16 Oct 2023

Election 2023: Greens expect to do 'good work' in opposition on climate, public housing

1:30 pm on 16 October 2023
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Photo: Supplied / Tamatha Paul

The Green Party has cemented its status as the voice of the most left-leaning city in the country and will continue to fight for people and the planet, new MP Tamatha Paul says.

The election has proved fruitful for the Greens, which won more than 10 percent of the vote and 14 seats.

One of those successes was flipping the previously safe Labour inner-city electorate, Wellington Central, by more than 3000 votes.

That was achieved by Wellington City Councillor Tamatha Paul.

The 26-year-old told Morning Report the capital had made it clear at both this election and last year's local body elections that they supported the Green Party's policies and values.

That included building more affordable public housing, having good sustainable public transport and taking bold climate action, she said.

"There was a bit of a mini-Green wave here in Wellington both for Wellington Central and Rongotai and I think that really reflects the city that we live in that we are the most left-leaning city in Aotearoa."

The Greens had always played a role in trying to get governments to move to the left and to be bolder, more courageous and more progressive, she said.

"We still have to play that role.

"It's obviously going to be a lot harder with the National Party because we know what they value and it doesn't align with us as much as what the Labour Party does - but we can do really good work in opposition."

She said the relationships she had with the Wellington City Council would be helpful for gaining wins for the city.

"But in Parliament we are going to be playing an even more critical role - standing up for the people and the planet."

Over the few weeks, Paul said she would need to continue to serve as a Wellington councillor as well as Wellington Central MP so she would be extremely busy.

Paul is due to hand in her resignation today and there will be a by-election for her council position in February, the council announced this morning.

Greens' successes ' banner of hope'

Green Party's Steve Abel arrives at Wellingon Airport on 16 October 2023 following the election.

New Green MP Steve Abel arrives in Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Another new Green MP, Steve Abel, described the party's result in the election as a "banner of hope" for the country.

"It's an amazing turnout for the Greens, this surge of new MPs and incredible success winning back Auckland Central and winning Wellington [Central] and Rongotai," he said.

"It feels really good for us and I think the Greens' success is a banner of hope in an otherwise somewhat poor outcome for the country in terms of the election."

Abel, who is coming into Parliament as the ninth MP on the Greens' list, said he would be settling in today before the party's caucus met for the first time post-election on Tuesday.

The party's result in the election was significant despite the fact it would not be in government, he said.

"We as Greens stand for clear values around looking after people and the planet and that's what we'll continue to stand for, whether we're in Parliamentary opposition or whether we're in government.

"That's who we are and that's what we represent."

New Green list MP Hūhana Lyndon said being from Northland she was excited for the chance to work as part of her party's team alongside other political parties to advocate for Te Tai Tokerau.

"But certainly knowing we've got infrastructure challenges in the North, environmental resilience that we need, climate change, all of those things are really important and I heard that a lot on the campaign trail."

'A very interesting collaboration'

Political commentator Peter Dunne told Morning Report he always thought Wellington Central would go Green because of a high-profile candidate, its being a major university city and "general Wellington issues".

Nor did it surprise him that Rongotai followed suit, however, it changed the political landscape in the capital which now has a Green mayor (Tory Whanau) and two Green inner-city electorates.

"It's going to be a very interesting collaboration if you like over the next three years."

However, their policies might clash with the priorities of the incoming centre-right government, especially regarding the public service and public transport.

Dunne observed that National leader Christopher Luxon had spoken during the campaign of wanting to have special partnership arrangements with local government, especially for Auckland.

However, it would be interesting to see how that panned out when it came to Wellington, he said.

"There's been a lack of progress on a lot of fronts. It's hard to see how that can now be accelerated given the starkly different political makeup."

Both National and ACT have campaigned strongly on cutting back the number of jobs and so-called wasteful spending in the public sector.

Dunne predicted that attrition (not filling job vacancies) would be the way most jobs in that sector would be cut, however, anxiety over possible job losses may have helped Labour MP Greg O'Connor retain his Ōhāriu seat in the face of a strong challenge from National deputy leader Nicola Willis. A lot of public servants live in the electorate.

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