Corporate Greed Will Destroy Our Planet — Unless We Fight Back

By Elliot Crossan

Greed. It is an all-consuming beast, and it is being unleashed by New Zealand’s new Coalition Government to an unprecedented degree. Luxon, Seymour and Peters are unchaining this monster, casting aside pesky concerns about the climate crisis, about the inequality crisis, or about whether or not the Crown is honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The Fast-track Approvals Bill is the most egregious example to date — the Government is opening up the gates for giant corporations to feast on our land and natural resources.

The capitalist economic system requires constant expansion to survive. Shareholders must see returns on their profits, else the entire economy will seize up, leaving two choices: grow or die. Yet at this stage of human history, to keep growing the system means ever more aggressive exploitation of people and planet; and it means destroying the ecosystems upon which the survival of our species depends.

CEOs, investors and their friends in government do not care. They must maintain their profit margin at all costs. So they are giving up all pretences. The ravenous appetite of capitalism is being unleashed to devour every acre of land it can sink its teeth into. Damn the consequences.

The Fast-track Bill epitomises this reckless greed. Unlike previous fast-track legislation in recent decades, this bill casts aside any purported intentions of guaranteeing environmental protections or properly consulting tangata whenua. Furthermore, the bill overrides almost every piece of existing legislation which aims to protect social and environmental outcomes and uphold Te Tiriti.

Rather than consulting those who will be affected by the projects under review, the bill concentrates all of the power to approve new projects into the hands of just three government ministers. Already, these ministers are being courted by corporate lobbyists — many of whom likely represent the mega-donors who bankrolled the election campaigns which put National, ACT and NZ First into power. After all, the right-wing parties received record-breaking amounts in large donations in 2023.

The same CEOs and shareholders who put the Coalition into power and are pushing for this bill are already preparing the projects they aim to undertake once it is passed into law. Shane Jones is poised to help approve a quarry which will be run by a company that donated $55,000 to NZ First during the election. This process is obscene, and the outcomes will be obscene.

Of course, the most terrifying outcome of this bill will be the effects on the climate, given we live in the last decade in which it is possible to prevent climate collapse. The last thing our ecosystem can endure is yet more greenhouse gases being pumped into the atmosphere, heating up the surface of the planet to a point where vast swathes of earth will become uninhabitable within the lifetimes of today’s young people.

The Fast-track Bill embodies the death throes of New Zealand capitalism and the corporations it empowers, as the greedy hands of the wealthy and powerful grasp for the last scraps Papatūānuku has to offer. No scientific report, no matter how alarming the conclusions or how strong the language, will stop them trying to find every single oil and gas reserve in Aotearoa, in order to drill, burn, power their economy, and pump out profit. It is a horrifying attack on nature, at precisely the point where governments around the world should be taking measures with utmost urgency to prevent climate catastrophe.

As well as jeopardising the future of our people and planet, this bill seeks to expand upon the crimes of the past which created the colonial capitalist state of New Zealand in the first place. The bill fails to even mention the articles or principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and whilst some minimal protections are provided for Māori land returned under Treaty Settlements, no protections are afforded to the over 50 iwi who have not settled with the Crown. This land is not safe from the corporate friends of the coalition in their attempts to further expand the settler-colonial economy.

What the government is declaring is that the corporations who put them into office have given up any pretence of caring about workers or the planet, or about being Treaty partners, in their rampant pursuit of higher returns on investment. Gone are the days of Jacinda Ardern’s “kind” government, when ministers and CEOs would pay lip service to social responsibility and honouring Te Tiriti. Instead, the wealthiest citizens of this country are openly insatiable. Their greed cannot be contained.

The solution to this assault on people, planet and Treaty is not for us to turn to the Labour Party in the hopes that a Labour Government in 2026 will save us. We have just seen where six years of incrementalism landed the country. A coalition in which the Greens and Te Pāti Māori push Labour slightly to the left, delivering slightly more reforms than last term, won’t cut it either. Climate change and inequality were crises last year, just as they are crises this year. Tino Rangatiratanga was not upheld by the Crown last year, just as it is not being upheld this year. What has changed is merely the speed and scale at which corporations are demanding ever-more land and resources to produce their profits and feed their dying system. The nature of the system remains the same — reformist parties tinkering around the edges will not fix that.

Yet looking beyond the parties currently sitting in Parliament, there is cause for hope. The Government is using blitzkrieg tactics in order to try and overwhelm the opposition; to use crises real and imagined to push through unpopular policies before anyone can respond. This strategy relies on one thing: that people do not fight back. That workers and students do not organise. That lightning-quick attacks on social and environmental protections leave activists too disorientated to respond, and that resistance takes too long to mobilise.

We have seen with the Toitū Te Tiriti movement, with workers and disabled people organising against the cuts, and with the Palestine protests condemning the government’s complicity in the Gaza genocide, that tens if not hundreds of thousands of people are willing to take to the streets to fight back against the cruel agenda of National, ACT and NZ First. We saw that again with today’s March for Nature, with more than 20,000 people turning out to oppose the Fast-track Bill. People power is where the potential for real change comes from — not from the existing political establishment. When we stand together, we can stop corporate greed in its tracks, and turn the tide.

The task facing activists in coming months and years is to build movements in the streets and grassroots organisations which will not tolerate the current failing system, whether it is being administered by incrementalist Labour ministers, or by disaster capitalists from National, ACT and NZ First. Nothing less than a genuine transformation of Aotearoa is required if we want to live in a fair, sustainable future. Fossil fuel projects must be halted, not expanded. Te Tiriti must be honoured, not bulldozed. Wealth and power must be taken away from the top 1%, and placed in the hands of the people.

We do not have to stand for inequality, we do not have to stand for colonial rule, we do not have to stand for environmental destruction.

Elliot Crossan is a socialist writer and activist from Auckland. He is the Chair of System Change Aotearoa.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *