By Dr. Russel Norman, Co-Leader of the Green Party
It’s the 40th anniversary of the founding of the green political movement in New Zealand this week. While we’re taking time to celebrate how far we’ve come, the Greens are always thinking beyond tomorrow – about the sustainable economy, society, and environment we want to build for our kids.
Which is why we’re so disappointed with the Government’s Budget.
Here was a great opportunity for the Government to think about the future. Instead, it cut in all the wrong places.
We all know times are tight, and a credible path to getting the Government books back into surplus is really important, but there are choices in how to go about it.
National has chosen to cut education at every level: freezing early childhood education funding, increasing class sizes, upping student loan repayments, taking away student allowances – they’re even taxing kids’ on their after-school jobs!
Those cuts will do serious damage to our education system, which is the foundation of building a better future. And yet they will ‘save’ only a small amount of money - about 1/1000th of what the government spends in a year.
On the other hand, National failed to get rid of some of its really expensive, and really silly, policies.
Take three examples: National’s ‘fiscally neutral’ tax changes in 2010 have turned out to cost $2 billion so far, most of which has gone to the already well off; its borrowing $1.5 billion this year to subsidise greenhouse gas polluters; and its spending another billion dollars a year on motorways that few of us will ever use and which the Government’s own numbers show won’t create benefits worth their costs.
National’s dug themselves a record debt hole with poor choices. And now they’re making further poor choices by cutting education to try to fill in that hole.
The Greens see education as an investment; not a cost. We think that we can afford both smaller class sizes and to upskill our teachers.
It’s about making the right choices.
Just one kilometre of the proposed Puhoi to Wellsford ‘holiday highway’ would cost $44 million, about the same as National plans to save by increasing class sizes and reducing teacher numbers by 1,300. The highway returns only 40 cents of value for every dollar spent on it, while the return on investment in education is immense.
Which do you think is more important?
Another big mistake in the Budget is the asset sales plan. Why on earth would we sell off our profitable and strategically vital power companies?
Every year they return hundreds of millions in dividends, which go to fund our schools and hospitals. If we were to sell the power companies, those profits would go offshore instead, and we would have to borrow more to fund our public services. The Government’s own numbers show we would end up borrowing over $100 million a year more.
And it’s not just about the money, it’s about New Zealand having control over its electricity system, so that it works in our interests, not just to make profits for international buyers.
Kiwis are starting to get sick of these poor decisions. Teachers, students, and parents are in uproar over cuts to education. Tens of thousands of people have already signed the petition calling for a referendum on asset sales.
We deserve a government that makes the right choices for New Zealand. And National isn’t delivering.
The Greens have a plan for a smart, green economy that leads to a more prosperous society and a sustainable environment. You can read all about it at
The details have evolved over the decades, but it is the same vision that inspired New Zealanders to found the Values Party and its successor, the Green Party. And, as we face a myriad of economic, social, and environmental challenges, it is a vision that is becoming ever more relevant and necessary by the day.