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Speech: Marama Davidson - Summer Policy Conference

Marama Davidson speech to Green Party Summer Policy Conference

Sunday, March 10, 2019 - 13:00


Ko Ranginui kei runga

Ko Papatuanuku kei raro

Ko ngā tangata kei waenganui

Tihei Mauri Ora!

Ka nui te koa me te hari ki te kite i a koutou.

I’ve just had a wonderful weekend hanging out with you all.

This is a key event in our Green Party diary where we come together to build on the never-ending work of strengthening our Green Party policy platform.

This is one of the things I love deep in my bones about our party.

It is you our members who do the mahi to lay out how we will address the big challenges facing us. It is a model for the world really, that affirms the grassroots expertise and experiences of our people. Our membership take a collaborative approach to value everyone’s contributions.

I cannot thank you enough for your vision and your commitment to social, environmental and economic justice.

Thank you.

Today I want to talk about transforming our economic system to one that works with the planet and not against it.

For too long, Governments have been treating Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the ultimate goal.

This has undermined our environment and is hurting our communities. It has also allowed polluters to get away with exploiting workers and the planet.

The Green Party stands for a genuinely holistic approach that places the wellbeing of our environment, our communities and our culture at the heart of decision-making.

Now one of my favourite things to do is enjoy our native bush with my children. Growing up in Hokianga, we were very proud of our northern Waipoua Forest. I feel a particular sense of pride about the oldest living rangatira in that forest, the over 2000 year old kauri tree Tāne Mahuta.

Who here has visited that magnificent rangatira?
***
I think about our kauri trees as a clear example of where we need better economic thinking.

Kauri are under threat because of this outdated approach which idolises profit above anything else.

These majestic trees are massive ancient living taonga which connect us to our past and evoke action for our future.

Kauri rely on us for their wellbeing. Sometimes that means keeping out of the forest.

Kauri both feed off and provide nourishment to the delicate forest ecosystem. Marking their relationship with the insects, birds, shrubs and all plant life. They have had thousands of years to adapt to the soils and bugs and climate in a way that introduced species never will.

Yet this tree is supposed to be worth nothing, NOTHING, until it is cut down. Until it appears on the market as a fancy table top, or makes way for a house, or is shipped out of the country.

***

My kids, and all of our kids may not get to show their children a kauri tree.

Because we’re now facing the terrible spread of kauri dieback that threatens the very survival of these great forest ancestors.

If we had been taking proper care of our kauri like we should have been, if we had been measuring their value as we should have been, we would have taken proper action sooner to protect them from disease.

Mātauranga Māori, indigenous knowledge is also key to restoring our forests. My ancestors learnt from our ecology for hundreds of years before colonisation dismissed this vital knowledge to the side lines. I am pleased to see non-Māori scientists acknowledge that the solutions will be more enduring, when we gather the information from all our sources.

I cannot come to grips with a future world that has lost kauri tree to extinction.

Instead I imagine an economic system that, like ecology, values all parts of our society and knows that the wellbeing of people is connected to the wellbeing of nature.

It is this very work of establishing an economics of value rather than price that we must do. Our founding Green Party members set this direction right from the start of our movement.

I acknowledge our first Green Party female coleader, Jeanette Fitzsimons.

She said that her main goal in Parliament had been to find better ways of measuring our economic success, and that the aim should be a better economy, not a bigger one.

We have now moved this and future governments to put Jeanette’s vision into reality by introducing a new system for measuring the country’s wellbeing and progress.

But it won’t be enough to simply measure our wellbeing. We must also commit to the real transformative changes that will truly improve wellbeing. Ending homelessness, keeping temperature rises below 1.5 degrees and protecting our biodiversity are all things that must be reflected in these measurements. This is why the Greens are needed. We are the party who have been at the forefront of these issues since our beginning.

***

Around the world people are hungry for real solutions not just rhetoric.

It is clear to people who are struggling to pay the rent and put food on the table while earning unliveable wages that we need to challenge the powerful vested interests that have held the world to ransom for far too long.

We’ve had generations of ruin by a political establishment that doesn’t represent the people.

Today we face a level of consumption and exploitation unlike any other time in history.

By 2017 just 8 men took as much wealth as 3.6 billion of the poorest half of the world.

In NZ, two men take more wealth than the poorest 30 per cent of our adult population.

We didn’t get into this situation by accident!

Successive Government have protected the status quo of power and wealth. Giant corporates and CEOs have prospered by holding wages down for their workers who just scrape by.

When Government neglects its duty of care this leads to sewage leaking down hospital walls, the selling off of our state homes resulting in a housing crisis, the weak protections for people who work, fair pay stolen from women Māori Pacific and disabled people, the treatment of our rivers as sewers, and the extinction of native species.

***

We see a political system cowering to commercial interests, working within an economic system that only seeks endless growth.

This is wrong.

***

We have to reimagine our notions of economic success.

That is what the Green Party are all about.

Properly funding our schools, lifting incomes and creating jobs in the clean energy sector.

For the first time we have an opportunity to look at the real value of things and not just the profit on a spreadsheet.

It’s timely that this Government is moving towards this approach.

It means truly valuing ALL the contributions and not just those which see money exchanged.

We also have to stop masking the social, cultural and environmental costs of any market activity!

***

The Green Party has been instrumental in moving this government in the right direction. But we are not finished.

As leading economist Dr Marilyn Waring pointed out just last week, our wellbeing indicators have to consider the special nature of our rivers, that we have tangata whenua and the Treaty of Waitangi, and that we have questions unique to Aotearoa around sustaining our environment.

Our goal shouldn’t be to tinker around the edges of a broken system. We need to reimagine a world where everybody thrives.

The next step on this journey is to establish the comprehensive indicators – the measures – that will inform policy.

Greens expect to see future budgets get closer and closer to the transformational thinking we know we need.

We have to account for the exchange of knowledge and resources, like when gardening skills and tools are shared among whānau. That resulting food productivity needs to be seen as a social and economic contribution. When grandparents and grandchildren spend time together, we should value their reciprocal exchange of care and insights as much as any market transaction.

Imagine an economic system that counted the likes of the kapa haka performers who dedicated a collective thousands of hours of unpaid work to bring to Wellington a festival of Māori excellence second to nothing else in the entire world.

It was just down the road. I cried watching my nephew perform.

All of these contributions to society need to be valued.
How can I tell my nephew, or our nation’s caregivers that their contributions are worth less than a wealthy speculator making a profit out of empty homes while so many go homeless?

Imagine an economic system that asks, is this activity going to leave our grandchildren with clean rivers to swim in.

And imagine – if you will – an economy that said everyone needs somewhere safe, warm and secure to live. Rather than treating housing as commodity to be traded for untaxed profits.

I mentioned we have a society where the two richest men own more than 30% of wealth in this country. For years we’ve called out the stupidity of why so many people don’t have enough when there is more than enough to go around. We have to change what we count and start redistributing wealth to create a fair society.

The resistance to the capital gains tax by the wealthy elite, who often own multiple properties, shows that our political system is still held hostage by the people who benefit from an unregulated housing market.

The capital gains tax should be the beginning of a wide range of reforms to transform our tax system. The Greens have long called for a range of reforms, like increasing the tax rate for the richest 1% and putting a tax on polluting big businesses and housing speculators.

The Greens champion an economy that will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and keep our temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees. We know this will take honesty and radical action if we are serious about protecting our future.

Surpluses aren’t worth anything when our towns are being flooded, our farmers are facing drought and our forests are burning.

We can’t be hamstrung by existing corporate obligations to polluting industries. Those financial strategies will not bring carbon emissions down.

This is what the Greens have always stood for and will keep working for.

***

And I want to thank you – for all the work you have done, as a Party, to get us to a place where our Government knows it has to start listening to the voices of our most disenfranchised.

And yet, the politicians who oversaw the pollution of our rivers and growing levels of inequality are now spinning a so-called “bluegreen” agenda. They think they can sort out the environment within an economic system designed to exploit our people and the planet.

Just yesterday Simon Bridges had the cheek to go on TV and suggest he could be more Green than us.

His party’s agenda focused solely on monetary gain, and the profits of the fishing industry, over saving species like our magnificent Maui dolphins. There are only 55 left.

Whereas we know the value of our native plants and animals which is why we are strengthening DOC and giving it the resources it needs to thrive. Not only are we protecting our native species but also creating jobs and supporting local communities who are leading this work.

Simon Bridge’s National Party starved DOC of funding. They were forced to cut back on the number of rangers out there protecting our birds. Remember when the Nats actively tried to rip up our national parks by mining them?

We understand that fossil fuels are killing the planet so we have ended new oil exploration, and begun work on a just transition for those communities currently reliant on this industry.

But Simon Bridges has promised to restart offshore oil prospecting to continue burning our planet.

He’s also said that four lane highways are good for the environment.

I mean, really?

How ridiculous - did you see his BBQ ads?

Simon’s wants people to take him seriously but his green agenda got burnt on the BBQ a long time ago.

His agenda would overcook our planet too.

Luckily young people won’t stand up for this outdated BBQ politics.

They’re not having it!

Children are rising up!

Here you’ve got these engaged, inspiring young informed citizens working together to call power to account. The fuddy duddy National Party are coming across like they’re out of touch, on the wrong side of history and just want to protect powerful vested interests who line their pockets!

***

You know, I’m looking forward to marching alongside these young people as they exercise their power and their voice this Friday. I know that this issue has spread a passion among school children all around the world! As I’ve been saying publicly, what is an education for if not to engage our youngest citizens to fight for their future.

It is the role of the Green Party to be a loud and active voice on behalf of our communities, for the many and not just for the few.

For our earth mother and her ability to nurture our grandchildren seven generations from now.

We need connected communities where people have a genuine sense of belonging. Only with this sense of belonging and common purpose will people work together to create the enduring set of solutions for a thriving planet.

Around the world we are seeing the rise of grassroots movements demanding these changes. Just as many of you have done for decades.

I want to acknowledge our founding party elders for putting up these notions of smarter economic thinking nearly 50 years ago.

The manifesto of the Values Party in 1972 highlighted the urgent need to rebalance our economic thinking. Those visionaries – some of whom may be in the room today – understood the relationship between our the land that we live on and the rivers we drink from, the people we care for, and the jobs that support us, and that our economy needs to value all of those things.

Back then the political elite thought this was fringe.

Who would have thought in the 70s that kids would march out of school demanding action on climate change. Many of the issues that you pioneered are now mainstream political issues.

***

The journey continues. We must act as if that giant of the forest Tāne Mahuta speaks to us.

Thank you. Thank you for the work that you do, as leaders in your communities and here as the driving force behind our Green party. I cannot express how much I deeply appreciate it.

No reira tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.


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