Greens thriving despite lack of influence on Nats

JOHN HARTEVELT
Last updated 05:00 09/04/2012

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OPINION: Sea Rotmann – heard of her? She's Number 20 on the Green Party list and would be an MP if the extraordinary 17 per cent the party scored in the latest Roy Morgan poll was reflected in Parliament.

It'd be a bold claim to suggest that poll was gospel – a 4.5 point leap on its previous number seems almost unfathomable. But the trend is firming up: the Greens just keep getting stronger.

It's kind of funny because a chunk of their success at last year's election was put down to a well-executed strategy on coalition talks. It was supposed – and there is still no reason to doubt it – that the party improved its numbers by suggesting it could work with National.

Pretty much everyone knew National was going to lead the next government, so the Green strategy was to sell their vote as something better than the dead end you'd get from Labour.

Four months on, there is still no sign of a renewed Green influence over National. Talks for an expanded memorandum of understanding (MoU) are still lurching back and forth, with items of potential common interest being gradually crossed off the list. The resignation of Nick Smith – the Greens' favourite Nat – as Environment and Climate Change Issues Minister has further hobbled progress.

So that's the funny thing – the apparent proximity to National that won the Greens some popularity last year has virtually evaporated, and yet their support is stronger than ever and seems to be growing.

A formal MoU with National is still wanted and should be pursued. Just because the party is not suffering from the lack of one now, that does not mean it won't be beneficial in future.

But a new path does seem to be emerging in front of the Greens. It has made a decisive call to spend the extra cash it is now entitled to as a larger party on high-quality staff as opposed to pricey polling contracts. Laila Harre will head up a new office of seven in central Auckland, formerly a geographic area of weakness for the party. Harre gets a seat on the Green Party's executive team as their eyes and ears in Auckland.

The party may yet take a serious run at trying to win the Auckland Central seat in 2014. It is one of four electorates considered potential targets if the party decides to run more than just a party vote campaign next time.

The candidate there, Denise Roche, has a solid history in the electorate and there was a strong Green Party vote there in 2011. The third element needed to encourage serious optimism about a Green winning an electorate is weakish Labour and National candidates – not the case in Auckland Central but potentially true in Rongotai or Dunedin North by 2014.

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Running the party co-leaders hard against Labour candidates in their electorates would be a big and potentially risky call for the Greens. But if Metiria Turei's posturing of earlier this year to have the Greens on an equal footing with Labour is to be taken seriously, then such a step may well be called for.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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