18 Jan 2008
A valuable lesson from the Values Party
I have been brushing up on my Green Party history and was interested to find this:
Values was one of the first Green Parties in New Zealand in the 1970s...it nearly fell apart after very radical party decentralization proposed by Guy Salmon.
The story is taken up below
Not only did Salmon cease forthwith to participate in the Values Party, he then quickly
switched his political allegiance. The non-executive ‘National Secretariat’ set up in line with his re-organisation proposal consisted of one woman, Cathy Wilson. In the second newsletter which she sent out after the conference, she noted that ‘...Guy Salmon, prominent at the 1973 national conference and the originator of the plan to do away with a national leader, has been elected to the executive of the youth-oriented National Party "ginger group", Pol-Link...’(Linkletter No. 2, 1973, 5).
Within two years of this about-face Salmon had obtained a position as the first full-time paid employee of the Native Forest Action Council, an executive and leadership role which he has retained for over twenty years. He carried it on into the Maruia Society that was formed from a merger of NFAC and the Environmental Defence Society. During this time he has acted as a consultant and contributor to New Right societies and think tanks, including the Mont Pelerin Society and the Tasman Institute. In 1995 he became a founder and leader of the Progressive Greens party, which contested the 1996 general election with a ‘more market’ approach to solving environmental and social problems. With a small list and no constituency candidates it won 0.24% of the vote.
Given the tenor of Salmon’s post-Values career it is reasonable to ask whether his proposal to the 1973 conference was a deliberate (and very clever) attempt at sabotaging the new political party. Alternatively, it may merely have represented the terminal point of a very brief left/green phase in his political development.
So from anarchist decentralist to libertarian or something more sinister:
By far Timberlands' greatest public relations asset, though, was Maruia Society executive director Guy Salmon. Previously called the Native Forest Action Council (NFAC), the Maruia Society was New Zealand's most active environmental organization during the period from 1975 to 1985. Throughout this period, Salmon's conservativism led to conflicts with many of the group's active members. By the late 1980s, other environmental groups had become dominant, and shrinking membership forced the Maruia Society to close many of its branches.
In the 1990s, Maruia's principal activity consisted of lobbying and writing by Salmon, who traveled to the United States in 1989 and returned enthusiastic about "third wave" environmentalism. This was the idea that, rather than opposing environmentally damaging activities, environmentalists needed to work closely with companies so that they would improve their development plans voluntarily. Instead of relying on environmental regulations developed by the state, "third wave" environmentalists argued that sustainability should be achieved by harnessing "market mechanisms."
Salmon put this theory into practice by habitually taking the side of Timberlands whenever the issue of West Coast native forest logging arose. Timberlands devoted a separate section of its 1994 PR strategy to Salmon and the Maruia Society, based on an aggressive "direct enviro approach" rather than the "bridge-building" approach designed for groups like the WWF. Timberlands realized that Salmon's belief in collaboration with industry could be used to attack the philosophy of other environmentalists.
"When appropriate," the strategy went, "initiate direct contact for discussion on the overall environmental debate, its direction and its future (Maruia). Audience: Guy Salmon and similar thinkers." They were the "future," in Timberland's eyes, because environment groups that opposed rainforest logging were outmoded. The only real environmental issues worth discussing concerned not whether, but how to proceed with the logging. Ironically, the Maruia Society had been named after the Maruia Valley which, thanks to its outstanding beech forests, was where Timberlands planned to begin its beech logging scheme.
By 1997, however, the "outmoded" environmental campaign to protect the forests grew to a point where they threatened the company's beech logging plans. In September 1998, the new logging plans were leaked to environmental groups, released to journalists and publicly condemned by opposition party leaders. Guy Salmon immediately approached Simon Towle of the WWF and suggested they issue a joint news release, which was sent out the same evening.
The release stated that Timberlands' proposals for sustainable "harvesting" of beech forests should be given "serious and open-minded consideration." Borrowing industry phraseology, it characterized the plans as "a very sincere and impressive effort to achieve very low impact sustainable management of the forest. . . . The two groups also noted that Timberlands had made a significant contribution to scientific research into the conservation of endangered species such as kokako and kiwi, and into control of major pests such as stoats."
Predictably, the news release was reported as an indicator of divisions within the environment movement. "Environment groups are split over proposals to log native beech forests on the West Coast," reported one newspaper. From here.