Small party leaders’ debate

Five smaller party leaders had a debate on TV1 last night. It was for just an hour (the multiple Ardern v Collins debates are for one and a half hours) and with numerous advertising breaks there was probably just forty minutes for the five to try to swing some votes their way.

David Seymour – ACT Party (2017 election 0.5%, Sep-Oct 2020 polls 7, 6.3, 8, 8)

Seymour is now a practiced campaigner and usually spoke well. A funny moment was when he exclaimed that Peters )”said I am out of date”. While some of his policies probably be widely supported they will resonate with enough to have get votes. He has done well to lift ACT to current levels.

James Shaw – Green Party (2017 6.3%, Sep-Oct 2020 polls 6, 6.5, 7, 6)

This debate was Shaw’s turn (Marama Davidson did the Nation debate) and he should have pleased Green supporters. He spoke clearly and sensibly to more than the Green constituency), and even pulled the debate back on topic. A good performance that should help Green chances.

Winston Peters – NZ First (2017 7.2%, Sep-Oct 2020 polls 2.4, 1.9, 1.4, 2)

Peters looked out of sorts and out of place – not so much fish out of water but more like a crocodile in a pond of the past. He mentioned last century much more than what he do if re-elected. He tried to play as an underdog, perhaps hoping people will forget his top dog performance in installing the Labour-led government along with pork barrel policy funds that seem to have fizzled. He again claimed nonsensically that everyone in the party had been completely exonerated by the SFO prosecution of NZ First Foundation.

Peters has swung back to campaigning as ‘we the government have done well” rather than attacking Labour and saying he would restrict them (again), but didn’t look really that energised or optimistic, more aged, jaded and fading.

John Tamihere – Maori Party (2017 1.2%, Sep-Oct 2020 polls 0.9, 1.5, 0.8, <1)

Made some good points about education for Maori but waffled fairly aimlessly too much, or maybe i am just not his target market. Seems resigned to not getting into Parliament via the list, with all his party hopes on winning one or two electorates (reports are they are close in polls in at least one).

Jamie-Lee Ross – Advance NZ (2017 didn’t stand, Sep-Oct 2020 polls 0.8 NR, 0.6, 1)

Interesting that he fronted up, presumably due to his political experience, but he is tainted goods and is absence the charisma of Billy Te Kahika. Tried when he was given the opportunity to speak but won’t have impressed many, probably not even supporters of his composite party. Claimed that Covid was similar to the flu, that line has been discredited many times. Looks like a futile exercise with Advance NZ not rising above one in polls despite significant social media support.

So with just Shaw and Seymour looking good this fits with the likely outcome of a Labour, Green, Act and National parliament, with the Maori Party a long shot for an electorate seat or two.

Up until the debate last night over half a million people will have already voted. It’s hard to understand why this debate was held so late in the campaign. It looks like most people who might vote are already decided.

PGF wouldn’t fund Green school

This looks like a continuation of the campaign scrap between NZ First and Greens, who appeared to be trying their hardest to mutually destruct.

It appears that Shane Jones has fed a story to Newshub (PGF applications mustn’t be confidential: Green School previously turned down for Provincial Growth Fund cash

Newshub can reveal the nearly $12 million of taxpayer money netted by the controversial Green School wasn’t the first time they’d tried to dip into the public purse.

The Green School – now one of New Zealand’s most well-known schools for all the wrong reasons.

And it scored millions of dollars of Government funding signed off by Green Party co-leader James Shaw in his capacity as Associate Finance Minister – a decision at odds with the Green Party’s policy to phase out funding for private schools.

Shaw has described it as “an error of judgment for which I apologise”.

It turns out Shaw’s error of judgment – demanding the green light for the Green School’s request for cash – wasn’t the school’s first rodeo.

“The Green School made an application to the Provincial Growth Fund. It was rapidly nixed,” says NZ First MP Shane Jones, who oversees the PGF as Regional Economic Development Minister.

A document obtained by Newshub under the Official Information Act shows the school had a crack at getting far less funding last year but failed.

It wanted just under $1m – that was declined. But when it applied for 12 times that – the funding was approved.

“James got his nose out of joint and fought for it to be restored through the shovel-ready money,” Jones says.

The application was refused partly because it wouldn’t create sustainable new jobs. The school’s now promising to create 200 jobs.

In the 2019 application – for a fraction of the funding – the school was promising in excess of 100 new jobs.

Documents say: “the applicant estimates that the project will bring in around [redacted] in economic benefit on annual basis and will create at least 100 jobs linked to the project.”

But officials in the Provincial Development Unit which determines PGF funding were sceptical.

“The success of the Bali operation may not be an appropriate indication of the likelihood of success for a venture based in Taranaki. There is insufficient market research to justify that it will be successful.”

It may be that after failing with the PGF application the Green School did more work on their market research, or on the presentation of their application.

Jones declared on Newshub Nation he was determined to kill off his Government sibling.

“I’m going to do everything in my power to ensure the Greens do not survive,” he said.

So this looks like a hit job by Jones. His problem is that he is performing poorly in the Te Tai Tokerau electorate, and polls suggest that NZ First is struggling to get near the 5% threshold, so NZ First are at real risk this election.

I think that this sort of minor party conflict is likely to drag both parties down.

Shaw sort of talks tough on tax and other coalition demands

Following a ‘pledge’ by Grant Robertson that tax-wise Labour “we will only implement the changes that Labour is campaigning on” next term – see Labour’s underwhelming tax policy – Green leader James Shaw sort of talked tough, saying Greens would consider not forming a coalition if they didn’t get what they wanted.

Shaw said that a wealth tax would be ‘a top priority’ when asked if it would be a bottom line.

Stuff: Labour rules out Green Party’s wealth tax in any Government it forms

The Labour Party has ruled out implementing the Green Party’s wealth tax.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said no new taxes or other changes to income tax would be introduced in the term.

He was asked if that included proposals from possible coalition partners, such as the Green Party who are campaigning on a substantial wealth tax on millionaires.

“This is Labour’s tax policy. We are committing to not implementing anything other than this if we are in Government,” Robertson said.

He was asked again if this meant he was ruling out giving some ground to the Green Party in possible coalition talks.

“What I’m saying is that this is the policy that Labour is campaigning on, and we will only implement the changes that Labour is campaigning on,” Robertson said.

Polling consistently over 50% Labour can probably afford to talk as if they will be in a position to do what they like next term, which is nowhere near enough on tax, certainly not transformational or reforming.

But Greens are desperate for votes to get them over the threshold to keep them in Parliament, and need to move support from Labour to do that, so are trying something they have done little of before, talking tough.

ODT/NZH: Greens prepared to play hard ball on forming next Government

The Greens are prepared to forego a coalition or confidence and supply arrangement and sit on the crossbenches if post-election talks do not go their way.

Co-leader James Shaw made the comments on Thursday, saying the only post-election deal that was off the table completely was one which would give National power.

However, he said if the Greens held the balance of power it was “always a possibility” that it would walk away from negotiations with Labour if they could not get the gains they wanted.

If there was no coalition or confidence and supply agreement, that would force a minority Labour government to seek the Greens’ support for legislation on a case-by-case basis.

He wouldn’t say what the Greens’ bottom lines in those talks were, but said a wealth tax was a “top priority”.

First the Greens have to get enough votes to get back into Parliament. They also need to hope that Labour don’t get enough votes to have a one party majority (which would enable them to do as they please).

And they also have to learn to do tough negotiations, something they seem unfamiliar with. Within the Green Party they make decisions by consensus, which is quite a different skill to doing inter-party coalition negotiations.

Time will tell whether they get enough votes, and if the do whether they can walk the tough talk.

Shaw also made other indications of demands.

He would also be pushing for co-leader Marama Davidson to be a minister and suggested a Green MP hold the agriculture portfolio.

If Greens are in coalition then Davidson should be one of their ministers, bu this is a different approach to this term when they chose for Davidson to lead from outside Government.

I’d be very surprised if Labour gave Greens the agriculture portfolio.

Shaw said a new Labour-led government would need to be in partnership with the Greens for it to be truly transformational.

“I think, in the next Parliament if Labour and the Greens are able to form a government together, then you will see a truly progressive government for New Zealand.”

The Greens need to push this line to take votes from Labour, but it provides ammunition to opponents, who will say that their are risks with a Labour+Green government getting radical, but there’s been no sign of Labour going anywhere near radical. Instead they look very centrist conservative.

If the Greens were in a position to negotiate a post-election deal, Shaw said it would be up to the party’s members to give any deal the nod.

It makes tough negotiations difficult if the negotiators have to refer to party members to confirm and deals.

Shaw:

“If you look at the policies we have released so far … those give you an indication of where we want to be able to play a role in government.”

He went on to specifically name-check its wealth tax policy as well as its minimum income scheme, clean energy and its upcoming agriculture policy.

Asked if the Greens wealth tax plan was a “bottom line,” Shaw said that it was a “top priority”.

Labour have made it clear it is not an option at all for them.

Greens have some tough times ahead. First they have to make it back into Parliament. Then if they do they have to hope Labour don’t have a majority. They will also hope NZ First are out of the reckoning in coalition negotiations.

If they are in a position to negotiate they then have to see if tough talk can become tough negotiations.

One risk for the Greens with Shaw’s stance – if Labour get enough votes to give them a majority on their own they can do what they like with tax policy, and can hardly roll over on it for the Greens.

If this happens the Greens have virtually ruled themselves out of being included in Government if Labour offers that option.

Green reaction to Labour’s tax policy

Labour announced their tax policy yesterday that will barely change anything – see Labour’s underwhelming tax policy.

One of the strongest critics was the Green Party.

From RNZ Labour pledges to raise tax on earnings over $180k

Greens co-leader James Shaw says Labour’s policy does not address “the growing wealth gap and inequality in Aotearoa”, or help pay for the Covid response.

“The Greens believe we should ask those who are benefiting the most to chip in a bit of what they’ve gained to help the people who need support during this crisis.

“We know that a huge accelerator of this inequality is our broken tax system that taxes people who earn but not people who own,” Shaw says .

Greens emailed Labour’s announcement is not enough:

Earlier today, the Labour Party announced their proposal to introduce a new top tax rate. Fixing the way we tax here in Aotearoa is long overdue, but this isn’t the way to do it. Labour is proposing patchwork solutions when visionary change is needed.

Too many of us are struggling to put a roof over our heads, food on the table, or pay rising rents and bills. Tinkering around the edges of an already broken system isn’t enough to address the growing wealth gap and inequality — and it puts us at risk of the gap growing even further. 

We know a huge accelerator of inequality in Aotearoa is a broken system that taxes people who earn, but not people who own. Unless we fix this, the lucky few will continue to amass wealth without paying their fair share while the rest of us struggle to get by. 

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Earlier this year we announced our Poverty Action Plan: a whole new approach to tax that makes sure the wealthy pay their fair share so everyone has what they need, when they need it. 

A small 1% tax on the wealth of millionaires means big change for the rest of us. It’s a simple and fair way to even the playing field and unlock the resources all of us need to thrive and participate fully in our communities. 

By rewriting the tax rules, we’re going beyond the old, broken system and guaranteeing that everyone who needs it, no matter what, has a minimum income they can rely on. Support shouldn’t be conditional and our plan isn’t either. That means support for students and people out of work, extra help if you’re sick or disabled, and simple payments for families so all kids can thrive.

When we announced our plan, Labour was dismissive and said that it relied on “heroic” assumptions. It’s not enough for us to settle for broken systems — a compassionate system is possible and we’re the only ones with the vision and the plan to make it a reality. This is why the Greens need to be at the table in the next Government. 

We are at a crossroads. We can hit reimagine Aotearoa exactly how we want it. Now, more than ever, we know how much we can achieve when we work together — this is our chance to create change that benefits all of us.

But again Labour has been dismissive of Green tax policy. Grant Robertson:

Robertson is promising no other increases or new taxes, but was asked whether that would stand if Labour needed to negotiate post election for support, with a party like the Greens, that has a more aggressive tax policy.

“This is the policy that Labour is campaigning on and we will only implement the changes that are in this policy,” he said.

So he has effectively told the Greens to get stuffed.

With Labour polling at over 50% he can probably be arrogant.

And with Greens polling mostly close to the 5% threshold and 3.2% in the latest (UMR) poll they may have little or no say in the next Government.

Peters attacks the Greens

The Government lasted nearly three years lasted nearly three years trying to portray the three party arrangement as solid and working well together.

But with the election looming and the fear of failing to make the threshold rising Winston Peters is attacking both the Greens and Labour. This post is on the Green target.

Newshub: NZ First and Greens fighting for survival, trying to kill each other off amid Green School debacle

The James Shaw political pile-on is off the charts after Newshub revealed he strong-armed ministerial colleagues to get funding for the controversial privately-owned Taranaki Green School.

NZ First leader Winston Peters is calling it one of the worst things he’s seen in his political career and is warning of “repercussions” over the funding, while National says the Greens should be ashamed and that Shaw must resign. 

Labour, NZ First and the Greens almost held it together an entire term, but as the election drew near, the raw disdain between the Greens and New Zealand First bubbled forth.

Peters said in July his party “opposed woke pixie dust”, while Shaw described New Zealand First as a “chaotic and disorganised” partner in Government.

“You can almost see the advertisements, can’t you? New Zealand First – you can stop progress,” Shaw joked in his adjournment speech last month.

But ironically Shaw has now been caught out holding his ministerial colleagues to political ransom, stalling progress to get his own way.

Newshub revealed on Tuesday Shaw’s office emailed his ministerial colleagues strong-arming them with an ultimatum, refusing to sign off on projects in a $3 billion infrastructure fund unless he got dosh for the controversial Green School.

Shaw told Newshub on Wednesday he “didn’t hold anybody to ransom”, but Peters sees it differently.

“If you can’t win by logic and by reason and by the soundness of your proposal then that’s no way to behave,” the NZ First leader told Newshub.

“It’s pretty bad. I’ve never seen anything like this before. Maybe it has happened but not in that naked, inexperienced way.”

It’s funny to see Peters attack someone else over naked political ransom, but there is a difference with how he does it, he’s very experienced at it.

The Prime Minister said there will be different views in a Government of three political parties.

That’s the line that’s been spun throughout the term when there’s been differences, and it is accurate enough, there should be differences between three parties. But how those differences are being expressed has changed markedly.

“Obviously as a coalition Government working with three different parties, there will often be different perspectives,” she said on Wednesday.

You can say that again – Shaw has made it clear he thinks Peters is a handbrake on progress.

Peters responded, “Well, a handbrake on stupid ideas is not a handbrake on progress.”

Stupid to Peters. The difference between NZ First and the Greens is that the Greens didn’t do much handbraking on NZ First’s stupid ideas.

Shaw said Peters will say anything to get re-elected.

“Winston Peters is fighting for his political survival and so he will say what he says in order to try and ensure he’s back in Parliament after the election,” he told Newshub.

Thanks to Shaw, the Greens are now fighting for their political survival too.

Last campaign Labour and the Greens, and to an extent NZ First, promoted their intent and ability to be able to work together.

This campaign looks like being a lot more combative.

Greens have been polling close to the 5% threshold (except for Roy Morgan polls) but have tended to get less in elections than in polls so will be worried, especially with the popularity of Ardern competing more for votes.

Both Shaw and Marama Davidson have admitted that the current Green School mess will make things even harder for them to survive.

NZ First have been polling at under half the threshold. Peters has pulled rabbits out of campaign hats in the past and will be looking for the same sort of opportunity this time.

But NZ First and Greens going hammer and tongs against each other is a questionable strategy, as they hardly compete for their own votes. These spats are more likely to just reduce votes for both, it’s unlikely to attract support.

What both parties will be hoping for is that they survive and are in a position to form a coalition with Labour without a third party competing for baubles and slush funds.

Shaw publicly apologises but pressure continues over Green School handout

Yesterday James Shaw fronted up to media at midday and apologised and apologised for the $11.7 million funding of a private Green school in Taranaki, but the hits kept coming, possible from within the Government.

Later in the day from Newshub: Green co-leader James Shaw refused to sign-off on $3bn of infrastructure projects unless Green School was included

Newshub has obtained an email that went to Government ministers and the Treasury from Shaw’s office and it included a stark ultimatum.

That sounds like someone with access to Government emails has given it to Newshub.

“Minister Shaw won’t sign this briefing until the Green School in Taranaki is incorporated.”

The email said Shaw discussed the ultimatum with the Education Minister. 

“Minister Shaw has also discussed this one with Minister Hipkins.

“Sorry to be the spanner-in-the-works, but if we can get the project included, he’ll sign everything this afternoon,” the email said.

This could be a spanner in the works for Shaw trying to put this behind him and the green campaign.

Newshub asked Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson if she recognised that it may have jeopardised the Greens’ chances of returning to Parliament.

“It’s very clear, there’s no denying that already we were hovering around 5 percent,” she said.

But Shaw seems confident he will stay on.

“I don’t think this is a resignation level event,” he said.

Shaw said if he was making the same decision on the Green School funding he would not support it.

With a deep sigh, he said: “I feel terrible about the way that this has played out.” 

I’m sure he does feel terrible about it.

From the earlier apology media conference from The Spinoff:

James Shaw has apologised for his decision to support a controversial “Green School” in Taranaki, but hurled criticism at the previous National government for underfunding schools that need help.

“The decision to support this project was an error of judgement. If I was making the same decision again I would not support the project.”

“So again, I apologise. I apologise to parents, to teachers and unions. I apologise to Green Party members who… have felt demoralised by this decision. I apologise to the schools in Taranaki who quite rightfully want the best for their children. And I want you to know, all of you, that I have listened to your concerns,” Shaw said.

In response to a question from a reporter, Shaw said the New Plymouth mayor, Neil Holdom, introduced him to the couple who started the school. “Ironically, one of the things I said to them was ‘are you sure you want to come to the Crown because often government money is more trouble than it’s worth.’ They were clear at that point that the project would not proceed, and the mayor was quite keen for it to proceed.”

This is an ongoing problem for Shaw and the Greens but could also impact on the Government.

The leaked email “said Shaw discussed the ultimatum with the Education Minister”. That was confirmed in Question Time yesterday, but the email wasn’t disclosed.

7. NICOLA WILLIS (National) to the Minister of Education: Was he or the Ministry of Education consulted about any aspect of the application by Green School New Zealand for funding prior to its announcement; if so, did he raise concerns about providing Government funding for this project?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): I had a conversation about the application with James Shaw towards the end of July and I gave him feedback that from an educational portfolio perspective the school would not be a priority for investment.

Nicola Willis: Was he aware of Treasury advice that “… it would be inappropriate to announce or provide government funding for a project that does not yet have the necessary education approvals”, and has the Green School met the legal requirements for registration?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: No, I wouldn’t have seen that advice because I was not one of the Ministers involved in approving the project.

Nicola Willis: Has the Green School qualified for legal registration as a private school, including meeting all requirements around suitable tuition standards and staffing standards?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I’m not aware of that. Of course, private schools have an application process that they have to go through. As Minister I don’t make that decision. That decision’s made by the Ministry of Education.

Willis followed that up with questions to Shaw:

8. NICOLA WILLIS (National) to the Associate Minister of Finance: Does he stand by the entirety of his press statement on 26 August confirming $11.7 million in funding for Green School New Zealand, and on what evidence did he base each of the claims made in that statement?

Hon JAMES SHAW (Associate Minister of Finance): Yes, I stand by my statement based on reports provided to me by the Infrastructure Industry Reference Group (IRG). That being said, understanding the depth of feeling in the community about this funding, were I to make this decision again, I would come to a different conclusion.

Nicola Willis: Is a contract in place for the Government’s deal with the green school, and has he taken any legal advice about his options for unwinding his mistake?

Hon JAMES SHAW: Well, Ministers cannot get involved in the contracting between the Crown and the various projects.

Nicola Willis: Did the Minister get involved in making clear his expectation that the green school should achieve legal registration as a school prior to receiving taxpayer money; and, if not, why not?

Hon JAMES SHAW: I don’t believe I did.

Nicola Willis: Did he meet with anyone involved in the green school prior to or during the application process for shovel-ready funding; and, if so, who?

Hon JAMES SHAW: On 18 May, the Mayor of New Plymouth, Neil Holdom, came to see me in my office and introduced me to the people who’ve started the green school. He was quite keen that we support the project.

Nicola Willis: Does he agree with Minister Hipkins that the Green Party had advocated “quite strongly” for the green school; and, if so, why did he reject the Minister’s advice that the funding should not go ahead?

Hon JAMES SHAW: It wasn’t the Green Party; it was me because it was a ministerial decision and not one that was shared with caucus, because, of course, as a budget confidential decision, Ministers are unable to share that outside of their offices. So I would say it’s not accurate to say that the Green Party advocated for it, but I did personally.

So Shaw says he didn’t share the decision with the Green caucus, he did it alone. Perhaps he will now be asked if he shared with the caucus his ultimatum to not support the whole $3 billion unless the Green School funding was included.

Nicola Willis: Did any Ministers other than Minister Hipkins raise questions or concerns with him about the conditions for this taxpayer funding to the green school; and, if so, what steps did he take to address those concerns?

Hon JAMES SHAW: I’m not aware of specific points that were raised. There was a very iterative process over a number of months of the whole IRG process, and many projects came and went during the course of that time.

The funding process may also get more scrutiny. Shaw has criticised the process – last week he said A number of ‘shovel ready’ funding decisions “made in haste” and “not high quality”.

Stuff: James Shaw fesses up, but put all future Covid projects at risk

James Shaw’s apology for the Green School fiasco was full, frank and a lot more than what you usually get from a minister that has made a mistake.

He owned it, and took personal responsibility. When asked, he also said that it was “an error of judgement on my part”, but “not a resignation level event”.

However, the most interesting part of his remarks revolved around the internal pressures he clearly felt when assessing Projects for the Government’s Covid shovel-ready fund. This goes back to earlier in the year when the Government released its $12 billion “New Zealand upgrade” package of infrastructure spending on rail, cycleways, but mostly roads. Although the Greens were privately irked about the direction of travel of the package, which was driven by Finance Minister Grant Robertson, they publicly celebrated the small wins that they had.

At the Green Party Annual General Meeting, held over Zoom in July, it is understood that the Green Party leadership faced a lot of questions about why there were more green projects in that New Zealand Upgrade package.

And so yesterday, Shaw effectively said yesterday that he felt the pressure after the New Zealand upgrade to ensure that the Greens influence the $3 billion worth of Covid infrastructure projects as much as they could.

He also said, perhaps ominously for Labour, that there were “many ironies and stories I may tell about this one day”.

Shaw’s comment yesterday revealed what has been apparent for some time: that the COvid fund, in common with NZ First’s baby the Provincial Growth Fund, has always has the potential to get politically favoured projects over the line. The very nature of the fund’s goal – to get money out the door and into projects as quickly as possible – lends itself to projects of dubious value being approved. There is a reason why Governments take time to approve dungeons to build infrastructure.

Perhaps that was why when Shaw was asked whether or not, given that this Green School was approved while he was keeping an eye on 40-50 other projects, other dodgy projects could get up James Shaw simply looked worn out and replied, “Look, I couldn’t, I couldn’t say”.

Media are having more to say about all this.

Newsroom: Shaw’s sorrow crystal clear as Greens face heat over private school

Between lion’s gate abundance ceremonies and crystal planting, the Green School in Taranaki has enough unconventional extracurricular activities to last a lifetime.

But should they be looking for an additional option, James Shaw offered up an impeccable lesson in ritual self-flagellation on Tuesday afternoon.

Speaking about his decision to grant $11.7 million in Covid-19 infrastructure funding to the private school for an expansion, the Greens co-leader all but begged for voters’ forgiveness over “an error of judgment for which I apologise”.

It was difficult to watch and presumably even more difficult to deliver, but clearly Shaw and his caucus felt the highly public display of contrition was necessary after days of bad publicity with the election looming ever closer.

On the one hand, it feels as if the issue has stayed in the news cycle longer than it probably merits due to the strange period we find ourselves in, with Parliament barely going through the motions as politicians wait for the election campaign to pick up full steam.

But with the Greens precariously close to the five percent threshold, even a minor drop in support could prove fatal.

Nor is the issue likely to disappear off the radar entirely; Government ministers have said it is too late to withdraw the funding from the school, although Shaw has mooted the idea of turning it into a repayable loan.

Winston Peters is also joining the political flogging: James Shaw may get some reprieve if Green School funding treated as ‘loan’

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters and Shaw have had increasingly fractious public exchanges in recent months, and this week was no different.

Peters says this is a “mistake of bad fiscals, bad understanding of the marketplace, and worse still of a very, very uncertain applicant”.

It was Shaw’s “number one priority” to get the funding through, says Peters, and this is a case “where the blame stops with the person who’s now saying he’s sorry that he did that”.

And he put the decision down to Shaw’s lack of political experience: “You cannot go on making mistakes in this business … we’ve stopped things that were a silly idea and promoted things that are good idea.”

Many will see the irony in Peters criticising someone else for funding pet projects, but the difference is that Peters and Shane Jones have had far more money at their disposal to dish out, and Peters doesn’t apologise for anything.

major concern of Treasury in opposing the funding was it did not yet have the full education approvals needed for a private school.

Advice obtained by RNZ from around July said without full private school registration, it would be “inappropriate” to give Green School government money, but even then it opposed the grant.

Green School has provisional registration, says the advice, but it would it be still be some time before it was a fully registered private school, as Treasury says the “Education Review Office (ERO) is planning to visit the school in 2021, so if they are successful in receiving full registration this is unlikely until mid-2021”.

Grant Robertson kicks Shaw while he’s down:

Finance Minister Grant Robertson told the House 1900 applications were initially received and Crown Infrastructure Partners shortlisted that down to just over 800.

“Ministers were then responsible for refining that down further to the around 150 projects that have been put in place … Minister Shaw is on record for his strong advocacy of the particular project in question here.”

Robertson says he does not see a backlash for Labour or New Zealand First as a result of the decision-making.

“I think everybody in the situation is clear that it was Minister Shaw’s strong advocacy that saw the Green School (succeed), and he himself has acknowledged that.”

And it continues.

The Green School embarrassment is likely to come up in Parliament again today.

More Green School problems

James Shaw had to try to limit the damage done last week with the announcement he had approved Government funding of a private Green school last week that was contrary to Green party policy – see Greens under fire for $11m private school funding.

This looks like continuing. Newshub: Couple who called COVID-19 ‘manufactured natural disaster’ held ‘DNA activation’ event at Green School

Newshub can reveal the Green School which received nearly $12 million in Government funding hosted a ‘sacred ceremony’ run by a school parent who believes COVID-19 is a manufactured natural disaster.

The self-described ‘new age architect’ also planned a $15,000 tour of New Zealand that included planting crystals with the school’s students.

Christof and Alaya Melchizedek were excited to be selling the tour that would stop at the privately-owned Green School in Taranaki for the “main solstice piece” – a two-day activity with the children.

“We’re going to be laying down a crystal bed. Everyone will be bringing crystals from all around the world. We are going to be unifying them and bringing in this 5th dimensional consciousness,” Christof Melchizedek explained in a video.

In a long Facebook post on Sunday, Melchizedek described COVID-19 as a “manufactured natural disaster”, a “UN 2030 vision” including “vaccinated nanochip technology” and “looming possibility of vaccination agendas” – all baseless claims circulated by conspiracy theorists.

The post was deleted after questions from Newshub.

The crystal planting activity appears to have been thwarted by the lockdown, but the couple hosted a fundraising event at the school – a “lion’s gate abundance and manifestation ceremony” including “bio-energy field cleaning” and “DNA activation”.

Once again Shaw, the man behind the cash for the Green School, was ducking for cover – refusing to be interviewed and scrambling for a solution.

The school told Newshub the funding could be provided partly as a loan and this could be Shaw’s way out.

I don’t think there is any way out of this for Shaw, the damage has already been done no matter what partial ‘solutions’ they might come up with now.

The way things are going for the Greens, National and NZ First we may end up with Labour in Government on their own with Act the main Opposition party.

A number of ‘shovel ready’ funding decisions “made in haste” and “not high quality”

Greens are in damage control and leader leader James Shaw continues to copy flak for his decision to approve a $11.7 million grant to a private green school, which is contrary to longstanding Green Party policy (see Greens under fire for $11m private school funding).

But in an apparent attempt in trying to mitigate “creating a mess right at this time at the start of an election campaign” Shaw has said that a number of decisions made were “made in haste” and “not high quality”.

Stuff: James Shaw apologises for school decision, saying he wouldn’t do it again

He said that the speed of the process had resulted in some poor decisions.

“I have to say I’m unimpressed with the whole decision-making process,” Shaw said, referencing the speed with which decisions were made.

“There were a number of decisions that weren’t high quality decisions, that were made in haste to support the country during a crisis,” he said.

I wonder if Shaw will elaborate on which of the other funding decisions have not been high quality.

More from Shaw on the private school decision:

The grant to the Green School in Taranaki from the $3 billion “shovel-ready” projects fund was made alongside ministers from other parties, and in his capacity as associate finance minister, rather than Green co-leader, but Shaw told members that wasn’t good enough.

“I want to apologise to you and the wider Green Party whānau for creating a mess right at this time at the start of an election campaign”.

“I want to apologise for the decision itself. If I was in the same position again I wouldn’t make the same decision”.

I’m sure he wouldn’t make the same decision knowing what a hypocrisy mess he has created for the Greens.

“We are working to fix it,” Shaw said.

“We entered this in good faith, we can’t simply say we’d dump it. It would ultimately be unfair to the other side and be exposed to legal risk”.

Nevertheless, members were told there would be a wider public apology and “resolution” sometime next week.

It would certainly be unfair to withdraw funding already decided on.

But what other sort of fix or resolution is possible? Labour are not offering any help.

Newshub: Multi-million dollar funding for private Green School in Taranaki going ahead despite backlash

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said on Thursday the funding was not something he would have prioritised for the education sector and said the funding for Green School was something the Greens wanted.  

“Ultimately, that was something the Green Party advocated quite strongly for and so it was one of their wins, if you like, out of the shovel-ready projects area. It’s not necessarily a project that I would’ve prioritised.”

Finance Minister Grant Robertson confirmed on Friday the funding will still go ahead despite the backlash because he believes the Government should keep its word.  

“I can understand that there are people who perhaps don’t like it or would rather the decision was changed. But I think the Government’s got to act in good faith here with an applicant and so I’ve got no intention to do that,” Robertson said. 

Robertson said the funding was signed off as part of 150 shovel-ready projects the Government approved to help stimulate the economy. He said the funding is separate from the funding that goes to the education sector.

 I wonder how many of those 150 signed off projects are not high quality in addition to Shaw’s big mistake?

More on Shaw’s decision.

Luke Malpass (Stuff): Hypocrisy, thy colour is Green

Hypocrisy, thy colour is Green.

Or, perhaps more specifically, thy name is James Shaw.

It’s almost a quarter of the money set aside for the Climate Change Commission that Shaw specifically mentioned in his 2019 Budget speech.

The leader of the Green Party, which purports publicly to be the party of the downtrodden and dispossessed, has inadvertently revealed itself for what many think it actually is – a party that mostly serves well-heeled Kiwis in secure and well-paid employment that care about the environment, climate change and want to go cycling and tramping on the weekend.

Stuff understands that the school’s proposal for funding was originally rejected by both the Treasury and the Cabinet committee of the Government’s economic development ministers.

The school incident shows Shaw is just as prepared as NZ First is to wring money out of the Government for pet projects. Now, even worse, Shaw is trying to get the Government to revoke the cash it has already committed to the school. Talk about principles.

It is almost inexplicable that Shaw thought this was a good idea on political grounds, or justifiable on equity grounds. Even the idea that this “creates jobs” also looks dubious. At best, it substitutes one set of jobs for another, as much of the employment will be temporary and go to builders and contractors.

This decision will be an albatross around Shaw’s neck for the rest of his career, which has been carefully built around being an unthreatening, pragmatic Green with integrity.

It’s going be tough for the Greens to keep their support above the 5% threshold after this faux pas from the hapless Shaw.

Greens under fire for $11m private school funding

A curious change has been noticed to a Green farm rule:

Private schools shall never be funded. unless it’s a Green school


A Beehive announcement by Green leader James Shaw: Taranaki school construction project to create jobs

Green School New Zealand will be supported with $11.7 million from the $3 billion set aside by the Government for infrastructure in the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund.

“This project will create hundreds of quality jobs, meaning more people can continue to provide for their families whilst we weather the economic storm of the pandemic crisis. These jobs will provide a good day’s pay, doing meaningful work, building a better future for Taranaki.

“Securing over 200 jobs will help direct more money into the parts of the economy where most people earn their livelihood. These are the parts of the economy that are sustained when public investment is directed at getting people into work and earning money that they then spend in their local communities,” James Shaw said.

The ‘shovel-ready’ project will enable Green School to expand its student roll from 120 students to 250. It is estimated that a roll of 250 students will contribute $43 million each year for the local economy.

RNZ: Anger at funding for Taranaki Green School

The Educational Institute says teachers are fuming at Green Party co-leader James Shaw’s announcement of an 11.7 million dollar funding package for in a private school in Taranaki.

Shaw says the ‘shovel ready’ project at the Green School in Oakura is part of the Covid-19 economic response and will secure 200 jobs.

The union’s national secretary, Paul Goulter told our Taranaki Whanganui reporter Robin Martin the investment flies in the face of Green Party policy.

Prominent in the Green Party Education Policy:

  • Public funding for private schools should be phased out and transferred to public schools.
  • Public-private partnerships should not be used for building or running schools.

No funding of private schools has been longstanding Green policy.

Ex Green MP Sue Bradford:

Ex Green candidate John Hart:

Ex Green MP Catherine Delahunty:

Green candidate Ricardo Mendez:

Ex Green Party candidate Jack McDonald:

RNZ: Critics pile on Green private school funding boost

Education Minister Chris Hipkins is distancing himself from an $11.7 million boost for a Taranaki private school after the National Party panned the taxpayer funding as “rank hypocrisy”.

The move has attracted ire from numerous quarters, including the oppositionschool principals, unions, and from within the Greens’ own ranks.

Responding to reporters at Parliament, Hipkins ducked responsibility, stressing that the money did not come out of the education funding pool.

“It wasn’t considered through the usual education capital spend route. It was considered as a shovel-ready project.”

Hipkins deferred questions to the Ministers responsible and noted that the Green Party had advocated “quite strongly” for the funding.

“It was one of their wins, if you like, out of the shovel-ready project area,” he said. “It’s not necessarily a project that I would’ve prioritised.”

Stuff: Green members demand ‘please explain’ for $11.7m private school funding 

James Shaw calls meeting with Green members to explain private school funding decision

Green party co-leader James Shaw has been asked by party members to explain why his name appeared on a press release announcing $11.7 million of public funding for a private school.

“It’s not perfect but if you’re trying to achieve a number of objectives it achieves a number of those: it creates a number of jobs in the region, it supports the green building industry, and it’s in Taranaki, the region we’re trying to move on from oil and gas,” Shaw said.

Last night, Policy and Party co-conveners – the part of the Green Party that looks after the wider membership – requested “information and clarification” from the caucus over how the project got approval

Wiremu Winitana, one of the party’s co-convenors, told an online forum that the co-leaders, Shaw and Marama Davidson had been asked to explain and clarify the situation.

“We are inclined to agree… that this is against our policy,” Winitana said.

Shaw will front a Zoom with co-leader Marama Davidson Friday night to explain the decision to members.

An email to members said that the party understood they were feeling “frustrated or disappointed,” by the decision to grant the school funding.

That email would appear to have gone to party members only and not to the wider contact list.

The funding decision probably can’t be changed, so all Shaw can do is try to keep explaining. He has done a poor job of that so far.

Coming up to an election campaign this is poor timing for this sort of fundamental policy hypocrisy. Greens have been polling close to the 5% MMP threshold and are risk of being dumped from Parliament, especially with this sort of policy embarrassment.

Adjournment debate – James Shaw

Hon JAMES SHAW (Minister for Climate Change): E Te Māngai o Te Whare, tēnā koe. It’s always a pleasure to follow the Rt Hon Winston Peters in debate. I’ll miss it, to tell you the truth. Here we are at the final hour of the final day of the 52nd Parliament—our business for the moment complete. I know everybody here is champing at the bit to get out and campaign around the country; trying out their new election slogans. There’s Labour: “Let’s keep moving”, New Zealand First: “Let’s not”.

You could almost see the advertisements, can’t you: “New Zealand First: you can stop progress.” ACT are making a serious play for the assault rifle vote: “The ACT Party: more deadly than serious.” National, of course, have settled on a new leader with a new slogan: “Why vote for the lesser evil?”

Now, it’s not all slogans, of course. Parties will be laying out their policy platforms in advance of the election—or maybe they won’t. But it is important, as we think about the post-COVID rebuild, that voters are aware of the political philosophies that are on offer.

National want to grow the pie, Labour want to share the pie, ACT want you to get your own God damn pie, New Zealand First want a billion pies, and the Greens, of course, say that the growth of the pie is constrained by the size of the oven, and whilst you’re making pie, perhaps you should keep your oven clean, otherwise your tamariki will get really sick. Look, I know that’s not exactly bumper sticker material, but we reckon there’s at least 5 percent in it.

Speaking of which, I did ask my colleagues for the privilege of giving the Greens adjournment debate speech at the closing of this Parliament, particularly so that I could deal with the PTSD I have from election 2017. You see, I also gave the Greens adjournment debate speech at the closure of that Parliament too, and about 15 minutes before I had to come down and speak, I got that evening’s TVNZ poll result, which had us under the threshold at 3.5 percent. The whole time that I was delivering that speech, the thought weighed on my mind that it might well be the very last speech by a Green Party member of Parliament ever.

Well, 10 weeks later we were in Government, and four weeks after that I met the Pope. So I’m just saying, a lot of things can happen in the final six weeks of an election campaign, and I am mostly saying that to give the National Party a good dose of false hope for themselves, but also, honestly, because the reality is that there is a non-zero probability that this speech could also be our last—speaking statistically. Actually, no I was going to tell another statistics joke, but it isn’t significant. [Interruption] Thank you, I’ll be here all night—I actually will, ha, ha!

Actually, I do think that the most likely outcome of this election is that the Greens will be back in Parliament and in Government after the election, but if we aren’t, every one of us—current MPs, former MPs, current and former staff, volunteers, members and supporters—can be tremendously proud of the contribution that we have made as a partner in this, our first Government.

We laid down the path to a zero carbon future for Aotearoa. We made sure that more of our loved ones, our friends, and our neighbours have warm, dry, and safe homes in which to live. We’ve given people all over the country better, cleaner, and safer options for getting to work in the morning and home again at the end of the day.

We’ve expanded conservation and put more people to work restoring and replenishing our native birds, forests, and fish than ever before. Our Government has put an end to new sources of fossil fuels. We championed changes to our democracy and we reformed the way that we tackled domestic and sexual violence.

Standing here today, I can proudly say that because of the progress that we have made, a better, a cleaner, and a more equitable future for Aotearoa New Zealand is closer than it has ever been before.

Now, that is in large part due to the seven committed, passionate, and highly effective Green MPs working alongside me. To each of them, I would like to say thank you. Thank you for making the last three years as fun, as successful, and as weird as it has been. To Gareth Hughes, our friend and colleague, we bid you farewell. Everyone here is going to miss the wisdom and the passion that you bring to this place.

It is because of who we are and what we stand for that after just three years in Government, with only eight MPs, that more people up and down New Zealand can make ends meet, that our economy is greener, and nature is healing.

In those times when we didn’t get everything that we wanted, we didn’t give up, we didn’t get disillusioned, and we kept working, because for thousands of people all across New Zealand, having the Greens in Government shows that we can keep making life better for everyone.

The only way to make sure that the next Government does everything it can not just to navigate ourselves through the present crisis but to build a better world for future generations is to make sure that the Greens are a part of it. We know that we need to get out every vote that we can—we know that.

Right now there are thousands of volunteers working tirelessly in their communities, knocking on doors, picking up the phones, talking to people about where the Green Party wants to take New Zealand in the wake of the pandemic crisis. They keep at it every single day—even amidst all of the nonsense that accompanies every election. To every single one of you, I say thank you. Because of you, I am more optimistic than I have ever been that together we can change the world.

In the three years since the Green Party helped to form this Government, we have never forgotten that every action that we take, future generations are watching. Young people don’t look at this place the same way that others do. They don’t see the political point-scoring in what we do. They don’t see the one-liners and the headline grabbing antics; rather, our ideas and our actions are the prism through which they see their future.

When the polls open in four weeks’ time, that is what we are deciding; not which individuals will fill these seats, but who together will have the power to shape the kind of country that our children and our grandchildren will grow up in.

I do want to thank the Labour Party and New Zealand First for your partnership and your hard work over the last three years—in particular, the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern and the Rt Hon Winston Peters—thank you. Everything that we have done, we have done together. Thank you to all of the people who make this place, especially those who work the longest hours for the least pay. Thank you, Mr Speaker. As I said in 2017, we’ll see you in six weeks. Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.