Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei chats with Otago
Chamber of Commerce member Tony Williams. Photo by Peter
Green Party business policies received close attention
yesterday in the first of the Otago Chamber of Commerce's
political leader series.
Green co-leader Metiria Turei addressed 15 chamber members on
social equity issues, addressing the growing gap between rich
and poor in New Zealand, housing families at risk, and "smart
A relaxed and confident Ms Turei engaged with the audience
and sustained a lively question and answer session.
She also asked those attending for their thoughts on
increasing the minimum wage to $15, a Green policy that had
been stolen by Labour a week after the Greens released it, Ms
Instead of only just increasing the minimum wage, the Greens
proposed a four-year fund of about $20 million to help small
and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) make the transition to
paying the higher rate.
About 90% of New Zealand employers employed somebody on the
minimum wage but most of them were large companies or "big
box" retailers who could afford the extra costs, she said.
"But there is a reasonable proportion of SMEs who employ one
or two people on the minimum wage. They can be supplemented
for four years to help the transition."
The debate this week, since Labour released its minimum wage
policy, had been around the number of jobs that could be
However, a restraint on job growth from increasing the
minimum wage was not the same as people losing their jobs,
and the $60 extra people had in their pockets each week to
take care of their basic needs would be a good thing for the
whole of the country, Ms Turei said.
Increasing the minimum wage would bring an estimated $170
million into the economy annually through extra tax and GST.
One member of the audience agreed with raising the minimum
wage rate, saying the burden should fall more on the employer
who had the services of the worker. Without an increase, the
Government had to subsidise the employer through paying
accommodation supplements and benefit top-ups to the
Ms Turei is a strong advocate of building more houses to
house families at risk, which would in turn create jobs.
While it was impractical to spend $2 billion on building
houses, as the party advocated in 2008, she still believed
there were ways for the Government to stimulate the housing
That made sense across households wanting better housing, and
rental property owners who wanted to ensure their housing
stock was maintained, she said.
Audience members spoken to after the speech said they felt
Mrs Turei had explained the Green business policies well and
showed the party was not all about smoking cannabis and