Hard Choices: Genter’s Candidacy Lights-Up The Greens’ Internal Divisions


JULIE ANNE GENTER’s entry into the Greens’ co-leadership race presents Green Party members with a hard choice. Either, they will opt for sentiment and symbolism, and elect Marama Davidson. Or, by electing Genter, signal their determination to prioritise cool-headed pragmatism and substantive policy achievement.

Some commentators have already decided that the Greens’ “activist base” will vote in overwhelmingly numbers for Metiria Turei’s “natural successor”. As both a Maori nationalist and a fervent fighter for social justice, Davidson openly celebrates the sort of street-level agitation that the “Baby Boomer” Greens look back on with pride, and which some Green “Millennials” regard as the only “authentic” way of doing Green politics.

The assumption here is that these “activists” constitute a clear majority of the Green Party’s membership. A swift review of Green leadership elections, however, raises serious doubts as to whether the party membership really is as radical as many New Zealanders believe it to be.

Following the tragic death of Rod Donald in 2005, Green Party members were presented with a choice between Nandor Tanczos and Russel Norman. They chose Norman. A few years later the choice was between Sue Bradford and Metiria Turei. They chose Turei. The last contest was between Kevin Hague and James Shaw. They chose Shaw.

The historical pattern here is clear. Asked to choose between a candidate associated (at least in the public mind) with radical and/or controversial political causes; and a candidate unburdened by an excess of electorally-negative baggage; the Greens have consistently opted for the latter over the former.

In the face of these historical precedents, the smart money would be on Genter – not Davidson.

That historical preference for a safe (or, at least, safer) pair of hands is likely to be accentuated this time around by the traumatic experiences of the 2017 General Election campaign.

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Just how likely is it that a majority of the Green Party membership stands ready to embrace a candidate who proudly aligns herself with the radical policies of Metiria the Martyr? Do they really want to witness their female co-leader engaging in ideological fisticuffs with the leaders of the Labour Party and NZ First? Are constant headlines highlighting the policy differences between the coalition partners and their activist sidekicks more, or less, likely to see the Greens lift their share of the Party Vote in 2020?

The political trajectory of the Green Party over the past ten years has been towards precisely the cool-headed pragmatism and substantive policy achievement that Genter, more than any other member of the Green Caucus (with the possible exception of Shaw himself) has come to represent.

At her announcement on Parliament’s forecourt, she told the assembled journalists that she wanted to help the Greens develop a “clear, bold and distinct vision for 2020”.

Decoded, her message is all about presenting voters with the sharpest possible contrast between the Greens’ and the coalition parties’ election manifestos. Genter is betting that the Green Party truly is, as she told waiting journalists, “the future of politics”, and that if the Greens’ vision of a sustainable New Zealand is presented in a way that doesn’t frighten the electorate, then the Greens position in the House can be improved dramatically.

That is a goal which can only be achieved, argues Genter, if her party “manages the risks”. Which is the closest thing to a “dog whistle” anyone is ever likely to hear in the mouth of a Green candidate. The message, aimed at what Genter clearly believes to be the “moderate” Green majority, could not, however be simpler – or more brutal: The last thing we need now, after waiting 20 years for a place in government, is another Metiria!

It’s a dog-whistle to which a great many Green Party ears will prick-up and listen.

Assuming the fight remains a straight-forward contest between Davidson’s symbolism and Genter’s pragmatism, the pragmatist will, almost certainly, join Shaw at the top of her party’s greasy pole.

The entry of a third candidate – most likely the Conservation Minister, Eugenie Sage – would, however, signal an effort by the Greens’ “old hands” to blunt the increasingly sharp edges of the Green Party’s ideological differences.

The risk, however, is that the membership might fail to take the hint, and that the moderate vote would be split between Sage and Genter – allowing Davidson to come through the middle. Should that occur, the Minister for Women, and the Associate Minister for Transport and for Health will simply have to put her head down and wait for better weather.



  1. While Julie Anne Genter has been aggressively constantly fighting in the public media for our flagging Kiwirail freight system I ask, – what has Marama Davidson ever done publicly said in the press to save our rail freight policy?????

    Marama has been silently strange about saving rail freight movements and lower the truck gridlocked roads that are now killing many and our environment, so I would need to see a serious policy from Marmara as Shaw and Genter already have made clear policies for rail, which is in line with Green Party rail policy.

    Marama let us see what you have to offer to save our rail freight movements and save our roads from truck gridlock?

    • Although hugely important, it’s not just about rail. Marama Davidson fights for the poor and disadvantaged, as does Julie Anne, and you will find Marama D standing in the long queues outside winz offices trying to help people.

      • Louis true it is not ‘only about rail’.

        But no-one is now sending the message out from green party about rail’s importance now, since the rail report was discovered by labour last month that national hid 18 months ago because the report showed that rail was vital to our economy and environment.


        No one else in the green party except Julie Anne and James Shaw spoke about the study report and significance of it then, so we need a united from Green party on transport before we lose rail entirely.

      • As co-leader of The Green Party of Aotearoa-New Zealand that is apart of a coalition government those functions, standing outside WINZ is one use of time and energy I do not recommend in the long term. Seamlessly moving in and out of protest mode will be challenging. It’s possible so long as it’s note accusing either of there coalition partners of braking the Law.

        • “standing outside WINZ is one use of time and energy I do not recommend in the long term”

          Totally agree.

          Sue Bradford does it better. More action. Better results. Kudos.

  2. The Green Party urgently needs to go straight to the farmer, real farmers, not corporate cowsploiters and suggest. “Unite with your down stream service industry and force the foreign bankers out of NZ. Then? Let’s create a ministry to over see peer to peer lending to you, the farmer, to secure your finances therefore not be forced to over-stock, over fertilise thus over pollute and over-suicide, over there.
    “See? Under that tree? That’s Brian, and yep, that’s most of his brain. Kip! Get away, ya mongrel! ”
    That scenario? Actually happened. Brian’s own shotgun under Brian’s own chin. ( Not his real name. ) But you won’t read about that in the coroners report. Just ‘ No suspicious circumstances’.
    While the pretty people smile their smiles and spend our $ix figures the $hit is heading to the biggest fan ever.
    If the Green Party is honourable of intent it should forget our pathetic little cities with their sad little squabbles and head out into where the reality is. Where the money is, aye Boys?
    There’s this great little ice cream parlour in down town Auckland. Run by an Italian and a NZ women, so I believe. I read about it in an in-flight magazine so… Their creations are a shame to devour, that’s why I took a picture of mine first. My beautiful female human slurped the top off hers before I could swing my camera around.
    We sat there, amid the hubbub of happy people and looked about, as one does. I spat specks of ice cream at sparrow and I was sure I saw bliss expressed on it’s little face.
    Towering above us however; there they were. The Evil that permeates all our lives.
    ASB.ANZ.BNZ.WESPAC.TOWER INSURANCE and others. Casting a dark shadow over a little ice cream parlour. Big, ugly, nasty, worthless, glass cocks penetrating the skyline. The Slave Masters and, as yet, under no suspicous circumstances.
    You think you’re free? Then you’d best take another look.
    The Greens could be the key. The catalyst. The match to the fuse. Metiria Turei nearly had it. She nearly did it. I don’t think even she knew just how close she came to unleashing the terrible rage that’s simmering away under Gods own mate.

  3. How anyone who is genuinely concerned about the state of our nation can support a middle of the road green wash party like this is beyond me. Our mainstream party political system, which is a gold plated haven for freeloaders & bigmouths, is rotten to the core. Only genuine revolutionary action will sweep them from their privileged perches. Mediocrity is both a curse & a deep seated sickness that permeates every aspect of our society. Radical solutions please, not meaningless (old school) commentary on our self destructive status quo.

    • Absolutely! The ‘greenwash’ party is very much part of the problem, and will continue to be part of the problem as long as the MPs and party members are more concerned with not rocking the boat than with promoting what is actually needed.

      So, everything that matters continues to be made worse by the industrial money-lender system that the ‘Greens’ support and advocate.

  4. Completely disagree that Marama Davidson represents “sentiment and symbolism” and think that’s an insulting thing to say.

    • Metiria is meant to be coleader right now. But the number 2 Green list MP has to face off against the number 3 and it’s a difficult choice. In coalition with NZFirst and Labour, the Green Party has begun the process of selecting there 3rd female co-leader after Jeanette Fitzsimmons and Metiria Turie, and started late after coalition talks, extending Green Policy while in a coalition that expands on a range of Green policy to assert law and order on a range of issues to do with justice for the environment, woman, vulnerable people. Coalition Government is what makes selecting a candidate even more vital to executing Green Party aspirations that has strong history and culture of opposing Labour and NZFirst and now carries this burden as they further develop political, commercial, corporate and agricultural relationships. Founded out of protest the Green Party has of 30,000 volunteers, the Green Party is the 4th largest party in the New Zealand Parliament.

      Developing Green Party policy while apart of the $70bln-$80bln government budget is incidental to the protest movement as they government seeks to deploy those funds in new and innovative ways that is fundamentally different from the previous National Lead government. The coalition government has commitments to a number of people’s including those that are affected by Green Party Politics under its coalition agreement. The government budget is capable of adequate resourcing all of Labour, NZFirst and Green Party policy with in reasons and a timely manner. For an independent protest movement the Green Party will struggle as a coalition partner. The coalition agreement speaks of both compromise and power sharing with enthusiasm for regional development. With important values being a more caring, prosperous, and less divided. The selection of the next female Green Party co-leader must understand this and make it her own.

  5. To be a ‘co-leader of a party you would reasonably expect the candidate to be conversant in all environmental/social/economic subjects shouldn’t we?

    And expect that candidate to also be vocal about them also to prove to the voter that you are just not only a ‘fair weather’ candidate.

    To ‘walk the walk and talk the talk’, is the usual premise here.

  6. “Genter is betting that the Green Party truly is, as she told waiting journalists, “the future of politics”, and that if the Greens’ vision of a sustainable New Zealand is presented in a way that doesn’t frighten the electorate, then the Greens position in the House can be improved dramatically.”

    Well, that is exactly the problem the Greens have with credibility.

    The electorate is diverse, but the majority are more or less middle class people, who will never part with their beloved motor vehicles, and as long as combustion engines remain a bit cheaper to run and easier to fuel, they will never vote for a true and principled Green Party.

    We face a massive dilemma as a society, we are so firmly locked into fossil fuel technology, in resource exploitation mode and in industrialised manufacturing and what else there is, the Greens have moved so far from their traditionally more purist brand to a ‘green label’ sticker party.

    It is as fake as 100 Percent Pure, you cannot solve the problems of the human economy and society as we have it, with more of the same, by simply exchanging fuel tanks with batteries.

    To power the many cars there are, we will need to have much more electricity, and it will not be able to generate it cheaply enough (without massive subsidies) by using wind, solar and geothermal. Hydro is almost used to the maximum already.

    The growth addiction also, even in population growth to increase labour pool and consumer base, that is a dead end solution, no solution at all. Sadly the Greens are trying to square a circle, and Genter will be a prime example of this futile effort.

    • “they will never vote for a true and principled Green Party. ”


      Who voted for the Values Party? And the Old Greens?

      And which principles are we supposed to be looking for? Are they supposed to be looking for?

      “To power the many cars there are, we will need to have much more electricity, and it will not be able to generate it cheaply enough (without massive subsidies) by using wind, solar and geothermal. Hydro is almost used to the maximum already.”

      At this point in the development that appears to be true. And cell phones used to be amazingly clunky, too.

      For all the years we’ve been paying extortionate prices for electricity very very little has been done to improve capacity, technology, and distribution. This has to change. What’s the point of dividends and profits when the industry is decidedly shaky? Hope the Coalition has their wits about them on this issue.

      And I think you’ll find that the people who will be last to the party will be those who can least afford to change fuels. Plus they’ll have to wait for the growth of a second-hand market for vehicles. Unless the government again steps in as it did to convert the national fleet to liquid gas when petrol prices flared.

      At least two issues that need to be resolved. Whether the Greens can manage this – dunno. The current crew seems to be of the divide and conquer guilt trip brigade. That’s why they lost my vote.

  7. Marc;

    I guess when we have no roads to drive on when the sea claims all the coast again we will need rapid electric rail services as many other countries have now.

    I am an old style Green Party member when the greens were a frugal lot that rode on bikes or scooters or shared rides in small cars.

    Rod Donald and Jeanette Fitzsimmons would come down to Napier & meet us all in a coffee lounge for regular meetings, and we had substance then.

    We have gone far to right in the single car brigade today and now we had a NIWA scientist come to HB and give us all a lesson in how we are heading down the road to become one of the most car populated countries globally as our population is so small globally.

    This scientist advises us that we are beginning to poison our own air and water with emissions from our vehicles, so we really are fucked.

  8. The Greens are extremely lucky to be in a position to have two very committed and talented MP’s in Marama and Julie Anne Genter contesting the co-leadership of the Green Party.

    Trust Chris Trotter to place negative terminology such as “internal divisions” in his opinion piece, when what I see is a healthy democratic process within the Greens that has not been rushed for the sake of expediency and will lead to a stronger Greens leadership team, no matter whom is selected.

    The Green’s have seen a rise in their polling recently which I suggest has been aided by their social media presence and great candidate selection that has seen a diverse and representative team of MP’s be welcomed by our nation.

    • I agree with your sentiment about the negative spin.

      An deliberate analogy. You’ve got a fancy BMW, a fancy Rolls Royce, a fancy Mercedes. You bitch because the boot’s a little high for lifting stuff into on one, the drink holder in one isn’t quite big enough, the rear view mirror in one is a tad small.

      You’ve got choice! You’ve got class! You don’t have to walk! All will get you there, and well.

    • So true. The Greens have very strong intelligent and ethical candidates. No wonder the media finds it so hard to say anything positive about them.

  9. Is it “sentiment” to oppose the genocide of the Gazans? And genocide it is..even Israeli Uri Avnery has said ‘genocide in slow motion’ and Israeli Ilan Pappé has used the phrase ‘incremental genocide’..

    Is it “sentiment” to speak out about the harsh imprisonment, including torture, of hundreds of Palestinian children, some as young as 12?

  10. I’ll be backing Julie Anne Genter. Nothing against Marama but Julie has the experience and the political nous when dealing with the corporate media scum.

  11. You’ve got to love the cherry picking in Chris Trotter’s revisionist history of the Greens’ co-leader elections. In the election to replace Rod Donald, the Greens could have also chosen David Clendon, a much more vanilla, centrist choice than Russell (as we saw when he joined fellow vanilla centrist Kennedy Graham in throwing Metiria under the bus). True Russell wasn’t as notorious as Nandor, but given his Oz trade union connections, and the fact he wasn’t even in parliament at the time, he was hardly the least boat-rocking choice.

    As for Metiria, remember how she entered the Greens from the Cannabis Party with Nandor, and before that the McGillicuddy Serious Party. The three way contest for Jeanette’s replacement was between three equally radical choices; Metiria and Sues Bradford *and* Kedgely. Of the three, Sue K was (by a narrow margin) the more vanilla, centrist choice.

    Shaw, in contrast, won out of field a fairly vanilla candidates. One could argue he was marginally more vanilla than Gareth Hughes (outspoken opponent of fossil fuel industries), Kevin Hague (would have been the first openly gay leader of a NZ political party), and that the avowedly centrist Vernon Tava didn’t win due to a lack of experience. But that completely ignores the real reason for Shaw’s election, in favour of one that fits Chris’ pet theory.

    As I mentioned in response to Bomber’s piece about the current co-leadership election, the Greens have used their co-leadership to maintain a balance between the more radical (“left”) and more liberal (“centre”) wings of their support base. Russell was elected to balance out the radically anti-mining Jeanette. The radical ex-Cannabis Party/ McGSP Metiria was elected over Sue K to balance out the relatively vanilla Russell. Vice-versa with Shaw. Guess how this pattern continues. IMHO Chris’ claim that Julie Ann has it in the bag is wishful thinking, and I honestly don’t think it would be the best choice for the party or for her ability to continue speaking truth to power on transport issues.

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