28 Jan 2019

New centrist green party could be 'valuable addition' - Bridges

9:52 am on 28 January 2019

National Party leader Simon Bridges has endorsed the idea of a new centrist environmental party, saying it would be a "very valuable" addition to the political landscape.

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Simon Bridges said a new centrist green party would need to be organic and to drive itself. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Vernon Tava, a former Green Party candidate and leadership contender and someone who has also tried for nomination as a National Party candidate, believes the time is now right for a new centrist party.

He said he had been contacted by a number of people in favour of a new party but stressed it was early days.

The idea is being touted by some as a potential solution to the National Party's dearth of coalition partners.

In a live interview with Morning Report today, Mr Bridges said he has not been in talks with Mr Tava and had not seen anything concrete regarding the formation of a party.

He said he was not aware of any other National MPs meeting with Mr Tava regarding the party.

But he said he agreed with Mr Tava that it was not fair any one party should have a monopoly on environmental concerns in New Zealand.

"At the moment you have a Green Party that very much is to the left of Labour, it will only go with Labour, there will be a group of New Zealanders there ... who say 'well actually, they're not representing me'."

Mr Bridges said the party would be a potentially valuable addition but it would need to be organic and to drive itself.

He said he had heard from New Zealanders about "the tragedy of a Green Party in name, but is to the left of Labour and is not able to get the wins to the environment that would be there were they to sit in the middle".

It was very early days and at this stage nothing was either on or off the table, Mr Bridges said.

Mr Tava said he had not yet spoken to the National Party about the issue because it was important the party emerge as an independent entity.

"The idea is that any new party would be a true centrist party that would be able to work with left or right and wouldn't overtly commit itself to one side or the other of the political spectrum."

He said it was very clear that the Green Party would only go with Labour.

"There's no ambiguity there, I mean their political positioning has been that they are not interested in working with National, they see themselves only as being able to work with Labour and they sit well to the left of Labour and I don't think that's me drawing any odd inferences, that's a fairly obvious positioning of the party."

Mr Tava said the idea was that any new party could work with Labour or National and would not commit itself overtly to one or other side of the political spectrum.

"I think that any party that I would be interested in being part of in this space would need to be able to honestly and credibly say 'look we could actually work with whatever party is in a position to form a government', so this is not a blue green per se project, it's not designed just to be an adjunct to the National Party."

Jami-Lee Ross text

Mr Bridges said a text allegedly sent by National MP Sarah Dowie to former National MP Jami-Lee Ross which included the words "you deserve to die" is not behaviour that he condones.

But the text should be viewed in the context of a personal relationship that ended very badly and that the matter was now the subject of a police investigation, he said.

Mr Bridges said ultimately he had confidence in Sarah Dowie and described her as a hardworking effective MP.