By Tim McCready
Chief executives have strongly marked down Greens leader James Shaw's leadership abilities in the wake of the Metiria Turei scandal which claimed the career of his former co-leader.
Whereas last year, CEOs ranked Shaw second in their performance rankings for Opposition MPs, this year he has slumped to ninth place just behind fellow Green MP Julie-Anne Genter.
It is a stunning turnabout for the MP last year's Mood of the Boardroom had billed as part of a "dream team for the future" along with first-ranked Opposition MP Jacinda Ardern.
"James disappointingly has been damaged by the Metiria issue and undone all the good work securing new urban Green voters. He lacked decisiveness on an issue that was black and white," says a transport CEO.
A professional director agrees: "I would have rated James a five six weeks ago, but his handling of the Turei affair was appalling and the Greens are damaged almost to the point of extinction as a result."
Chief executives believe Shaw should have called time on Turei after her admission she had intentionally misled authorities about her living costs while on the DPB.
Her admission of benefit fraud initially spiked the Greens poll ratings. But outrage grew after further revelations that Turei had registered at her former partner's address in a prior election in order to vote for a friend.
The fallout continued when Kennedy Graham and David Clendon - two of the Greens' most long-serving and respected MPs - quit in protest, saying they could no longer support the leadership. The killer blow came when a Newshub-Reid Research poll revealed a slump in support for the Greens - down 4.7 points to 8.3 per cent. Turei finally admitted defeat and stood down leaving Shaw as the party's sole leader.
"It has become a joke," says a banker. "The Greens were clearly out to steal votes from Labour with their announcement of a no-questions-asked welfare policy, and Labour have clearly done their best to steal those votes back again, helped by Ms Turei's extraordinary performance."
Chief executives had to this point considered Shaw an asset to the Green Party. He has an impressive background, with a pre-politics career in management consulting, working offshore with multinationals to develop their sustainable business practices.
Stick to the environment
CEOs believe the Greens should now "stick to their knitting" and refocus on environmental policies instead of standing by while Labour and National grab terrritory.
A banking boss says: "If James Shaw can make the Greens a truly environmental party - rather than a party of social justice activists and protests - that will be good.
"It will push Labour and National to up their game around New Zealand's pressing environmental issues."
"The Greens need to provide the necessary environmental platform and stand strongly on that platform," says a wine industry boss. "Sadly, they have neglected the environmental aspect for a Labour agenda."
Labour's eleventh-hour leadership change to Ardern has seen her reclaim the progressive agenda as her party hoovers up the soft Green vote.
An automotive sector boss said the leadership spill had demonstrated they are not sure themselves whether they are environmentalists, left-wingers or a Third Way party.
"Talk to James and you might think the latter, but I'm no longer sure and Jacinda might be better without them."
Scrap the MoU with Labour
Some 78 per cent of CEOs now think that the memorandum of understanding (MoU) that Labour and the Greens forged in May 2016 should be scrapped.
Others think it had its merits when the Opposition needed to project an alternative option to a popular National-led government.
"The context in which it was signed is more part of the past than the present given where Labour in particular was in the polls," says Deloitte CEO Thomas Pippos. "In terms of today, I would have thought the Greens would be better placed out of it and more focused on Green issues in and around the centre; as they could naturally, under an MMP environment, be within successive Governments for extended periods of time."
During Three's recent The Nation debate, Shaw was asked why the Green Party did not transcend left and right as it said it would when it was set up.
Shaw explained: "We felt it was only fair to voters who want to know which way their vote is going to count that we would say we're with the parties of change.
"If you want a progressive, Labour-led government, the Green Party has to be at the heart of that government because they won't be able to govern without us."
But many CEOs disagree, saying that a blue-green government is one they could get behind.
"Greens should work with National to form a government" says Onno Mulder, City Care Group CEO.
Mainfreight group managing director Don Braid offers the Green Party and Shaw sage advice: "Get on and believe in yourselves rather than worrying about who you might need at your side, or not!"
Tell me: Who are you?
"Raise your profile" is the overwhelming message from CEOs when asked about Opposition MPs.
While most were rated an average of between two and three (out of a possible five), an alarming proportion of "Unsure" votes were given as well.
MPs such as Labour's Chris Hipkins and Dr David Clark and NZ First's Tracey Martin all received "Unsure" responses from over 40 per cent of respondents, for example.
Martin was ranked lowest overall of 20 Opposition MPs rated by respondents, with an average rating of just 1.57.
This translated into uncertainty and pessimism about a potential alternative government.
"What do these people actually do?" asked the director of a law firm. "One hears nothing of them until election year."
"There is a lot about a Labour government that is unknown - and thus risky," said Rob Cameron, founding partner of investment banking firm Cameron Partners.
However, cause for cheer will be the performance of Labour's core election team.
Leader Jacinda Ardern was well in front, with an impressive average rating of 3.81.
She was flanked - as in the election campaign - by deputy leader Kelvin Davis on 2.97 and finance spokesperson Grant Robertson on 2.96.
"The bench strength outside of any Government always suffers from a concern around whether they are 'game fit'," said Deloitte CEO Thomas Pippos. "The inexperience in this case exacerbated by the number that have never been in Government - or if in Government, in lesser roles and 9 years ago... but everyone starts somewhere."
NZ First leader Winston Peters received a smattering of ratings across the spectrum - culminating in an average rating of 2.64. This was a slight drop on his rating from last year (2.90).
"Winston gets a midway mark for being Winston," summarised one business leader.
"Really!" said one investment banker, when asked his opinions on Peters's key election policies. "Is that all they have got?"
"Dog whistle - playing to the base," said Matthew Cockram, CEO of Cooper and Company. "None of these things will add to New Zealand's productivity or wealth."
The Herald's Mood of the Boardroom 2017 Election Survey attracted participation from 118 respondents. The results were debated this morning by shadow finance spokesman Grant Robertson and National's Finance Minister Steven Joyce.