Jeanette Fitzsimons 17.1.45 – 5.3.20


Former Green Party co-leader and MP Jeanette Fitzsimons has died.

Fitzsimons, 75, was the co-leader of the Green Party from 1995 to 2009, and was an MP from 1996 to 2010.

While I didn’t share her political views, I admired her principled approach.

That extended to her willingness to speak out against her party when it went against its principles in supporting the wake jumping legislation.

UPDATE: RNZ has comments from her husband, Harry Parke, here.

Principles pay price of power


The Green Party has paid for power with the loss of its principles in supporting the waka jumping legislation.

. . .Labour promised to support the waka jumping legislation in its coalition agreement with NZ First, but the legislation is not covered in its agreement with the Green Party.

However, a clause in the agreement seemingly holds the Greens to supporting any legislation not specifically flagged in the coalition talks, meaning the Greens MPs feel they have to vote for the waka jumping bill. . .

Have they voted for every piece of government legislation so far and will they continue to do so?

Didn’t they vote against the CPTTP? If they could stick to their principles then, when they were in the wrong, why not now when they’d be in the right?

It’s understood that the Green negotiators were asked to produce a list of potential NZ First legislation they could not agree with during coalition talks, and did not think to include Waka Jumping as it had been so long since the law had been an issue.

That was at best naive.

Former Green co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, who was part of the negotiating team, said earlier this year the agreement did not in fact force the Greens into supporting the bill.

Then why are they doing it?

Green MP Eugenie Sage said “we don’t like it” but it was “very important” to one of the coalition parties.

“It is a dead rat they we have to swallow,” Sage said.

The Greens have long opposed such legislation. . .

Proponents argue that it maintains the proportionality of Parliament while opponents say it stifles democracy.

If maintaining proportionality was so important, National would have got another list MP when Peters won the seat of Northland. Instead of which NZ First got another MP.

National MP Nick Smith said the Greens had “sold their soul” and were “trashing their core values.”

“We’ve never before had a party saying it opposed a bill – leat alone a bill that makes changes to our electoral law and constitution where they are oppose to it but are going to vote it anyway.

“This is the Green Party selling its soul for power,” Smith said.

“They are the last party I would expect to do this.”

He goes further in a media release:

Government changes to New Zealand MMP electoral law enabling a party leader to dismiss an MP would break the constitutional law Allied Powers put in place following the end of the Second World War, National’s Electoral Law spokesperson Dr Nick Smith says.

“The Government cannot justify this draconian law change on the basis of MMP. Germany has had MMP for over 70 years and has no such provisions. In fact, the Human Rights Commission has drawn to Parliament’s attention that it would be ironic and wrong for New Zealand to have insisted on specific democratic protections in Germany, but to be breaching those protections at home,” Dr Smith says.

It is not just Germany that has constitutional protections for MPs’ free speech. The European Court has over-ridden similar laws like those being proposed for New Zealand as undemocratic. The Supreme Court in Papua New Guinea struck down similar laws there in 2010.

New Zealand is putting itself in the company of totalitarian states like Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Sierra Leone with these electoral law changes.

That isn’t company any country, government or party that stands up for democratic rights would want to be in.

In these countries, Members of Parliament have been dismissed for challenging corruption in their own Government, for participating in a press conference without their leaders consent and for voting in Parliament differently to how their leaders instructed them. The Government is opening up the risk of this happening in New Zealand.

“New Zealanders should be deeply concerned that changes are being made to our electoral law that would be illegal and unconstitutional in most parts of the world. At a time when autocratic rulers are on the rise, New Zealand should be strengthening and not weakening our protections for democracy and free speech.

“This draconian bill that the Government accepts will have a ‘chilling effect on the expression of dissenting views by MPs’ must be abandoned.”

The select committee received submission after submission from legal experts, academics and a broad cross-section of people concerned for this assault on democracy.

And all because New Zealand First’s leader Winston Peters is so insecure and distrustful of his caucus.

Labour swallowed the dead rat in coalition negotiations. Green Party MPs are facing up to swallowing it now so the legislation will go through.

Their members won’t be happy but they are the ones who wouldn’t have countenanced the party going with National.

Had they agreed to a blue-green government they would have got several conservation gains, including the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary.

Instead of which they’re watching their MPs dine on a large dead rat and wondering what other principles they might sacrifice as the price of power.

Not a single supportive submission


Quelle surprise – the Justice and electoral Select Committee has not had a single submission in support of the waka jumping Bill:

The Ardern-Peters Government should withdraw its Bill that enables party leaders to dismiss an MP from Parliament following unanimous opposition to it, National’s Electoral Law spokesperson Dr Nick Smith says.

“All three governing parties appeared shocked by the strength of the 43 submissions in opposition to the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill.

“We have had over 20 constitutional law experts from four universities, the Human Rights Commission, the Law Society, two former Speakers, former Green MPs and even the Clerk of the House of Representatives express strong concerns about it.

“There was not a single submission that supported the Bill’s purpose to allow a party leader to dismiss an elected constituency MP, and only two supporting the provision for list MPs.

“The major objection from submitters is that it increases the power of party leaders at the expense of MPs and voters, that it will have a chilling effect on the free speech of MPs in Parliament, and that it breaches the Bill of Rights.

MPs are selected by their parties but elected by the public.

A party can expel an MP from its party but it does not, and should not, have the right to expel one from parliament. That is the voters’ right.

“Other concerns include the effect of undermining the requirement for governments to retain the confidence of the House, the damage it will do to New Zealand’s reputation on democracy and human rights, and preventing the evolution of new political parties.

“This Bill has become an early test to as whether the Coaliton Government takes the parliamentary and select committee process seriously.

“It would be breathtakingly arrogant for the Government to pass legislation – particularly on constitutional and electoral matters against this unanimous chorus of submissions opposing it.

“The fundamental problem with this Bill is that it has never been about improving our Parliament democracy but about propping up this fragile government.

“We must not undo centuries-old democratic principles for the vain ambition of Mr Peters to have absolute power over his New Zealand First MPs. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Dr Smith says.

The Labour Party was forced to swallow this particular rat last time it needed Winston Peters’ support to stay in government, having done it once it might not find it quite so hard to swallow it again.

But this must be a very difficult rat for the Green Party to digest when it argued against it so strongly the first time and its MPs will know how strongly its members, including former co-leader  Jeanette Fitzsimons  argued so strongly against it:

It breaches the Bill of Rights. It denies freedom of speech and association. It is contrary to international and NZ precedent. It is opposed by an impressive array of senior legal, constitutional and political experts. The Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill – or “waka-jumping bill” as it is better known – is unnecessary to address any real problem.

Integrity cannot be legislated for. It is a matter of conscience and judgement. In some cases leaving one’s party is an act of integrity – as when the party has departed from the policies it took to the election, or has abused proper process. In other cases, it may be just self-serving political expediency. Normally the law has the sense not to intervene here. Personal judgements will differ on whether an action is carried out with integrity and only the voters can be the judge of that. In our system of three-year terms, they don’t have to wait long for the opportunity and in the past they have exercised it, generally returning members who changed their allegiance on well founded principle, and getting rid of the opportunists.

Dissent is a valuable part of the political process. Without it, MPs are just clones of their leader. Having dealt with it as co-leader of the Green Party caucus at times, between 1999 and 2009, I know uncomfortable it can be but the remedy is inclusiveness and listening and wide discussion, not shutting down the political process. . . 

David Farrar was among those who also made a well reasoned submission strongly opposing the Bill:

 . . . Outside the two major parties, every new party in Parliament under MMP (bar ACT) has got here through current MPs defecting. This bill will protect incumbent parties and prevent that natural evolution of new parties.

The history of New Zealand is you can’t just lump every MP who leaves a party in together. For every Alamein Kopu you have a John A Lee. For every NZ Independent Coalition party you have the New Labour Party.

Parties have splits. MPs fall out. There are disagreements on policies. This is part of politics. And the NZ public have proven very able at sorting it all out at general elections. Our democracy will not be well served by a law that gives party leaders and their caucuses a power previously reserved for voters, to remove an MP from Parliament.

The Green Party has always prided itself on its integrity. This is a big test for that claim and one which it looks like, contrary to its principles and the strong feelings of its members, it is about to fail.

This is not, as the Bill’s name would have us believe about integrity.

It is the very opposite.

It is about nothing more than Winston Peters’ fear at least one of his caucus will tire of asking how high? every time he says jump.

Environment not preserve of left


The Green Party continues to isolate itself on the left of the political spectrum:

. . . Since the election, several high profile commentators – including the businessman, Gareth Morgan – have suggested the Greens ditch some of their left-leaning policies. . .

Radio New Zealand invited Mr Morgan to take part in a discussion panel along with the Greens’ co-leader Metiria Turei and her predecessor Jeanette Fitzsimons.

Mr Morgan argued that the Green Party’s stance means they could only ever go into Government with Labour.

“I want to see the environment represented inside the tent. I don’t want the environment to have about a 50 percent chance of being in power.”

The environment is represented in the current government. The BlueGreens are a strong group within the National Party and caucus.

He said many middle-of-the-road voters cared about the environment but won’t vote for the Green Party because of its more left-wing policies.

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei says that approach would cost them a significant amount of support.

The failure to moderate the party’s radical left social and economic agenda is costing it support.

The Green Party was one of the losers in last year’s election.

With Labour doing so badly it ought to have picked up support but it didn’t. If it can’t increase it’s vote when Labour is at its nadir then it will have a great deal of difficulty doing it as Labour’s support improves.

“You cannot just isolate one aspect as a silo and expect that that will have an influence across the whole of the programme.”

She said the party’s economic, social, and environmental policies are all interconnected.

“We simply will not and cannot … give up on our value set that recognises ecological wisdom, social justice, and the economy as an opportunity and a tool for improving on both.” . .

The environment, economy and social issues are inter-related but none of them are the preserve of the left.

National has followed a moderate path which has helped foster economic growth and improved social outcomes as well as introducing policies to protect and enhance the environment.

The hard left-wing environmental, economic and social policies the Greens favour are expensive and impractical.

By hampering growth and entrenching dependence they would create more problems than they solve and reduce the ability to afford better environmental protection and enhancement.

A wee bit too clever?


Politics is hard on families and I respect Holly Walker’s decision to put her family first by deciding to resign.

Her decision to remain as the candidate for Hutt South is somewhat less laudable.

Since Jeanette Fitzsimons lost Coromandel, the Green party hasn’t even pretended to be interested in winning electorates.

I’ve heard their candidates tell meetings to not vote for them, vote for the Labour man or woman, they’re only interested in the party vote.

Like it or not, that’s what MMP allows.

But to have an MP who has stated she will resign from parliament at the end of the term still stand as a candidate in a seat is a new twist of the system.

It’s not unusual to have people stand in seats they can’t win.

Plenty stand in seats for the sake of the party knowing they won’t win nor can they expect to get in on the list. They are taking one for the team in the hope of increasing the party vote.

But this is the first time a list MP who has announced she won’t be in the next parliament still plans to campaign in a seat with the deliberate intent of neither winning it nor returning to parliament.

There are obvious advantages for the party – they have a candidate with profile and the ability to get publicity in a way open to MPs but not so much to a candidate, and who is being paid by the taxpayer.

But what’s in it for the people of Hutt South?

Nothing but another example of MMP’s faults.

The Green Party engineered the early entry of Russel Norman into parliament when he first became co-leader so he could campaign as an MP with the benefits and pay that carried.

That was manipulating the system but at least he was fully intending to be an MP after the next election.

This smells worse than that.

Walker would be paid until the end of the parliamentary term without being a candidate and even if she wasn’t standing in a seat she could still campaign for the party until the election.

So it’s not that there’s any extra cost involved.

It’s more an extra dose of duplicity.

Not trying to win because it’s the party vote that counts is one thing, standing without wanting to win is another.

In the normal course of events a candidate who didn’t expect tow in would be delighted is s/he did but obviously Walker wouldn’t be.

The chances might be slim, and if the good folk of Hutt South catch on to what’s going on, they’ll be even slimmer.

And that’s where she and the party might be being a wee bit too clever.

They might not like the smell of this and decide to give their party votes to a party which stands candidates who genuinely want to be in parliament.

H is for . . .


H is for hurry and that is what David Cunliffe appears to be in.

He wants to scarp the coat tail rule that enables parties which win seats to bring other MPs in even if they don’t get 5% of the vote, and he wants to do it within 100 days of getting into government.

Why the rush?

There will be nearly three years until the next election when the law change would apply. That’s plenty of time to draw up legislation, open it to public submission, let it go through the select committee process, report back to parliament and gain the cross-party support which any change to electoral law should have.

H is also for hypocrisy and that what Cunliffe is exhibiting.

He was part of successive governments which were supported by Jim Anderton against whom Labour didn’t try to compete to win the electorate and who, at least in the early days, brought other MPs in on his coat tails.

He was part of successive governments which benefited from Peter Dunne’s support and those of the MPs who came in on his coat tails – even though he won the seat through the votes of National Party supporters.

He was a senior member of the party which didn’t try too hard to win the Coromandel seat which enabled Jeanette Fitzsimons to win as insurance should the Green Party not reach the 5% threshold.

He didn’t worry about the coat-tailers then and is only making a fuss now because of the Internet Mana deal.

Yet he’s not sufficiently worried to take a stand and say he won’t enter a coalition with them which is an equally blatant example of hypocrisy.

While I agree the IMP deal is a perversion of MMP, democracies don’t change electoral law to get rid of potential rivals for power.

They leave it for the voters to exercise their discretion at the election.

I hope there will be more than enough who do that wisely and foil the IMP plan to gain power by manipulating MMP.

If they don’t, so be it.

Cunliffe can cobble together a coalition of GIMPs and try to introduce changes to the electoral law which would sabotage at least one of the parties on whose votes he’ll depend for a majority.

H is also for help and that’s what we’ll all need should that be the sort of government we get.

Lowering the tone


Debate in parliament can be robust, it can also be personal and in the past week there’s been a lowering of the tone with a descent into nastiness:

NZ First leader Winston Peters is known for his expensive suits but he triggered a Savile row of a different nature when he turned on ex-NZ First MP Brendan Horan this week. To say there is bad blood between the two is an insult to leukemia. The loathing runs deeper than the Marianas Trench, as wide as the mouth of the Amazon.

But to do as Peters did, and to describe Horan as “the Jimmy Savile of NZ politics”  – and to do so not once but twice in what was clearly a calculated insult – takes it to a whole new level. Savile, the deceased British “celebrity” who sexually preyed on young, often handicapped, girls, is the nuclear option of insults. It all looked a bit desperate. You cannot make such a comment without backing it up with some evidence.

Yet Peters not only failed to do so, but failed to front in Parliament the following day, when Horan had signalled he would reveal his own deep scandal about NZ First.

It left the rest of the NZ First MPs – who tend to resemble a bunch of ageing Social Creditors with anger management issues at the best of times – making a shambles of trying to use Parliament’s standing orders to block their former colleague.

In the end, Horan’s revelations Peters was using the leader’s budget for electioneering and campaigning expenses, namely software and staff, proved something of a damp squib. It is still far from clear NZ First is doing anything wrong with its Parliamentary funding, although no doubt the party does – like all the others – push it right up to the edge of the rules. . .

New Zealand wasn’t the only party guilty of lowering the tone:

Back in February, Trans-Tasman (14/1933) called attention to what it saw as a “crusty, even nasty, undertone” in political debate. This week the tone was definitely nasty, and it wasn’t an undertone. Winston Peters was slugging it out with his onetime colleague, now independent MP, Brendan Horan labelling him the “Jimmy Savile of NZ politics.” Judging by the sycophantic responses from other NZ First MPs, it was a rehearsed line to put down Horan, who had been trying to table NZ First board meeting minutes, telling Parliament they “point to improper use of taxpayer money.” Just as unpleasant was the tweet from Green MP Jan Logie – “John Key says Bill English has produced as many Budgets as children. Begs the question who he has f&%d to produce it.” Logie subsequently apologised for the comment, but it showed how far current Green MPs have moved from the high standards of former leaders the late Rod Donald and Jeanette Fitzsimons. . .

It’s not only far from the standards of the past, it’s a long way from the current code of conduct for Green MPs and the lowering of tone has resulted in a call for MPs to mind their manners:

Prime Minister John Key is warning MPs to behave following what he describes as “a nasty streak” running through Parliament. . . 

Mr Key said on Thursday that politicians risk offending the public with nasty behaviour or mindless tweets.

“Political parties actually need to think about that a little bit. We’re seeing tweets that I think have been wholly inappropriate, we’ve seen all sorts of allegations been made that are unfounded.

“It’s one thing to have parliamentary privilege – it’s quite another thing to actually say those things, because actually they do have repercussions, they do send ripples through the community.”

Mr Key said a tweet is no different from a media statement.

The sort of nastiness that’s been exhibited in the past week is what puts a lot of people off politics.

It adds to the negative view many have of politicians.

And it puts the focus on the petty and personal instead of the principles and policies which really matter.

Focus, former MPs bound to fail


Quite why I was in parliament buildings in 1996 I can’t recall.

But I do remember being in the office of an MP with several others including Ross Meurant who had resigned from the National Party and formed the Right of Centre Party when his electorate disappeared with the introduction of MMP.

He told us he’d formed the party to give National a coalition partner. We told him it wouldn’t work.

We were right.

Since then he’s occupied himself in a variety of ways:

Meurant was elected onto the Rodney District Council in 1998. However, his time with the Rodney District Council was short-lived: the entire council was dissolved by the Minister of Local Government after an acrimonious relationship between the general manager and Meurant culminated in a split within the council.

Between 1999 and 2004 Meurant was engaged by parliamentary services as a part time adviser on agriculture, forestry, fishing and racing taxation policy to Winston Peters, . . .

He’s now on the board of another new party – Focus New Zealand (which was, until its first meeting last week, the New Zealand Rural Party).

Another ex-MP, Sandra Goudie is on the board with him.

She won the Coromandel seat from then-Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, served three terms then had the good sense to announce she wouldn’t contest the seat last year.

That good sense has now deserted her.

If either of them had learned anything from their tenure as MPs they would be aware of the time, energy, money and members needed to run a party and win elections. They would also know they won’t succeed.

Perhaps they didn’t realise that when they were in parliament and if they did they can’t have shared it with their fellow board members among whom is  former Federated Farmers Dairy chairman Lachlan McKenzie.

They might attract some votes from the disenchanted and deluded. But unless they can work a miracle which no other new party without a sitting MP has managed Focus NZ will join the long list of wannabe MPs and parties that have come and gone without getting anywhere near parliament.

Accidental MPs


Retiring MP Sue Kedgley admitted in her valedictory speech that she entered parliament by accident:

I am what you might call an accidental MP – someone who arrived in this House by accident, not by design. I casually agreed to put my name on a Green Party list for the ninety-nine election, at a time when the Green Party was polling at zero per cent. And the next thing I knew Jeanette Fitzsimons was on the phone, telling me I had just become an MP.

This isn’t the first time MPs who thought they had no hope of being MPs have found themselves with a  seat in parliament.

In 2002 National bled votes to Act, United Future (or whatever it was called then) and New Zealand First candidates who stood with little if any hope of winning gained a list seat. Few of those accidental MPs did anything of note and most have now thankfully been forgotten.

MMP’s lists enable people who would never win an electorate to get into parliament. But we got accidental MPs with FPP too. In 1990 a high tide for National brought in candidates in seats previously thought unwinnable by the party, for example Gilbert Myles who won the seat of Roskill.

This reinforces the importance of parties having strong membership and quality candidates.

It’s all very well running people who haven’t got what it takes to be MPs in seats they’ll never win to wave their parties’ flags. But putting them on the list where they might be swept into parliament by an unexpected tail wind or selecting them in electorates they could win inflicts them on us all.

Being a good MP is a very demanding job, parties owe it to us to ensure the people they select have not just the skills and abilities to do it well but also have the will to do it at all.

Another Green retiring


Green Party MP Keith Locke has announced he’ll be retiring from parliament at the election.

Two of the party’s MPs – Jeanette Fitzsimons and Sue Bradford  already stepped down during this term and Sue Sue Kedgely has also announced she won’t be standing again.

That’s a lot of renewal for a wee party.

Sandra Goudie to retire


 Coromandel MP Sandra Goudie has announced she will retire from politics after this year’s election.

 Sandra won the seat from then-Green co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons in 2002. This was a notable achievement when the tide was so strongly against National and meant the Greens have since then had to rely on winning 5% of the party vote to stay in parliament.

It was difficult to miss Sandra in her brightly coloured Falcon and her successive election margins showed she was a popular and effective local MP.

“After nine fantastic years serving the people of the Coromandel,” Ms Goudie says, “it’s time to park up the Falcon.

 “I shall always treasure driving my faithful purple Ford Falcon V8 through our electorate – Coromandel Town, Whitianga, Thames, Whangamata, Paeroa, Waihi, Te Aroha, Katikati and Waitoa, and places in between. We have a beautiful electorate and great people.”

 Ms Goudie says her greatest contribution to Coromandel has been her open-door policy for constituents.

 “People’s political preferences have never stopped me helping them,” Ms Goudie says.

 “My staff and I have helped countless people in Coromandel. I would like to say a big thank you to my staff for their work and dedication over the years.

 “On a personal level, I was proud to win the Coromandel seat back for National. I now hold the tenth highest electorate majority in New Zealand following the 2008 election, of which I am also very proud, and acknowledge all those who have helped me to achieve that.

 “I was elected in 2002, and a lot has happened since then. The construction and opening of the Whangamata Marina was an emotional experience for all of us. Since it opened, a number of people originally opposed to it have said to me it’s been terrific for the area.

 “The progress we’ve made with the Kōpū Bridge has been exciting, and now we’re waiting for it to be finished next year. I’m also proud of giving people a voice about mangroves in Coromandel. Sadly bureaucrats have been slow to move on this issue.

 “It has been a real honour to serve as MP for Coromandel, and to be part of the National-led Government which is doing great things for New Zealand. Thank you to all the people who have supported me through the years.”

  Very little of the hard work local MPs do for their constituents gets noticed by the media or public. Kiwiblog writes of one of her campaigns.

Not all MPs will make it in to Cabinet but those who like Sandra help countless constituents and stand up for local issues also make a very valuable contribution to the country.

The selection for the seats will be keenly contested and help with the on-going refreshment of the National caucus.

Things to do at 9am on Sunday


Watching TV at all, let alone a programme on politics, doesn’t usually feature on my list of things to do at 9am on Sundays.

However, programmers at TVNZ have stuck to last year’s scheduling time and that’s when Agenda Q&A will screen again.

It starts this Sunday. Phil Goff and Hone Harawira are the interviewees. Mike Moore and Jeanette Fitzsimons willl join resident polticial analyst  Dr Therese Arseneau and Paul Holmes on the panel.

Fifth rate speech rates fifth


One of the measures of a state of the nation speech is how much prominence the media coverage of it gets.

Was it a deliberate ploy by Jeannette Fitzsimons to exact revenge on Labour by announcing her resignation on the day Phil Goff tried to make himself and his party relevant?

Whether or not it was, two stories related to it and stories featuring Steven Joyce and John Key knocked Goff’s speech in to fifth place on the Stuff politics page:

Meet the Green Party’s new MP

A man once arrested while dressed up as Ronald McDonald is to be the new Green Party MP.

Driver’s licence cost could go up

 The cost of getting a driver’s licence is to go up, with more sweeping changes possible in future as the whole system gets reviewed.

Troubled youth visit hits Key


Prime Minister John Key has told how he and Prince William last week met a 15-year-old girl who had tried to kill herself the day before.

Fitzsimons resigns after 13 years


Green MP Jeanette Fitzsimons has confirmed she will resign from Parliament with her efforts praised by PM John Key.

Cap salaries, Goff says

 Labour leader Phil Goff has called for a cap on public service chief executive wages so they do not get paid more than the prime minister.

Mind you, bottom of the list is about where a speech like this belongs.

His “many not the few” is more than a little rich when it comes from the leader of a party which spent three terms dividing the population into groups whose votes it could buy.

Even the attack on bludgers fails. Labour actively encouraged bludging by making dependent on government handouts so many people who ought to be able to cope with their own resources.

Another Green goes early


RadioNZ reports that Jeanette Fitzsimons will resign from parliament next month.

Once you’ve stepped down as leader it must be difficult to focus on being a backbench MP so I can understand the personal reasons for her doing so.

It also allows a successor to operate without being being overshadowed by the previous leader.

However, leaving parliament this easily is a luxury open only to list MPs who can resign without triggering a by-election.

Update: Just to clarify, I’m not criticising Fitzsimons for this decision.

Spot the confusion


The NBR has spotted a spot of Green confusion.

Party co-leader Russel Norman has been stridently criticising the proposals for dairying operations in the Mackenzie Basin which house cows inside.

But on the party’s own website, former Green party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons is extolling the virtues of herd homes – sheds erected to house dairy cows and keep them from damaging pasture during wet winters, and reducing nitrous oxide emissions.

The two operations aren’t exactly the same, but the concepts are similar.

I have reservations about the Mackenzie plan but not on environmental grounds. I think Ftizsimons is probably right on this, and if she isn’t any environmental problems will be addressed during the resource consent process.

Greens on good farms


The Green Party is often regarded with suspicion by farmers because they appear to be far better at putting the spot light on bad practices than acknowledging good ones.

However, the party is launching a new initiative today telling good farm stories.

Jeanette Fitzsimons says:

There’s plenty of good farmers pioneering new ideas to make farming more sustainable, and we’re keen to tell New Zealand about them. . .

There’s great stuff going on down on the farm, and I thought it was time some of these stories got out. They include clever innovations, quality animal husbandry, excellent protection of waterways and biodiversity, reduced pesticide use, and lots of pride and pleasure in running a good farm.

This is a really good idea and I look forward to reading these stories.

Mining hysteria


Wouldn’t it be terrible if the oil exploration work in the Great South Basin actually found something extractable, writes The Southland Times in an editorial.

The ocean environment would be ravaged by who knows how many probably a bunch of those colossal ugly oil rigs, destroying the visual amenity of the entire seascape, maybe undermining the structural integrity of the seabed, causing whale concussions and attracting roughnecks who would doubtless rampage through Invercargill on their time off.

A tad overstated?

Yes it is and you can read the rest of the editorial explaining why here.

The hysterical reaction to the idea of a stock take of mineral reserves under conservation land is not surprising, but it is a wee bit over the top.

Listening to the critics, you’d be excused for thinking that doing a stock take would require the clear felling of native bush and the extermination of native wild life.

that won’t happen even if the stock take does uncover certain riches and the decision is then made to extract them. Modern mining a tiny, wee bit of the conservation estate would not be, as * Jeanette Fitzsimons thinks:

. . . like saying you’ve got six children, so it doesn’t really matter if you lose one does it.

It’s  more like saying we’ve got a huge garden, most of which is pretty but there could be some odd bits which are a bit scrubby where we might grow vegetables  and pop a garden shed.

* Hat Tip: Kiwiblog

Smoking bad for environment


It isn’t news that smoking is bad for human health but now it seems it’s bad for the globe’s health too.

The number of outdoor heaters has increased since smoking inside was banned and environmentalists are concerned about the carbon emissions from them.

 “100,000 homes all using a standard patio heater on average of one hour per week would generate a carbon footprint of approximately 18 000 tonnes, that’s equivalent to a medium-sized car travelling from Auckland to Wellington and back again around 60, 000 times,” says Kathryn Hailes, from Carbonzero programme.

“If these households stopped using their patio heaters cost savings could be potentially around $20 million dollars per annum, that’s a lot of savings that people could keep in their back pocket rather than using to heat the ambient temperature of the neighbourhood,” says Ms Hailes.

But do 100,000 homes all use a standard patio heater for an average of an hour a week?

We have a couple of patio heaters which we use for a few hours a few times a year – less than 10 hours in total.

We use a barbeque a lot more often, though usually for less than 15 minutes at a time.

“What seems very bizarre about them is that we’re busy insulating our houses so that we can minimise the amount of heat that we need to keep warm and here we are burning fuel outside with not even walls let alone insulation heating up the entire universe,” says Jeanette Fitzsimons, Green Party MP.

Environmentalists say they produce the same volume of climate-changing gases as a speeding truck. They’ve also calculated they consume as much energy as five electric fan heaters on full power.

The European parliament is in the process of banning the outdoor heaters and Australia is wondering about the environmental cost of them.

Here in New Zealand there are no plans for a ban but the energy efficiency and conservation authority says it’s keeping a close eye on developments in Australia.

Jeanette Fitzsimons doesn’t support a ban but says she is concerned about the heater’s carbon footprint. . .

 “It’s a question of personal responsibility of the person using them and that’s one of the things that a price on carbon emissions will start to create as it will raise the price of fuel and then people can decide ‘Do I really want to spend that much on outdoor heating or have I got better things to do with the money and the fuel,’ and for those determined to head outdoors on chilly evenings there’s always the option of putting on another jersey,” says Ms Fitzsimmons.

Personal responsibility and letting people make their own choice based on price is a pleasant change of tone from the Greens which have in the past been more keen on bans.

However, has anyone thought that if people weren’t outside enjoying themselves they might be somewhere else doing something else which caused even more emissions?

Who’s to lead the Greens to where?


Jeanette Fitzsimon’s announcement she will step down from the co-leadership  of the Green Party in June is not unexpected.

As a list MP she could resign from parliament too without triggering a by-election but plans to stay on as an “active backbencher”.

While I admired her ability to stay calm and polite, I lost respect for Fitzsimons when she allowed her anger at the attacks on the Greens by the Exclusive Brethren to blind her to the anti-democratic nature of the Electoral Finance Act.

The party got into parliament because of MMP but it’s failure to get into government also reflects badly on the leadership and is due to philosophy and direction which make it look at least as much red as green.  Its radical left social and economic agenda alienates supporters and potential partners who might be sympathetic to at least some of its environmental goals.

The party rules require male and female co-leaders and Sue Bradford and Meteria Turei have announced they’ll contest the position.

But who leads the party may not be such an important question as to where she leads (or to be more accurate co-leads) it.

Fitzsimons and co-leader Russel Norman do seem to have learnt from the Maori Party and are trying to find some common ground with National.

If the party is not to languish on the far left,  the new leadership will have to build on this and make an effort to move more towards the centre because that’s where the power in MMP lies.

Key tops Listener power list


John Key is number one on The Listener’s 2008  power list, up two places from 3 last year.

He’s followed by Bill English, who was at 5 last year, Alan Bollard (6), Steven Joyce (new), Tumu Te Heuheu (13), Pita Sharples (9), Rodney Hide (new), Helen Clark (1), Michael Cullen (2) and another newcomer to the list Gareth Morgan.

For the past four years the list has been a comprehensive one ranking 50 people in a variety of fields, this year’s list has the top 10 with 11 different lists of five for other categories.

They are: heroes topped by Willie Apiata VC; business & economy where Graeme Hart is number 1; Maoridom led by Federation of Maori Authorities chief executive Paul Morgan; the law where Sir Geoffrey Palmer is at number 1; agriculture topped by Landcorp chief executive Chris Kelly; health & medicine led by Health & Disability Commissioner Ron Paterson; arts, culture and entertainment with Flight of the Conchords in the top spot; science and technology where science entrpreneur Jim Watson is number 1; the media led by Dominion Post editorTim Pankhurst; environment with David Parker in the top spot; and sport topped by Sparc chair John Wells.

Some observations on the list:

*  The only woman in the top 10 is Helen Clark who’s slipped from 1 to 8 and as there’s usually nothing so ex as an ex-Prime Minister she is unlikely to be in the list at all next year.

* There are only seven women among the 55 people on the other lists.

* The environment list is led by a former minister followed by Jeanette Fitszimons and Russel Norman, all of whome are now in Opposition.

* David Farrar of Kiwiblog is in the So close but missed the list  category under media which reflects the growing influence of the blogosphere.

UPDATE: The list isn’t yet on line but the print edition says:

And yes, the panel did consider the bloggers, but was not convinced that any of those opinionated voices were yet having a marked influence on Main Street.

It also notes:

A total of 55 people have appeared in the Power List in the five years it has been published by The Listener. Only four people have been on all five lists: Helen Clark, Michael Cullen, Alan Bollard and Graeme Hart. Ths is the first year neith Labour supremo Heather Simpson nor All Blacks coach Graham Henry has appeared on the list.

Of the total, just 27 (17.4%) have been women. And only 16 of the total (10.3%) live in or are strongly associated with the South Island.

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