It’s A Question Of Values, My Friends: What The Greens Must Do To Survive

By   /   August 19, 2017  /   18 Comments

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New Zealand needs the Greens in Parliament. Not to turn New Zealand into a “thriving green economy” filled with “booming businesses”, but to remind us, at every possible opportunity, that “people are more important than progress”, and that a better world is possible.

THE COLLAPSE in Green Party support – down to 4.3 percent in the latest Colmar Brunton poll – can be reversed. But, halting the slide and building the Green Vote back up to its 1999-2014 average of 7.65 percent will require James Shaw and his campaign team to dig deep into the bedrock of green ideology. They will have to reach back through time to the very first stirrings of the post-industrial political project in the early 1970s and rediscover what it was that so captured the imagination of that young and turbulent generation of voters. Then they will have to distil it into campaign propaganda powerful enough to snatch their party from the jaws of electoral death.

They will be sorely tempted to resist this advice. To re-tool their propaganda at this late stage is not only a very big ask, it is also a very expensive one. They have a re-cycled slogan, re-designed signage, and a re-edited TVC (television commercial) in their campaign kit-bag. The urge to just run with what they’ve got will be very strong. It will also see them bundled out of Parliament.

What they need to absorb is that the “core vote” of any political party is zero. (The Alliance used to tell people that its core vote was 10 percent – what is it now?) Once the belief takes hold that: ‘A vote for the Greens is a wasted vote’; the party is doomed. With the “Jacinda Affect” at full-throttle, and Labour ruthlessly stripping the Greens’ of their most valuable policy assets, the party’s current pitch to the voters: “Love New Zealand”, and a TVC describing Green New Zealand as “a place where businesses are booming in a thriving green economy”; simply isn’t enough to stop the slide.

Right now, what all those deserting voters need is a clear and compelling restatement of what the Green Party stands for and why, now, more than ever before, it needs to be represented in Parliament. The Greens current TVC doesn’t do that. It has the look and flavour of an ice-cream commercial. Oh sure, all the milk is sourced from free-range cows, grazing freely on organic farms, but, when all the selling-points are laid to one side, what we’re looking at is still just another item of confectionary.

James Shaw and his campaign team’s No. 1 priority, therefore, should be to settle themselves comfortably in front of the nearest computer screen and watch the Values Party TVC from 1972 – it’s right here on YouTube.

The script is 45 years old, but it still possesses the sort of intellectual toughness that makes you stop, listen, and think:

Economic growth equals more productivity, more people, more pollution.

It also means more money – so we’re told.


Can money buy us a new planet?

Economic expansion is not the answer. The world’s wealthiest nations can attest to that.


New Zealand twice led the world in social reform – it can again.

Are we to have a quantity of life – or a quality of life?

Let’s preserve the good things we still have.

People are more important than progress.



“Wow!”, I hear you say, “Which ad agency made that? It’s brilliant!”

Yes, it is, but it wasn’t the work of a paid copywriter or an ad agency. The whole thing was thrown together in a few days by Hugh Macdonald and Rob Ritchie, a couple of young cinematographers working at the National Film Unit (a state-owned movie studio based in the Wellington suburb of Miramar). In a strictly undercover and emphatically unofficial effort, these two “guerrilla” filmmakers captured to perfection the core message of the Values Party founder, Tony Blunt. Broadcast on the country’s single television channel at the commencement of the 1972 election campaign, it’s effect on young voters was electrifying.

Co-Director of the Values TVC, Rob Ritchie (centre) with National Film Unit colleagues circa 1972.

If the Greens are to come back, it is a message of this quality, simplicity and audacity that James Shaw and his colleagues need to craft – and quickly. They must reach out beyond the formulaic offerings of the advertising industry to the vast pool of talented Kiwi film and video makers. They must appeal for the help of people like Darren Watson and Jeremy Jones – the guys who created the extraordinary “Planet Key” music video. Not only do they need to ask for the help of Robyn Malcolm, but of every other progressive artist in the country. Beg them to activate their networks, punch their speed-dials and rustle-up the talent required to create a Greens campaign TVC every bit as good – if not better – than the Values Party TVC of 1972.

The most important lesson to draw from that historic 1972 Values ad’ is how little a message dates when its content is both real and relevant. Forty-five years on, and confronted by the looming catastrophe of global warming, the reality and relevance of the pivotal question located at its heart: “Can money buy us a new planet?” is as undeniable as it is urgent. What’s also clear, is that a world dominated by the philosophy of “More!” is, indeed, a doomed world.

New Zealand needs the Greens in Parliament. Not to turn New Zealand into a “thriving green economy” filled with “booming businesses”, but to remind us, at every possible opportunity, that “people are more important than progress”, and that a better world is possible.

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  1. Francesca says:

    I wondered when the turnaround would come.
    Last post Chris had given up on the Greens,their fight for social justice was all over
    I agree with him though, they need to get out of the corporate friendly box, and be the people’s champion

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      Yes chris I beleive that greens will settle back to around 9% as they always do.

      Most of the commenters also believe this.

      James Shaw dropped a real clanger for us that believe the Greens were the consummate “environmental” party (me not being any more a green party member) in the interview with Corrin Dann two weeks ago he said clearly the Green Party were not The Environment Party but the green party.

      Greens will be shocked at hearing James Shaw say that!!!

      Her’s were James Shaw said it below.

      The “Environment” is the heart of all life and any changes to our life be it “Climate change ” or any other issues that follow any change in our environment.

      Environmental change = change to our life and the planet.

      James Shaw, co-leader of the Green Party (video at 4 mins)

      I am committed to ending poverty in this country.

      We are the party that aims to end poverty. Frankly everybody else is interested in tinkering around the edges. We’re the only party that’s drawn a line in the sand and said we know what it takes to lift 212,000 children above the poverty line.

      That was to be really clear that the Greens are still strong on the kaupapa of ending poverty. For people who think that this is the Greens ditching the environment for social justice, or that social justice isn’t something the Greens are meant to do, go read this piece by former Green MP Nandor Tanczos on what the party really stands for,

      There’s a couple of points I’d make. The first one is that anyone who says that the Green party should stick to the environment fundamentally fails to understand what Green politics is by its very nature. The Greens aren’t the ‘environment party’, they’re the Green party.

      • Danyl Strype says:

        Two things CG. First, it wasn’t James Shaw who was quoted on the Standard pointing out that the Greens aren’t the “environmental party”, it was Nandor Tanczos:

        Secondly, Nandor is right. The whole point of Green philosophy and politics is that the environment and human society and “the economy” are not separate things. Therefore, you can’t bring any real benefits to one of them by sacrificing the health of the others on the alter of “progress”, as more than you can real benefit your household economy by sacrificing the health of the minds and bodies of the people who live in it. At both scales (the country and the household), a policy that genuinely aim to improve any one must address all three.

        As Gaylord Nelson put it:
        “The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment. All economic activity is dependent upon that environment with it’s underlying resource base. When the environment is finally forced to file under Chapter 11 because it’s resource base has been polluted, degraded, dissipated, irretrievably compromised, then, the economy goes down into bankruptcy with it because the economy is just a subset within the ecological system.”

        Thus, fighting poverty or corruption is just as “green” as fighting pollution or extinction. A party that campaigned on the latter and neglected the former would be a conservation party, not a Green party.

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      I like the values message video Chris, I wished we heard this now from the opposition Parties because it is important to have a worthwhile goal ahead of us all.

    • Sam Sam says:

      We, and I, condem all sorts, and the right in turn condem the left. Until the lower educated in the old systems, the big 4 banks and the rest of them, until those examples are condemned the problem will grow.

  2. WILD KATIPO says:

    I tend to agree with the dynamics of early activism you are pointing to , Chris,… its usually when a movement is in its early stages it is at its most energetic, then it gets ‘ organized’,… which is OK , but if your not careful,… its also when the cautious handbrake brigade find a home and want to start having an influence… it happens in any movement once it becomes an ‘ established’ entity.

    Environmental movements, churches, political party’s,… its a naturally occurring phenomena . And periodically digging deep into a movements early roots and reminding yourself of why it started in the first place is a timely thing to do , as – issues change and people change, but core values do not.

    And yes we need the Greens , … not to turn New Zealand into a “thriving green economy” filled with “booming businesses”, but to remind us, at every possible opportunity, that “people are more important than progress”, and that a better world is possible.

  3. mikesh says:

    I voted for the Values Party from its inception in 1972 – not always, because of the ¨wasted vote¨ factor, but often – and I continue to support the Green Party. I considered the Values message to be ¨sustainability¨, both environmentally and economically, rather than ¨growth¨. The Green´ s current pandering to growth, albeit ¨green growth¨, I believe, is a mistake.

    Incidentally, the original Values Party´ s leader´s name was Brunt, not Blunt.

  4. mary_a says:

    Chris Trotter’s messages over the past few weeks have been conflicting … ‘vote Greens’ … ‘Greens on the way out’ etc … and now this one, which I have to agree with.

    From my perspective NZ Greens has been implementing Values Party policies based on taking responsibility for the welfare of Kiwis first and foremost, which should always be the main focus of any government. Nothing has changed there for the Greens.

    What Shaw and Co need to do, starting immediately, is get the message of their whole political format … environmental, welfare, economic, health, education, policing, defence etc … out there, through in your face campaigning and advertising … pounding the pavements and door knocking as well as using media to the max. A case of push, push, push Green policies. It’s vital for us all that the Greens are a solid part of the next Labour government.

    Because without a Green input, government will be the same as it has been for the past nine years, a dark one way street leading to nowhere for the majority of NZers.

    Party vote Green to give the necessary balance to the incoming Labour government’s centrist policies and we will be well on our way to creating a fairer, decent society once more for every Kiwi.

  5. HC says:

    The Values Party was a bit before my time.

    But going back to basics is one essential step the Greens should take. Though, they need to present a workable combination of fundamentalist and pragmatist Green Party and set of policies.

    Simply running on swim-able rivers, green business, more electric cars and such stuff will not do it. Be bold, I reckon, run to get rid of all one way plastic bags, reduce packaging, bring back refillable glass bottles for milk and other beverages, introduce a carbon tax, set ratios and more for alternative energy investment, set bold targets for public transport, stop land sales to foreigners, push for value added and high quality production of food and other things.

    And go for it as a refreshed, young and also mature mix of the candidates, let the young ones face the cameras and speak at meetings. Passion, principles, robust fight for environmental protection, with regulation, and also for social justice, and the Greens will be back in Parliament.

    Chris jumps from doom to gloom at times. Some of his posts are bizarre and negative, others go off the tangent a bit, I do not know where Chris Trotter really stands on many things.

  6. SC says:

    Right now Greens need all their supporters to get out the vote for the policies they have made a stand on. My suggestion – every Green sympathiser just commit to doing one walk sheet of door-knocking in a poorer area near them. Take enrolment packs, talk to solo mums, beneficiaries, students and non-voters about Green policies. Face to face is the best way to cut through the media noise. jAsk people to talk to their friends or make a post on Facebook. Get non-voters to fill out enrolment forms. Drop off at the PO for them. Tell them where their polling booth is. Call your local party office and offer to do just that. Greens need all our energy right now.

  7. David Stone says:

    It would be a bad scene for anyone who doesn’t want a National government if the Greens vote falls just below 5%. It will wipe 10-15% of the left’s total support even if labour gains all the Greens lose. Labour need to think about that, and lend them some encouragement.
    D J S

  8. countryboy says:

    The single biggest catastrophic fuck up of elephantine proportions the Greens made was turning their backs on Metiria Turei.
    ‘The Green’s’ wise, the fact that she’s a woman and a Maori woman at that is irrelevant. The fact that she mislead WINZ to survive is also irrelevant.

    The priceless gift she gave The Greens was her bare arsed honesty in the face of the tyranny of the vile and criminal Right who think homelessness and poverty is the right of those people, to choose to suffer, starve and live like un loved dogs in the streets while soulless scum bags like hosking can go about unfettered preaching “ Greed is good. “ That greasy haired little midget can get away with saying that kind of thing, in the kind of country we have now, and that should shame us all.

    She gave The Greens, her beloved party, a great, an almost unimaginably valuable gift and that besuited little shit and corporate apologist shaw threw it back in her face and by so doing killed off The Greens as sure as one would by shooting an organic horse between the eyes.

    For a moment there, a million can’t-be-arsed voters held their breath.
    shaw and adern then threw a bucket of cow piss infused water on her righteous spark.

    Consequently, two things will have occurred. Thing one, is that the Right now have a greater level of intel’ relating to such future, rabble rousing revelations regards damage control and thing two is that those of us who might have acted, reacted and revolted are with less hope now than ever before.

    Oh. And a two words to that pair of old The Green Party traitor fucks, Kennedy Graham and David Clendon, who lost grip of their withered, cowardly little diddles? On behalf of Metiria fans. Fuck you. Fuck. You!

    ( I know. A bit much for a lovely Sunday… )

    • bert says:

      100% Countryboy!

    • David Stone says:

      Labour interpreted the drop in support when Metiria made her statement as a failure of Little.
      The Greens interpreted the drop in their support as a failure of Metiria rather than an obvious attraction for Jacinda. Both were wrong Hosking notwithstanding.
      They needed to keep her there, Shaw is an unconvincing representative of the Greens, esp. on his own.
      D J S

    • WILD KATIPO says:

      … ” The priceless gift she gave The Greens was her bare arsed honesty in the face of the tyranny of the vile and criminal Right who think homelessness and poverty is the right of those people, to choose to suffer, starve and live like un loved dogs in the streets while soulless scum bags like hosking can go about unfettered preaching “ Greed is good ” …

      So right.

      And that’s the blunt truth. It still appalls me that people couldn’t get over the barnyard sized door that is poverty in NZ. And what would they rather do ?

      Believe the crap that Gower and co spit out and pretend it ( serious poverty ) doesn’t exist.

      It was for precisely THAT reason I switched my party vote from Labour to the Greens recently. I can hardly wait to vote. Now Adern is all good , so says I, and Labour are on track, and that’s good too.

      But I look at the whole picture , that wrapped up in both Labour and the Greens is what this country needs, – that and building on their policy’s because we have all got to start somewhere. But it looks like the Greens will be there right alongside when the new Labour govt is elected.

      This is the TRUE brighter future just beginning.

  9. Black Lemming says:

    Awesome rant country boy loved it, 1st class.

    The problem for the greens is that Labour is now driving core policies on housing ,poverty, water and climate change . Key Green ideas .Oops.

    The greens did well to take the Beneficary vote from labour and go up to 15 % but now Labour has struck back by ” stealing the green policy script ” and hooking it on to the Jacinda express.

    Why vote for the Greens when Labour will do it for you ?

    Jacinda has had a great start ,She has Helen Clarks former press secretary booking every bit of NZ media every day , an in person , Helen Clark endorsement at the Campaign Launch today and will likely roll “Boring Bill” in the 1st Tv leaders debate TV3 mon night .The Greens are in trouble.

    While the Greens have gone largely for intelligent young voters , Jacinda also appeals to the same demographic .Oh dear . Nz firsts demographic is much older and more likely to stay loyal to Winston .So the Greens are getting hit the hardest .

    The transferance of voters away from the greens , to a “greener ” labour spells real trouble and it
    ‘s hard to imagine how to bring them back in such a short time frame.

    James Shaw is a well dressed calm purposeful co leader , but he lacks the imformality and camera charm of John Key , Jacinda or Metiria .

    Metiria was the smiling young female face which worked so well for those who vote on personality rather than policy and James could end up type cast as “Serious James ” along with with” Angry Andrew “and” Boring Bill “.I don’t think he can foot it alone in a personality contest ,they need Metiria back .

    In football you don’t take your best player off the field at half time . Yes , Metiria did get a yellow card fora bad tackle and is now on the side line but if the greens want to win the game and get back over 5 % they need their top goal scorer back on the park .

    If they don’t lift in the next 2 weeks , asking her to return to rally the troops may actually lift morale and lift the vote .Bring people back .

    Dumb idea ? What the hell have they got to loose !

    More over , the drop of both NZ first and The Greens to 8 % in last weeks polls was interesting because it was supposed to reflect public dissatisfaction with benefit fraud .

    But if this was the primary reason for a loss of support for the Greens why did NZ first drop by almost the same amount ? The loss of both I believe is more a pro Jacinda swing than anti Metiria .If it was purely about Metrira then one would have expected the Greens to drop and NZ First to remain steady as they had no benefit fraud .

    Significant support for Metiria came from Sue Bradford , Jennette Fitzsimsons , James Shaw , the remaining MPs’ and a great deal of greens supporters.

    The loss of her charisma in an election based largely on a personality contest , seems a short sighted nee jerk political mistake of the highest magnitude .Riding this out should have been the greens key priority.

    As for Kennedy and David , As Jeanette Fitzsimons indicated on RNZ , they put their personal ethics in front of the wider public morality to improve the lives of the down trodden and environment of this country .

    Too many years traveling the around the world on the tax payers money achieving f-all , too many confrences and cocktail parties on a healthy mps salary.NO empathy or understanding of the daily struggles of unemployed or the underemployed .The dumbest way Ive ever seen anybody exit politics and to nuke your own ship in a treasonous attack in an election campaign shows calculated malice .

    I have been privy to the internal emails and they went out of their way to avoid party protocols and inflict maximum damage .James did the right thing by throwing the rats off the ship.They have screwed it up for everyone.

    While the Greens are bailing frantically to keep the boat afloat , I think the loss of Metiria was pointless .

    She understands hardship, she knows how to fix it , and if she comes back I’m still voting Party Vote Green ! Kia Kaha .

  10. Not a Robot says:

    When you stand for everything, you end up standing for nothing.

    The Greens have lost focus, and as a consequence, they’ve lost credibility.

    Now, they just look like a motley collection of aging hipsters with fading tats who sold out for Power.

    It would be sad if there were no Green Party. Actually, scratch that – we don’t have a real Green Party now. Maybe these guys should go, so we can create a real Green Party, run by Ecologists, who are totally focused on saving our environment.

    Sure, right after we create a real Labour Party, run by real Workers.

    Yeah, right.