Green co-leader James Shaw refused to sign-off on $3bn of infrastructure projects unless Green School was included

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

Newshub can reveal just how hard Green Party co-leader James Shaw advocated for the $11.7 million promised to the privately-owned Green School in Taranaki.

The Green School was one of 150 projects getting a piece of a $3 billion pie - the shovel-ready infrastructure fund - and Shaw was willing to put them all at risk.

Newshub has obtained an email that went to Government ministers and the Treasury from Shaw's office and it included a stark ultimatum.

"Minister Shaw won't sign this briefing until the Green School in Taranaki is incorporated."

The email said Shaw discussed the ultimatum with the Education Minister. 

"Minister Shaw has also discussed this one with Minister Hipkins.

"Sorry to be the spanner-in-the-works, but if we can get the project included, he'll sign everything this afternoon," the email said.

Shaw said on Tuesday he is sorry.

"The decision I made to support this project was an error of judgment, for which I apologise," he said. "I apologise to parents, teachers and unions. I apologise to Green Party members who have been working tirelessly in their communities to make sure the Greens are part of the next Government."

But that's where sorry may not cut it. Their tireless work could be for naught. Shaw's funding fudge-up could be the death knell for the Greens next term.

Newshub asked Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson if she recognised that it may have jeopardised the Greens' chances of returning to Parliament.

"It's very clear, there's no denying that already we were hovering around 5 percent," she said.

The Greens were on 5.7 percent in the last Newshub-Reid Research Poll and they need 5 percent to get back into Parliament.

"It's no secret that we are sort of hovering at around the 5 percent threshold," Shaw said. "So it is a risk and I understand that."

When Newshub asked the Prime Minister how concerned she is that the Greens might not make it back into Parliament, Jacinda Ardern said she is "just not of that view".

The Greens' other Government partner New Zealand First was less generous.

"This is Metiria Turei but three years on and a far greater cost," said leader Winston Peters, raising the spectre of the previous Greens co-leader.

Turei quit 45 days before the 2017 election - it's 46 days until Decision 2020.

But Shaw seems confident he will stay on.

"I don't think this is a resignation level event," he said.

Shaw said if he was making the same decision on the Green School funding he would not support it.

Playing chicken over funding failed and the backlash has been astronomical.

With a deep sigh, he said: "I feel terrible about the way that this has played out." 

He could be feeling much worse on the evening of October 17. 

Analysis by Political Editor Tova O'Brien

How real is the risk that this topples the Greens this election?

Very - both co-leaders have admitted that which really says something. Politicians usually struggle to admit potential defeat.

There's an uncanny and uncomfortable sense of déjà vu here. Like 2017 with Metiria Turei, an epic stumble at the last hurdle before the campaign.

It's been well-traversed that the Greens have been forced to swallow a lot of dead rats in Government. This reeks of desperation to get some last-minute gains.

But holding back support for all those other projects just to get the Green School funding across the line, jeopardising all those jobs, and holding his ministerial colleagues to political ransom... This is by far James Shaw's lowest ebb but it's his party who could pay for it.