Eugenie Sage's decision to approve the expansion of a Chinese-owned water bottling plant has outraged many, but the biggest outrage is that the Green Party has been complicit in its support for the neoliberal policies of the Labour-New Zealand First coalition government.
THE PARLIAMENTARY Green Party has been hauled over the coals because Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage, one of three Green ministers, chose to approve the expansion of a Chinese-owned water bottling plant near Whakatane. This flies in the face of Green Party policy which is to ban new water bottling consents, impose a levy on water exports, and take account of Treaty of Waitangi rights around water.
Sage has been accused of selling out and the over 1,000 comments on her Facebook page are overwhelmingly critical of her. It would not have helped matters that arch-right winger Mike Hosking has praised Sage for her decision, but not before sarcastically referring to as "she of the Greens, she of the protector of the land and our resource, she of the fortress mentality against the foreign raping and pillaging of our Earth."
Back on planet Earth, former Green MP Sue Bradford has tweeted: "Do the parliamentary Greens have any idea of the danger they're in? Even in govt there is almost always room to compromise - & even fight – vs such unpalatable decisions. Betrayal on water bottling a sad day for Green voters."
Sage has been unwilling to defend her decision and it has been left to co-leader Marama Davidson to run interference for her. She has argued that Sage's hands were tied:
"The minister was constrained by a flawed Act which says we are unable to take environmental and Treaty decisions into account. This decision does not sit with Green kaupapa and longstanding Green Party position,"
Green MP Julie Anne Genter, a woman obviously enjoying the 'baubles of office', has backed up Davidson declaring that the problem lay with the law - not with the minister or the party.
"That's why it's important for us to be in government - so we can change the law."
The problem is that the Green MP's, including Genter, have shown very little interest in opposing this government.
Those who argued that the Green's would act as a 'left wing brake' on the neoliberal excesses of the Labour-New Zealand First coalition ignored the fact that the Green's had already agreed to the continuance of the neoliberal 'consensus' by happily signing up Labour's fiscally draconian Budget Responsibility Rules. That was not the behaviour of a left wing party.
Since the election the Green's have not only been a meek and mild supporter of the government but have positively embraced the government's conservative policies. They apparently could find so little to object to that co-leader James Shaw decided to gift the National Party the Green's parliamentary questions. Another outrage.
And while Marama Davidson once expressed doubts about the Budget Responsibility Rules and talked airily of 'revisiting them' that didn't stop her standing up in Parliament and praising Finance Minister Grant Robertson's first budget - a product of those very same Budget Responsibility Rules. Even a mainstream commentator like RNZ's Guyon Espiner recognised the budget for what it was - "a triumph for neoliberalism or a least a continuance of it." Marama Davidson apparently didn't.
You might argue that there were mitigating factors as to why Eugenie Sage approved the expansion of a water bottling plant but there no mitigating factors to excuse the Green's terrible right wing politics. It can't be ignored that the Green Party have embraced the kind of economic policies that have nothing to do with progressive politics.
The lesson that the Green Party politicians haven't learnt is that you can't posture as a progressive force while selling your soul for a seat at the big man's table. The choices that the Green Party have made have made them largely indistinguishable from the parties of the right.