The Greens are straining at the leash. They are not just hungry for power. They are starving. Election day cannot arrive fast enough. And afterwards? Well, presuming the National beast has been slain, they expect their fair share of the fruits of victory. And nothing less.

As co-leader Metiria Turei told the annual conference, the Greens are "on the edge of history". The pervasive feeling that their time has come and the party will soon get its feet under the Cabinet table had the 200 or so delegates buzzing.

The relentlessly upbeat mood meant there was no mention of the unthinkable - at least not in the sessions open to the media - that Winston Peters and Labour could yet connive to shut the Greens out of a Labour-led governing arrangement were New Zealand First to hold the balance of power.

By constantly referring to themselves as the "third-largest political movement", however, the Greens are really saying they are no longer a minor party that Labour can pick up and discard at will.

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True, the Greens are in a weak position if Peters forces the issue because they have nowhere else to go. They would have to back a Labour-New Zealand First government on confidence motions - or risk forcing another election.

But Labour would need the Greens' support on every piece of government-instigated legislation. The coded message to Labour is that if it thinks it can marginalise the Greens as lobby fodder, then think again.

If anything, Labour's rebuff of the Greens' offer in April for the two parties to campaign more co-operatively has made the Greens even more determined to make it impossible for Labour to give them the cold shoulder. Having raised more than $1 million to fight the election, the Greens are confident they can win more seats - which means more slots in the Cabinet and more action on Green "priorities".

The rapturous reception given the unveiling of a new priority - a carbon tax on polluters which turns into a "climate tax cut" for households and business - threatened to lift the roof.

In one deft stroke, the policy has the Greens saving the planet, helping the poor, giving big carbon users an incentive to be more efficient, while stimulating investment in more sustainable industries.

Best of all is that they can go into the election claiming they are the only major party (so far) promising specific tax cuts. Take that, National. The Greens can play your game too.

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