Q: What is your vision for NZ?
An economy built on sustainable foundations, that has low carbon emissions, and renewable energy and respects our environment rather than polluting it in order to make a buck. And that we have a society where there is fairness and everyone gets a fair go.
Q: Which are the three most important policies for your party in this election?
A: Policies that will achieve a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and policies linked to that that will reduce our dependency on oil. The $8 billion bill we have to pay every year for imported oil is only going to get higher. We need to do both of those things in a way that is fair and shares the burden and responsibilities fairly. And thirdly, food and food safety. It's key that we make some progress around food safety issues.
Q: Why should voters choose Green Party over others?
Because of our vision for a sustainable and fair Aoteroa NZ. Because we have a record of achievement from outside government, and because you don't want to waste a vote on a minor party because you want to support a party that stands up for something other than blandness. Also over the past 12 years we've been in Parliament - nine under the Green Party brand - I think we've shown we are a party of integrity that does what we've said we'll do.
Q: What have been your party's major achievements over the past Parliamentary term?
Getting five members' bills through is a significant achievement - youth wages, flexible working hours, waste minimisation bill, mothers with babies in prisons, and the repeal of section 59. Getting all state houses retrofitted with insulation in the last Budget and getting the money [$1 billion] to retro-fit the rest which are poorly insulated as part of the Emissions Trading Scheme were significant achievements.
Q: Your party has achieved a lot in material terms over the last three years but hasn't been able to capitalise on it in the polls. Why is this?
When you look at the media and discourse, it's still pretty dominated by the two major parties. Not that I blame the media for our position, but when you look at what is said it's all about Labour and National and it is hard for the smaller parties to get a look in. Having said that, I've got confidence we will do better at this election than at the last one.
Over the last three years, what we have tried very hard to do is build an independent Green identity, completely separate from Labour. That has been a key part of our project, to establish the Greens as an independent party that stands on its own two feet.
Q: Principle-based parties such as yours and the Maori Party run the risk of losing your independent voice if you enter a formal coalition but you still want the influence of ministerial posts. What would be the best outcome for the Greens?
We're looking at different options but we know it's true as long as you have sufficient numbers and you get good policy gains in your coalition deal, then having a voice inside Cabinet does matter. We don't want to be around Cabinet just for the sake of it, but if we get good policy gains then it's worth it.
The best possible outcome for us is to have a large number of MPs, a significant bloc which is important for maintaining your voice and identity, and we have a good coalition deal where we make good policy gains. There has to be freedom for the smaller party to speak out and not be silenced by the coalition deal.
Q: And you'd be willing to be bound by collective responsibility on issues you didn't necessarily agree with for that?
I think there's been a lot of relaxing in terms of the expectations around that. People are a lot more accepting of the idea you can still have a government even where you admit different Cabinet ministers don't agree on everything. Surely we've grown up enough to cope with that.
Q: Your candidates have been out encouraging people - especially Maori people - to split their vote. It's already caused some angst with the Maori Party. Can you explain the strategy?
We are after the party vote - that's how Greens get elected into Parliament. We appreciate many of the people on the Maori roll are planning to give their electorate vote to the Maori Party and so we are saying, if you're doing that that's fine, give us your party vote. It's an election, it's a competition and you can be respectful competitors and I think the Maori Party and the Green Party are respectful competitors.
Q: The Greens eventually backed the Emissions Trading Scheme with little concessions on your main concerns. There were other gains, but very little on those main concerns. This could have been an election plank - why did you decide to support it?
We're in politics to do good. We want to actually make things better and we saw the ETS as an opportunity to make things better, even if, in some respects, in small ways. In other respects we got quite significant gains - the Green Homes project insulating houses. We're in politics to do good, to make change and it was a movement in a progressive direction.
Q: Helen Clark has tried to define this election as about trust. Do you trust John Key and Helen Clark?
I trust them to do what they need to do to get into power.
Q: Before the election, your party will be telling voters what party it will work with after the election. Are there any you definitely won't work with?
We'll make it clear closer to the election. So far, obviously it's very difficult to see it working with Winston Peters while he's still got all these questions over him. Obviously with a party like Act, there's a lot of policy difference.
Q: Last election, the Greens were jilted at the altar by Labour and NZ First/ United Future, despite your public backing of Labour in the campaign. Will you handle things differently this time?
We are an independent party with our own Green ideas and kaupapa and we are determined to maintain that independence. The background to 2005 was that in 2002 the Greens and Labour had been at war over GE and so a key part of what we were doing in 2005 was demonstrating we could work together. I think now we are not in the same position. People know we can work with Labour if we need to. The key thing now is to communicate we are an independent party with our own positions.
Q: What have been the highlights of this last term for your party?
Getting the electrification of the Auckland rail network in combination with some others, through some extremely difficult bargaining with the government was a tremendous victory. That's a big project that is essential to Auckland. It only happened because we twisted peoples' arms very hard. So for me personally that was a great victory. It was others as well, but we were a necessary condition of making that happen.
Q: Low points, excepting the death of Rod Donald?
Some of the hardest stuff was around the Electoral Finance Act. That stuff was really difficult. We had to respond to what had gone wrong in the previous election but that was a hard decision and a difficult process. I found that really hard - there were and are real issues of principle around that bill, about cleaning up the system around money but trying to protect freedom of speech at the same time. Different people have drawn that line at different places. That was difficult.
Q: You personally entered Parliament reasonable recently. How have you found it and how have you developed as co-leader?
I really enjoy having the opportunity to put the hard questions to the government and to put forward a Green position and to have the voice to do that. Giving voice to the people who don't have a voice - that's what I feel my job is. The second part of the question - that's for others to decide.
Q: Your policies - which have priority or are more important - the environmental or the social?
They weave together for us. A society which isn't fair is not a society that's going to deal with an environmental crisis very well, so those two things are weaved together. It's probably fair to say that over the last nine years of our relationship with the government we've got more progress on social policy than we've managed to get out of them in environmental policy because they don't have an environmental bone in their body. We would have wanted to make more progress on environmental issues than we have. On environmental issues, as a country we've gone backwards over the last nine years.
Q: The most important policies - the reducing greenhouse gases, dependency on oil and making it fair as well, and food safety. Is that the focus of the Greens campaign?
They're the key issues the Greens will be campaigning on. Obviously we have masses of policy but you have to make a decision in an election year what are the bits you're going to draw out. So those are the three strands we've drawn out. The one I would probably add personally is around water quality. When most of our rivers are unsafe to swim in, I think we've got an environmental crisis in fresh water and an economic crisis as well, because access to water is essentially what our dairy industry is built on.
Part of our identity as a nation is you can swim in the rivers, but you can't anymore ... The whitebait is disappearing. This is part of our identity. Whitebait is disappearing because we are destroying our rivers and polluting them. We are destroying something that's fundamental to our identity as a people. I find that very compelling emotionally as well as intellectually. I've just been up north and iwi can't collect mussels from their own harbours because of the human sewage that's going into them. I find that deeply compelling. They're embarrassed because when they have visitors on their marae they have to go to the supermarket to get mussels to feed them even though their marae is right next to the Hokianga Harbour. That's deeply moving.
So if I was going to add a fourth strand, it would be that. Clean water.