As National searches for a support partner, there is fresh talk of a new centrist environmental party. But is it something voters are looking for, asks RNZ’s Chris Bramwell
It is no surprise talk of a new environmentally-focussed centrist political party is being welcomed by National, because under MMP it will need a support partner if it is to take the reins again.
But is there really a gap in the political spectrum that needs filling with another environmental party?
Obviously the Green Party has long been the voice for climate change and environmental issues but many of its platforms, which may have been considered fringe issues a decade ago, are now mainstream.
Take for example climate change. The Greens were for many years the main political voice calling for strong action by successive governments on tackling climate change, that is until Jacinda Ardern made it one of her core priorities.
While James Shaw may now have his mitts on his coveted Climate Change portfolio, the Greens “action on climate change” message has become somewhat diluted as the party is now part of government and as a minister, Shaw considers that he has to toe the line.
Many other Green Party policies, which were considered somewhat radical when first announced, were later picked up by other political parties – for example the Capital Gains Tax, getting New Zealand to net zero carbon by 2050, the Auckland city rail loop and the home insulation scheme.
The problem for the Green Party is that not only has its core policies and platforms either been hijacked or become mainstream issues, but it has always been a party of opposition, and being in government means it has to sacrifice a bit of brand recognition in exchange for co-operation.
Former Green Party MP Sue Bradford said it was laughable that the Green Party is considered far left at all now saying that under James Shaw the party is more centrist than it had ever been.
Further to the right, National has had its own Blue-Greens group for 21 years, founded by Nick Smith and now led by Scott Simpson.
National is often slated by the left as being some kind of environmental destroyer, but it was under a National-led Government that Kahurangi National Park was created, it set up 11 marine reserves, protected the Ross Sea, set up an extensive national network of cycleways, set up Predator Free 2050 and banned shark finning.
So while the talk is of there being space for a centrist environmental party, there is not really that much of a gap that needs filling.
With that in mind then, let’s take a look at the main proponent of the need for a centrist environmental party, Vernon Tava.
Tava is a former candidate, leadership contender and co-covenor of the Green Party. He has also tried unsuccessfully to stand as a National Party candidate.
He clearly has political aspirations combined with a robust ego, but has failed with both National and the Greens, so what better idea than to agitate for a party of his own?