The Green Party
The natural environment features strongly in the ways that New Zealanders think about New Zealand. A recurring idealisation of the natural landscape, what Bell calls the ‘nature myth’, is reflected outwards in the ‘clean and green’ image New Zealand presents to the world (Bell 1996). Does this collective idealisation of nature help to explain the long history of green politics in New Zealand? The 2014 general election marked 42 years of green party politics in New Zealand, spanning 15 general elections. It was also the second time that one in ten voters voted for the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand and the third consecutive election where the Green Party returned to parliament as the third largest party. The longevity and more recent electoral success of green party politics in New Zealand may in part be related to a strong environmental ethic in New Zealand; the Greens are much more than an environmental party.
Green parties challenge some of the conventional ways of understanding political parties. Ideology is crucial to understanding the Greens. This chapter explores the development of the Green Party from its activist roots and relates these activist origins to the ideology of the party. It describes how ideology is expressed in the party’s unique approach to organisation and decision-making. In thinking about the success of the Greens, the chapter takes a broader perspective and looks beyond the recent electoral successes to consider what a party motivated by ideas can accomplish outside coalition deals and governing. Finally, it develops a frame to respond to a question that has recurred through their history: should the Greens just focus on environmental issues?