Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand
Current Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand logo
The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand is a political party in the New Zealand parliament. Its primary focus is on environmentalism, but left-wing economics, progressive social policies, and pacifism are also prominent in its platform.
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The Greens generally focus primarily on environmental issues. In recent times, they have been particularly concerned about genetic engineering, being strongly opposed to its use in New Zealand. They have also spoken out against the military operations conducted by the United States of America in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In its economic policies, the Green Party stresses factors such as sustainability and "fair trade". It also states that measuring economic success should be a matter of measuring well-being rather than analysing economic indicators.
The Green Party often traces its origins to the Values Party, sometimes considered the world's first national-level environmentalist party. The Values Party was established in 1972 at Victoria University of Wellington. While it gained a measure of public support, it was not able to win any seats in parliament. Because of the electoral system, it was difficult for smaller parties to gain representation, and because of this problem, the Values Party gradually declined in support.
In 1990, however, the Values Party merged with a number of other environmentalist organizations to form the modern Green Party. This sparked a resurgence of support, with the new group winning 7% of the vote in the 1990 election (although it still gained no seats).
The following year, the Greens joined the Alliance, a group of left-wing parties initially formed when Jim Anderton split from the Labour Party. The Greens contested the 1993 and 1996 elections as part of the Alliance. With the adoption of the MMP electoral system, the Alliance was successful in gaining entry to parliament - among the Alliance MPs elected in 1996 were three members of the Green Party.
In 1997, feeling that their identity was being subsumed, the Greens took the decision to stand candidates independently of the Alliance at the next election. In the 1999 election, the Greens gained seven seats in parliament, after surpassing 5% of the vote, ensuring that the MMP electoral system would grant the party seats in parliament. The party's co-leader, Jeanette Fitzsimons, also won the electorate seat of Coromandel, believed to be a world-first in a first-past-the-post national electorate seat. Both results were only achieved after the counting of special votes, so the Greens had a 10 day wait when they were unsure whether they would be in Parliament or not. Perhaps because of this, the Greens were not invited to join the centre-left govenment established by Labour and the Alliance, but supported it on some issues in return for some input into the government budget. The Greens developed a good working relationship with the government and also had some input into government legislation, notably Sue Bradford's ammendments to the ERC legislation.
In the 2002 election, the Greens managed to increase their strength in parliament to nine seats, although the Coromandel electorate was lost. The electoral campaign was notable for the strong tensions between the Greens and Labour. The Greens sharply criticised Labour for its plans to allow a moratorium on genetic engineering to expire, and believing that Labour would require their support to form a government, intended to make the extension of this moratorium a non-negotiable part of any deal. After the election, however, Labour and their coalition partner, the Jim Anderton-led Progressive Coalition, opted to rely on support from United Future, a centrist (or, arguably, centre-right) party with strong Christian overtones, shutting the Greens out of power.
Although the Greens no longer have any input into the budget, there is still a close working relationship with the government, and the Greens remain involved in the legislation process. Often the government need to rely on Green votes in the house to pass legislation that would not be approved by United Future, a conservative family values party. The government have won praise from political commentators for juggling the two dimetrically opposed parties.
While the moratorium has now expired, the Greens remain heavily involved in attempts to prevent any GM releases under the new regulatory framework, and genetic engineering remains a major topic for the party.