There are two major environmental crises hanging over Southland at the moment. The most pressing is the potential "flipping" of the Waituna Lagoon, where serious environmental degradation is occurring as I write, and the second is the large scale, opencast lignite mining proposed for the Mataura valley.
Both situations have been marked by huge indifference from the National led government who see the profits gained from dairying and the potential lignite derived products as more important than what is environmentally sustainable. The Labour Party has been largely missing in action over these issues, with a track record of not making strong stands unless they think they will be publicly supported. An example of how Labour operate was seen during the popular campaign against mining in national parks. The Green Party had an anti-mining petition and major campaign in action over over several months before Labour picked up on it and replicated the campaign as if it was their own idea.
The Greens appear to be the only party prepared to make a principled stand on issues even if the solutions are difficult and unpalatable to some potential voters. Russel Norman was prepared to face up to local farmers with the hard truth that restricting stock numbers was the only immediate solution to saving the Waituna Lagoon and Gareth Hughes was the first MP to meet with locals with real concerns about the lignite proposals and offer support.
A previous Green Party slogan stated "some things are bigger than politics"......so true!