Green MP David Clendon may not have the media presence of some of our other MPs but this does not accurately reflect the work he does on behalf of the party or the impact he is having in his portfolios. I had the pleasure of spending a day with him in Invercargill as he negotiated some searching questions from a journalism class, gave TV and newspaper interviews, talked with a local business advisor and facilitated a small business meeting.
David has an excellent understanding of his portfolios, a good grasp of wider political issues and has a thoughtful and thorough way of answering questions and managing meetings. He even impressed a local right wing blogger who once declared that he would rather do unmentionable things to himself with a blender than go near a Green MP. The fact that David has successfully managed his own business and is also an educator means that he is one of those people who makes a lie of the old adage "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach."
David's visit to Invercargill was part of his new initiative to promote sustainable business solutions for small businesses around the country. He explained in his interviews, and at the beginning of the meeting, how small and medium sized businesses are crucial to our economy; they employ 31% of our workforce, generate 40% of value added production and make up 97% of all enterprises. Their importance was further emphasised when David suggested that if all small businesses employed one extra person, our unemployment figures would cease to be a problem.
Although David has many years of experience in advising businesses he didn't want the meetings to be a lecture from himself but showcase real success stories and celebrate local solutions. His first meeting was in held Dunedin where a range of businesses shared their experiences, from a small psychriatric hospital to someone who recycled demolition materials. In Invercargill we heard from a manager of a large hotel complex and a medical specialist who was in the process of setting up a private practice. In all cases these businesses found a focus on sustainability meant huge cost savings and greater productivity.
I found the presentation from the hotel manager very compelling because he colourfully explained his sustainability journey as a non 'Greenie', hunting and fishing, kiwi bloke. He had started as a skeptic but found the more he explored the philosophy of sustainability and tested new ideas and approaches, the more convinced he became that it was the right way to go. He was able to dramatically cut costs, improve staff morale and loyalty and generate new business that wouldn't have been possible before. The fact that his hotel is Invercargill's largest, and continues to be the flagship of the Invercargill Licensing Trust validated his approach. He concluded his presentation by saying "I'm still not a 'Greenie' but I think our country needs to be greener".
The last time David Clendon visited Invercargill was for our Green policy conference earlier in the year and, as a keen motorcyclist, he had his first experience of the motorcyclist's mecca - Hayes Hardware Store (the resting place of Bert Munro's Indian motorcycle). As we parted company, at the end of a highly successful day, David declared that sometime in the future he wanted to ride down from his home in Kerikeri and take part in the Burt Munro Rally.