NEW ZEALAND: Newly elected Green Party calls for rise in organic farming

The New Zealand Green Party has marked its first week as an influential minority party in the country's new parliament by calling for organic farming to reach 10 per cent of total production by 2005 and 50% by 2020.

Green Party leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said three-year mortgage guarantee programmes should be introduced to give people time to certify a piece of land for organic growing, according to reports in New Zealand’s The Christchurch Press.

However, agricultural groups in New Zealand have said that converting to organic farming would not be profitable because access to European and North American markets is prevented by tariffs designed to protect local producers.

Last week, the Green Party achieved its two election aims of winning the key Coromandel constituency and passing the five per cent threshold.

The victorious Labour-Alliance coalition government will be able to govern largely as a result of the Green Party’s promise to support it on votes of confidence and supply. However, Labour and the Alliance will rely on support from the Greens to get legislation passed when opposed by the National, ACT and New Zealand First parties.

In an editorial, The Christchurch Press hailed the Greens’ election results as a “resurrection”. The Green’s presence in Parliament will mean that the country’s politicians have to take the environmental vote into account in future. As a consequence, all parties are likely to become more eco-friendly, The Christchurch Press said.

New Zealand has a tradition of conservation-minded politics. In 1972, the proto-green Values Party won 5.2 per cent of the vote, but fell into disarray in the 80s.The Green Party won 7 percent of the vote in 1990, and appears to be on its way to reaching that level of popularity again.

Future conflict looms between the Greens and Labour over genetically modified foods. Labour does not want the moratorium on trials and research favoured by the Alliance and the Greens, on the grounds that it “would cost jobs and endanger important research”.

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