Greens keen to offer 'tired' Labour some refreshment

Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons (left) talks with supporter Kate Stanton in Auckland...
Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons (left) talks with supporter Kate Stanton in Auckland yesterday. Photo by Dene Mackenzie.
Travelling by rail was the obvious choice to make when deciding to meet Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons for lunch in Auckland yesterday.

My footprint, carbon or otherwise, has been big during the election campaign after flying to Wellington and then driving about 1500km as the Otago Daily Times took the pulse of the election campaign.

Public transport in Auckland is relatively easy for an outsider to use, particularly one that only really has to travel to places on the beaten paths.

Setting out from my base in Papatoetoe at 9.30am, I caught the 9.40am train to Britomart at a cost of $4.80.

Frustratingly, I missed the western line connection by a few minutes and had to wait half an hour for the next train.

On the southern line, trains run every 15 minutes.

On the western line, it is every 30 minutes at off-peak times.

The trip to Kingsland, in the heart of Prime Minister Helen Clark's Mt Albert electorate, took 18 minutes and cost $1.40.

Ms Fitzsimons, accompanied by fellow Green MP Keith Locke and Australian Green Party leader Bob Brown, were meeting Green Party supporters and interested voters for lunch and a question-and-answer session.

In the spirit that the election campaign makes New Zealand an even smaller communitythan it usually is, I followed into the Bouchon Cafe Kate Stanton and her husband Kim Walker.

They invited me to sit with them.

When they found out I was from the ODT, they said "Met" was their sister-in-law.

Met, as it happens, is Green MP Meteria Turei, of Dunedin, who is married to Ms Stanton's brother Worik.

Ms Stanton is also the cousin of the ODT editorial manager Philip Somerville.

Such is life on the campaign trail.

About 50 people crammed into the outside decks of the cafe to hear Ms Fitzsimons and Senator Brown urge them to keep the campaign rolling for the last three days.

Ms Fitzsimons still believed there was a good chance Labour, the Greens and the Maori Party could form the next government.

"Every party in power for nine years starts to look tired and out of ideas. They need fresh faces and new ideas to be invigorated. That's what the Greens will bring to the Labour government in the next term" she said to cheers and applause.

Senator Brown said the injection of new ideas in politics around the world was coming from the Greens and there was never a time when the Greens were more needed than 2008 in the face of an economic collapse.

Without environmental and sustainable policies, the economies of the world would continue to struggle.

Green policies were helping feed the world, he said.

Labour conveniently released some environmental policy while lunch was being served.

Ms Fitzsimons said the policy seemed to be what Labour had done, not what it was going to do.

And she was "amused" to find Labour claiming credit for the $1 billion spent on retrofitting cold and damp houses and introducing biofuels legislation with a sustainability clause.

"So, they are Labour policies now. I sat across the table and pushed and pushed and pushed for the $1 billion and ended up with 20 times more than Labour was initially going to give us and we only agreed on the Biofuels Bill after we wrote in the sustainability clauses.

When they proved too inept to write it themselves, we wrote it.

"Labour is desperately grasping at Green ideas. If we are in government with them, we will give them heaps of Green ideas and get them into law."

Questions ranged from whether Ms Fitzsimons believed the polls and whether New Zealand's abortion legislation was under threat from National, to was there any way the Greens could work with National.

The Greens had ruled out any agreement on supply and confidence support and abstention with National.

However, if National was in government and was looking for help on specific legislation, the Greens might agree if they could get better legislation by supporting it.

Some people in National were interested in working with the Greens on water quality because Labour had made such a mess of it.

Ms Fitzsimons and her co-leader, Russel Norman, had met every few months with John Key and his deputy, Bill English, and the Greens would continue to use those contacts.

Ms Fitzsimons was brought up in Mosgiel and remembered travelling regularly on the train between Dunedin and her home.

Given the existing rail line, the Hillside rail workshops and the increasing use of the main trunk line for freight, she would support any efforts to re-establish a light rail commuter service between Mosgiel and Dunedin.

It depended on public support and changing the way money was provided by the Land Transport Fund.

But it was something she would keep in mind along with a minimum standard for buses in cities like Dunedin.

The lunch ended with people pledging money to help pay for last-minute campaigning.

The trip back to base was much faster.

The trains happily coincided with my timetable and I was delivered back in good time.

• Prime Minister Helen Clark and National Party leader John Key were noticeably quiet on the election trail yesterday.

Mr Key sort of matched a Labour policy regarding broadband for schools and Miss Clark welcomed a police decision not to prosecute New Zealand First over its "materially false" 2007 election return.

The honours are shared.

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