5 Jun 2012

Greens say growth measurement needs to change

9:51 am on 5 June 2012

Greens co-leader Russel Norman says the way of measuring economic growth and wealth is out of date and needs to change.

The party wound up its annual conference at Silverstream near Upper Hutt on Monday afternoon attended by at least 200 members.

The National Government's welfare reforms, cuts in education and spending on what the Greens say are uneconomic new motorways all came under fire.

Co-leader Russel Norman.

Co-leader Russel Norman. Photo: GREEN PARTY

Russel Norman told delegates the economy needs to be measured in ways other than just gross domestic product (GDP), which he says measures negative aspects such as accidents.

Dr Norman says it is an idea that is gaining momentum.

"Part of what the Greens do is we change the paradigm and so the paradigm is changing.

"The fact that the former president of France got a whole commission on looking at alternatives to GDP and got various nobel laureates involved in that project; the fact that the retiring head of the Treasury said you should look at alternative indicators - that's part of a paradigm shift. And we're pleased to be at the cutting edge of that."

Russel Norman accused the Government of spending recklessly and says his party's spending programme is moderate in comparison. He says the Government has been irresponsible by giving away $14 billion in tax cuts over four years - most of which went to upper income earners.

Dr Norman says the $14 billion the Government is spending on motorways should to be put into world-class public transport. He says the Green Party would re-prioritise some of the money into buses, trains and ferries and making walking and cycling safer.

"At a time of record high oil prices, the National Party is locking us into our cars. The IMF's most recent projections are for oil prices to double permanently over the next decade. There are smarter ways to invest $14 billion."

Dr Norman says the Greens' plans would still leave money to pay off debt.

Party prepares for Government

The Green Party, which got 14 MPs into Parliament last year when it won 11% of the vote, has the firm aim of being in Government after the next election.

Co-leader Metiria Turei says it is important the party consolidates and expand, adding the Greens know what their strengths are and they have solutions.

A key theme of the weekend's meeting was ensuring the organisation's grass roots are strong and connected to the caucus, and therefore any future Green cabinet ministers.

A review of policies will be carried out and Dr Norman says a re-costing of those policies will be done closer to the 2014 general election.

$1b could have been raised for rebuild - Norman

Russel Norman says his party's policy for a levy to pay for the rebuilding of earthquake-hit Christchurch could have raised $1 billion by now.

Dr Norman says a 3% levy on income above $70,00 and a business tax rate of 30% for five-and-a-half years could have already raised nearly one-fifth of the total cost of the rebuild of $5.5 billion.

He says it would have been a temporary measure that many people would have supported.

Dr Norman says independent polling conducted by the party showed widespread support for the levy because people wanted to help the rebuild and the region.

"We also looked at whether Canterbury should be exempt from it and they were of the view that they shouldn't be when we talked to people down there."

Environment and economy

The Greens co-leader told delegates that the party can move the economy away from damaging the environment.

Dr Norman says there are many economic reasons for New Zealand to protect its natural heritage, including for the export and tourism markets.

He says the National Government could have built an economy that creates jobs in the lucrative clean technology sector, but is instead backing get rich quick schemes such as asset sales, risky mining and dairy intensification.

The Greens would stop subsidising greenhouse gas pollution and put a real price on carbon.