Metiria Turei resigns as Green co-leader

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei has announced she's stepping down from her leadership role and will retire from politics at the election.

Ms Turei said her admission of benefit fraud had put her family under "extreme scrutiny" and it led to her making the decision to resign on Wednesday evening.

"The scrutiny of my family has become unbearable, frankly. They don't deserve the degree of scrutiny that they have suffered from and I have a duty to them to protect them from that. That is my first duty and always has been."

The Greens will elect a new woman co-leader at its AGM next year. That means James Shaw will be the sole leader taking the party into the election.

Ms Turei will no longer be on the party's list but will be campaigning in the Te Tai Tonga electorate, which Labour won convincingly at the last election. 

Her resignation comes after Green MPs Kennedy Graham and David Clendon quit the party caucus on Tuesday in protest after her admission of benefit fraud and the subsequent fallout.

Ms Turei says she had the confidence of her caucus, but her personal story was getting in the way of the Green Party's ability to communicate its key messages.

"If I continue as co-leader I will hinder the success of the kaupapa, and the kaupapa is to change this Government and make the sure the Greens are at the very heart of that Government. That is what I've been working for fifteen years for…I will do anything that's necessary to bring that about."

Mr Shaw said he didn't ask Ms Turei to resign but he supported her decision to do so for her family.

"I've supported all of the decisions that she has made on this campaign including this one."

Both of them said they didn't regret Ms Turei's admission of benefit fraud, and nor did the rest of the remaining caucus MPs.

"We knew that this was a risk to Metiria personally and that we were taking a risk to the campaign, but we felt that that risk was worth it," Mr Shaw said. 

Mr Shaw said he was deeply moved by the sacrifice Ms Turei had made to start a conversation about poverty in New Zealand that "made people uncomfortable, including people in our own party". 

"I'd like to pay tribute to Metiria for all the work that she has done in her time as co-leader. For the battles that she has fought, for the sacrifices she has made, and for the lives that she has changed. The Green party thanks you, the people of New Zealand who care about social and environmental justice thank you, and I thank you." 

"Enormous contribution to politics" - Ardern

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has paid tribute Ms Turei and her "enormous contribution" to politics.

"In my nine years in Parliament I have seen MPs from almost all parties resign under tough circumstances," Ms Ardern said.

"Behind almost every single one has been a history of working hard and championing the people they have represented.

"We have worked together both as Parliamentary colleagues and also as members of our respective senior leadership teams. Metiria has always had a steadfast commitment to social justice, especially championing the rights of children, and changing the Government – a challenge I know we will both remain focused on."