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New faces move Greens away from political cliché

Nov 23rd, 2011 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

MUCH HAS been made of the Green party’s move into more centrist ground, but voters may still be surprised at the diversity of some of its candidates.

Two prime examples are first-time candidates, James Shaw and Tane Woodley.

James and Tane are standing for Wellington Central and Rimutaka, respectively.

They are both 30-something men with an interest in developing sound, environmentally-sustainable policies, but outwardly, that’s where the similarity ends: James is a businessman, while Tane is Major Woodley in the New Zealand Defence Force.

However, they both say there was never any doubt which party they would join once the decision to become politically active had been made. 

SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS: James Shaw - ”Am I making the biggest difference I can make?”

James (right) grew up in Wellington and says his interest in politics and the environment began when he was 12 years old.

“The starting point was the Rainbow Warrior. Being raised by a single mother who was also a teacher helped, but this was the moment that really made me conscious.”

On leaving high school he volunteered for the newly-founded Green party and enrolled at Victoria University to study political economics and world religion.

Involvement with AIESEC, a student-run exchange programme, led to a role in Belgium, and from there an internship with Price Waterhouse in London.

After working with a friend on a paper recommending some sustainability options, he was surprised to be handed the job of designing and heading the sustainability programme for the newly-merged PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

“Hardly any of the big businesses were doing this then so there were no guidelines, we had to make it up as we went along,” he says.

However, while studying for his masters’ degree at the University of Bath in 2005, he felt the business world couldn’t keep up with his desire to create truly sustainable business practice.

“The private sector can’t, of its own volition, make fast enough changes to meet changing global conditions. Companies who are truly motivated get held back by shareholders who choose cheaper business practices and a quick pay-out, rather than more costly sustainable practices, which take time to create a profit.”

He set up his consultancy business Future Considerations Ltd and got involved with the Green party again, helping to set up a London branch in 2007.

In 2008 he ran as a list member, campaigning for the votes of ex-pat New Zealanders.
In 2009 he moved back to New Zealand and started the job of raising his profile, both within the party and around the Wellington Central electorate.

Green party national administrator Michael Pringle says he thinks James has found his political home with the Greens.

“He’s an incredibly intelligent person and has thought about the things we stand for. He’s committed to the major issues.”

When asked what James brings to the party, Michael says his strengths lie in his communications skills and his leadership potential.

“I think he would be an asset to our caucus. He has very good political antennae and he’s unflappable. In a stressful situation he sticks to the point rather than getting combative.”

Tane Woodley

Tane Woodley “The issues we campaign on effect everybody. We need to communicate that.”

Tane grew up in the Hutt Valley, initially in a state house in Avalon, but later in Pomare where his parents bought their first home.

He says he wanted to be a soldier from the age of five, so worked to get an A bursary and joined the army straight out of school in 1990.

He wasn’t put off by the discovery that army life wasn’t exactly the way he imagined it as a boy.

“It’s funny, on the recruiting ads it’s full of vehicles driving across country and guns and explosions. There’s a bit of that, but there’s also lots of sweeping and ironing.”

He worked his way through the ranks, gaining a Bachelor of Arts in history and spending time at the Royal Military College at Duntroon for officer training.

His time in the regular force culminated in 2000 with an operational tour in Timor as part of New Zealand’s peacekeeping presence.

By 2001 he was feeling the need to travel further afield.

“I wanted to see parts of the world that weren’t battered and bruised – war zones,” he says.

He left the army and with his partner Lisa spent 18 months working and travelling in Ireland and England.

On their return he decided not to go back into the regular army, but instead joined the Territorial Force.

He was still interested in logistics and planning so looked for employment that built on his existing knowledge.

His roles included a four-month contract with the Ministry of Health working on a flu-pandemic exercise, and a placement with Civil Defence, where he has remained.

During this period he also got his masters’ degree in international relations and started to develop his interest in society and the environment.

“My logistics background made me realise that peak oil was a real and significant threat,” he says.

“In army logistics you think in terms of supply chains. The Weet-Bix on your plate has to come through a shop via a transport network, via a manufacturing plant, via other transport networks, which bring all of the ingredients to the plant.

“Everything’s integrated, everything’s linked. Peak oil threatens to start ripping those links apart.”

In 2005 the Green party was the first to start talking about peak oil and the need for society to speed up efforts to develop alternative energy sources.

“When the Greens came out and said we take it as a serious threat and we need to do something about it, I realised the easiest thing for me to do is work with an established party. I agree with pretty much the whole Green philosophy anyway.”

He feels the transition of the Greens from radical foundations to a party with broader representation is important.

“If we want to be a party with more than six per cent of the vote, we need to communicate with middle-class suburban voters.

Green party national administrator Michael Pringle agrees, saying Tane is a dedicated and sincere candidate who reflects a large section of society.

“He’s part of the generation dealing with the current economic climate – meeting the challenges of supporting a family, paying the mortgage.”

He feels Tane’s experience in the army and his academic achievements are assets to the party.

“The army teaches transferrable skills such as leadership and teamwork. And there’s an understanding in foreign affairs – where New Zealand fits into the geo-political spectrum.”

Overall we shouldn’t be surprised that people like Tane and James are people are taking an interest in environmental politics, he says.

“The issues are enormous and becoming mainstream. We’re getting warnings from around the world, so it’s not surprising to see them stepping into the Greens, they see us as having solutions.”

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