Greens determined in face of 5% threshold

Outgoing MP Gareth Hughes’ experience helped new cohorts of Green Party MPs acclimatise to life...
Outgoing MP Gareth Hughes’ experience helped new cohorts of Green Party MPs acclimatise to life in Parliament. PHOTO: PARLIAMENT TV
For the Green Party, the political ground zero this election might just be the corner of King Edward St and Hillside Rd.

On that corner sits the electorate office of sitting Dunedin North Labour MP Clare Curran, and directly opposite sits the headquarters of the Green Party’s Taieri candidate Scott Willis.

The Greens got in early to snare a spot which in previous elections has been nabbed by the National party — its candidate Liam Kernaghan has a Mosgiel command base.

It is a visual demonstration of the focus the Greens will be giving the whole city of Dunedin during the election campaign, and its need to step out of the shadow caused by a rampant Labour party to snare back some of the left vote for itself.

As this week’s political polls show, the Greens are in a battle for survival.

Historically, the party has usually done better in opinion polls than it does on election night, so sitting right on the 5% threshold is not a comfortable place to be.

Barring a surprise result in either Auckland Central or Tamaki Makaurau — where both Chloe Swarbrick and party co-leader Marama Davidson have outside chances of victory should their dominant rival parties split the vote between them — the Greens need to snare about 150,000 votes to ensure the party remains in Parliament.

Dunedin has historically been the source of a very healthy percentage of those votes, and do not be surprised if sitting Green MPs end up almost regarding the city as a second home by the end of this campaign.

Ms Swarbrick and party co-leader James Shaw have already been down here a few times this year and other MPs have popped by from time to time.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has been in Dunedin yesterday and today, and the party expects to host plenty more MPs over the coming days.

While retiring MP Gareth Hughes moved to Dunedin for family reasons, the party is also using his campaigning talents for all they are worth, to both invigorate its base and instigate a new generation of voters in the Dunedin seat.

Tertiary education campuses have always served the Green Party well, and while its Dunedin candidate Jack Brazil is exactly the sort of anti-oil activist more conservative parties decry, he also has exactly the sort of rhetoric which the party hopes will appeal to a new generation of environmentally-minded voters, who at secondary school may have taken part in climate strikes and are about to vote for the first time.

Next week, Mr Hughes will make his valedictory speech to Parliament.

It seems odd to describe such a young man as bridging the generations in his party, but the 38-year-old replaced original co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons when she retired in 2010 and is the only Green MP from that time still in Parliament.

He has seen the party change management, change styles and change personnel, but still firmly believes it has maintained the ethos which saw him leave Greenpeace’s climate action campaign and enter Parliament — despite not owning a tie and not knowing precisely how a law was made.

Mr Hughes understands all that now — he is judged a very fair chairman of the social services and community select committee — and his departure deprives the Greens of institutional knowledge which proved valuable in acclimatising first-term MPs to their new surroundings.

Mr Hughes believes the Greens are in excellent spirit in Dunedin and is looking forward to getting to as many political events as he can, weather permitting — he and his family have moved to Quarantine Island as its caretakers.

His plans post-Parliament were to go sailing, but a combination of Covid-19 and his family falling in love with Dunedin has led them to opt for what he terms "an unsinkable boat".

He also plans to get stuck back into grassroots environmental work, the sort of basic activism which the Greens will require across the city as the party strives for 5%.

Both barrels

National Invercargill MP Sarah Dowie held nothing back in her valedictory on Wednesday, opening up specifically about the media and former party chief whip Jami-Lee Ross, and in general about institutional sexism.

Ms Dowie attracted a generous round of applause, and will leave hoping such a stern scolding of all and sundry has a lasting effect.

Sugar coating

It was a big day for Dunedin-based National list MP Michael Woodhouse on Wednesday as he got to quiz Regional Development Minister Shane Jones for the first time since picking up his new spokesmanship roles.

However, deciphering quite what Mr Jones’ answers to Mr Woodhouse’s Parliamentary questions were was quite another challenge.

"The Covid episode enabled the Provincial Growth Fund to drill deeper into the treacle-riddled process. Sadly, that has, unfortunately, slowed down the flow of the cash, and on this I have complained publicly on numerous occasions," gives a sample of the flavour of Mr Jones’ rhetoric.

There was one minor victory for Mr Woodhouse though: Speaker Trevor Mallard chastising Mr Jones for suggesting his opposite number was "plucking figures from the wind" when in fact Mr Woodhouse was quoting Mr Jones’ numbers right back to him.

Can we build it?

An unfortunate moment for National Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean on Thursday, when she told The AM Show host Duncan Garner that her party had built 30,000 state houses when last in power.

Mr Garner did not believe Mrs Dean, who said if she had her figures wrong she would correct them.

National later confirmed Mrs Dean had meant to say 3000.

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz


 

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