James Griffin 's Opinion

James Griffin is a columnist for Canvas magazine.

James Griffin: Green Party election strategy

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Greens co-leader Russel Norman. Photo / HOS
Greens co-leader Russel Norman. Photo / HOS

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand election strategy paper (Confidential: Please recycle by eating after reading)

Kia ora te whanau,

First, a big thank you to everyone for the magnificent spirit shown at the recent policy strategy think hui on Waiheke Island. Despite the unfortunate food-poisoning incident - which has been traced back to bad (and not genetically engineered, as feared) tofu - everyone entered into the debate with the passion we expect from being Green.

Unfortunately, it must be said, the core directive of the think hui, which was to position the Green Party as a realistic mainstream political alternative in this year's general election, seems to have been rather missed by the various sub-committees charged with determining policy direction.

As an example, the Defence sub-committee's recommendation that we should take all the weapons of the New Zealand Defence Force and "melt them down and commission a giant Terry Stringer statue about the futility of war" while laudable, is probably not actually feasible.

The same could also be said of the idea to retrain all Defence personnel as yoga instructors to "provide stress relief in war zones".

The idea of the think hui, we must remind ourselves, was to move the Green Party away from the public perception that we are a bunch of well-intentioned dreamers with no actual political nous. A policy suggestion on Gender Equality in the Workplace that men be given the South Island while the North Island is exclusively for women does not achieve this stated goal.

This is not to say that the ideas coming forth are in any way bad, because it is not the Green way to label things "good" or "bad". The Corrections sub-committee's suggestion that all prisons be transformed into "Zen gardens where prisoners can contemplate the life choices they have made" is a beautiful idea. But is it an idea that will build Green credibility in heartland New Zealand?

Yes, the Green Party thinks deeper and cares more than other political parties, and while we may secretly wish that this election was a hui of the people for a sharing of ideas and spiritual enlightenment with back-rubs, we cannot state this in public. This is a general election where the nation votes, and there is no place for back-rubs in a general election.

Also probably unlikely to find a place in the election campaign is the suggestion that all candidates choose an endangered animal and dress as that animal for the entirety of the campaign. Kevin Hague dressed as a Maui's dolphin for six weeks does not spell credible, responsible, balance-of-power political party.

Yes, to be Green is to love the planet more than normal people, but we must not let that love overtake and dominate a wider political agenda. Freeing all the farm animals and making veganism a school subject are lofty, worthy ideas but we need to keep in mind that not everyone thinks like this before we enshrine them in policy. We need to think outside the forest, whanau.

As a case in point, and as an example of our need as a party to join the real world, maybe we should all rethink our policy choices on roading. Turning all the roads into walking tracks and providing the population with free hiking boots is not a roading policy. Yes it achieves our target of a drastic decrease in carbon emissions in that it removes vehicles from the equation entirely, but it does so at the cost of the entire economy. Reverting to colonial times (albeit with better footwear) is, we have to imagine, not a price many voters are willing to pay for a cleaner, greener Aotearoa.

In non-sexual terms, the Green Party needs to harden up, going into this election. To fulfil our electoral potential we need to embrace not only each other (in a loving and non-
threatening way) but those whom we would not normally embrace. People who drive non-hybrid vehicles; people who eat veal; people who play masculine contact sports; even people who own jet skis - all must feel comfortable in the loving arms of a Green embrace. Because people are voters and voters can be friends of the planet - except if they vote Act, of course.

Despite what some of us may think, being a real political player within government is not a complete betrayal of Green ideals.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, power does not necessarily corrupt and even if it does, just a little bit, we must consider this the price to pay for a solar panel on every
roof, which is the sort of power we all want.

Thinking about what we say before we say it out loud and in public, is that too much to ask of the Green Party? History may say yes, but history is what we are here to change.

- NZ Herald

James Griffin

James Griffin is a columnist for Canvas magazine.

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