Labour MP Damien O'Connor won't endorse Greens' deal

By Lee Scanlon of the Westport News

Damien O'Connor. Photo / Supplied
Damien O'Connor. Photo / Supplied

Labour's West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O'Connor won't say whether he supports the new agreement between Labour and the Greens.

The two parties signed a memorandum of understanding yesterday. They've agreed to work together to change the Government, to co-operate in Parliament and to investigate a joint policy and/or campaign.

Mr O'Connor would not answer "yes" or "no" today when asked - seven times - whether he supported the memorandum.

Instead he described the deal to oust the Government as "absolutely essential" and the memorandum as a "positive step" and a "good thing".

It would "clarify uncertainties around how the parties work together", he said.

"But my objective as always is to maximise the vote for Labour and ensure we're the dominant party in a coalition government that will oust National."

Mr O'Connor acknowledged many West Coasters were wary of the Greens because of the party's opposition to mining.

"Understandably West Coasters fear for their jobs and the future of our region because of that. The harsh reality we're facing now is that mining has indeed slumped and we are relying on other industries."

He didn't know whether Labour's deal with the Greens would cost him votes on the West Coast. He said he would continue to speak out for the electorate - even if it meant opposing Greens' policies.

"I always speak out for West Coast-Tasman, first and foremost. That's my primary role. But I can't be as effective as I want from opposition and I'm always battling to ensure we can get a Labour-led government in power.

"When we were in power last time West Coast-Tasman really boomed and moved ahead. I want to repeat that for our region."

The memorandum wasn't necessarily a closer alliance between the two parties, apart from formalising the areas they could work together, he said.

"I don't think there's anything new here. Most people understood the reality that we would probably be in coalition with the Greens."

It was important for both parties to retain their identities so they could gain voter support at the election, Mr O'Connor said.

National's West Coast-based List MP Maureen Pugh said the memorandum should be a major concern to West Coasters.

"A Green-Labour Government would mean the end of mining, dairy and forestry - which would greatly harm the West Coast's economy," Mrs Pugh said.

"We've already seen previous Green-dependent Labour governments gut important West Coast industries like logging and once you add the extremist policies of the Greens the people in this region should be worried."

She said the Government knew the West Coast's success relied on development across its economy including tourism, mining, dairy, forestry and fisheries.

"We've already seen how short-sighted the Greens' influence on Labour Party policy can be in 2014 when they opposed the Government legislating, which I promoted, in favour of utilising the windblown timber created by Cyclone Ita.

"Thankfully, this Government backed that legislation and we've seen how good that's been for the West Coast."

Mrs Pugh said the Labour Party used to pride itself on representing the interests of the ordinary Kiwi worker.

"Now they are a party of any principles and they have sold themselves out for the Greens' lousy political capital."

- Westport News

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