NZ Greens accept Labour’s offer for ‘cooperation agreement’

Green Party co-leaders
Green Party's co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw ... the vote to accept the deal came after several rounds of talks on potential areas of cooperation. Image: Samuel Rillstone/RNZ

By RNZ News

Green Party delegates have voted to accept a deal with Labour which will give it two ministerial portfolios outside of cabinet in the New Zealand government.

Consensus was blocked, so the party required 75 percent of delegates to get the deal across the line this evening.

Labour offered the Green Party the two portfolios as part of a cooperation agreement.

Yesterday’s vote to accept the deal came after several rounds of talks on potential areas of cooperation between the two parties concluded on Thursday.

About 150 Green Party delegates were presented the deal on a zoom call, before voting on whether to accept it.

Green Party delegates were also told the two select committees Green MPs will chair or deputy chair will likely be Environment and Transport, RNZ understands.

As part of the proposed cooperation agreement, Labour will support the nomination of a Green MP to be the chair of a select committee, as well as a Green MP in the deputy chair role of an additional select committee.

Green Party co-leaders
The ministerial portfolios will be held by the Green Party’s co-leaders, Labour leader Jacinda Ardern revealed this afternoon.

James Shaw will continue as Climate Change Minister and be appointed Associate Minister for the Environment (Biodiversity), while Marama Davidson will be the Minister for the Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence and Associate Minister of Housing (Homelessness).

In a statement, Davidson said the Green Party was “thrilled” to enter into this governing arrangement with Labour.

“We entered into this negotiation hoping to achieve the best outcomes for New Zealand and our planet. This was after a strong campaign where we committed to action on the climate crisis, the biodiversity crisis, and the poverty crisis.

“New Zealanders voted us in to be a productive partner to Labour to ensure we go further and faster on the issues that matter. We will make sure that happens this term.”

Shaw said the Greens had a larger caucus this term, who were ready to play a constructive role.

“In the areas of climate change, looking after our natural environment and addressing inequality, there’s no time to waste. Marama will do incredible work rapidly addressing the issues of homelessness and family violence,” he said.

‘First in NZ political history’
“We are proud to have achieved a first in New Zealand political history, where a major party with a clear majority under MMP has agreed to ministerial positions for another party, as well as big areas of cooperation.”

Areas of co-operation will be: “achieving the purpose and goals of the Zero Carbon Act” through decarbonising public transport and the public sector, increasing the uptake of zero-emission vehicles, introducing clean car standards, and supporting the use of renewable energy for industrial heat.

As well as protecting the environment and biodiversity, and improving child wellbeing and action on homelessness, warmer homes, and child and youth mental health.

In return the Greens will not oppose the government on confidence and supply for the full term of this Parliament, and support Labour on procedural motions in the House and at select committees

But the Greens will be free to take their own position on any issues not covered by the ministerial portfolios and areas of co-operation.

Ardern said in the interests of transparency, Labour was releasing the deal publicly in tandem with the Greens’ deliberations.

“On election night I said I wanted to govern for all New Zealanders and to reach as wide a consensus on key issues as possible. This agreement does that, while honouring the mandate provided to Labour to form a majority government in our own right.

Balancing two key objectives
“The cooperation agreement balances these two objectives, whilst not committing to a more formal coalition or confidence and supply arrangement.”

Ardern said strong, stable government was essential to New Zealand as it recovered from covid.

“Between this agreement and our existing parliamentary majority, we won’t be held back from getting on with the work needed to rebuild our economy and continuing to keep New Zealand safe from covid-19.

She said policy areas where Labour and the Greens could work together were places where the policy and experience of the Greens would provide a positive contribution to the Labour government, but without any requirement for either party to have to reach consensus.

“James knows climate change inside out, his expertise in this complex and detailed policy area is an important skill set to tap into, and he has a range of domestic and international stakeholder relationships that are important to maintain.

“Stability and predictability in climate change policy I see as key, and that has also been feedback that I’ve picked up from stakeholders ranging from environmental NGOs to the business community.”

On Davidson’s role, she said Green MP Jan Logie had led the work on family and sexual violence as an undersecretary, and it was at an “important phase of implementation”.

Addressing a national shame
“Again, continuity on addressing this area of national shame is at the front of my mind. It’s also my strong believe that this is an area which should be a ministerial portfolio in it’s own right, and so that’s what we’re doing.”

She said the agreement struck the right balance of the parties working on issues where there is agreement, “allowing space for disagreement and independence, delivering business continuity and predictability in key policy areas, especially climate policy, and guaranteeing that Labour’s majority is bolstered on key votes to ensure the ongoing stability of the majority government.

“Never before has one party won a majority under MMP, but that’s not to say that the principals of MMP should be ignored. Furthermore it is also simply not how I do politics.”

She said she would not have invested time and energy in this agreement unless she thought it was in the best interests of the government and also for New Zealand.

“My view is there are skills and talents that exist in other parties in Parliament, I want to make use of those from the Green Party, and work on policy areas in which there are skills and expertise as well, it makes sense for New Zealand to do that. At the same time though, I will use the mandate that we’ve been given.”

This article is republished by the Pacific Media Centre under a partnership agreement with RNZ.

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