Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Greens on the menu at Labour Party conference

Green Party co-leaders James Shaw, Metiria Turei and Labour leader Andrew Little at Labour's conference. Photo / Claire Trevett
Green Party co-leaders James Shaw, Metiria Turei and Labour leader Andrew Little at Labour's conference. Photo / Claire Trevett

After a spurt of unashamed flattery and a Gareth Morgan joke, the Labour Party members gave their tick of approval to the relationship between Labour and the Greens.

Green Party co-leaders James Shaw and Metiria Turei made a debut appearance at the opening of the Labour Party conference at the Viaduct Events Centre on Friday night.

In June, Little was the star act of the Green Party conference soon after Labour and the Greens signed their memorandum of agreement to co-operate until the election.

The standing ovation he received put paid to concerns that the membership of the Greens would baulk at such a close alliance with a mainstream party.

On Friday night it was Labour members' chance to have their say as Shaw briefly addressed them in the opening of the conference.

Shaw did not get the standing ovation but was warmly received. He told the Labour members they could rely on the Greens both in the campaign and in Government post-2017.

In a reference to Gareth Morgan's overtures to Labour he announced his own "we also quite like cats".

The applause he received may have been smoothed by a bout of shameless flattery of Labour as a party of "vision" and of Little as a man with "great integrity, an unusual integrity".

He described Little as unflappable and able to stand his ground, as well as principled.
"I would say these are qualities you want not just in a Labour leader but in a PM."

Labour leader Andrew Little said the agreement recognised they were mature parties that could offer a strong, stable Government.

He said the parties were communicating well and had even started enjoying each other's company.

He spoke of the importance of the year ahead until the 2017 election. "It is about a fair shot, a fair chance, a fair go at the Kiwi dream. It is about telling New Zealanders 'better is possible'."

President Nigel Haworth also said the Greens attendance was part of the process of showing the "mature and respectful relationship" between the two.

In a rather less mature moment, Haworth also told attendees of the local attractions and exhorted them to "enjoy the fleshpot on offer across the Viaduct".

MC Jacinda Ardern said she would enlighten people as to what a fleshpot was but did not know herself.

The theme of the conference is "backing the Kiwi dream" and Ardern kicked off with a jibe at Prime Minister John Key, saying the dream in question was not one of those Key had about Planet Key - a place with an 18 hole golf course "and where everybody has a ponytail, especially Mike Hosking."

The focus of the policy announcements will be on jobs - although judging from the response of those gathered, Little's own job is not under question despite struggles to gain in the polls.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff also spoke to Labour for his first time since leaving Parliament. He welcomed Labour's new policy on light rail "not simply to Mt Roskill but beyond" to help improve congestion.

"And now for the but. That requires a lot of money to invest. When we grow by 45,000 people a year - that generates a lot of tax. And where does that tax go to? It goes to central Government."

He said the costs fell on Auckland, which was being treated as a "borough or provincial city" and could not raise revenue itself other than by rates.

Labour's policy is to pay half of the $1.3 billion cost of light rail and for the council to pay the other half.

- NZ Herald

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