20 Aug 2018

Green leadership stands firm on waka jumping bill at AGM

7:16 am on 20 August 2018

The Green Party leadership have dug in their heels and will not be reversing any of the decisions they have made in government.

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Green Party co-leaders Marama Davidson (left) and James Shaw (right) and Green MP Eugenie Sage (centre). Photo: Green Party

Former MPs Jeanette Fitzsimons and Sue Bradford had hoped the caucus might be persuaded this weekend to pull its support from the waka jumping bill.

But despite spending two full days at the Green Party conference in Palmerston North with a few hundred of the party's members - many of whom have not had any say since the night the government was formed - the eight MPs came out relatively unscathed.

Co-leader James Shaw was pushing the party's biggest wins, ending oil and gas exploration and committing the country to a zero carbon future.

But the concessions they have made got a brief mention in his speech too.

"We haven't won every debate, and the menu does feature the occasional dead rodent," he told the party faithful gathered in Palmerston North.

He was referring to the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill - better known as the waka jumping bill, described by their own MP Eugenie Sage as a dead rat they had to swallow as part of a coalition government.

One of the party's founding members, Jeanette Fitzsimons, said it went against everything the Greens stood for, making it clear there were parts of the core base that were still hugely unhappy with that decision.

"I simply don't buy the line that the government would have fallen," she said.

"Simply don't buy the line that Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters were going to say 'ah well we don't want to be in government anymore' and let it all collapse, because they didn't get this bill through? I mean, really."

Ms Fitzsimons said they had tried everything to change the caucus' mind, but described the eight MPs as a "brick wall."

And the current co-leaders piled up the bricks and mortar.

"This is a compromise that we had to make. I understand the different perspectives on that, but the decisions that we came to as a caucus and a party arrived to this," Ms Davidson said.

"Because we think that providing New Zealand with stable government, is more important than that one issue," Mr Shaw said.

And the majority of members RNZ spoke to, either clutching a Keep Cup of coffee ahead of a strategy talk or preparing for a learning and healing session - felt the wins outweighed the concessions.

"I have been impressed, for such a small group of MPs they're working their butts off and doing the right sort of things," one said.

"I'm very pleased with what's happening with the Greens in government at the moment. Being a minor coalition party makes it a lot harder of course," mused another.

Others agreed the Greens were doing the best they could for the position they were in.

"Yeah it's different, it's got its challenges, but we're getting so much done.

"There are so many little wins that have been party work for the past decades in some cases, that are finally coming to fruition. It's really exciting."

A few weighed up the matter of being in government versus opposition, saying there are positives and negatives to both.

"In opposition you get a lot of vocal room to speak out on issues, but then you don't always see as many wins maybe."

All were extremely pleased with the Greens' wins on climate, but many also wanted wins in the social justice space.

It was a little over a year ago, at the last AGM, that former Green co-leader Metiria Turei admitted to benefit fraud as she unveiled a series of changes she hoped would mean fewer sanctions and better experiences for those on welfare support.

It sparked a series of events, including her resignation from Parliament.

There are many in the Green membership who say they want that welfare support work continued, but for now, say they are stoked with the party's progress.

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