Greens accuse Govt of 'crony capitalism'

Green party co-leader Russel Norman has delivered a stinging critique of the National government, accusing it of "crony capitalism" and attacks on democracy.

He said National was only interested in "looking out for their mates," pointing to the conference centre deal with Sky City and Conservation Minister Nick Smith's recent decision to grant mining company Bathurst access to Denniston Plateau.

And he launched an astonishing personal attack on Prime Minister John Key, who he says is "divisive and corrosive" and "irritated if we are not all grateful for him generously agreeing to be PM."

Norman was speaking to about 170 delegates at the party's annual conference in Christchurch today.

He told them the removal of Canterbury's regional councillors, who were replaced by commissioners in 2009, was an abolition of democracy, with legislation forced through late at night under urgency.

"Something is rotten in the state of New Zealand politics," he repeated through the address.

Norman also referenced recent disabled carers legislation, which removed the right of family carers of disabled people to take legal action. He called it a "draconian law."

The MMP review was "ignored" by government who are "instead gerrymandering the system for their own interests."

He said the Sky City deal for a $400m convention centre and 230 more pokie machines was "crony capitalism in action."

"It's not what you know, it's who has dinner with the PM," Norman said. "That is how crony capitalism works in the smiling John Key Government in New Zealand in 2013."

Norman also pointed to changes to employment laws to get the Hobbit films made, and public private partnerships in road building and charter schools.

And he said Key had "banned protest at sea" through an amendment to the Crown Minerals Act, after the bill was reported back from select committee.

"He did this after [cabinet minister] Steven Joyce met with Shell Oil and Shell complained about protests."

"It is a Government that gives special favours to their friends and donors...Robert Muldoon would recognise this Government as one after his own heart, but with better spin doctors and a smilier disposition...[John Key] might not look like Muldoon but he sure as hell is acting like Muldoon."

He added: "So next time you see John Key smiling, remember he's not smiling because he likes you, he's smiling because he's giving favours to his mates while undermining your democracy."

In previous years party members have voted a post-election deal with National would be "highly unlikely", but they didn't close the door completely. The two parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding in National's first term of Government, but this term National opted not to expand it.

Tomorrow co-leader Metiria Turei is expected to announce new policy aimed at tackling child poverty. The conference - with the theme Local Democracy and Resilience - is taking place over three days at the city's Horticultural Society Centre.

Victoria Australia Green Party senator Richard Di Natale will deliver a speech tonight.

Fairfax Media