Through the trials of lockdown and the policy delays resulting from Covid-19, the Green Party’s co-leaders say they’re looking forward to a year of action, Marc Daalder reports
Green Party co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw say they’re proud of the work they’ve accomplished in the first year of the term but that next year they’ll have to convert policy and plans into action.
Davidson, who holds the novel portfolio of Minister for the Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence, touted the recent release of a 25-year plan to eliminate violence in New Zealand homes in a year-end interview with Newsroom.
“The focus on that is going to step up now that we’ve done this. It took incredible work to get it across the line,” she said.
“It required pulling together 10 agencies to work in a way that had never been done before to even agree to get a strategy out there at all.
“Now we’re focused on getting it done – delivering what we said we will do in that strategy.”
Already, the National Party has flagged its support for the programme, which will go some way towards securing its longevity and seeing that it actually gets implemented across successive governments led by different parties.
“I absolutely want to work with every politician. I actually genuinely believe that every politician in this House wants to see people live with peace and without violence,” Davidson said.
“I’ve had various conversations with ACT and National members about making this work. So I’m not altogether surprised but I’m really pleased to see National give reference in that sort of a tone.”
Shaw said he’s expecting the bulk of his focus to be in the climate change space next year. As Minister for Climate Change for just over four years, he has overseen the bipartisan passage of the Zero Carbon Act and the creation of an institutional framework to reduce emissions. That framework began slowly chugging into action this year, with the release of the Climate Change Commission’s first batch of advice on emissions budgets and how to achieve them.
“This year is the year that we’ve actually seen all the work that we did last term come to fruition. The big stuff that happened this year – the Clean Car Discount, the climate-related financial disclosures legislation, the $1.3 billion climate aid programme in the Pacific, the ETS is finally worked – most of those things have been in other parts of government.”
Next year will be the point where it starts to come together, Shaw said.
“The work programme is nuts, right? But the three big things I’m going to be focused on next year are the Emissions Reduction Plan, then three months after that the National Adaptation Plan, and then He Waka Eke Noa and the agricultural emissions pricing scheme.”
Is New Zealand on the verge of turning its emissions trajectory around?
“It’s turning. It has not turned. There’s only about 15 or 16 countries in the world that have actually reduced their emissions profile since 1990. In every other country, it’s gone up, including ours,” he said.
“In the conversations we’ve had with those countries where that has happened … what they’ve said is it’s the decoupling moment where you decouple your emissions from your economic development, that’s the hardest part. And then momentum drives it an enormous amount. To me, that’s the moment that we’re in right now.”
The co-leaders are also pleased with the work the rest of their caucus has been doing to hold the Government to account.
“Where there are areas [around climate] where we think the Government should be going further, I think our MPs haven’t been constrained,” Shaw said.
“I mean, Teanau [Tuiono] launched a campaign around the import of PKE, which is a by-product of the palm oil industry and a big source of deforestation and an enabler of dairy intensification and so on. I actually kind of feel like, it’s an unusual arrangement, but we’re making it work.”
Neither was worried about that sort of criticism damaging the relationship with Labour.
“When the Opposition’s doing their job, they’re improving the performance of the Government. That’s the healthy Opposition. But the kind of destructive Opposition where actually you’re just trying to undermine the Government so you get a turn, well we’re not doing that. I’m pretty confident we’ve got it about right,” Shaw said.
“It’s relationships and relational,” Davidson said.
“I have an overview responsibility for agencies in terms of eliminating violence and being accountable to cause no more harm. I’ve got Jan Logie as a non-executive MP bringing sharp focus to ACC and winning and getting changes done. That is able to happen. We’ve got an agreement and a way of working because of the relationships that we’ve built.
“People understand we’re also our own political party. James and I are also co-leaders. And even in my housing portfolio, I’ve still been able to talk on rents, on capital gains tax, on wealth tax.”
None of that is to say that the year hasn’t been without its challenges. For Shaw, the hardest moment was delaying the release of the Emissions Reduction Plan to May, when it was originally due by the end of the year.
“The most difficult moment this year was having to kick out the Emissions Reduction Plan. I did not enjoy that at all,” he said.
Davidson said she struggled with lockdown and the impacts it had on her whānau, her community and her own work life.
“This has been my first full year as a minister, in the Covid context, and I’ve just been away from my family 95 percent of the time. Eight weeks now I’ve been in Wellington, have not been back to Auckland,” she said.
“But it’s not even just that. Just the requirement of staying focused and being a good minister, actually I have the fortune of knowing my family is okay so that I can focus on my work and mostly that’s away from them.”
“Even when you’re in lockdown, you’re not really present, right?” Shaw added in.
“No, and that’s actually harder,” Davidson agreed.
“On a wider team and personal level, it’s both trying to do your job and actually, being an Auckland resident, is the family and community okay? Literally, it was things like checking in on my uncles who were having to negotiate lower rents and their pays had been cut down. It was managing life and trying to do the work.”