Mixed reviews for Bluegreens’ foray into unfamiliar territory

Big-name politicians rarely sighted in the political wilderness of Raglan were among those to learn first-hand about Whaingaroa’s landmark environmental initiatives when the National Party ginger group the Bluegreens held their annual forum here recently.

But while the talkfest applauded Raglan’s efforts and even went on to earn National some brownie points from an unlikely quarter – Greenpeace – it didn’t particularly impress Raglan’s best known environmental activist, who says he found some aspects of the weekend bizarre and ingenuine.

Phil McCabe – who was the face of KASM in its fight against seabed mining – sat in on the Saturday’s proceedings and described ward councillor Lisa Thomson’s welcoming address as “wonderful in expressing Raglan’s deep connection with the environment and the work we’ve done over the years”.

But he felt that Nats leader Simon Bridges’ declaration of caring for the environment and the fact he “wants his grandchildren to be proud of that commitment” quite bizarre considering his support for projects destructive to the ecology when he was energy minister.

As chair of KASM when it repeatedly fought National-supported applications to mine the seabed, Phil reckoned the Bluegreens’ general approach was lacking in real meaning.

He conceded the Bluegreens had a few good ideas and put forward some positive initiatives  – such as a proposed countrywide bottle deposit scheme to address plastic pollution – but believed they revealed a huge blind spot when it came to the impacts of dairy farming, climate change and the degradation of rivers and waterways.

National was looking for fictional future tech fixes for agricultural problems rather than acting now.

Phil was one of a handful of locals who attended the Bluegreens forum, which attracted 130-odd party faithful from all over the country.

While he went along partly to see what exactly the 21-year-old “special interest group” was all about, Xtreme Zero Waste co-founder Rick Thorpe was also there to give a presentation and contribute to a panel discussion in the town hall on the Saturday.

A field trip covering local zero waste sites and facilities followed on the Sunday morning.

Lisa Thomson told the Chronicle it was good to have the Bluegreens meet in our community, a move which was pushed for largely by local MP Barbara Kuriger with the backing of Raglan Chamber of Commerce.

And it  was “pretty amazing”, Lisa said, for Raglan to host top politicians like Simon Bridges, Maggie Barry, Nick Smith, even current Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Greenpeace senior campaign adviser Steve Abel also attended the forum.   

Lisa admitted she took the opportunity to “skite a bit about Raglan” in her opening address.

She stressed locals were pro-active and passionate about the environment, leading the way nationwide with a number of community initiatives from KASM and Xtreme Zero Waste to   Whaingaroa Harbour Care and Plastic Bag Free Raglan.

And she pointed out that in addition to being named the most beautiful small town last year, Raglan also received the highest accolade – the supreme award – in the annual Keep New Zealand Beautiful Awards.

Lisa then told the true story of a local five year old – encouraged to pick up rubbish on the beach – getting upset one day when a plastic bag he was chasing blew away, ending up in the sea.

Visibly distraught, the child asked his mother why nobody around had run and helped.

Lisa asked the forum: “Will we step aside and simply watch the five year old? Or will we run as fast as we can for a better future?”

Edith Symes