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Wade-Brown eyes up the numbers

It’s all eyes on Budget 2024 for local list MP Celia Wade-Brown and her Green colleagues following the party’s State of the Planet conference earlier this month, which included speeches by co-leaders Marama Davidson and Chlöe Swarbrick.

But in a conversation with the Times-Age, Wade-Brown expressed little hope that this year’s financial blueprint will address her party’s hot topics: climate change, affordable housing, and funding teachers, doctors, and nurses.

“All of the signs are that there will not be help for people renting houses and that there will be more help at the landlord end of the scale,” she said.

“We’ve already seen that school lunches are being cut to the bone. We’ve seen the doctor strikes. It’s not only the money, it’s the hours they work that put themselves and their patients at risk. I’d be surprised if there were more money for that.”

On the big-ticket subject of climate change, Wade-Brown was equally pessimistic.

“The prime minister talks the right words about climate change, but we’ve just seen projects rolled back,” she said. “Climate change is not something abstract in the future. It is today.”

The Green Party’s response to a government headed by what Swarbrick called in her speech “three men [who] gaslight us with more oil, gas, and coal” is to amplify the message that the voting public has a “choice” – in fact, Davidson and Swarbrick used the words “choice” and “choose” 16 times to urge the party faithful to use their voices and actions to drive policy and political change.

And it’s a message Wade-Brown wholly endorses.

“It’s very much a political choice as to whether we give tax cuts to landlords or whether we fund nurses, doctors, and teachers properly,” she said.

“It’s a political choice whether we have more solar power and batteries, making rural communities resilient, or whether we open coal mines.”

Asked about people in Wairarapa who share the Greens’ concerns over the current suite of policies being promoted by the coalition government, Wade-Brown encouraged them not to “give up”.

“Whether it’s writing to the local paper, whether it’s submitting on a resource consent, whether it’s demonstrating in the streets – there are opportunities to be heard.”

Two areas of focus with local implications for Wade-Brown are the Local Electoral [Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies] Amendment Bill, which was recently introduced to parliament, and potential cuts to funding for the Predator Free 2050 initiative. for which she is the Green Party spokesperson.

Wade-Brown said she will be arguing “very strongly to keep Maori wards” in Masterton and South Wairarapa districts in the face of the new bill, which will require those councils to hold binding referendums on Māori Wards.

“They are an important way for the Maori voice to be heard.”

Signs that funding for Predator Free 2050 may be cut in the upcoming Budget are also giving Wade-Brown cause for concern.

“Whether it’s farmers or people living in towns, there’s a lot of work going on to rid the country of stoats and rats and weasels and possums, and it would be tragic if that progress were undercut by no funding for Predator Free 20250,” she said.

“There is a lot of volunteer work, but it needs to be supported by funding for actually getting the traps on the ground.”

On two topics, however, Wade-Brown would not be drawn.

Asked to comment on the impact of instances of intimidatory behaviour by colleague Julie Ann Genter and the suspension of Darleen Tanaamid allegations of migrant exploitation against her husband’s company on her party’s reputation, Wade-Brown instead pointed to the Greens’ current focus.

“Our team is very focused on what makes a difference to people, to their housing, and better conditions for rental renters, and for nature care and for people. That’s our priority, and it’s a good team.”

It was a similar response to questions on the issue of free speech, particularly in relation to the war in Gaza, and accusations that the views on the conflict of some Green MPs, Swarbrick in particular, are anti-Semitic.

“Our priorities in the State of the Planet speech were very much about people’s everyday lives and climate change and the political choices that are being made in this country for people in this country. Of course, we absolutely decry the violence and tragedy that’s unfolding in Gaza, and the Ukraine and Darfur and many other countries.”

Just over five months into her tenure as a Green list MP, following Golriz Ghahraman’s resignation, Wade-Brown said she is “enjoying” the experience, particularly her role on the governance and administration select committee.

“It’s a great honour to be there. There’s a lot to learn. I’m enjoying learning how to lodge questions, working on written questions and oral questions – all those tools of democracy – that I can use to do my best to hold this government to account and show that there are different political choices to be made.”

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