Greens' path to power far from clear

JOHN HARTEVELT
Last updated 05:00 05/06/2012
Greens co-leader Russell Norman at the Greens' gathering on Karangahape Road in Auckland last night.
LAWRENCE SMITH/Fairfax NZ
STANDING OVATION RECIEVED: Greens co-leader Russell Norman.

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OPINION: After success at last year's general election, the Green Party's next big thing must be the local body polls next year.

Its members rollicked through their annual conference over the long weekend in understandably high spirits.

The standing ovation accorded co-leader Russel Norman yesterday was much more than a formality – supporters are delighted at the success he and Metiria Turei have achieved.

But nothing – not even success – is simple in politics, especially when you are the Green Party.

Last year's election strategy of talking up the chances of a greater deal with National is a dead letter.

All the talk on the conference floor was of the party's trajectory to the government benches in 2014, alongside the Labour Party.

But the last two times everyone assumed the Greens were in lock-step with Labour on a path to Cabinet, Helen Clark gave them the brush-off, preferring UnitedFuture and then NZ First.

The only way for the party to be anything like assured of a shot at power, therefore, is to keep gaining strength.

This far away from 2014, a few more wins at next year's local body elections would be a boost.

Celia Wade-Brown won the Wellington mayoralty by a hair's breadth in 2010 – but has since been tied up by an unsympathetic table of councillors.

There are persistent rumours that Labour's Annette King will make a run at the city's mayoralty and she would surely be favoured to topple Ms Wade-Brown.

If that happened, however, the net result could be positive for the Greens. If Ms King resigned to become mayor, she would presumably give up her Rongotai seat and force a by-election.

Dr Norman came a credible third without campaigning for the seat last year and the Green Party vote was almost 25 per cent. It's no great stretch to imagine that Dr Norman could win a Rongotai by-election, clinching a rare electorate seat for the Greens.

Even more likely is that former Green MP Sue Kedgley will find her way on to Greater Wellington regional council and possibly challenge to be its chairwoman.

If her prolific contributions to the editorial pages of The Dominion Post are anything to go by, Ms Kedgley is plainly not done with politics yet. She appeals as a potentially powerful Green voice in local government – and every decibel counts.

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