The summer break is usually a good time for the Greens. People have been away from work, with time to think about more than the daily grind. They go to the beach and maybe reflect on the lack of kai moana (sea food) or whether there is faeces in the water. That will be cold comfort to the Green Party this year. Some people won big when National took the election (or at least felt satisfaction at sticking it to Labour) but it looks like the environment will be the big loser.
The same cannot be said for Maori. John Key met tribal leaders immediately after the election and invited the Maori Party to talk. It was an astute move to pull ACT's teeth, but it also reflects a generational attitude shift. There are great risks, for both sides, but it is already paying off, with two Maori Party ministers and a new focus on Treaty settlements. This would never have happened under Labour. In return, John Key has had the doors to te ao Maori opened to him, as evidenced at Pukawa Marae.
Did the Maori Party get only the shiny wrappings of power and no actual presents, as some suggest? Their relationship agreement contains few policy points. The Greens' experience with Labour suggests everything needs to be in writing and signed in blood. Even then Labour would claw it back. Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia may find it hard to deliver much, if National plays the same game. Yet their agreement starts with the importance of the relationship. In the end it will be about whether Mr Key, and his Cabinet, is serious about that.
There is no relationship for the Greens, however. National has already got rid of the biofuel obligation on petrol companies, and new green investments and jobs have disappeared as a result. The Government's position on climate change is dangerously myopic. ACT (always critical when other people waste money) has demanded a special select committee, hoping to challenge the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its thousands of scientists. The result of this farce: business uncertainty, investments cancelled and valuable time wasted.
National itself is treating climate change negotiations like a trade negotiation, trying to get sweet deals and special favours for New Zealand. These are not trade negotiations. They are an attempt to co-ordinate an international effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, for the good of all people (actually all species) now and for the foreseeable future.
But then National is not an environmental party. It is the Green Party's job to influence governments on the issues that count and why would National listen to them? The Greens made it very clear in the election campaign that they were not interested in talking to National.
I thought at the time that it was an extraordinarily stupid thing to do, to fasten your lifeboat to a sinking ship. Greens do best when there is an outgoing Labour Government, but this election the results were disappointing. The Green Party might well have won their biggest caucus yet, if they had been prepared to stop licking Labour's hand.
There is a question of whether National would have paid any attention to them anyway. Senior National MPs were privately hinting so early last year and Mr Key's approach to the Maori Party indicates a new openness. There was never a better time for the Greens to see if they could forge a new political space, genuinely independent of Labour and National. Unfortunately for us all, they lacked the courage to try.