And where to from here?
I've previously said that I personally don't believe that the Greens fit into the traditional left/right divide [link] and I think that we need to look beyond that paradigm to see where the growth has come from, and where future growth could lie.
In their first solo foray into NZ electoral politics in 1999, the Greens got 5.16% of the Party Vote and 7 seats. In 2002, 7% and 9 seats, and then last time in 2011, 11.06% and 14 seats.
The NZ Greens are polling at an increasing rate this year, currently around 13.5%, and trending upwards!
Critics of the Greens state or imply that growing Green support is an indicator of gentrification. They point to Greens' growth urban areas, and try to position themselves as representing “the Real” NZ (or Australia) against these inner city 'latte drinking types'.
Green seats can be won from both the reds and the blues. Here's two examples from Australia: the example of Balmain in NSW was a Green/Blue competition, and the Federal seat of Melbourne was Labor for 100 years before being won by the Greens' Adam Bandt.
Unions, Farmers, Maori, Business, Grandparents, all are seeing the sense of Green Politics; that everything is connected and that we need to look after the planet and people to truly prosper.
In fact, it's becoming harder and harder to identify a 'typical' Green Party supporter these days, as the types of people supporting Green values vary so much!
So where to from here?
The Greens will attract National voters who are disgusted with the “attack dog” style of Collins & Slater. The Greens will attract voters desperate for the country to address Climate Change & find smarter solutions than the old raw-products-based “pollution economy”.
The Greens will grow support in the rural sector. Many farmers knowing that the direction of further dairy intensification will cause costs that affect us all, and many want the opportunity to add value rather than be forced by the market to join the game of trying to extract more and more volume of raw product from the land.
The Greens strong social policies will attract traditional Labour supporters. Greens reject the neo-liberal dogma of competition in all things, & have an unwavering support for fair living wages & proper balanced industrial relations.
Many young people are switched off from politics. They see nastiness, pettiness & a dialogue that doesn’t address their needs & concerns. Greens speak to them on education, equity and vision for the future of the economy and the environment.
Older voters understand the need for Green solutions too, and want the best for the future. Candidates tell me that when they visit retirement homes, the questions they are asked are all about policies to help children.
What the Greens really are is the political arm of a movement that is addressing the issues that matter, climate change, inequality and environmental destruction, and doing so with fairness and democracy.
This is a global and a local message that speaks to the challenges of the 21st century. And that's why Green support is growing, and will continue to grow into the future.