Greens back down on abolishing all benefit sanctions

OPINION: The Green Party has scrapped one of its core election promises championed by former co-leader Metiria Turei.

The party no longer believes in immediately abolishing all financial sanctions and obligations on beneficiaries.

It was forced to back down on the policy during coalition negotiations with Labour, which adjusted the wording so only "excessive" sanctions will be removed.

"Our policy is what the Government's policy is. So now we're in Government, we need to do what Government policy says," says co-leader James Shaw.

"We only want to get rid of the most excessive sanctions," he added.

The policy u-turn means the Greens will be able to support Shane Jones' plan to sanction beneficiaries who refuse to work on the Government's 'Plant a Billion Trees' project.

The original policy was announced at the Green Party's AGM earlier this year, during a keynote speech by Ms Turei.

"The Green Party in Government will immediately remove all financial sanctions and obligations that treat beneficiaries as criminals and second-class citizens. They're all gone. All gone," she told party faithful.

Right up until her resignation, Turei advocated for the rights of those on welfare, saying on July 16 that "no beneficiary should have to live with the threat of losing the money they need for the rent" - which is exactly the kind of threat Jones wants to make to those who refuse to plant trees.

Even when Turei left Parliament, the baton was picked up by two other Green MPs who continued to advocate for abolishing sanctions.

Jan Logie said on July 20 that her party in Government will "immediately end benefit sanctions", and Marama Davidson said on September 6 that benefit sanctions are "expensive to administer and push people further into poverty".

Those promises and pledges from Turei, Logie and Davidson were the victim of compromise during Government-forming talks with Labour.