Case Study: Green Party, Aotearoa New Zealand

The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand was founded in 1990 in order to advance progressive environmental policies and participatory democracy. The Green Party grew out of New Zealand’s Values Party, which was the world’s first national-level environmental party. The Green Party’s core values of the party are at the intersection of environmental, social, and indigenous justice, and it has shown an ability to both advance a comprehensive platform and mobilize young supporters. 


New Zealand’s Green Party faces important obstacles, including financial constraints, lack of media coverage, dependence on time-constrained volunteers, and disillusionment and lack of civic education of young voters. It also faces significant difficulties in attracting a large vote share, as over 80% of voters regularly support one of the two largest parties. As a result, the Green Party has had to strategize ways to appeal to and mobilize a distinct base of supporters. 


Given the popularity of the Greens’ progressive environmental and social platforms among youth, the Party has made mobilizing young people a key priority. It has done this in three primary ways. First, it has adopted a programmatic flexibility on environmental issues, which enabled them to capture environmentally-minded voters from across  the left-right axis. It achieved this, for example, by proposing to cut taxes on businesses and individuals by raising taxes on carbon emitters. Secondly, the party adopted a youth-to-youth campaigning strategy, where youth supporters appeal to their peers. The Green party has strategically channeled campaigns through pre-existing youth networks, mostly via social media and messaging services. By working through peer networks built on trust and friendship, the Green Party has seen significant mobilization among young people, especially on university campuses. Finally, the Green Party has institutionalized youth involvement in the policymaking process. One important space of intergenerational deliberation is the Policy Area Standing Committees  (P.A.S.C.), a policy formulation branch of the party where all members can put forward policy recommendations. Since Young Greens hold half of the seats on these committees, they have significant influence. Additionally, the party consults its youth supporters on issues relevant to them, including university tuition. 


These youth mobilization strategies have contributed to the Greens’ sizable vote share, which is often around 10% of the national vote. The Green Party is currently a coalition partner in the national government. However, these youth mobilization strategies are not without tradeoffs. For one, the  Young Greens pull the party into a more progressive direction, which may isolate more centrist voters. Moreover, policy deliberation does not always happen without conflict. Internal frictions may arise if the main party does not adopt policies the Young Greens have advocated for, as has sometimes been the case. 
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