Full speech: Greens co-leader Marama Davidson delivers State of the Planet address

  • 19/05/2024

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson has delivered her State of the Planet speech on Sunday.

Davidson delivered the speech to a packed audience of Greens supporters in Auckland's Wynyard Quarter.

Speaking alongside Chlöe Swarbrick, the pair called on the Government to prioritise people and the planet over profit as Budget 2024 edges closer.

Full speech: Greens co-leader Marama Davidson delivers State of the Planet address
Photo credit: Newshub

Read the full speech here:

Mā te oranga o te taiao, ka ora ai te iwi. Mō te takitini, kāore mo te torutoru anake. Ki te mana whenua o tēnei rohe, tū mai rā Ngāti Whātua, tēnā koutou. Ki a tātou e huihui mai nei, ko ngā moemoeā o te Pāti Kākāriki te take, nau mai, haere mai, whakatau mai.

Tenā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.

Sixteen million dollars.

That’s how much the coalition parties raised to win last year’s election.

Ten million for National.

Four million for Act.

Just under two million for New Zealand First.

Sixteen million dollars.

From property developers and business tycoons who have built their wealth by exploiting our natural environment.

To companies who profit from digging up our whenua and overfishing our oceans - activities that cause significant harm to our precious ecosystems.

Sixteen million dollars helped to put this government into power.

And in a little less than two weeks, the coalition government will unveil its first budget.

It has clearly been difficult for them to put it together.

To the right, Act is trying to fire all the people who make our public services work, while in their own cooker corner New Zealand First hoards 1.2 billion dollars for hand-chosen pet projects.

The Coalition has found half a billion dollars for new defence spending, but cancelled projects to improve buses and trains in Auckland and Wellington.

They’re borrowing billions to cover the cost of cutting taxes for wealthy property investors, because they’ve realised that the promises they made during the election campaign were slapdash and expensive.

Meanwhile, people with the least face ever higher costs.

Bus fares have already gone up.

Rents continue to rise, while the government is giving tax breaks to landlords instead of investing in more public housing.

So on Budget Day, when we see what the coalition has been able to cobble together, I want you to remember: sixteen million dollars.

What’s in the Budget for the people who paid for National’s election campaign?

And what could have been in the budget instead if Aotearoa had a Government that prioritised people and planet?

Because I am not here for the relative few who donated those sixteen million dollars.

I am here for the many, including the 330,000 people who trusted the Green Party with their votes last year.

And I want to thank you all once again.

Your voices will continue to be heard.

You told us you wanted us to fight for an Aotearoa where everyone can get by, where our native wildlife and oceans thrive, where we take bold climate action, and where we honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

That is what we are doing. And we will be loud. And we will be staunch as always.

I am here for those who cannot sit by while the government tries to take the country backwards on the issues that matter most.

While the goal of a smoke-free generation goes up in smoke.

While new coal mines are dug into our precious conservation land, even as the Prime Minister claims to want to achieve climate change targets.

While the few with extraordinary wealth get what they want, at the expense of everyone else.

The Greens have always been, and will always be, the voice for a different kind of politics.

A politics centred in justice through honouring te Tiriti o Waitangi, not using it to drive a wedge in our communities.

A politics that celebrates the potential our country could live up to if it was grounded in manaakitanga and equity.

That acknowledges the richness of generations of tangata whenua and tangata tiriti working together to care for our whenua and collectively enjoying the fruits of mahitahi.

Where we protect Papatūānuku out of aroha for her, and respect that her wellbeing is also what keeps us alive.

Where we share what we have so everyone in Aotearoa can live a good life.

Everything the Greens won over the last two terms in government with Labour was hard fought. Governments must make tradeoffs. But Governments are defined by their choices.

And right now, the coalition is making theirs clear.

If the Greens were delivering this year’s budget, I’ll tell you what would be in it.

An income guarantee, so no matter what, everyone has what they need to live a decent life.

We could lift every family in Aotearoa out of poverty, and give people the peace of mind that they’ll be supported if they fall on tough times.

More support for students and people out of work, extra help if you’re sick or disabled, and simple payments for families so all kids can thrive.

Free dental care.

Successive governments have let basic dental healthcare get so expensive, that forty percent - forty percent! - of people avoid going to the dentist.

It’s just too expensive.

In Aotearoa, we could choose to resource our public health services - funded by taxes on wealth, so that everyone can be looked after when they need it.

And if the Greens were putting together the Budget, it would fund our plan to make your homes warmer while cutting down your power bills AND climate pollution.

Solar panels and batteries for homes to store the sun’s free energy, taking pressure off the power grid.

But this year, with the help of sixteen million dollars from some of the wealthiest people in Aotearoa, National, Act, and New Zealand First have the privilege of making those decisions.

And I say to them, what are you going to do with it?

You have the choice to end poverty.

Or to give tax breaks to landlords.

To give back more to people who earn their living, instead of tax breaks for people who own more houses than they need, and who already get untaxed capital gains.

You have the choice to invest in solar power, or open up new coal mines.

The choices people make when they have power show us what they are motivated by. These choices define the world they want to create.

So today I want to talk with you about what motivates the Green Party.

Ko te mana o Te Tiriti.

Ko te oranga o te Taiao.

Ko ngā tūmanako mō ngā tamariki.

We are motivated by generations of movements and leaders who have pushed for the sovereignty of tangata whenua guaranteed by te Tiriti o Waitangi.

A partnership on which this country was built, despite the continuous breaches by the Crown partner.

The Green Party is a Tiriti party.

Our leadership is a partnership between tangata whenua and tangata tiriti.

Our work seeks to honour the commitments made generations ago, to prosper together.

Our commitment to Tiriti justice is absolutely integral to everything the Greens do - just as it is integral to the future of Aotearoa.

Tino rangatiratanga is at the heart of healing relationships across communities and reconnecting all of us with our seas, our rivers, our bush, our mountains, and our whenua.

And central to our vision for a Tiriti-based future, is our commitment to restoring and protecting nature.

Because nature is in crisis.

Just out these doors, and below our feet, in the Hauraki Gulf, the impacts of commercial overfishing and the pollution washing into the water from the land, has brought the ecosystem to the brink.

North and west of here, great kauri are critically threatened.

To the south, unique animals found in no other country, are at risk from the bulldozers of mining companies, unless we protect them.

Four thousand different native species are at risk of extinction in Aotearoa.

Four thousand.

We can turn that around, but it takes commitment. It takes effort. It takes mahitahi. And it takes choices. Choices that put people and planet first, instead of a cynical politics that serves the short-term interests of wealthy donors.

If the government chooses not to prioritise restoring the health of the natural world in its first budget, that shows what they are motivated by, and it shows what kind of world they are prepared to leave to our tamariki.

It is our tamariki and mokopuna that motivate the Greens.

Not just the ones born tomorrow, but those after that, for seven generations down the line.

Sustainability doesn’t just mean sustainability for nature, but for people too. This planet is our home. We need it to thrive.

The Greens have always been deeply motivated by care for other people, for communities, for those with us today and for those who will come after us.

We are motivated by every single child who goes to bed hungry tonight.

We are motivated by every single adult who isn’t sure how they’ll pay the rent or mortgage next week.

As winter hits, we are motivated by every person who sits in the cold, staring at the heater, knowing they can’t afford to turn it on.

Our challenge to the coalition government is to prove that you are motivated by this too.

Choose to do something about it.

The solutions to many of the problems we face in Aotearoa are clear. This week I had the privilege of meeting with rangatahi, and hearing about the solutions they want to see in their communities. They are THE experts in their own experience - and they know they need to be empowered and given better opportunities; not marginalised, patronised, ignored, and punished.

But the coalition government doesn’t like those solutions, because they don’t fit its agenda. They prefer catch phrases like “social investment”, to real data and lived experience.

A Government which says it is motivated by evidence-based solutions has cut funding to the world class Growing up in New Zealand study, and continues to ignore the evidence it provides. Like the evidence that 40% of children live in the most deprived areas.

If this government was truly invested in improving social outcomes, it would affirm and resource the experts who know best and have proven the most.

And that includes empowering the people with the lived experience of the systems failing them and their whānau. It requires removing all the barriers to wellbeing such as poverty and homelessness. We need to support whole whānau, instead of focusing on ‘fixing’ an individual after they’ve already been broken by poverty and neglect, and expecting them to rise above circumstances of deprivation that we should have all worked together to prevent in the first place. We need the solutions to be grounded in community knowledge and care. I hope this government is open to sitting with kai rangahau Māori and families to learn more about what really needs to change.

When the Crown has repeatedly failed to be accountable for the harm it has caused to whānau Māori, it is clear that we need an authentic transfer of power and resources - with a partnership of a strong public and social services sector working together, with communities, hapū and iwi, and whānau.

I have seen what works to support people off a destructive path in life. To instead become the best of themselves. There is a mountain of evidence about approaches that work where all other attempts have failed - particularly where there is deep trauma.

These approaches, like Kaupapa Māori interventions, build the strength of whānau and community.

Now for far too long, successive governments have been stuck on catch phrase politics, devoid of evidence or genuine care.

Policies like bootcamps for the young, benefit sanctions for the already struggling, higher criminal penalties - a punitive, petty politics that makes life harder for those already

excluded, and does nothing to keep communities safe and well. This is divisive, stale, cruel and ineffective.

When I have met and listened to the very people at the forefront of this cruelty, the impact has been clear.

Such punitive and dehumanising measures have instead caused even further disconnection and hopelessness. The Greens know that meeting trauma with punishment isn’t going to work. I want rangatahi to hear us loud and clear. You matter. Your whānau matters. You deserve dignity, a community and a country that sees your strength.

At a basic level, I think we all agree that identifying the causes of persistent hardship, and supporting people to get out of those situations, is a good idea.

And we all agree that the measure of a government’s success is whether it achieves outcomes, not how much money it spends on trying.

But the Government isn’t actually doing this.

Two weeks ago the Minister of Finance said her government will “use hard evidence to invest in what works.”

On that same day, the Minister of Social Development announced that people on a benefit will face financial sanctions if they don’t attend work seminars.

Let me be clear, work seminars don’t help people find jobs they’re suited for - let alone create meaningful work with decent pay and conditions. The Ministry of Social Development has told the Minister there is no evidence for the government’s cruel approach. Sanctions do not make a difference for the number of people moving into paid work.

And the evidence against sanctions is extremely clear.

Financial sanctions for beneficiaries, who already don’t have enough income to pay for life’s essentials, simply push people into further hardship.

That affects their children, their whānau, and their whole communities.

Instead, people need tailored support into work that matches their skills and interests, with a guaranteed income while retraining.

At the same time, the Government needs to invest in creating sustainable jobs that transition our economy away from fossil fuels.

Jobs with decent pay, secure hours and support for people to balance caregiving responsibilities. Jobs that support wellbeing for whānau, instead of seeing workers as just a cog in a labour machine.

When the Government rolls out policies like benefit sanctions, they are making a choice to ignore the evidence about the effect of their actions.

And it is our job to expose that.

I cannot say it enough: we have everything we need in Aotearoa for everyone to live a decent life.

We know what people need to rise up out of persistent hardship.

A warm, dry, affordable, and accessible home.

Healthy kai on the table.

The freedom to go to the doctor or the dentist when they need to, without having to worry about the cost.

And next week, the Government has a choice whether to put people at the heart of the budget - or not. If they don’t, they are holding back the potential of our people and our communities to thrive.

And we will ask, exactly who are they governing for?

The Greens are here for the many, not just the few.

We carry decades of political leadership with us, starting from the late Jeanette Fitzsimons and Rod Donald, through to our newest co-leader Chloe Swarbrick.

We are here thanks to the thousands upon thousands of volunteers over the last three decades.

The many grassroots-led movements who we are honoured to have worked with for the kaupapa.

We draw our strength from knowing we are powered by the many. This gives us the strength to oppose a government whose sixteen million dollars of political donations got them where they are today.

Thanks to our people-powered campaign, we have our largest Caucus ever.

And it represents Aotearoa more than it ever has before.

Green politics is the alternative to this cynical, cruel coalition government.

And we are only just getting started.