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Green Party Co-Leaders Full Speech: State Of The Planet: Government Must Be Guided By Values Not Money

MARAMA

Mā te oranga o te taiao, ka ora ai te iwi. Mō te takitini, kāore mo te torutoru anake.

Ki te mana whenua o tēnei rohe, tū mai rā Ngāti Whātua, tēnā koutou.

Ki a tātou e huihui mai nei, ko ngā moemoeā o te Pāti Kākāriki te take, nau mai, haere mai, whakatau mai.

Tenā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.

Sixteen million dollars.

That’s how much the coalition parties raised to win last year’s election.

Ten million for National.

Four million for Act.

Just under two million for New Zealand First.

Sixteen million dollars.

From property developers and business tycoons who have built their wealth by exploiting our natural environment.

To companies who profit from digging up our whenua and overfishing our oceans - activities that cause significant harm to our precious ecosystems.

Sixteen million dollars helped to put this government into power.

And in a little less than two weeks, the coalition government will unveil its first budget.

It has clearly been difficult for them to put it together.

To the right, Act is trying to fire all the people who make our public services work, while in their own cooker corner New Zealand First hoards 1.2 billion dollars for hand-chosen pet projects.

The Coalition has found half a billion dollars for new defence spending, but cancelled projects to improve buses and trains in Auckland and Wellington.

They’re borrowing billions to cover the cost of cutting taxes for wealthy property investors, because they’ve realised that the promises they made during the election campaign were slapdash and expensive.

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Meanwhile, people with the least face ever higher costs.

Bus fares have already gone up.

Rents continue to rise, while the government is giving tax breaks to landlords instead of investing in more public housing.

So on Budget Day, when we see what the coalition has been able to cobble together, I want you to remember: sixteen million dollars.

What’s in the Budget for the people who paid for National’s election campaign?

And what could have been in the budget instead if Aotearoa had a Government that prioritised people and planet?

Because I am not here for the relative few who donated those sixteen million dollars.

I am here for the many, including the 330,000 people who trusted the Green Party with their votes last year.

And I want to thank you all once again.

Your voices will continue to be heard.

You told us you wanted us to fight for an Aotearoa where everyone can get by, where our native wildlife and oceans thrive, where we take bold climate action, and where we honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

That is what we are doing. And we will be loud. And we will be staunch as always.

I am here for those who cannot sit by while the government tries to take the country backwards on the issues that matter most.

While the goal of a smoke-free generation goes up in smoke.

While new coal mines are dug into our precious conservation land, even as the Prime Minister claims to want to achieve climate change targets.

While the few with extraordinary wealth get what they want, at the expense of everyone else.

The Greens have always been, and will always be, the voice for a different kind of politics.

A politics centred in justice through honouring te Tiriti o Waitangi, not using it to drive a wedge in our communities.

A politics that celebrates the potential our country could live up to if it was grounded in manaakitanga and equity.

That acknowledges the richness of generations of tangata whenua and tangata tiriti working together to care for our whenua and collectively enjoying the fruits of mahitahi.

Where we protect Papatūānuku out of aroha for her, and respect that her wellbeing is also what keeps us alive.

Where we share what we have so everyone in Aotearoa can live a good life.

Everything the Greens won over the last two terms in government with Labour was hard fought. Governments must make tradeoffs. But Governments are defined by their choices.

And right now, the coalition is making theirs clear.

If the Greens were delivering this year’s budget, I’ll tell you what would be in it.

An income guarantee, so no matter what, everyone has what they need to live a decent life.

We could lift every family in Aotearoa out of poverty, and give people the peace of mind that they’ll be supported if they fall on tough times.

More support for students and people out of work, extra help if you’re sick or disabled, and simple payments for families so all kids can thrive.

Free dental care.

Successive governments have let basic dental healthcare get so expensive, that forty percent - forty percent! - of people avoid going to the dentist.

It’s just too expensive.

In Aotearoa, we could choose to resource our public health services - funded by taxes on wealth, so that everyone can be looked after when they need it.

And if the Greens were putting together the Budget, it would fund our plan to make your homes warmer while cutting down your power bills AND climate pollution.

Solar panels and batteries for homes to store the sun’s free energy, taking pressure off the power grid.

But this year, with the help of sixteen million dollars from some of the wealthiest people in Aotearoa, National, Act, and New Zealand First have the privilege of making those decisions.

And I say to them, what are you going to do with it?

You have the choice to end poverty.

Or to give tax breaks to landlords.

To give back more to people who earn their living, instead of tax breaks for people who own more houses than they need, and who already get untaxed capital gains.

You have the choice to invest in solar power, or open up new coal mines.

The choices people make when they have power show us what they are motivated by. These choices define the world they want to create.

So today I want to talk with you about what motivates the Green Party.

Ko te mana o Te Tiriti.

Ko te oranga o te Taiao.

Ko ngā tūmanako mō ngā tamariki.

We are motivated by generations of movements and leaders who have pushed for the sovereignty of tangata whenua guaranteed by te Tiriti o Waitangi.

A partnership on which this country was built, despite the continuous breaches by the Crown partner.

The Green Party is a Tiriti party.

Our leadership is a partnership between tangata whenua and tangata tiriti.

Our work seeks to honour the commitments made generations ago, to prosper together.

Our commitment to Tiriti justice is absolutely integral to everything the Greens do - just as it is integral to the future of Aotearoa.

Tino rangatiratanga is at the heart of healing relationships across communities and reconnecting all of us with our seas, our rivers, our bush, our mountains, and our whenua.

And central to our vision for a Tiriti-based future, is our commitment to restoring and protecting nature.

Because nature is in crisis.

Just out these doors, and below our feet, in the Hauraki Gulf, the impacts of commercial overfishing and the pollution washing into the water from the land, has brought the ecosystem to the brink.

North and west of here, great kauri are critically threatened.

To the south, unique animals found in no other country, are at risk from the bulldozers of mining companies, unless we protect them.

Four thousand different native species are at risk of extinction in Aotearoa.

Four thousand.

We can turn that around, but it takes commitment. It takes effort. It takes mahitahi. And it takes choices. Choices that put people and planet first, instead of a cynical politics that serves the short-term interests of wealthy donors.

If the government chooses not to prioritise restoring the health of the natural world in its first budget, that shows what they are motivated by, and it shows what kind of world they are prepared to leave to our tamariki.

It is our tamariki and mokopuna that motivate the Greens.

Not just the ones born tomorrow, but those after that, for seven generations down the line.

Sustainability doesn’t just mean sustainability for nature, but for people too. This planet is our home. We need it to thrive.

The Greens have always been deeply motivated by care for other people, for communities, for those with us today and for those who will come after us.

We are motivated by every single child who goes to bed hungry tonight.

We are motivated by every single adult who isn’t sure how they’ll pay the rent or mortgage next week.

As winter hits, we are motivated by every person who sits in the cold, staring at the heater, knowing they can’t afford to turn it on.

Our challenge to the coalition government is to prove that you are motivated by this too.

Choose to do something about it.

The solutions to many of the problems we face in Aotearoa are clear.

This week I had the privilege of meeting with rangatahi, and hearing about the solutions they want to see in their communities. They are THE experts in their own experience - and they know they need to be empowered and given better opportunities; not marginalised, patronised, ignored, and punished.

But the coalition government doesn’t like those solutions, because they don’t fit its agenda. They prefer catch phrases like “social investment”, to real data and lived experience.

A Government which says it is motivated by evidence-based solutions has cut funding to the world class Growing up in New Zealand study, and continues to ignore the evidence it provides. Like the evidence that 40% of children live in the most deprived areas.

If this government was truly invested in improving social outcomes, it would affirm and resource the experts who know best and have proven the most.

And that includes empowering the people with the lived experience of the systems failing them and their whānau. It requires removing all the barriers to wellbeing such as poverty and homelessness.

We need to support whole whānau, instead of focusing on ‘fixing’ an individual after they’ve already been broken by poverty and neglect, and expecting them to rise above circumstances of deprivation that we should have all worked together to prevent in the first place.

We need the solutions to be grounded in community knowledge and care. I hope this government is open to sitting with kai rangahau Māori and families to learn more about what really needs to change.

When the Crown has repeatedly failed to be accountable for the harm it has caused to whānau Māori, it is clear that we need an authentic transfer of power and resources - with a partnership of a strong public and social services sector working together, with communities, hapū and iwi, and whānau.

I have seen what works to support people off a destructive path in life. To instead become the best of themselves. There is a mountain of evidence about approaches that work where all other attempts have failed - particularly where there is deep trauma.

These approaches, like Kaupapa Māori interventions, build the strength of whānau and community.

Now for far too long, successive governments have been stuck on catch phrase politics, devoid of evidence or genuine care.

Policies like bootcamps for the young, benefit sanctions for the already struggling, higher criminal penalties - a punitive, petty politics that makes life harder for those already excluded, and does nothing to keep communities safe and well. This is divisive, stale, cruel and ineffective.

When I have met and listened to the very people at the forefront of this cruelty, the impact has been clear.

Such punitive and dehumanising measures have instead caused even further disconnection and hopelessness.

The Greens know that meeting trauma with punishment isn’t going to work. I want rangatahi to hear us loud and clear. You matter. Your whānau matters. You deserve dignity, a community and a country that sees your strength.

At a basic level, I think we all agree that identifying the causes of persistent hardship, and supporting people to get out of those situations, is a good idea.

And we all agree that the measure of a government’s success is whether it achieves outcomes, not how much money it spends on trying.

But the Government isn’t actually doing this.

Two weeks ago the Minister of Finance said her government will “use hard evidence to invest in what works.”

On that same day, the Minister of Social Development announced that people on a benefit will face financial sanctions if they don’t attend work seminars.

Let me be clear, work seminars don’t help people find jobs they’re suited for - let alone create meaningful work with decent pay and conditions.

The Ministry of Social Development has told the Minister there is no evidence for the government’s cruel approach.

Sanctions do not make a difference for the number of people moving into paid work.

And the evidence against sanctions is extremely clear.

Financial sanctions for beneficiaries, who already don’t have enough income to pay for life’s essentials, simply push people into further hardship.

That affects their children, their whānau, and their whole communities.

Instead, people need tailored support into work that matches their skills and interests, with a guaranteed income while retraining.

At the same time, the Government needs to invest in creating sustainable jobs that transition our economy away from fossil fuels.

Jobs with decent pay, secure hours and support for people to balance caregiving responsibilities. Jobs that support wellbeing for whānau, instead of seeing workers as just a cog in a labour machine.

When the Government rolls out policies like benefit sanctions, they are making a choice to ignore the evidence about the effect of their actions.

And it is our job to expose that.

I cannot say it enough: we have everything we need in Aotearoa for everyone to live a decent life.

We know what people need to rise up out of persistent hardship.

A warm, dry, affordable, and accessible home.

Healthy kai on the table.

The freedom to go to the doctor or the dentist when they need to, without having to worry about the cost.

And next week, the Government has a choice whether to put people at the heart of the budget - or not. If they don’t, they are holding back the potential of our people and our communities to thrive.

And we will ask, exactly who are they governing for?

The Greens are here for the many, not just the few.

We carry decades of political leadership with us, starting from the late Jeanette Fitzsimons and Rod Donald, through to our newest co-leader Chloe Swarbrick.

We are here thanks to the thousands upon thousands of volunteers over the last three decades.

The many grassroots-led movements who we are honoured to have worked with for the kaupapa.

We draw our strength from knowing we are powered by the many. This gives us the strength to oppose a government whose sixteen million dollars of political donations got them where they are today.

Thanks to our people-powered campaign, we have our largest Caucus ever.

And it represents Aotearoa more than it ever has before.

Green politics is the alternative to this cynical, cruel coalition government.

And we are only just getting started.

So it gives me great pleasure now, to welcome up my new co-leader, the MP for Auckland Central, Chlöe Swarbrick.

CHLÖE

Thank you, Marama.

It’s an honour to be here with you on our debut State of the Planet as co-leaders.

E te whanau - nau mai, haere mai and welcome here to Auckland Central.

Just over a year ago, as day broke after the night of the Auckland Anniversary floods, I walked from Karangahape Rd down through Freeman’s Bay, across a waterlogged Victoria Park through Wynyard Quarter – just around the corner from here where car alarms echoed in underwater, underground carparks – down through Fort Street and Beach Road where torrential rain had torn out huge concrete blocks and smashed them through glass doors into the lobby of apartment buildings.

It looked like the aftermath of some horrific, apocalyptic storm. And it was. Climate change had arrived on the doorstep of our largest city.

Those floods, and the ensuing Cyclone Gabrielle, took 15 lives.

Hundreds of homes and livelihoods were destroyed. Some of my constituents are still now fighting insurance battles.

At that point, I had spent around five years in politics with the Greens on our shared mission trying to figure out how to communicate the climate crisis to drive the necessary urgency and action.

In the blink of an eye, I was working with Student Volunteer Army helping rip up carpets and curtains and helping piece back together people’s lives from the wreckage.

The climate crisis is here. But the worst outcomes are not inevitable. We have choices about what the future looks like - if we act now and bring emissions down as fast as possible, storms like this will stay relatively rare.

But if we let oil companies continue to burn fossil fuels and pollute our climate, we may look back on these storms as being mild and manageable. I know which world I would rather live in. And that’s what has motivated me every single day since I got involved in politics.

If you take one thing from me talking today, I want it to be your knowledge that all the bad stuff is not inevitable. As hard as it feels right now - our communities, our country and our world are shaped by those who realise their power and turn up.

We have a choice. Whether we want to improve everyone’s lives by changing the irrational and exhausting economic system that is putting our planet and our communities under immense pressure, or treat the trickle-down economics rule book as though it’s some natural law of the world.

Whether we want to replace the race-to-the-bottom with systems that prioritise our natural world, the contributions everyone can make and – god forbid – our happiness.

What do we value?

We’ve already got a few receipts on this Government’s values - how dedicated they are to making life harder for anyone but those at the top.

A year ago, the Inland Revenue Department told us that 311 families in this country hold more wealth than the bottom two and a half million New Zealanders.

That’s not an accident.

It’s a direct consequence of a tax system that lets the rich get richer and richer on the back of untaxed capital gains, paying less than half the effective tax rate of the average New Zealander.

That is where poverty comes from.

Poverty is a political decision.

It is created by political leaders who say that this is inevitable - because they would rather not fix it. It is created by economic settings that wrestle down wages, benefit levels and living standards for regular people so those at the top can have mega yachts and multiple properties.

One in eight children in Aotearoa are growing up in poverty. For Māori, it’s one in five.

63,000 tamariki woke up in severe poverty this morning. That is 63,000 children who can’t count on regular meals every day, who don’t have warm clothes in winter, whose parents cannot afford to pay the rent and the power bill every month.

This Government knows this and they have all of the data and evidence in the world to be able to fix it.

Instead, they’re ploughing ahead, knowingly increasing inequality. Shredding fair pay agreements, cutting back benefit increases and handing 2.9 billion dollars to landlords.

Worse than knowingly increasing inequality, they have made decisions to try and hide the impacts of those choices from you.

Quietly, just before Christmas, along with cutting half price public transport, they axed IRD’s requirements to publicly report on the fairness of our tax system. They did this under Parliamentary urgency, cutting out your public participation.

They showed us their priorities by rolling back smoke-free protections, which no one campaigned on and no one but the tobacco lobby asked for.

Researchers tell us thousands more people will die as a result of these decisions. It will give the Coalition Government an extra half a billion dollars in tax revenue to pay for their extraordinarily expensive trickle-down tax cuts.

The Reserve Bank has told us that the Government’s 2.9 billion dollar tax breaks for landlords will drive up house prices, putting home ownership further out of reach for a whole generation of New Zealanders.

Treasury and even the market orthodoxy economists at the IMF and OECD have told the government that one of the crucial missing ingredients for Aotearoa to have a more prosperous, productive, and fairer economy is a capital gains tax.

This Government is not just ignoring the solutions to the problems that we face in Aotearoa, it is committed to actively making things worse.

Now, the same thinking and rules that create this inequality also trash our shared home, this planet.

Every week there’s a new outrageous headline from a coalition party about how endangered animals are getting in the way of what they call progress.

But any politician who pretends that we can have a thriving economy on a burning planet is lying to you.

More than 75 percent of native animals in Aotearoa are threatened or at risk of extinction.

The International Energy Agency has told governments across the world that any attempts to mine and burn more coal, oil, and gas will send planet Earth over a dangerous threshold of warming into climate catastrophe.

The Climate Commission underscored this urgency in their three recent reports. They also explicitly called out this Government’s dangerous dance with unscientific ‘no additional warming’ targets for agriculture, laying bare that such an approach would mean higher burdens on households and businesses across the country.

In the late 1980s, around one in ten of people spent more than 30% of their income on housing. Now, it’s three in ten.

That’s not an accident. It didn’t just happen. It’s a consequence of political decisions made in the past and right up to this day.

Over the past few years you have paid record high prices for groceries, rents, and electricity. Meanwhile supermarkets, landlords, the banks and the electricity providers have made record profits.

Connect the dots here, whanau.

The reason it feels like no matter how hard you work, you can’t get ahead is because we have a set of rules in this economy that actively exploit people and the planet for the benefit of a wealthy few.

The reason that the system feels like it’s rigged is because it is.

The coalition Government not only want to double down on that, they want you so frustrated that you switch off from politics - giving the lobbyists and corporate superpowers all the more free reign.

It is hard not to despair. But that’s what they want.

They want you to give up.

They want you to think this is all inevitable.

But bad things are not inevitable. And we actually can have good things, if we fight for them.

Just over a decade ago, it was illegal for me to marry the person that I love.

But the law changed - although some of the now very powerful politicians who voted against that are still in our Parliament.

That law changed not because of the evidence that the gays can be quite nice people who deserve the same rights as everyone else.

Marriage equality didn’t just happen because it was right and fair. Good things don’t happen by themselves.

The law changed because enough regular people turned up to put enough pressure on enough politicians.

Positive change doesn’t just happen. It is fought for. Like the revival of te reo Māori. Like women’s suffrage. Like annual leave. Like national parks.

Power in politics belongs to those who turn up.

And 27,000 of you have turned up to submit on the Government’s Fast-Track Bill.

That’s 27,000 people who will not sit by and allow coal mines to be dug on conservation land.

Or the seabed to be ripped up off the coast of Taranaki.

Or projects that have been rejected by the Environment Court to be given a new life by Shane Jones and Chris Bishop.

When faced with the kind of blatant resource and power grab that only money can buy, successful resistance lies in the power of regular people. Our communities.

The government is already talking about changing the Fast Track bill. Because 27,000 of you stood up.

And I hope we’ll see you march for nature on Saturday 8 June.

Bad things happen when good people stand idly by.

Equally, good things happen when we work together to make them happen.

Do not leave politics to the politicians.

Democracy doesn’t work if we just sit back and wait every three years for a general election. Politics happens every single day in decisions that shape the world around us.

While this is the most anti-nature and anti-democracy Government in my lifetime, we have to be honest with ourselves that it’s simply playing a game of Monopoly with rules which have remained relatively unchanged in four decades.

Governments of the last forty years, shaped by two legacy parties, have failed to change the fundamentals that drive environmental and social degradation.

Why?

Well, I guess if your main goal is staying in power at all costs, you will almost always take the path of least resistance.

But in the Green Party, we do things differently. And that is why I am so enormously proud to be in this Party.

We know that our power doesn’t come from the top down. Parties and politicians that pretend as such are resting on a house of cards.

The Greens know that no one person changes the world alone.

We know that sustainable, transformative change is built from communities up, when we are intentional and explicit about our values and act according to the world we want to see.

Human history tells a tale of tension between the power of the few, and the wellbeing of the many. Between greed and democracy.

This Government has told us they’re far more in favour of the greed than the democracy.

But they will only get away with it if we let them.

The more we resist, the more we organise, the more pressure that we put on, the more everyone realises their power, the more the cracks start to show in this Coalition.

And we see the truth: we can make this a one term Government.

Their cruel and cynical decisions are not inevitable.

But neither is progress towards a better future. There’s no one out there coming to save us. We are the change we’ve been waiting for.

That’s where you come in.

What would you do if you truly believed it was possible to change the world? Because it is possible.

Twenty years from now, by the time today’s toddlers are celebrating their 21st birthdays, Aotearoa could be a very different place.

We could have reached net zero emissions.

Our native forests could be restored - teaming with bird song.

Our oceans could be free of plastic pollution, and home to abundant kaimoana.

We get to create that future. Together.

We can choose to create a future where people move through and between our towns and cities freely, conveniently and comfortably without the baggage of a car.

Where we could know our neighbours - everyone could, because homes could be affordable, stable and long-term, grounded in community and surrounded by well-cared for public parks and schools and libraries and thriving local businesses.

Where every single child gets a nutritious, locally grown and lovingly prepared lunch at school.

Where we can hear and read Te Reo Māori everywhere and feel deep pride in our nation’s reconciling with our past to create the equitable, inclusive and uniquely wonderful today.

Where young people know they’ll be able to work in a job that gives them pride and purpose.

Where whānau can raise kids or look after elderly or disabled relatives knowing the country values and supports this contribution.

Where people can retire knowing that representatives had made the right decisions to invest a long time ago in the housing and healthcare and welfare systems - so everyone can be looked after.

Our future is not set in stone. It will be the consequence of the decisions we make today.

We do not have to let three men gaslight us with all the more oil, coal and gas.

We can take power into our own hands and resist their cruelty every step of the way, in turn, reminding ourselves of our collective power to build a new way together.

A way of living – dare I say it, a new economy - that supports people and the planet. That puts manaakitanga ahead of relentless greed.

When thousands of people came together to support each other in the clean-up after Cyclone Gabrielle and Auckland Anniversary floods, we saw this in action.

We saw the power of compassion and justice.

We saw that together, we can take things that are broken and we can fix them.

We can create the Aotearoa that all of us deserve.

The privilege of my position is that I know that I am not alone. I want everyone who cares for our people and our planet to know they are not alone either.

The Greens see you, we hear you, and we fight for you in the halls of power.

We know where our power and motivation comes from – and it isn’t the vested interests of the wealthy – it’s you. Your kids, your communities, and our shared future on this beautiful planet.

And just as we will fight for you - we need you. We need each other.

I’m asking you, today, to step up to the fight as well. Organise within your communities. March in the streets. Be loud, be strong - kia kaha tātau, kia maia, kia manawanui.

And together, let’s create the future all of us and our tamariki deserve.

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