Vernon Tava during his run for the co-leadership of the Greens (via Youtube)

Why the time is ripe for my optimistic, bright green new party

Critics call it a rightwing conspiracy, or attempt to attack the messenger, but they overlook what a new Sustainable NZ Party can offer, writes its leader.

Politics is a contest of ideas and the promise of MMP was that we’d have a greater diversity of ideas leading to increased quality of solutions and decision making. However, at the last general election we saw 80% of votes go to the two big parties and we lost two of the five smaller parties from parliament. There is plenty of room for more parties on our political landscape, plenty of room for more ideas and more solutions.

Sustainable New Zealand’s launch was met with extensive media coverage and a wide variety of opinion pieces. People certainly haven’t been indifferent. Our membership numbers continue to climb and, following a robust interview with John Campbell on Breakfast, a TV One online poll, unscientific but with close to 4,000 participants, produced the following very promising results.

Of course, there’ve been critics. That’s politics. Mostly, though, instead of examining the ideas presented, they’ve focused on discrediting the messenger. Again, that’s politics. But what about the idea itself? Put simply, New Zealand needs a new sustainability party because we must deal urgently with numerous, existential, environmental challenges. We need a party not tied to the ideological dogmas of the last century. We need new ideas; ideas to take us forward not backwards.

Some critics say it’s obviously a rightwing conspiracy. Everyone knows only socialists can genuinely be concerned about the environment, right? Others say it’s all been tried before. The Progressive Greens tried something kind-of-similar-but-not-really almost a quarter of a century ago and, anyway, we all know that nothing at all has changed since then, right? Oh, and the idea of a new sustainability party is hopeless but also the Greens’ position is so precarious that they should be considered a protected species who cannot withstand any competition whatsoever.

James Shaw’s old friend and former occasional speechwriter, Danyl Mclauchlan, writing for The Spinoff earlier this year reminds us that:

The Green Party was founded as a left-wing environmental and social justice party, and it still is: the justification is that you can’t have environmental justice without social justice, and that the capitalist components of the economic system need to be destroyed because “you can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet …

But the truth is:

It’s all nonsense, of course: growth is not synonymous with resource consumption. You can have a circular economy with high growth, low waste and zero emissions, just as you can have a zero growth, zero GINI [inequality] people’s utopia powered by burning coal on every street corner. But people believe it – party ideology is usually about coalition building, not logic – and you couldn’t shift the Greens to the centre without tearing the party apart.

Good to have that cleared up. This is why another party is needed.

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I was involved for a time in the National Party in the hope that a wider constituency – alienated by the “red” Greens – could engage with environmental protection, but it became clear to me that the Blue-Green network, while peopled by good people doing good work, would only ever be a subsidiary of a party that will always prioritise the economy. What was really necessary was to start a new, separate party, neither left nor right but truly focused on sustainability. Not a blue-green party but what could be called a bright-green party.

What do we mean by bright green? We have a distinctive view of how a sustainable economy and sustainable environment intersect. The Greens say that we must ‘dismantle’ the economy and that capitalism itself is the enemy (without providing much detail on what would replace it) but we know that economic growth is increasingly being driven by the very technologies that will reduce wasteful and harmful by products as well as resource consumption and pollution. We are at a fortunate juncture in history where there can be a total alignment between business, technology and environmental regeneration as clean-tech drives the next wave of economic activity.

This is not just blithely saying that we can sit back and wait for technology to save us but recognising the pivotal role it will play in solving the environmental and social challenges we face if we are smart about how we regulate markets. New Zealand could be one of the world’s leading ‘clean-tech’ hubs and our focus is on incentivising that for the benefit of all New Zealanders without falling into the traps that governments tend to when they pick winners.

Perhaps most importantly, we reject the doom-laden, apocalyptic fatalism that tends to characterise the environmental debate. Most people’s reaction to an endless diet of negativity is not to be roused to action but to give up. We have plenty to work on but we also have plenty of reasons to be optimistic and we have plenty of ideas to contribute.


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