Former Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons dies

Former Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons has died.

Fitzsimons led the party between 1995 and 2009, much of the time alongside Rod Donald, who died in 2005. 

Fitzsimons was 75. 

She first entered Parliament in 1996 as an MP for the Alliance, of which the Greens were a part. Following the splintering of the Alliance, in 1999 she won the Coromandel seat as a Green Party candidate.

From then she remained in Parliament as a list MP, being first-ranked on the Green list.


Former Green Party candidate and employee Jack McDonald confirmed the news to Newshub on Friday morning.

"I think it's devastating - not just for me, but for everyone who is part of the environmental movement in New Zealand, and a part of the Green Party whanau, and of course everyone who knew Jeanette. 

"My thoughts at this time are with her husband Harry and with her kids and her family." 

Her husband Harry Parke told RNZ the death was totally unexpected.

"Yesterday morning she was fine, out on the farm doing stuff and she had a bit of a fall. Finally ended up in Thames Hospital and she had a massive stroke, and died about a quarter-to-10 last night - very peacefully, I might add."

Parke said just the day before she was using a chainsaw. 

"Jeanette touched so many people during her life and with her work," added McDonald. "She's a pioneer in terms of New Zealand's environmental movement - she was one of the first leading figures campaigning on issues like climate change, environmental protection, on mining, conservation. She really translated that work from an academic perspective into the political realm...

"Before she was there, no one was even talking about climate change in Parliament. Her impact will live on."

When she left Parliament in 2010, she was replaced by Gareth Hughes - but that didn't stop her activism.

Parke said when Greenpeace protesters blockaded an Anadarko oil ship in 2013, she was amongst them.

"She tried to get arrested for that, tried really hard to get arrested for that - but nobody wanted to arrest her, even though she was breaking the law for a whole week." 

Then-Prime Minister John Key called Fitzsimons and other protesters a "rent-a-crowd".

Fitzsimons was an advisor at the University of Otago's Centre for Sustainability until late last year.

Politicians pay respects

Politicians took to social media to pay tribute to Fitzsimons.

"Very sad to hear of the death of Jeanette Fitzsimons, a staunch advocate for social justice and environmental wellbeing," said Labour MP Ruth Dyson. "My sympathy to her family and friends."

Former Labour leader Andrew Little said he was "thinking of the whānau".

"Her environmentalism was never about individualism but based on a recognition the issues facing the planet are so great only collective & state-backed action will make the difference. Rest easy Jeanette." 

National MPs paid tribute too.

"Very sorry to hear of Jeanette’s passing," wrote Scott Simpson. "Always a passionate, energetic and articulate advocate for the environmental principles she held dear and lived by. I’ll miss seeing her around Thames and Coromandel communities. RIP."

"Incredibly sad news this morning about Jeanette Fitzsimons’ passing," said Dan Bidois. "She was a person of incredible integrity and humility. My thoughts are with her family and loved ones at this time."

Christopher Bishop said it was "incredibly sad".

"Had huge respect for Jeanette. She was a fierce yet humble fighter for improving our environment."

"So very sad to hear of the passing of former Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons," said NZ First's Jenny Marcroft. "An inspiring woman who will be deeply missed. Condolences to all her Green Party whanau. Moe mai ra."

NZ First leader Winston Peters praised Fitzsimons as "someone who had her principles and stuck to them".

Former Green MP Mojo Mathers said her heart was "breaking".

"The tears are falling. Jeanette, thank you so much for everything you have done, for standing so staunch and strong for the planet. We will miss you so much."