After the last election I was dubious about the Greens going into Government. Labour didn’t need them and so I doubted they would have the leverage to make any significant gains on things like climate change. I couldn’t see an upside. The downside was that, as with small parties in government before them, their vote could vanish as quickly as the Advance NZ donation box. Yet neither of these has proven to be true.

I work on the ground on climate change mitigation and adaptation, as a councillor in a small and dynamic district council. For many years central government has been missing in action. Like a number of councils we saw the need for local government to step in and show leadership. I’m proud of the work we are doing, but it has always been clear that Aotearoa needed central government at the table. We were missing a coherent national strategy both for reducing our emissions and for addressing the very real challenges of adapting to a changing world. In particular the question of managed retreat, and the difficult equity issues that raises, needed a national framework around it.

Frameworks, timelines, cumulative steps, these don’t make sexy headlines or provide many photo ops. But they are really important when we start to grapple with the realities of this huge and complex issue. Like an ocean liner, there is great inertia in the system and it doesn’t turn easily. Having James Shaw as Minister for Climate Change has meant that, for the first time, we have someone in the bridge trying to turn the rudder. And that has made a huge difference on the ground, most especially in terms of building understanding and certainty across our communities. Climate action is now locked in.

There is no doubt that if the Greens had been dealt a decent hand at the last election they could have done a lot more. Climate activists are right to demand more urgency in our climate change response, and to hold the Minister for Climate Change to account for that. But we also need to acknowledge that James Shaw has done more to advance this country’s climate change transition than any other politician, living or dead.

This is not to undermine those who keep warning us that we are moving too slow. We are. But the solution is for the Greens to have more influence in government. Greens electoral support is strong and it seems likely that any third term Labour Government will need the Greens to form a majority. Labour has some capable Ministers (Nanaia Māhuta and Kiri Allen are impressive) but Green Ministers have added real strength over the last two terms. Building a reputation as competent and credible operators is vital to broader electoral support, and the mandate that gives for deeper action.

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The Green Party’s job, in my opinion, is to lead real change. It is the job of the broader green movement to be the radical voice. One is about navigating ‘the art of the possible’. The other is about maintaining an uncompromising clarity. I think sometimes we confuse the two. Over the years many people have spent energy trying to get the Green Party to be the radical voice outside the tent. Perhaps that energy would be better spent building a stronger extra-parliamentary movement.

Having said that, the recent vote to reopen nominations for co-leader shows a very real tension that I think James Shaw, and Marama Davidson, need to pay attention to. It doesn’t take much to see that many party activists are becoming disaffected. They don’t feel valued or listened to. They don’t feel that they have influence. They don’t feel supported, despite what they give to the party. These are classic causes of burn-out. And it is happening at all levels of the party, from the top down. The party needs to be much better at looking after its people.

The co-leaders need to take seriously their obligation to be good leaders of the organisation, as well as good ministers. They need to attend to the concerns of their members, as much as they do to their external stakeholders. They need to address the cultural as well as the structural problems in the party, which has allowed party processes to be captured by personal agendas and which makes internal debate a toxic affair. They need to value talent and plan for succession across the organisation. If they do not take the internal problems of the party seriously they may find themselves hamstrung just as they are finally reaching the level of influence they need to make deep change.

The vote to reopen nominations is a wake up call. I have no doubt that James will survive it. I hope he also learns from it.


Nandor Tanczos is a former Green Party MP and is one of the most important environmental political commentators in Aotearoa. 


  1. Seeing Nandor after all those years, and still no REAL change in Cannabis laws makes you realise what a waste of space the current Greens are.

    • Yep, cannabis is for the corporate (and the military) only, all the green paint in the world won’t hide that fact.

    • Unfair, I think they have worked hard on the cannabis issue and it ain’t their fault but the pathetic PM who wouldn’t say how she was voting until after the referenda.

      • Here I thought voting was a personal choice thing, not the public domain. Hope you’re personally critical of every right wing Christian who voted against it and how pathetic they are. Who was the opposition leader at the time and what was their response?
        David Seymour voted against it clearly and the massive impact that had on its downfall is fucking appalling. Yet your not signaling him out, Why?

        • cannabis reform is the Greens Baby – bert
          David Seymour will always vote against it, so the Greens need to find a way…like they do for Climate Change

          • So how is this Arderns fault… Baby?
            Everyone want’s a referendum right, free choice, freedom of voice, surely?

      • I am no lover of Jacinda but she is entitled to a private vote and does not need to send out messages which way to vote to others .If people cannot decide how to vote without help then they are not mature enough to vote .

        • Your honesty is noted Trevor. Although Ardern is noted around the globe as exceptional, I doubt even she can omit subliminal messages. Pathetic by the PM or unintelligent by Michal?

          • Gosh Bert are you sure Ardern noted as exceptional?
            Destroying NZ in 5 years is an exceptional accomplishment?

    • Nathan But they have chipped away at turning people against each other in just the way that homo sapiens has chipped away at the good earth, and the chips on their shoulders may have unbalanced them.

      • Good one Gentle Annie. We live in an age of flexible image technology, the pictures can show something being chipped and falling apart, then stop, reverse the action and its as before. I wish we could do stuff as in Back to the Future. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride – old saying.

        Can we try and keep our balance, draw ourselves together, in the present, knowing what we know, some chips missing but still strong. Talk and disagree and reverse and see what we do agree on and build a framework to handle the future. Have to go back to simpler means not necessarily as taught by university, but using critical judgment practices, but NOT CRT. I hope.

    • It came down to the lack of action by the govt when the amount of misinformation was getting spread about the harms of cannabis by right wing religion. Family First New Zealand had two active campaigns going, one through themselves and other other through the Nope to Dope campaign. Both used the same mailing address and same information and spent over the legal limit for an election campaign but such things never even got a mention when a review into the referendum accoured afterwards.
      The information clearly went against what the written legislation said and also what our own scientists produced and the govt sat on it and did nothing.
      Karma was having misinformation end up on their front lawn, it seems only then they want to do something about it!

  2. Poor Jamie Shaw, He will have to go.

    Climate action is far too slow.

    Chloe, Chloe, will you have a ago?

    She says so carefully, no, no, no.

    Jamie, Jamie, come back we love you so.

    • Paul great pome!
      Nandor passes a sentence on Labour and adjourns on the Greens. But the sentence that he should pass on himself is the reversal of the usual negative result of this word. What a great post Nandor and as each sentence piles on the other we get a good feeling of something happening, and a template of how it should.

      So thanks Nandor for this and more in the future? I get a feeling of futility sometimes as people rave on about their kneejerk opinions while my cautionary sentence steps up at the back of my mind – ‘That’s 20th century thinking, and we didn’t achieve well or at all then, so we need a real change if not completely new approaches and practices.. But they need to be practical, and attempting to be kind as well, with goodwill.’

  3. Good article Nandor, I appreciate the points you raised and thank you.

    My thoughts are the Cannibis laws and most particularly access to cheaper medicinal weed need a fast upgrade to radical change.

    I am disappointed that the Greens currently don’t seem to really push this subject in government enough and get side tracked.

  4. I would like to know what these things are that Nandor and his council are actually doing: ‘I work on the ground on climate change mitigation and adaptation, as a councillor in a small and dynamic district council’.

    Councils should be sharing all their ideas about what they are doing. I cannot see anything that the Otautahi / Christchurch are doing other than building cycleways (and I do use them). What are they, they said there is a climate emergency!!

    I see to stop some of the flooding we have had over the past few days would cost ‘several million’ but no a stadium is far more important than that.

  5. I tend to read a mix of fiction and non-fiction but learn from both. This is from an author who writes with early railway themes Edward Marston – from The Circus Train Conspiracy.
    I liked the image of this older time:
    “[It was] a picturesque town of almost five thousand souls with a population chiefly engaged in leather, shoe, glove, hat and woollen manufacture. As he left the station, he had the impression of a contented community, living in pleasant surroundings and preserving its many links to the past…”

    We need to each have an image of what we want and find others who feel the same and talk and work and jell the ideas, then meet and talk with others who have come together with their ideas which will be slightly different as a way of establishing living, housing and working systems within the wider polity. Each group will be attempting to think practically and will contain experienced hands-on people with professional knowledge.
    Clear ideas will result, perhaps varied plans, but drawing on each group’s ideas and expertise. It could be that ciyies and town will draw up a plan with citizens that spells out their style of living and the promise they make to each other to be good citizens and try to carry forward the special character of their town or entity.

    It is obvious that the PTB have lost their way. Are we going to lie down and let the predators pick up our vulnerable politicians and leaders, and threaten them with compliance or be picked up in strong beaks, carried over the deep sea and dropped!!? There are pressures of course different from this but just as menacing now that render most of them helpless. Even a small number of dissidents would be overturned.
    In the 1800s the callous industrialists had to be fought. But we have a different calibre of arrogant and frightening proponents now; are we man and woman enough to go against these people and their robot and arcane economic and psychologic [sic] human management systems?

      • PTB – Powers That Be. There are so many over-bodies and entities in our so-called democracy that this is a useful acronym so everyone considering government etc should know it. We also need to have some for the Maori names of departments and agencies so we can quickly understand and refer to them as they pop up often in the news.

  6. First of all de-growth models, “power down, doughnut economics (I know the thing known as Weka falls over them), whatevers, are not the opposite of growth.

    Broadly speaking the issues we would be addressing with a de-growth model kiwi style are stuff like inequality, energy crises, housing crises, social justice issues and other transhuman stuff, food security, medicine, in general a new National Security frame work. And generally balancing the needs of civilisation and the wants of the natural world so that Climate change and pandemics can be reflected on in history books as a wonderful human achievement.

    As long as there are property rights and exchange of goods & services between individuals & organizations with some “basic rules of the road” then capitalism exists, we’re still trying to get rid of the Queen.

    Now if you take Fortress Aotearoa through to the twenty fith century, 300 years into the future after the initial shocks and we come back down to 1.5⁰ or lower, we might recognize the economic systems that will make it. Most likely not the form we are familiar with, but assuming there’s still the existence of property rights and exchange of goods & services between individuals & organizations we would get ourselves oriented soon enough.

  7. Agree on your comments Nathan, well stated.

    The Greens have to get some energy and drive behind the cannabis thing like they do climate change and other topics they hold so dear.

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