A green partner for the Nats looks unlikely as Sustainable NZ’s sustainability is tested

The Sustainable New Zealand Party is struggling to demonstrate it has enough political sustainability to last until the election campaign heats up later this year.  Within just a few months media attention has turned from its founding to its foundering.

The New Zealand Herald seems not to have caught up with the foundering bit of the fledgling party’s brief existence (at least, we found no up-to-date report in a quick Google search).  But on November 10 last year it did report on the party’s  establishment under the heading Sustainable NZ Party launches with promise to boost conservation spending by $1 billion.

The party is led by Vernon Tava, a former Green Party member who unsuccessfully stood as co- leader in 2015 against James Shaw, arguing that the party should declare its willingness to partner Labour or National in government.

According to the New Zealand Herald, Tava then said his party would put the environment first.

“A true sustainability-based party can work with either of the major parties to get the best deal for the environment. We are that party.”

He said the party would work with rather than against farmers and industry.

The party was pro-progress, pro-technology and pro-science.


He described the party as a “full-time environment party”.

“Until now, if you had wanted to vote for the environment, you have had to support a party that has been a clearing-house for New Zealand’s left-of-Labour activist movements, often putting social justice ahead of protecting the environment.”

Tava has endorsed the use of gene technology to help reduce predators and promised to boost Conservation funding by $1 billion over four years in a bid to halt the extinction of native species (he can sniff out a trough and said the funding could come from New Zealand First’s $3 billion provincial growth fund).

But the Nats shouldn’t count on Tava and his team in its plans to unseat the Labour-led coalition.

Political commentator Peter Wilson recently observed on the RNZ website:  

National is very strong in opposition, with more seats than Labour, but apart from ACT it has no friends and isn’t likely to find any. Bridges talks vaguely about “parties outside Parliament”, perhaps thinking of Vernon Tava’s sustainable New Zealand party, but the chances any newcomers making it are close to zero as Gareth Morgan’s Opportunities Party showed us last election.

Newsroom political editor Sam Sachdeva has been looking more closely and more recently at Sustainable New Zealand.  He reports it has been hit by resignations and allegations of “questionable conduct” (which suggests it has decided it should behave the same way as the parties that are already represented in Parliament).

Since its launch the party has struggled to find any traction and has failed to register in any public polling to date, Sachdevalast wrote.

With the September 19 election fast approaching, Tava and the party are now contending with a number of resignations by party officials since the new year.

In a February 15 letter announcing her resignation with immediate effect, a copy of which has been obtained by Newsroom, Cartwright [former party secretary and board chair Helen Cartwright said her position within the party had become untenable.

“My voice as party secretary and board chair is vastly ignored by my fellow board members.”

In the letter, Cartwright outlined key problems facing the party, which she did not believe could be resolved “in a way that makes us fit for Parliament, nor a suitable collation [sic] partner for the left or the right.

“This is the truth of our current position: We have no policy. We have no profile. We have no money. We operate with no regard or reference to our constitution and rules … We do not have a bona fide party leader nor a legitimate board.”

Cartwright said she had “poured in thousands of hours and thousands of dollars” working for the party, but felt she had no choice but to leave her roles.

“I am a lifelong entrepreneur and the skill of staying alive in my profession is to be able to see an opportunity and commercialise it, but this must be combined with the ability to spot a fast fail and exit it.”

Sachdevalast further notes the party’s treasurer, Alethea Baldwin, also resigned her position in January, citing difficulties in fulfilling her obligations regarding scrutiny of party expenses.

Sustainable New Zealand’s national volunteer coordinator and youth wing leader have also left the party in recent weeks.

Tava has challenged the claims in Cartwright’s letter.

Other reports of Sustainable New Zealand’s troubles are reported

Yet another party’s facing a political financing scandal and this time it’s Sustainable NZ – a would-be coalition partner for National.

The party’s former secretary Helen Cartwright has told Newshub she was asked to doctor membership records so the party could be registered.

  • And (acknowledging its Newsroom source) by Stuff

Fledgling political party Sustainable New Zealand has been rocked by a flurry of resignations and allegations of questionable behaviour by its leader, Newsroom can reveal.

One of the departees, former party secretary and board chair Helen Cartwright, has criticised the party’s lack of profile, policy and money, likening the nascent organisation to “a fast fail”

Another tidbit of information came from the BFD blog, which said the party is known by some as “Murray McCully’s astroturf party”.

Indeed, the Daily Blog in October last year mentioned mentioned the Sustainability Party ahead of the launch of Sustainable New Zealand in an examination of the country’s political landscape a year ahead of the 2020 general election.

The Daily Blog described it  as “an astroturf Party” built by National not to get over 5% themselves, but to drag the real Greens under 5%

Its strategy and tactics (according to this analysis) were simply to attack the Greens relentlessly – and Tava would be rewarded with some plum conservation job if National won. We trust he has a good day job.

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