Jeanette Fitzsimons' death: Current Green Party co-leaders pay tribute

The current co-leaders of the Green Party have paid tribute to Jeanette Fitzsimons, who died on Thursday night at the age of 75.

Fitzsimons was the party's first-ever female co-leader, elected alongside the late Rod Donald in 1995. She held the role for 14 years, leading the party from the political fringes into Parliament.

She died on Thursday after a fall and a stroke, her husband Harry Parke told RNZ on Friday morning.

"I would like to first and foremost pass on my deepest condolences to Harry, Jeanette’s children and their grandchildren," current female co-leader Marama Davdison said.

"We have a deep amount of love for her and her family. People across the country and the world will be feeling the loss as we all are."

Male co-leader James Shaw said he first met Fitzsimons in 1990, before the Green Party even had formal leaders.

"Jeanette was to me the person who embodied the different style of politics that the Greens have always stood for. She was never about personality politics, she was driven by what was the right thing to do."

Shaw said Fitzsimons showed respect to everyone "no matter their politics", and that is being reflected in tributes from across the political spectrum.

National's Chris Bishop said she was a "fierce yet humble fighter for improving our environment", leader Simon Bridges said she was a "passionate advocate for the environment" and NZ First leader Winston Peters said she "had her principles and stuck to them". 

Davidson said she last spoke to Fitzsimons in February at her organic farm near Thames.

"That felt special then, but really special now. She is what I've called a taonga of the green movement, to me she feels like a bastion of what we believe in, and a signpost for what we want for this world."

James Shaw and Marama Davidson.
James Shaw and Marama Davidson. Photo credit: Getty

Fitzsimons was active to the end, Parke telling RNZ she was using chainsaws and working on the farm just this week. 

 "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."

Fitzsimons stepped down in 2010, and was succeeded by Metiria Turei. Donald died in 2005, and was succeeded by Russel Norman, now executive director at Greenpeace.

"Jeanette Fitzsimons was a passionate, committed and smart fighter for planet and people," Dr Norman tweeted.

"She realised early about the ecological crisis and acted on it. I was lucky to have worked alongside her and will miss her. Love to Harry and the family."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also sent her condolences, calling Fitzsimons a "steward of the New Zealand environmental political movement".

"During her 14 years in parliament she was an early voice for action on issues now considered mainstream like climate change, the deteriorating state of our water and clean energy," said Ardern.

"Jeanette once polled as the most trustworthy party leader in New Zealand, a fitting endorsement of her kind, caring and passionate brand of politics. My thoughts are with Jeanette's husband Harry, her children, grandchildren and her friends in politics and the wider green movement."

 

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