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(Disclaimer: I’ve been doing a small amount of unpaid volunteer work for the Green Party this election.)
In less than one week in New Zealand us citizens get the chance to share in the once-every-three-year opportunity to action on democratic right to vote. This is important. Representational democracy has lots of problems and is far from perfect, but if nothing else it plays a critical rule in ensuring we don’t ever have to live in a dictatorship.
Compared to going out and ‘doing good things’ in the world around you, voting probably isn’t the most important democratic thing we do. But it is the most symbolic, and like the occupy protests occurring around the world, you somewhat lose your moral right to have an opinion if you don’t participate.
There is a bunch of freedom’s that we have and often forget about, one of these is the freedom to express political views. I think in New Zealand political discussion is treated a bit like religion, something we avoid so as not to accidentally offend. Today, I’d like to use this freedom to write about why I am voting Green.
I’m deeply suspicious of branding, and the green brand is like any other in that one needs to scratch beneath the nice posters, smiling politicians, and nice niceness that branding creates. The Greens are a made of people whose reason for getting into politics is because they give a fuck about certain issues and since these issues are the volition, the reason for them acting, they continue to take precedent. A journey with the Green Party has never been a journey to the seats of power so the lure of ‘being-on-the-end-of-the-phone’ is a lot less powerful. So, yes the Green brand is a brand, but fortunately when this is brand is examined there is a healthy depth of knowledge and policy below the surface.
There are three policy that important for me at the moment, and the Green’s Position on these that is deciding my vote.
Design literacy in this country is sadly lacking. It’s the curse of being a frontier country without thousands of years of built precedent and trial and error of built form. As the Green party is part of an international movement, it understands that public transport and well designed public space are integral parts of the good citiy, healthy society, and an innovative economy. The often cited need to choose between cars and public transport is a false one. We will always need and use cars, however the last 40 years of international research and precedent (London, Copenhagen, New York) show us that planning cities around cars instead of public transport is a failed idea. We fail to recognise this because we alway view the problem from the viewpoint of the individual rather than the city. There is an idiotic article in the NZ Herald today arguing that rail will always fail in New Zealand. What this fails to appreciate is transport decisions don’t just respond to the present needs of a city, they powerfully alter the behaviour of a city in a future and how it grows and changes. Increasing roads, esp to marginal areas of land leads to low density of housing, which leads to inefficient infrastructure, high rates, destruction of important agricultural land, and an unsustainable reliance on cheap oil to move around the city. Improving public transport, through all means, bike, bus, rail leads to increased density, this is better for business, and more diverse business, more efficient service delivery, protection of agriculture and natural systems. All the cities in the world need to re-invent themselves in the next 50 years, and the battle for Auckland and Christchurch is very much on at the moment.
2. Child Poverty.
That a country as rich as New Zealand has a significant poverty problem is an outrage. That this problem is allowed to affect thousands of children is even more outrageous. That the large majority of these children are Maori and yet we claim to be a healthy post-colonial country is outrageous. That the solutions to the problems of child poverty exist and are evidenced based and affordable and not enacted is even more outrageous. This isn’t a political issue, it’s a moral one. A curse on the houses of both Labour and National for allowing this to happen, and good on the Greens for having the most comprehensive strategy to work with this issue. For more in depth information about this topic please visit the Every Child Counts website.
I was going to discuss that I like the Green movement because, popular to contrary belief, it basis it’s humanist policy on evidence and research not by fulfilling the wishes of cashed up lobby groups like the truck, farmer, and alcohol lobbys which write most of the current governments policy. But actually, I’d be happy if a government could just fix the first two no-brainers on this list. If we can get agreement on things like 21st Century transport and Child poverty issues, then after that perhaps we can start talking about the more difficult areas of governance, until action is taken on the easy and important issue the Government is a farce.
The fact that the Green’s consistently and patiently argue for these sensible solutions to long term problems is why I am voting for them on Saturday.