By Jason Walls
The Green Party has a problem and it’s an issue that may well spill out into the wider New Zealand left in two years’ time.
Ironically, the thing it has fought tooth and nail for and has finally achieved could be its undoing come the 2020 election.
A seat at the table.
Through a supply and confidence agreement with the Coalition Government, the Greens have a say in the running of the country.
Of course, this is good news for its support base – a base divided into two major factions; the environmentalists and social change progressives.
If you side more with the environmentalists, it has been a good first nine months for the Greens.
A ban on future offshore oil and gas exploration, tangible and effective moves towards zero carbon legislation and billions of dollars towards green transport initiatives, are just some of their major policy wins.
Added to that, co-leader James Shaw, the most active Green MP on the environmental side of the party, is the Minister of Climate Change.
From the perspective of the Greens greener supporters, all is well.
But on the other side of the coin, the party is having a few teething issues.
For years, the Greens have been a party where socially progressive leftists can park their votes. In opposition, this was one of the main ways they held the Government to account.
Then co-leader Metiria Turei led much of this charge. It was her rallying cry that drew in the support of many of the social change progressives.
But for that faction of the party, everything has changed. The Greens now have a seat at the table.
Outrage among the members
This issue has already begun to surface.
A few weeks ago, co-leader Marama Davidson made clear her opposition to a Chinese bottling company which was given government approval to purchase a Bay of Plenty spring to export a billion litres of drinking water a year.
Before the election, the party had a policy to ban any new water bottling consents, to impose levies on water exports and more concretely respect Treaty of Waitangi water rights.
Not long after the saga made headlines, Stuff reported Green Party members were furious with the decision.
The Greens have a seat at the table, yet they were having to compromise on an election policy. You can understand why many were upset.
At the moment, there is nowhere for New Zealand’s more socially progressive voters to go apart from the Green Party.
That is, at the moment.
Despite its environmental wins, the latest Colmar Brunton poll shows the Greens at just 5% – right on the precipice of not getting back into Parliament.
It’s a dangerous position for the Labour/New Zealand First and Greens block.
Sure the 2020 election is a long two and a half years away, but if a socially progressive party were to rise, it could plausibly siphon votes away from disenfranchised former Greens supporters and ultimately lead to the Party’s demise.
This is a similar issue the Alliance Party grappled with in the early 2000s.
With no Greens in the mix, Labour’s prospects at a second term look that much further away – despite what might happen to NZ First.