Meet the Green Taskforce

Have you posted your voting papers yet? One more day to go – see how your candidates rank on climate change.

Robert Gibb is one of the founders and co-leaders of the Green Taskforce, active out of the All Saints’ Parish in Palmerston North. The Green Taskforce have distributed the Common Climate Network questionnaire to candidates running for Palmerston North City Council, Horizons Regional Council, and also to Mayoral candidates for councils in the Horizons region.

What activity is the Green Taskforce carrying out for the local government elections?

We are running three Meet the Candidate meetings for Palmerston North’s Mayoral, City and Regional Council candidates and livestreaming them through Facebook so that people who can’t attend on the day can still hear their candidates speak. We have also orchestrated the CCN/GenZero scorecard for candidates in the region.

Why do you think it’s important to do that?

In Palmerston North in particular the City Council has stepped away from organising meetings or even hosting a calendar of meetings on their website, so we decided to step in and run candidate meetings.

Horizons’ local candidates have only had one other opportunity so far for the public to meet them all. Meeting candidates is a critical part of the democratic process, not only for what they say but for people to assess their character which is a crucial  part of making choices about candidates.

Green Taskforce members are passionate about the environmental and climate crises that we face, and we saw the CCN/GenZero questionnaire as an ideal way of letting people know where candidates stand on the wide set of issues that will have to be addressed with considerable urgency for us to pull back from the brink.

What council/organisation are you covering? (city/district)

Palmerston North City, Horizons Region, and we also canvassed the mayoral candidates for all the District Councils that Horizons will need to collaborate closely with in the coming term.

What results are you seeing?  

We were very pleased overall to get 2/3rds response rate from 69 candidates in such a detailed survey… so that was excellent. Also very encouraging is the number of candidates with high scores who demonstrate very thorough understanding of the urgency and complexity of the issues.

We have also had access to the SS4C/XR simple pledges that have been sent to all candidates in all the DCs and not just their mayoral candidates, and less encouraging is the correlation in lack of engagement in councillors in districts where their mayors didn’t respond either.  But it is early days for the pledges, because it hasn’t been open long and it is staying open throughout the election.

How do you think we can encourage more people to vote, especially young people?

I think it will be critical to take advantage of the momentum of the SS4C movement following the march last Friday, and align the call to march with a call to vote. We are certainly working with our local SS4C leaders to achieve just this. Massey University’s announcement that they would support students and staff to strike was also a great example.

Do you know of any other groups doing similar activities in your area or other areas?

I’ve already mentioned the SS4C/XR pledge, In addition to that Manawatu Public Radio has been running candidate debates and I heard today that Massey University Students Association is planning events too.

What’s your role in the Green Taskforce?

Green Taskforce is a small but very active team, and three of us, Barbara Arnold, Keith Young and I are close friends, recently retired and between us have experience as scientists, science educators, conservation board membership, National Council of Women leadership and JP leadership, are effectively joint informal leaders.

We also have excellent support from the Parish’s vestry, and the ordained staff – Rev. John Hornblow is an ex-Councillor and deputy Mayor, and Rev Andy Hickman is forthright in social justice issues and took a leading role for instance in protesting Weapons Expo last year in Palmerston North, and this year very publicly standing beside our Muslim community following the Christchurch attack.

How long have you been involved and why did you get involved?

My father was one of the grandfathers of NZ’s ecologists and was Director of DSIR Ecology Division in the 60s-70s, and my mother was an activist in social issues through into her 80s, and my career was as an environmental scientist with the CRI Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research.

So the themes of love of the environment, and activism have been with me throughout my life. Green Taskforce emerged about three years ago out of one of All Saint’s Sunday congregations, more or less as the core three of us were retiring, and the idea was strongly supported and encouraged by John Hornblow and others. 

We started by leading occasional services, and encouraging tree planting – Keith is a leader of the local branch of A Rocha, who are very active as volunteers running a native plant nursery and providing seedlings for native tree planting to council.

Two years ago, Wellington Diocese lead by Bishop Justin called for climate action by all Parishes and appointed a climate response coordinator, so we then were part of a wider pan-Wellington regional network, and have run training the occasional sessions for leaders in other parishes.  Last year when Council’s 10yr plans came up for submissions, we decided to step up, and we have continued to challenge them whenever we felt they needed it. We did it again with the ZCB.


Author: Catherine Jeffcoat

Wellington-based communications manager.

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