Making the Greens green again

The Greens are doubling down on their high polling with a policy announcement reminding the public that they are, well, still green.

You could be forgiven for wondering if the Greens have forgotten their own name.

During their formative years, the party campaigned heavily on environmental issues such as genetic engineering and energy efficiency and in doing so attracted a small, but solid, far-left voter base.

But since then the Greens have diversified.

Today, you would not blink an eye if you spotted co-leader James Shaw at a BusinessNZ luncheon, while his counterpart Metiria Turei’s confession of benefit fraud has shone a spotlight on the party at just the right time.

Social responsibility may have always been a part of the Greens make-up, but at its core has been the environment.

On the weekend Interest.co.nz reporter Alex Tarrant wrote an opinion piece asserting that the Greens needed to split, or grow up, to focus on environmental issues.

He argued that this election was calling for an environment-focused party to hold the balance of power, to deal with important issues such as swimmable rivers and water pricing.

Perhaps sensing this, the party has now announced a core conservation policy to remind people that it still has concern for mother nature at its heart.

At the centre of the policy is the doubling of the Department of Conservation’s (DOC’s) baseline budget, to be phased in over five years.

By this time, an extra $192 million will be available to DOC to hire an extra 720 frontline rangers, technical staff, and scientists, plus the additional operating expenses to support them.

According to the Greens, restructuring has forced DOC to close field offices and shed around 200 frontline rangers since National took office.

To further bolster environmental protection, an additional $24m will be pumped into conservation work on private, QEII, and Māori land while a $20 tourism levy will boost Predator Free New Zealand by $65m per year.

New mining on the conservation estate will immediately be stopped and legal protection for threatened species boosted.

Where most of this money will come from remains to be seen, with the party yet to announce its full fiscal plan.

But Shaw said the investment would be the single biggest cash injection in conservation since DOC was established in 1987, and would double the pest control undertaken.

“Our native birds are in serious trouble. Waves of introduced predators and habitat loss have combined to create a perfect storm of destruction.

“One third are now facing extinction. Birds like the kea or the yellow-eyed penguin could disappear in our lifetimes.

“The Green Party is going to fix that.”

Time will tell if the public agrees.

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