Little welcomed to Greens conference
Green Party co-leader James Shaw says its newly forged deal with Labour has been a long time coming, and there's excitement in the air.
"It's really exciting to have Andrew Little with us here today, so it really feels like a very different conference from what we've had in previous years."
Mr Little will today become the first Labour leader to speak at a Green Party annual conference, just days after the two parties signed a formal agreement to work more closely together with the aim of changing the government come 2017.
Mr Shaw says there has been a lot of social media interaction over the last couple of days which has indicated "90 percent strongly in favour" of the deal.
However, he rules out working alongside National in the same way -- a change in position from when he spoke to Paul Henry on Wednesday and wouldn't rule out working with National, saying it was up to the membership.
"Over the course of the last eight years, National has demonstrated that they are either unwilling or unable to tackle the long-term structural challenges in New Zealand society, whether it's jobs, education, health or the environment," he now says.
"We would have seem some sign if they were up for tackling those challenges, and they haven't demonstrated to us that they are either interested in working with us to solve those problems or actually able to do so."
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says Mr Little's presence at the conference demonstrates the two parties are serious about their new relationship status.
"This is step one of the process leading up to the election, but it's an important one," she told NZ Newswire.
"If we are going to be working together to solve the crises that the country faces, the housing crisis and the environmental crisis, then we need to be able to listen to each other and respect each other's views."
Ms Turei isn't expecting any push-back from party members over the memorandum of understanding with Labour.
"Really it's a public statement about the work that we've been doing," she said.
"The party isn't, I think, surprised by it."
This weekend's conference also marks a year since James Shaw was elected to replace Russel Norman as the Greens' male co-leader.
Ms Turei said the party has always dealt well with leadership changes -- and the inevitable transitions that comes with them.
"Our values and principles remain the same, but the way we talk about issues and the people who we are talking to is continually changing," she said.
"It makes us a really nimble and quite vibrant party and I think that's why we keep attracting more and more support.
"James' election last year was part of that, getting Marama Davidson in after Russel retired was another part of that."
Both Mr Little and Mr Shaw will deliver their keynote speeches at the conference in Christchurch today.
Ms Turei will be launching a new environmental campaign tomorrow.
NZN / Newshub.