There was a cartoon by cartoonist Al Nisbet in The Press the other day that got me thinking. Whilst not normally a fan of Nisbet, some of whom’s ideas seem rather dated, his cartoon on of the Greens co-leader election did seem oddly appropriate.
It was of the Greens as a stalk, which had splintered in two threads, each with a head. One was Julie Anne Genter who was challenging Marama Davidson for the co-leadership of the party. And the other was Mrs Davidson.
Each represents a different part of the Green philosophy. One usually thinks of the Greens as being pro social justice/environment/peace. The flip side for the Greens is militarism/market economics/conservative justice.
Mrs Davidson tends towards the social part of the party platform, which is about looking out for the little guy. She tends to social justice issues such as animal rights, human rights whilst dealing with major portfolio’s such as health, education and social welfare. Prior to entering Parliament Mrs Davidson worked for the Human Rights Commission, part time for the Breastfeeding New Zealand and helped to found Te Wharepora Hou Maori Women’s Collective. Working in Mrs Davidson’s favour is her strong Maori heritage, descending from three Iwi which will give her influence across Maoridom.
Ms Genter, who holds a Masters of Planning Practice from University of Auckland leans strongly towards the environmental wing. She focuses on reducing the impact of transport on the environment . Working in her favour are her strong environmental credentials and solid knowledge of policy processes. Perhaps working against Ms Genter is that she is not a New Zealander by birth. This gives her a disadvantage in dealing with Maori and on constitutional issues.
Whilst I hope there are no divisions in the Green Party, I do have concerns that Mrs Davidson will not apply due focus on the environmental wing of the party. I have seen nothing in her record to suggest that she has a major focus on it. Ms Genter and her colleague Gareth Hughes, who has been working on energy issues are going to have to confront the beast of climate change and the considerable technological and planning challenges that it throws up.
Time – as it is prone to doing so – will tell whether the Greens have made a leadership call as good as their past. Metiria Turei, who preceded Marama Davidson was a solid and popular leader who lasted from Jeanette Fitzsimons’ retirement until she admitted having deceived Work and Income New Zealand last year – her failure to have the issue bottled by paying back the monies owed before she went public was her downfall. Can Mrs Davidson do as well?