has pretty much no show from 29 on the initial list (the Greens only show the Top 20 Green Party Candidates on their candidate photo page. She is “snowboarder and ballroom dancer notable for her appearances on several reality television series”. gain not a very typical greenie.

I presume the Greens have done their research and are targeting the trendy urban celebrity (mainly Auckland) voter types.

But they risk losing traditional green support.

Possibly more importantly, they may find that the fluid Green support, those who like a strong environmental voice in Parliament (I’ve voted Green on that basis in the days of Donald and Fitzsimons), may not like what they see in the New Green look.

Appropriately…

NewGreen

…is barely green.

I barely recognised James Shaw on the cover, and didn’t recognise John Hart. This is his Green candidate photo:

hart_john-005-edit

Maybe the typical North & South readers don’t like the typical Green look. (I think Hart would be a good MP).

Remember how Greens used to look?

34332-nzh

Differences over ‘tourist tax’

As usual Newshub got their weekend story out of  The Nation: Paula Bennett rejects calls for tourist tax (it wasn’t a story until Bennett said she didn’t support a tourist tax).

More than 18 million visitors come through the gates at Auckland Airport each year and Mayor Phil Goff says local government can’t cope with the tourism boom.

Instead, he says a tax could help.

“Ideally the Government could put on a bed tax across the country and a small arrival tax and share it amongst local Government – that would be most equitable,” he told Newshub.

But Ms Bennett has scuttled that, saying she’s not a fan. She says tourists already pay tax via GST, and she’s worried further taxes might deter travellers.

“We’ve got the best package in the world to deliver but we don’t want to be seen as a rip off,” she said.

Ms Bennett accepts there is pressure in some areas as a result of booming visitor numbers, but says it’s covered by the regional tourism fund, which has put forward $8.5 million to fund public toilets, car parking and freedom camping facilities.

And the story making has extended to other politicians.

But Green Party co-leader James Shaw disagreed.

“I don’t think New Zealand is going to be perceived as a rip off. It is an absolute premium destination, as you can tell from the visitor numbers,” he said.

Tourists already pay a border charge of between $22 and $26 and the Greens say that should be increased to help pay for infrastructure.

So there already is a form of a tourist tax, but the Greens support increasing it.

And NZ Herald joined in with Labour leader Andrew Little calls for tourist tax:

Labour leader Andrew Little wants a “tourist tax” charged at the border to help pay for tourism infrastructure, rejecting Tourism Minister Paula Bennett’s concerns it risked making New Zealand look like a “rip-off.”

Little said a “modest” levy would be ring-fenced to pass on to local councils to use on tourism-related infrastructure.

“We rapidly and urgently need new infrastructure and infrastructure upgrades targeted at tourists and the easiest and most efficient way to pay for it is just a border levy collected when you buy your ticket, and a mechanism to distribute it to local councils.”

Little said it would be simple to add the levy – since 2015 there has been a levy of about $22 to pay for border control added to the cost of a ticket. In its first five months, that had generated $27.72 million – well above the forecast income of $20.22 million.

That will be because of the boom in tourist numbers.

Tourists pay 15% GST on much of what the spend while in New Zealand. There is also a lot of tax generated in the tourism industry through employment (PAYE) and company tax.

And they also contribute to roading revenue through fuel tax.

While different opinions were extracted from politicians on this it is not likely to become an election issue if any tax was going to be an entry tax – not many international tourists vote.

But a ‘bed tax’ as suggested by Goff could be more contentious. It would be messy if it only applied to international visitors – would that be based on passports? Or country of residence?

It’s not surprising to see a mayor propose a Government imposed tax “and share it amongst local Government”, that would make rates rises a little less bad, but “that would be most equitable” is an interesting claim. Equitable for whom? The city where the biggest airport in the country is?

The administration (and cost of administration) of a bed tax could be an issue. There would be possibly substantial bureaucracy involved in collecting a bed tax and paying it out equitably to all the local bodies who want it.

Hotels and motels pay local body tax (called rates) as it is, why doesn’t Goff just increase the rates for hotels and motels and home stays?

The Spinoff – Turei and Shaw

An interesting interview of Green leader Metiria Turei and James Shaw at The Spinoff by Toby Manhire –  The art of the deal: The Spinoff meets the Green leaders

A follow up post looks at key aspects of it – Greens ready to govern with Winston Peters despite his ‘racist views’ – Metiria Turei

That headline raises some of the key questions of this year’s election – can Labour form a coalition with both Greens and NZ First? And what would that end up looking like in the way of priority policies?

With less than six months to a general election, the leaders of the Green Party have insisted they are ready to deal not just with their memorandum-of-understanding partners the Labour Party, but also Winston Peters’ NZ First Party, if that’s what it takes to make it to government.

In an interview for the Spinoff alongside co-leader James Shaw, part of a special series of wide-ranging election-year conversations with party leaders, Metiria Turei said the Greens and NZ First were slowly moving towards friendlier relations, and that his “racist views” were no deal-breaker.

“Oh, I really like him,” Turei told the Spinoff.

“He’s annoying as hell and all those things. But he’s given me really good political advice in the past. And you’ve just got to admire his tenacity, actually. I admire his tenacity, his staying put. For a Māori man in New Zealand politics, he’s been there for a really long time, and I don’t agree with him on lots of stuff, I’ve had huge arguments with him in public about his more racist views … but those are his views and that’s our political disagreement.”

There are some interesting views and impressions in the interview. Both Shaw and Turei come across as determined to get into Government – sort of – but don’t exude confidence that it will happen.

And can Greens shape up as a Government partner and deal with other countries? Russel Norman made a name for himself protesting at a Chinese visit to New Zealand.

While the Greens were ready to compromise in joining a government, said Turei, that did not extend to opening arms to a hypothetical visit by Donald Trump.

“We would not welcome him,” said Turei.

“What we would do in response to his visit I just can’t say, but we certainly would not welcome him, and his misogyny and his racism.”

In coalition relations you have to be able to deal with people who’s perceived behaviour runs contrary to your principles – like Winston Peters.

An interesting question that may not be answered before the election – which countries and leaders would a Green (and Labour and maybe NZ First) government not welcome to New Zealand or not actively engage with on trade and international relationships?

The Nation – James Shaw and fiscal responsibility

On The Nation (9.30 am Saturday, 10:00 am Sunday)::

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand co-leader James Shaw MP on the party’s joint fiscal responsibility pledge with Labour and its plans for election year.

See Labour-Green ‘budget rules’

Shaw and Grant Robertson put up a good show yesterday, but Shaw has to contend with Metiria Turei and the potential cost of her social agenda.

The left hasn’t wholeheartedly supported this move, with some dismayed that it seems to be little change to the so-called ‘neoliberal’ agenda.

NZH: Higher spend needed than under Labour/Green rules: Council of Trade Unions

Higher spending is needed than allowed for under an agreed set of economic rules between Labour and the Green Party, the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) says.

…the CTU, which represents more than 320,000 union members in 31 affiliated unions, is concerned about the limit on new spending the rules impose.

“We support higher levels of Government activity and investment than these rules permit. There is an urgent need. Many countries who are more successful than us socially and economically have much greater government activity,” CTU president Richard Wagstaff said.

“If an incoming Labour/Green Government is serious about fixing the problems we have in our education, health, housing and other public services, if it’s going to correct the imbalances we have in terms of pay equity, if we are going to really tackle income inequality and our environmental challenges together as a nation, then it will need to be prepared to invest significantly. That will test these rules as they stand.”

Also hovering over the joint Labour-Green campaign approach is Winston Peters and NZ First.


Shaw – the rules are new, and the first time two parties have a shared framework.

The Greens are still doing the numbers on their own tax package – it will be broadly in line with what they’ve said in the past.

Shaw supports Labour’s idea for a review of the tax system.

Shaw is promoting maximum votes for the Greens to ensure they have more say in a coalition arrangement. But the Greens are the credibility weak link.

Shaw won’t talk about specific cost cuts in relation to roading and to defence.

That’s a problem promoting something without any specifics at this early stage of the election year.  Shaw is trying to promote Green fiscal responsibility but can give no details.

“I will accept that will not get everything we want… and neither will the Labour Party” says Shaw on coalition negotiation.

SAS – should we have special forces?

Shaw says it’s important we should have an inquiry.

He doesn’t have any particular view on any particular part of the military.

New Zealand troops in Iraq? Would you pull the pin on that? “Not up to us….coalition”.

James Shaw says Kiwi troops could stay in Iraq with Donald Trump’s forces if Labour-Greens take power.

Paddy indicates what the likely news story on at 6:00 pm will be about:

Labour-Green ‘budget rules’

Labour and Greens, headed by Jamews Shaw and Grant Robertson, have launched a joint attempt to present themselves as economically responsible.

Liam Dann at NZH has Big Read: Can these politicians be trusted with the economy?

They aren’t revealing tax policy detail or spending plans, so what exactly have Labour and the Green Party cooked up with the Budget Responsibility Rules they’re signing up to today?

The parties have formally committed to staying in surplus, paying down debt and keeping core crown spending at about 30 per cent of GDP.

“It’s an important signal,” says Labour finance spokesman Grant Robertson.

“We understand that voters in September are looking for parties that are responsible with the finances but will also address the big issues around housing and health and education.”

The rules aren’t specific on policy – for example, the statement on tax is pragmatic and vague enough to allow the Greens to keep campaigning on a carbon tax.

But they do represent a statement of intent, one which is politically notable for the way it has been handled, in tandem by the respective party machines.

The message is clear, simple and directed at business and the financially comfortable middle classes who have been stubbornly loyal to National for the past nine years: vote for us and we promise won’t ruin the economy.

As the headline suggests, it is a big and detailed read.

Not addressed is an obvious difference between Labour and the Greens – Andrew Little has made it clear Labour won’t increase tax (but with some caveats) while Greens have a big shopping list.

Greens announced through Facebook:

We’ve created new budget rules with the New Zealand Labour Party to help us build a sustainable and stable future for everyone.

This links to:

Budget Responsibility Rules

The Budget Responsibility Rules will allow us to govern responsibly.

Economic sustainability goes hand in hand with environmental sustainability. Both are about living within our means and leaving the world better than we found it.

Our Budget Responsibility Rules show that the Green Party and the Labour Party will manage the economy responsibly while making the changes people know are needed, like lifting kids out of poverty, cleaning up our rivers, solving the housing crisis, and tackling climate change.

  • Deliver sustainable surpluses
  • Reduce debt
  • Prioritise long-term investments
  • Be careful with expenditure
  • Build a fairer tax system

We will judge the success of our policies by improvements in the living standards of New Zealanders, improvements in key environmental indicators, and improvements in the economy.

We will establish a body independent of Ministers of the Crown who will be responsible for determining if these rules are being met. The body will also have oversight of government economic and fiscal forecasts, shall provide an independent assessment of government forecasts to the public, and will cost policies of opposition parties.

For New Zealanders to have enduring quality of life, prosperity, and security, governments need to manage revenue and spending decisions carefully. Good fiscal management is a core part of what it means to be a good government.

The Budget Responsibility Rules enable us to govern responsibly and transparently with Labour, while we invest in our priorities.

Read the full Budget Responsibility Rules here.

 

 

Interesting Wellington Central contest

Wellington Central was always going to be an interesting electorate to watch this election, with Grant Robertson going up against  James Shaw.

While the Green Party has historically sought party votes only and nodded and winked at the Labour candidates for the electorate votes now he is party co-leader Shaw will want to be seen as popular with voters.

Results from 2014:

wellingtoncentral2014

While Robertson won the electorate vote easily Labour came third behind National and Greens in the party vote.

National’s candidate for the last two elections, Paul Foster-Bell, was challenged for candidacy and withdrew, announcing he would resign at the end of this term.

National’s canddiate has now been announced. Stuff: National chooses Nicola Willis for Wellington Central seat

Former John Key adviser and Fonterra executive Nicola Willis has been selected unopposed as National’s candidate for the Wellington central seat.

She replaces Paul Foster-Bell who pulled out once it became clear she had the numbers.

Robertson must still be clear favourite to win, but Willis will be wanting to give things a good nudge.

And much may depend on how Shaw approaches his campaign. How much help will he want to hand Robertson?

The electorate result won’t change the overall outcome of the election.

In association with Labour’s Memorandum of Understanding with the Greens Andrew Little has said that Robertson as Finance Minister is not negotiable.

Robertson is likely to get a high list placing, his current ranking of 3 seems likely. And if his re-election via the list is at risk (that’s possible if Labour support collapses further) then Labour are unlikely to form the next government.

But what if he loses his electorate seat? That would give Greens some justification for arguing for a more significant say in Finance.

Are Greens happy to be subservient to Labour this election? Or will they campaign more strongly in electorates?

It is likely to improve their party vote if the fight for electorate votes as well. When they imply ‘vote for my party but vote for them’ then there must be more chance of both votes going to ‘them’.

James Shaw’s Green vision

Green Co-leader James Shaw looks towards the election in 2017.

Are you excited about a Green/Labour Government?

Kia tau te rangimārie o te Rangi e tū nei

o Papatūānuku e takoto nei

o te Taiao e awhi nei

ki runga i a tātou.

Tīhei mauri ora!

(May the peace of the sky above, of the earth below, and of the all-embracing universe rest upon us all. Behold, the essence of life!)

He mihi nui ki ngā mana whenua o tēnei takiwā, Taranaki Whānui, tēnā koutou katoa mō tō manaakitanga.

(Greetings to the mana whenua o this area, Taranaki Whānui, thank you so much for your hospitality)

Ki a koutou e te whānau o Te Rōpū Kākāriki, harikoa ana ahau ki te kite i a koutou i tēnei rā.

(To all of you of the Green Party, I am so happy to see you all today)

Tēnā tātou katoa.

Thank you.

Thank you for stepping up and signing away the next seven months of your lives, to be the change that is coming to our amazing country.

There is a mountain ahead, which we have to climb, if we want to make history on September 23rd and form the first ever Green-Labour Government.

This country deserves no less from us.

Welcome to election year!

Today we can boast more party members than ever before, and also that we will likely field more candidates in the election than ever before.

This is a real vote of confidence in the future of the Green Party. And, actually, in the future!

We build on the best ever result for the Green Party in last year’s local body elections. There are now more Greens sitting around Council tables all over the country, than ever before.

For many New Zealanders, that will have been their first time voting Green.

And as we all know the first time is always the hardest.

By the end of this year, we will have new Members of Parliament elected from a list of people who are farmers, scientists, lawyers, teachers, local councillors, sports people, musicians, climate change negotiators, landmine campaigners, small business owners, Maori, Asians, Pasifika, young people, and many, many more.

We are, though, all out of former tobacco lobbyists.

Look around you. You are more diverse. You look more and more like the faces of modern New Zealand.

And we need that if we’re going to grow our vote and build a bigger, broader, deeper Green Party and Caucus – one that can exert real influence at the heart of a progressive Government.

So let’s look after one another and let’s stay focused on the goal ahead.

***

Now, have I mentioned the mountain we have to climb?

National is a political machine: well financed, disciplined, and sensitive enough to the polls to know when the tide is turning against them and when to adopt another one of our Green policies.

They have a new leader. Well, new-ish.

To be fair, Bill English has more of a moral compass than the last guy. The last guy had to consult polling data before he could tell you what he believed in.

I don’t agree with all Mr English’s values, but he does have a conscience.

In Question Time in Parliament, he actually tries to respond to the questions. It saddens me that this counts as unusually deserving of praise.

Certainly he should not be under estimated. At a time when politics around the world has taken a huge step into the unknown and the uncertain, being boring may not be Bill’s weakness, but his strength.

And he has been the architect of everything that National has done – or not done – for the last nine years in Government.

And that is why I want him to enjoy his retirement.

Because for all he might be a decent enough person, his lack of agility as Finance Minister has meant that our biggest problems are now worse today than ever before.

National has had nine years to address the growing crisis in Auckland’s housing market.

By one measure Auckland is now the fourth most unaffordable city in the world. By another, it is the most unaffordable.

National has had nine years to decouple the growth of carbon pollution from our economy.

We now emit 19 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than we did in 2008.

National has had nine years to address major congestion in our cities.

Aucklanders are now spending the equivalent of almost 12 working days every year, sitting in traffic, and the gridlock only appears to be getting worse.

National has had nine years to create real prosperity, yet there are still so many people working two or even three part-time jobs but just can’t make ends meet.

National has had nine years to stop the pollution of our beautiful rivers and lakes.

Last year, more than 5,000 people got sick drinking the water out of their taps in Havelock North.

National has had nine years to lift our most vulnerable children out of poverty, yet 212,000 children still live in poverty – the same number as in 2008.

No child in Aotearoa should live in poverty.

We’re going to fix that.

No river should be unfit to swim in; no aquifer unsafe to drink from.

We’re going to fix that.

And no Kiwi family should go without world-class health and education.

We’re going to fix that.

New Zealand has a government that believes that it has reached the limit of what it can do to lift its own people out of poverty and into greater opportunity.

Come September 23rd, we’re going to fix that.

***

Today, I want Kiwis everywhere to know what you can rely on us for in Government and how we intend to govern.

Our Memorandum of Understanding with Labour was a strong first step for us.

The MoU is not just a commitment to work together to change the government, it is the foundation stone on which we are building a solid, long-term, relationship with Labour.

One that is going to last the distance.

We all know that Government involves compromise. It is, in fact, a defining feature of MMP.

And if we are to govern responsibly and for more than one term, we’re going to have to work together with Labour.

And we won’t always get our own way.

And neither will they.

I believe most New Zealanders want to see their elected representatives rise above petty partisanship to work together for the good of the country.

Coalitions are, of course, worked out after Election Day, when we know what the numbers are.

But our MOU with Labour shows Kiwis that there is a steady, alternative government-in-waiting.

So that’s my first commitment to you and to the people of New Zealand.

A Green Government will be a stable government. A government that you can depend on to stand for progress and sustainability.

A government that you can rely on to go the distance and to work through our differences, for the greater good of our people and our planet.

***

I have to tell you that my experience of working with Andrew Little over the last few months, has given me a lot of faith that we will be a great team in Government.

Not in spite of our differences, but because of them. A creative tension between two progressive parties, with different heritages and different ways of seeing the world.

In a few weeks, Grant Robertson and I will announce our shared principles for how we manage the country’s finances when we’re in government.

This will give New Zealanders confidence that we’ll invest in what they value, and do so in a way that properly manages the country’s budget.

New Zealanders deserve more transparency from their politicians.

The Green Party has always stood for this. And we will always provide that transparency.

Like when we had our policy commitments independently costed for the 2014 general election.

Like when Metiria announced last year our intention to set up an independent Policy Costing Unit to ensure all political parties’ policy initiatives are properly costed.

Or like in 2009, when she released our MPs’ expenses to the public. Today, that’s standard practice for all of Parliament.

That’s my next commitment. A Green Government will be held to the highest standards of transparency, responsibility and accountability.

***

Well, that’s how we intend to govern. More important is what we are in Government for.

I want to be able to visit families around this country and have them know that we have got their backs.

I want families to know that we’re using all the resources of Government on the things that are going to most improve their lot in life.

I want them to know that a Green Government will invest in the basics so that all our families, including those who are hardest up, have what they need to provide for their children.

Central to this is income.

Income that means families can feed and house their children, support their education, and do the normal things we expect for our kids, like visits to the beach or school trips.

Think back to the schools of your childhood. How many still have the pool where you first learnt to swim?

How many of them are still completely free to attend?

And how many still have kids who come from all walks of life?

We all want children living in homes and neighbourhoods where they are nurtured to reach their full potential.

And that means getting alongside parents, whanau and caregivers, doing all that we can to support them.

Ensuring families are healthy and educated is a foundation for our society and for our economy.

It is a fundamental responsibility of governments to enable this.

That’s my third commitment to you and to the people of New Zealand.

A Green Government will be committed to decent incomes, housing, and education for all New Zealanders.

***

A couple of weeks ago I met with Dr Eric Rignot, a climate scientist from NASA, who was out visiting New Zealand.

That’s right. I met a rocket scientist and I forgot to get a selfie.

The latest UN report on climate change is four years old, and relies on data from four years before that.

Dr Rignot is deeply worried about the new data that NASA is seeing coming out of the Arctic, Greenland and Antarctica.

Ice shelves that models suggested were going to disappear in 1,000 years could well disappear in 100 years.

Climate change is not just the greatest challenge of our time.

It is the greatest challenge of all time, the most far-reaching consequence of the industrial revolution.

In New Zealand, the three sectors with the highest emissions are agriculture, transport and energy.

And in all three– in fact right across the economy – there is a new industrial revolution taking place.

This high-value, low-carbon, clean-tech, green economic revolution, is not just the solution to climate change.

It is also the greatest economic opportunity in at least a generation, rich in well-paid jobs, investment, and industry.

Our greatest risk is that we are twiddling our thumbs and letting this opportunity pass us by, and at the same time missing our emissions reduction target by a country mile.

So this is my next commitment to you and to the people of New Zealand.

A Green Government will commit to clean energy, clean transport, and clean agriculture, for a truly sustainable economy.

***

Climate change may be the greatest challenge of all time, but it’s not the only one we face.

New Zealand has an extraordinary natural heritage. Our forests, our mountains, our rivers and lakes, our beaches, are our most precious taonga.

In many ways they make us who we are as a nation. For Maori, the connection is even more literal than that.

But predators and habitat loss mean around one-third of all plants and animals are listed as threatened or at-risk.

And for another third, we don’t even have enough data to know whether they’re safe – or on the brink of extinction.

In 2015 I announced a climate plan that would reforest over a million hectares of marginal pastoral land.

Yes, that is a lot of new jobs – but beyond that, healthy forests don’t just soak up carbon emissions, they provide habitats for our endangered birds and help to clean up our rivers and streams.

Then last year, I announced a plan to increase the levy that international visitors pay, which would, over time, put more than $1 billion into the effort to make New Zealand predator-free, and save our most at-risk birds from extinction.

My mother grew up on a farm near Ōpōtiki, in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. When I was growing up, she would tell me stories about how she and her sisters and brother would swim in the creeks and rivers around the farm.

Occasionally, they would catch eels. These days, in many parts of New Zealand, you’d be more likely catch a disease.

Today, I’d like to announce a new initiative to keep our rivers and lakes alive and to protect the quality of the water that comes out of our taps.

New Zealanders shouldn’t have to question their access to – or the safety of – fresh water.

A Green Party in Government is going to set a crystal clear bottom line on drinking water.

We intend to strengthen the law around how aquifers are protected under the Resource Management Act.

Our aquifers are water bodies of national importance, so we will update the Act to ensure that future development does not put them at risk from contamination and overuse.

Protecting our fresh water is something so basic, we’ve mostly taken it for granted. We can no longer be so complacent.

Nearly half of all New Zealanders rely on aquifers for their drinking water. Increasing intensification in the agricultural sector and poorly planned towns and cities are putting this at risk.

Companies are bottling and exporting fresh water – without paying for it – while at the same time communities are on water restrictions and boil notices.

A small tweak to the Resource Management Act will require that all those responsible for administering the Act recognise the importance of our aquifers to our health and to the health of rivers, lakes and streams.

Maori, of course, have known this all along. Water is and has always been a taonga left by ancestors to provide and sustain life.

This new initiative will help protect our water. But I’m more ambitious than that. I want to restore the health of New Zealand’s rivers, lakes, and aquifers.

Contrast that to Nick Smith, who on Thursday responded to the challenge of cleaning up New Zealand’s rivers by lowering his standards.

He announced that rivers that are only safe enough for wading or boating will now be re-labelled as safe enough to swim in!

Minister, I can smell the e. coli on your breath as you lean towards me!

We say, no more. Not on our watch.

This is my ultimate commitment to you and to the people of New Zealand.

A Green Government will be absolutely, relentlessly committed to protecting and restoring our forests, our birds, and our rivers.

***

So that is what you can count on a Green Government for.

We will be a stable Government that you can depend on to go the distance.

We will be held to the highest standards of transparency, responsibility and accountability.

We will work for decent incomes, housing, and education for all New Zealanders.

We will invest in clean energy, clean transport, and clean agriculture for a sustainable economy.

And we will protect and restore our forests, our birds and our rivers.

That is our commitment to you and to Aotearoa. That’s what you can depend on us for.

And yes, I know Bill English will say his Government is committed to those things too, and we should all just keep voting for them.

Well, let me tell you, National make announcement after grand, sweeping announcement: Swimmable rivers. Predator-Free. Electric cars. Housing. Climate change.

But look at their results after nine years in Government.

More people unable to get into their first home – or worse, actually homeless.

More polluted rivers than when they came to office.

More endangered species. More motorways. More oil and gas exploration. Higher emissions.

National are a whirlwind of activity and announcements, but devoid of results.

A Green Government will measure our success, not by mere activity, but by our results.

The former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said, “We are the first generation that can put an end to poverty and we are the last generation that can put an end to climate change.”

I believe him. And, in government, we will do everything in our power to make it happen.

Kiwis need to know they can trust the water that comes out of their tap.

They need to know that they can trust that their families will be able to make ends meet.

They need to know that they can trust their Government.

That they can trust us.

That’s what this election is about.

Now, let’s go win this thing.

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.

National MP stands down from challenge

In November it was announced that someone would challenge list MP Paul Foster-Bell to be the National candidate in the Wellington Central electorate – see National MP challenge in Wellington Central.

National list MP Paul Foster-Bell, who stood in Wellington Central last election against Grant Robertson and James Shaw, is being challenged by Nicola Willis, who appears to be backed by John Key.

Foster-Bell has just announced that he will stand down from selection and won’t contest the election.

It sounds like he may be jumping before he was shoved aside.

Foster-Bell was ranked 46th on the National party list in the 2014 election. He is currently ranked at that same 46 on National’s website.

Candidate votes in Wellington Central in 2014:

  • Grant Robertson 19,807 (Labour 9,306)
  • Paul Foster-Bell 11,540 (National 14,689)
  • James Shaw 5,077 (Greens 11,545)

Will a better National candidate convert more party support into electorate votes? With a higher profile Shaw may split  more votes with Robertson.