Green Party leadership: James Shaw facing challenge as co-leader

James Shaw is "quietly confident" he isn't about to lose the Green Party co-leadership role after a Dunedin-based activist announced a challenge. 

James Cockle, a software developer living in Dunedin, has revealed he will challenge Shaw, an MP since 2014 and current Minister for Climate Change, for the party's male leadership role at its upcoming annual general meeting (AGM), where the leaders are re-elected. 

"I am running because I believe it is time for the Greens to share their vision of what New Zealand would look like under Green Party leadership," Cockle said in one of several videos he has released explaining his run. 

"I believe the time is right for the Greens to become a major party in this country, to become the major party and to become the Government. I believe that is what we ought to be going for now."

Cockle said the "time is right" because the planet is "hitting up against environmental limits". 

"We know that we are destroying and degrading the natural world, the freshwater, air, land and sea and the plants and animals that live there are being destroyed, are going extinct."

He wants to see "real leadership" and "direction" and for the party not to be "Labour's little helper". Under him, the Greens would take a conservationist approach to consumption, support the rewilding of natural spaces, and ensure social institutions leave nobody behind.

To those who may take his challenge as a sign the Greens are in disarray, Cockle says: "The tree does not know how tall it is". 

"It just knows where the sun is, it knows where the light is, and it grows towards the light. That is what I believe we need to do," he said.

"We need to stop being ruled or governed by our fears or by the media or by what we think people are going to say. We need to stand up strong and loud and proud of what we believe in."

James Shaw.
James Shaw. Photo credit: Newshub.

But Shaw isn't worried about losing his leader title anytime soon, telling reporters on Tuesday that he is "quietly confident" he won't lose a vote. 

"When you look at the reasons why he is challenging, they are some of the concerns that people have always had about the tensions of being in Government," he said.

"Those tensions have been there since we went into Government, but every time we have gone into Government we have had the full backing of our party."

His co-leader, Marama Davidson, is backing him. 

"Absolutely. The fact that we have a process in the Green Party, it allows people to challenge like this in this way. That is the democratic process that our members get to decide on," she said.

"I have had the inside privilege of seeing what James is working on, seeing how hard he works every single day and the concerns that are being raised here are the very concerns we have. We are always very clear, we need to push to keep going further and faster to achieve our goals."

The Greens currently have a "cooperation agreement" with the Labour Party, which doesn't need its support to govern. It outlines the ministerial roles the Greens hold and specific areas of cooperation, such as protecting the environment and improving child wellbeing. 

"This agreement builds on the constructive and enduring working relationship between the two parties," it says.

The agreement needed the support of 75 percent of member delegates to be ratified, and received 85 percent. 

While Shaw called it a "win-win" and that he didn't feel gagged by it, former MPs did speak out against the arrangement. 

Former Green MP Sue Bradford said the agreement will "really mute" her party's voice.

"They will simply be an ineffectual lapdog of Labour for the next three years."

Former Greens co-leader Russel Norman believes the party would've been stronger in opposition.

"Once they're inside government they're effectively gagged, so they can't set the agenda on many issues but particularly core issues like climate change," he said.