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Speech to Green Party Summer Policy Conference 2018

Tīhei mauriora!

He mihi nui ki te whenua o te takiwā nei, Ngāti Kahungungu, me te haukaingā o tēnei marae o Pukemokimoki, tēnā koutou katoa mō tō manaakitanga.

Greetings to the mana whenua of this area, Ngāti Kahungungu, and the caretakers of this marae Pukemokimoki, thank you so much for your hospitality

Ki a koutou e te whānau o Te Rōpū Kākāriki, harikoa ana ahau ki te kite i a koutou i tēnei rā.

To all of you of the Green family, I am so happy to see you all today

E ai ki te whakataukī o Ngāti Kahungungu:

He toa takitini tōku toa, ehara i te toa takitahi

According to the proverb of Ngāti Kahungungu:

My strength is that of many followers, not of a single person


Tēnā koutou katoa

Good afternoon everyone, it is so good to see so many Green Party members here today in beautiful Napier.

I also want to thank again Pukemokimoki Marae for hosting us and for your wonderful hospitality.

A lot of you here I’ve known for a long time, but I know there are also some new faces here as well, and to those people, in particular, I want to extend an especially warm welcome.

Our summer policy conference is always a great gathering, and part of what makes the Green Party unique.

It’s where we get together and share ideas about our party and our country, and reflect on where we’ve come from and where we’re going – it’s pretty much every political nerd’s dream.

I guess that’s why I’m so glad to be here with you! I am proud to be a political nerd and you all should be too!

This year’s summer policy conference is of course in some ways a little different to previous ones.

Well, there is one really big difference actually. We are all here today as members of a party that for the first time ever is part of government.

And it’s thanks to the commitment and dedication of our members, all of you here today and thousands more all over Aotearoa, that we got there.

I think you all deserve a round of applause for that.


For the first time ever, we have Green Party Ministers, who are thriving in their portfolio areas.

We are working on issues that the Green Party and its members have cared about and campaigned on for decades: preserving our conservation estate, tackling climate change, delivering pay equity, ending domestic and sexual violence, providing better public transport, and overhauling our waste system so it takes care of our planet.

So far so Green.

But what’s different, and what hasn’t been historically Green, is that we are now operating the levers of government –

And that means real progress on the issues that have defined us as a party is finally possible.

Collectively, our ministers have already announced a review of the Waste Minimisation Act, so that it finally works the way Nandor intended when his Bill was passed in 2008;

We’ve announced the imminent creation of a Climate Commission and a Carbon Zero Act that will legislate the elimination of greenhouse gas pollution by 2050 – the most significant piece of environmental legislation in our country’s history;

We’ve initiated a work programme into sexual harassment in the workplace;

We’ve reconvened the pay equity group so that women can finally be paid what they deserve.

And just this week the Government announced a law change that will help ensure future legislation complies with the Human Rights Act – that’s long been our policy and that couldn’t have happened without the Greens in government.

All of this in four months, and that’s just what we’ve been able to talk about publicly.

Believe me, there are a lot of exciting Green announcements in the pipeline, including in the upcoming budget, which you’ll be hearing about very soon.

We are grabbing this opportunity in any way we can.

Because the rewards of being in government are too great to sit on our hands and watch the world go up in climate-change induced flames.

When I signed the Confidence and Supply agreement with Prime Minister Ardern in October, I did so with excitement, hope, and pride – but also with some trepidation.

It wasn’t because I didn’t think we had the people who could be outstanding ministers or a Caucus and membership who would keep us grounded – we are fortunate to have all of those things.

It was simply because we’ve never done it before. Every day, we are stepping into the unknown.

And we all know that when you do that, there will inevitably be some missteps.

And there have been.

In some ways, all of us – our ministers, caucus, and members – are learning on the job.

We are still government apprentices, but I’m confident that before too long we’ll be master builders.


The reason this will happen is because of the nature of our Confidence and Supply agreement with Labour.

The fact that the agreement allows us to object to our governing parties’ policies, like the CPTPP for example, is by design, not default.

We signed it because we designed it.

And we designed it so we could stay true to our values, to the values of our members and our party.

It means that alongside our ministerial influence, our caucus and party membership have an important part to play.

Whether it’s Marama Davidson speaking out on Treaty and poverty issues;

Or Gareth Hughes on energy and animal rights;

Or Chloe Swarbrick on a medicinal cannabis law that actually helps those who need it;

Or Golriz Ghahraman on the TPPA and human rights - this is all critical to keeping our movement strong and vital.    

We will continue to be the party that pushes the most progressive political agenda in Parliament and beyond – that is my commitment to you.

We’ve also learned from the mistakes of other smaller parties who have gone into government as full coalition members.

I know some of you in the room will remember what happened to the Alliance.

It’s what can happen to a political party when it becomes severed from its roots.

I can see how something like that could occur.

It is all too easy for politicians in Wellington to become too attached to what’s happening in and around Parliament,

And too detached from what’s happening in our towns and cities. And in our party branch meetings.

As Greens, we have always prided ourselves on how democratic we are. We are the most democratic party in Parliament by a long way.

And there’ll be another example of that tomorrow when our fantastic female co-leader candidates take to this stage.

We’ve always prided ourselves on being campaigners and activists.

We are the people who go to rallies, who sign petitions, who try to influence those with power to make the right decisions for our people and our planet.

We are still that party. The difference is, we are now also a party of government and we have power and influence.

This is our time to use that influence.

But what I want to make clear is that we will be doing it in a way that stays true to who we are as a party.


With that in mind, today I’m announcing two new policies that I think show how the Green Party will do government better.

They are about holding ourselves, your Green MPs, to a higher standard – a standard that our membership can and should be proud of.

We have long thought of ourselves as the champions of open and honest politics.

So, we have now decided to extend that philosophy of transparency into our Ministers’ offices.

Starting soon, Julie Anne, Eugenie, Jan and I will proactively make public our ministerial diaries every quarter.

This means that you, our members, the public and, yes, the media will know who’s met with us and when, and the purpose of that meeting. 

Similar disclosure systems already operate in the UK and some Australian state parliaments, but this is a first for New Zealand.

At times, it feels like access to politicians, particularly ministers, is the grease that keeps Wellington’s wheels rolling.

Lobbyists, CEOs, NGOs, and individuals want to be able to walk into any minister’s office at any given time, and push their cause or their case.

Well, we think it’s about time New Zealanders know who’s in those meetings and why.

It’s a small but important step to keeping our politics honest, and I’m proud the Green Party’s leading from the front on this.

The second thing I’m announcing today is that Green Party MPs, Ministers and staff will not accept corporate hospitality.

Some of you will know that being invited to sit in corporate boxes at rugby matches, or receiving free tickets to the theatre, or having an all-expenses-paid dinner, is par for the course for many MPs.

In fact, some MPs view these things as a delightful perk of being elected to office.

These free-for-alls are usually paid for by large corporate organisations, but also sometimes by individuals and NGOs.

The problem is they’re not actually “free”. These organisations aren’t shouting the corporate box or the tickets or the dinner out of the goodness of their hearts.

They are doing it because they want to know there’s someone in Parliament or the Beehive who’s looking out for their interests.

Generally speaking it isn’t community-based organisations or environmental groups that have the resources to do this kind of bidding.

They’re not usually organisations who advocate for the homeless or for single mums; or groups that are fighting to protect our water, or our native bush.

They’re not organisations that have stopping climate change or ending child poverty as part of their KPIs.

They are usually deep-pocketed corporates, or lobbyists acting on their behalf, who have a financial interest in preserving the status quo. 

Well, preserving the status quo has never been what we’ve been about at the Green Party.

And why should organisations or individuals with more money have more influence in our democracy than those that don’t?

There is something about that which feels inherently wrong.

It is, quite simply, the purchasing of political power; well, I’m here to say that political power should not be for sale. 

Green Party MPs, Ministers and staff will be able to accept invitations to events, but they will pay full price for their tickets.

Green Party MPs, Ministers and staff will be able to attend dinners, lunches or coffee meetings, but where we can we will pay for our own.

Again, this is another small way that we can show that the Green Party is committed to doing government differently, and doing government better.



It is a great honour that our members, through their elected delegates, backed us to go into government for the first time ever.

It is a privilege that neither I nor my colleagues take lightly.

As I said at the beginning of this speech, we are still in the very early stages of learning how to be an effective part of government.

It was never going to be an easy lesson; nothing that’s worth doing ever is.

But the opportunity to make real, lasting change, for our people and our environment is right here for the taking.

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa