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Co-Leader Marama Davidson's Speech to 2018 AGM Conference

Karanga Hokianga, ki o tamariki, he uri rātou, he mōrehu.

Kohikohia rā, kei ngā hau e wha

Kōrerotia - ko wai rātou.

Kōrerotia - ko wai rātou.

Kei aku nui, kei aku rahi, i te tī, i te tā - tēnā koutou.

Rangitāne, ka tū te manawa i tō whenua ātaahua, i ō manaaki ki a mātou, hei te mana o te whenua - tēnā koutou.

Ki a koutou te hunga kākāriki, nāku te whiwhi kia kōrero atu ki a koutou i tāku hui-ā-tau tuatahi hei kaiārahi takirua o te rōpū nei - tēnā koutou.

Kia ora tātou katoa.

Hokianga Whakapau Karakia

Exactly a week ago I was being called on to my marae in Whirinaki, in Hokianga, by my home people.

They had been planning this event for months to celebrate my election as Co-leader of the Green Party. Their pride in me was humbling.

I was joined by my other hapū from across the Hokianga harbour, Ngāi Tūpoto, and a large presence from the Green Party, including my Co-leader James Shaw.

In my kōrero to my hapū I recalled stories of my childhood.

Of being raised at the foot of my maunga, Te Ramaroa.

Of swimming in my Whirinaki awa.

Of gathering seafood from our Hokianga moana.

Of being sustained and nourished by the bounty of our whenua, our gardens and our trees.

There was laughter across the wharekai as I talked about a bunch of my tutu cousins and I almost setting the hill on fire.

My home peoples’ faces burst with love as I talked about our old people, who have mostly passed on, who cooked for us, looked after our marae, embraced our traditions.

They taught us how to care for our whenua and our water, taught us how to care for each other collectively, ensured that we knew who we were, and how we connected to our place.

I talked about Aunty Josie’s delicious cooking.

And Aunty Lucy’s quiet yet staunch karanga.

And about Aunty Queenie Broughton’s beautiful flower garden.

I recalled Uncle Brian and Aunty Kiri Wikaira taking my whole family into their home because we felt we urgently needed to be back there.

And about my Uncle Nia who is like another father to me, who was always taking a bunch of us Valley kids to kapa haka, to sport, to the Ngāwha pools.

As my home people sat there listening to me I admitted that while I never dreamed of being Green Party Co-leader, being there with them that day made me realise that maybe my tupuna did.

It was these basic things that defined our existence; a need for our river to be clean, a reliance on our moana to be healthy and when one of us needed support, the whole Valley stepped up.

It is those realities that also define my politics.

Those teachings drive my aspirations for our communities, for Aotearoa, for the world.

Planning for future generations

Our country faces huge challenges that we must meet head on.

People are struggling even in paid work to pay their rent and buy healthy food.

More and more rivers are becoming too polluted for us to swim in.

Too many families are continuing to be harmed by persistent violence.

This degradation is the result of a system that pits us against each other and collectively against our earth, for the benefit of the few.

This stands in complete contrast to my upbringing that I just talked about, which made me recognise that our power lies in coming together and understanding our role as kaitiaki of our natural world.

Recalling our ancient wisdoms, harnessing our innovations, and pulling together for the generations ahead, is the only way we will get through.

When my hapū talk about strategic planning we don’t talk about one-year, or three-year, or even ten-year strategies, we talk about planning for seven generations ahead.

Looking at the challenges ahead of us through that lens, we realise just how immense they really are.

In seven generations will my hapū still be able to sustain ourselves from our land and water as we have always done?

Will our indigenous species, such as the majestic kauri trees of Waipoua forest, still exist?

Will we even have a habitable planet to live on?

There is no time for complacency or half-measures.

No time for tinkering around the edges of the status quo.

We know that what is required is transformative and systemic change.

Delivering in Government

In the short time the Greens have been in Government, we have set the country on that path.

We have delivered a fundamental shift in environmental policy in Aotearoa.

In Budget 2018, the greenest Budget in our history, Hon. Eugenie Sage, as our Green Minister of Conservation, negotiated the largest funding increase for DoC in 16 years.

After years and years of neglect, we have a government that is backing nature and investing in conservation.

The dollar figures are huge, an extra $181 million over the next four years is a massive boost for conservation - for DOC to work with hapū and iwi, councils and communities, to turn our predator crisis around and protect our indigenous species and the places they live.

Ending offshore oil and gas exploration has long been a key goal of the Greens.

Before I entered Parliament, I stood with communities in the North, on the East Coast and in Taranaki, to stop oil exploration and drilling in our oceans.

And now we’ve delivered on it, making history.

This Government drew a line in the sand and said no new offshore oil and gas permits.

But the decision to stop new exploration wasn’t in our Confidence and Supply Agreement with Labour.

It was possible because we are partners of this Government, because we are committed to transformational change, and because we can influence what happens at the highest levels.

I want to acknowledge the amazing work of Green MP Gareth Hughes in negotiating this end to offshore oil and gas permits.

And backed up by the sustained and powerful campaigning of tangata whenua, activists, communities and environmental NGOs, change happened.

When the pundits and mischief makers try and tell you the Greens no longer know what it means to be Green, or that we’ve lost our environmental focus, just remind them of this.

In the space of only ten months we have already put an end to offshore oil drilling and stopped an open-cast coal mine at Te Kuha.

We’ve put us on the path to phase out plastic bags, and secured massive funding commitments on conservation, climate change and public transport. 

While there is still much work to do to implement that agreement, we are also not content with that alone.

I am so proud of my role as a non-ministerial Co-leader. It is my job to lead our engagement with communities and with our membership - to always be a champion for our kaupapa and the flaxroots of the movement.

We know that in some areas we need to negotiate and work with our Government partners to go even further, to be even bolder.

One of those areas is freshwater – our wai.  

Championing freshwater

Our environment depends on it.  

It’s the lifeblood of our communities - ko te wai te ora o ngā mea katoa.

The Greens have long championed protecting freshwater and cleaning up our rivers and lakes. We put this issue on the political agenda and now all parties acknowledge it needs addressing.

This term we have already secured a win to wind-down Government subsidies of large-scale irrigation schemes.

It cannot be overstated just how significant this is.

We have negotiated stronger regulatory instruments to deal with pollution, and more funding for freshwater restoration.

And I am proud to say that the Green Party has secured yet another Government commitment to further protect our water.

We heard the calls from communities around New Zealand and have worked with our Government partners to protect our water from sale.

I’m stoked to announce today that the review of the Overseas Investment Act will now look at putting the protection of water at the heart of decision-making.

Changing the law and making water extraction one of the issues to be considered when overseas corporates apply to buy rural land would ensure that this and future governments recognise that water is ours, and that it’s a vital natural asset.

Water should not be for sale to the highest bidder. Changing the law is a key step towards protecting it for the generations ahead.

Minister Sage and I will keep pushing hard to see that this change is included in the reforms that come out of the review.

We need to ensure that we are not giving away water to foreign corporations to bottle, export, and reap profits from, at the expense of New Zealand’s long-term interests.

The Greens leadership is still needed.

Our rivers are clogged with excess nitrates, sediment and e-coli contamination.

They are literally drying up due to over allocation.

The freshwater standards for pollutants need to be drastically strengthened and rigorously enforced.

As was highlighted in a report released just this week by Forest & Bird, we cannot only rely on nitrate measurement and farm plans monitored by overstretched regional councils.

Government must actively promote sustainable land use; we need to accelerate riparian planting, and support farmers to shift up the value chain to grow the value of our rural economy.

But we cannot go on the way we are.

I want to acknowledge and celebrate the Government farmer, Landcorp, for their leadership towards a modern greener model of agriculture.

We should be a world leader in organics and in sustainable agriculture.

Our point of difference on the world stage lies in our clean green brand and we can be adding even more value to our exports by following the example of many farmers who have already recognised this.

Clean freshwater is not a nice to have after we make a profit off it, it is life for land and people.

And we must honour the rights, interests and responsibilities of tangata whenua in freshwater.

It should be for hapū and iwi to lead us on what that looks like.

Outright ownership of water is anathema to both Māori and Green values.

If anything, the water owns us.

The Greens recognise the intrinsic value of freshwater and its inalienable right to be protected from pollution and over-use.

But we are also very clear that Māori have rangatira and kaitiaki rights over water, guaranteed in Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

The Crown has a responsibility to work alongside tangata whenua in a spirit of true partnership for the protection and restoration of our water.

On this, the Greens are holding true to our longstanding position.

The Te Awa Tupua Act 2017 received huge international coverage as it set a precedent in law to recognise water, the Whanganui awa, as a living entity, and for mana whenua decision making authority to be recognised as central to its protection and restoration.

We need to build on this work.

Protecting the environment and recognising Māori rights go hand-in-hand.

You cannot achieve one without the other.

As we saw in our Rivers Tour in the last parliamentary term, led by former Green MP Catherine Delahunty, tangata whenua and communities are at the forefront of cleaning up our waterways.

Right around the country it is hapū, iwi and rural communities who are doing the urgent work on the ground; fencing, riparian planting, and pushing for sustainable land use decisions.

As Co-leader and Water spokesperson I will continue to stand alongside those communities in pushing for what’s needed to restore the right of all children in Aotearoa to be able to swim in their local river.

E te whānau kākāriki, as we reflect on nearly a year as a first-time party of government, we have so much to be proud of.

But there’s still so much more work to do.

To restore our natural world, stabilise our climate and bring about economic justice for all people.

We need you, our members, alongside us every single step of the way. James, the MPs and I cannot do this on our own.

It’s going to take every one of us if we are going to succeed in transforming our country and our world.

And there’s no time to waste.

Nō reira, huri rauna i tēnei whakaruruhau o tātou​

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.