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From Tuesday to this weekend: Maureen Pugh and the National party’s hue of teal (Image: Tina Tiller)
From Tuesday to this weekend: Maureen Pugh and the National party’s hue of teal (Image: Tina Tiller)

The BulletinFebruary 24, 2023

Teal hues and Maureen Pugh: the National party’s spectrum on climate change

From Tuesday to this weekend: Maureen Pugh and the National party’s hue of teal (Image: Tina Tiller)
From Tuesday to this weekend: Maureen Pugh and the National party’s hue of teal (Image: Tina Tiller)

The party’s Bluegreens wing meets this weekend, bookending a week where it had to make it clear that the broad church doesn’t accomodate climate change denial, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell in this excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.


National party Bluegreens meet this weekend

The National party’s annual Bluegreens Forum will take place in Blenheim this weekend. Christopher Luxon, whose state of the nation speech was delayed by the arrival of Cyclone Gabrielle, will speak. The Bluegreens are the party’s environment wing and the forum makes for an interesting bookend to a week which included West Coast MP Maureen Pugh providing, at best, a distracting form of bleak levity as she walked back comments about climate change in about three hours after a conversation with Luxon. The National party is a broad church but it will not accommodate climate change deniers.

Forum to discuss RMA reforms

The Bluegreens were founded over 20 years ago by a group of environmentalists, including former Nelson MP Nick Smith. One of the topics for discussion this weekend is the Resource Management Act reforms. It’s a bit of a throwback to 2015, when the party was in government and Smith first mooted the need for RMA reform. Yesterday, the party criticised the reforms, citing a submission from the Wind Energy Association that said that the reforms will make it more difficult to build a wind farm. “That is the exact opposite outcome of what nearly everyone says New Zealand needs,” says Chris Bishop. RMA reform is just one big piece of government work this year that is inextricably linked with climate change adaptation and mitigation action.

Muller “bristles” when asked about climate change leadership

As the opposition, the National party are in the position of needing to oppose the government and somewhat guard their own policies until it’s the right time to release them in an election year. But with climate change adaptation and mitigation going from “to-do list” to “top of the list” and fair demand for solutions from those impacted by severe weather right now, it does create a vacuum. Stuff’s Bridie Witton says Todd Muller “bristled” when asked why his party hadn’t shown more political leadership on climate change. “There has been a huge amount of talking about what our policies are and when we are going to make the call to announce it. Not choosing to share is not an absence of thinking,” he said. Muller is the party’s spokesperson for agriculture and climate change.

A teal wave?

It might be tempting to draw parallels between the Bluegreens and the “teal independents” in Australia who targeted voters in wealthy city-fringe suburbs who lean centre-right but want more action on climate change. As Toby Manhire noted in his look at the “teal wave” during last year’s Australian election, our MMP system isn’t a natural fit for a similar play. Newsroom’s Marc Daalder reexamined the possibility of a “teal wave” here after the Auckland floods, with political scientists concluding the floods weren’t “likely to shift voter preferences given the electorate is already disengaged from the nuts and bolts of climate policy.” It’s likely our party and electoral system dynamics will never produce a replica of what happened in Australia but events since Daalder’s analysis will, at the very least, train more eyes on what Luxon has to say this weekend.

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