Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick not running for co-leadership role

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick has ruled herself out of running for the party's vacant co-leadership role.

In a statement published on her Facebook page on Monday afternoon, the Auckland Central MP, who until now hadn't commented on leadership speculation, said she has wanted to respect party process after the "unprecedented" vote at the Greens' annual meeting over the weekend.

"I am not in the running for the co-leadership. Thank you to all of the lovely and kind people who’ve expressed their confidence in me," Swarbrick said.

"I will continue my work as Auckland Central’s MP, in my Parliamentary portfolios and on Finance and Expenditure Committee. Party process is that MPs do not endorse any candidates who put themselves forward."

A number of Green Party members Newshub spoke to over the weekend suggested Swarbrick was the only viable option to run against James Shaw for the role. One former member said the prospect of Swarbrick becoming leader prompted them to join again on Sunday.

"As we continue to navigate a global pandemic, our planet is burning. The top 10 percent sit on 70 percent of this country’s wealth while 2.5 million New Zealanders are being told to fight over 2 percent of the scraps," Swarbrick said.

"None of this is the natural order of things. It's our 'economy' turned into a game of Monopoly. The rules were made that way by vested interests and they can be remade. Our Green movement was built to transform the systems which gave us these problems and I will continue to put everything I have into that."

She said leadership can be found in "the young people putting their futures on the line for the climate movement".

"We’ll find it on union pickets for fair pay and conditions. We find it in our classrooms with our teachers, in our hospitals with the nurses and midwives and health workers who deserve healthy conditions and quality wages. Those are the leaders who need our backing and that is where our energy is needed to change the politics - and the power dynamics - of this country and this world."

More than 25 percent of party delegates on Saturday voted to reopen nominations for the co-leader position then occupied by Shaw. Shaw has since confirmed he will put his name forward again for the position.

But no other contenders have emerged. Newshub has attempted to contact each Green MP for their thoughts on the leadership position, but only a number have been willing to talk.

Ricardo Menéndez March, arriving in Wellington on Monday, wouldn't throw his support behind Shaw, instead expressing his desire to let the process play out. Meanwhile, Eugenie Sage told Newshub she "strongly supports" Shaw as leader and won't stand for the position. Golriz Ghahraman also confirmed she won't stand for the role. 

However, Dr Elizabeth Kerekere, who entered Parliament in 2020, has told Newshub she is still "considering options" when it comes to the leadership contest and is likely to release a statement following a caucus meeting on Tuesday.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday morning, Shaw said he wanted to lead the party into the next election alongside co-leader Marama Davidson. He said he spoke to a number of local Green Party branches and members over the past 48 hours which "has reassured me that I have the support necessary to be able to retain the leadership".

He went on to say he was "quietly confident" he would be returned as co-leader. Shaw wouldn't, however, go into conversations he had with MPs on Sunday.

"I do not want to speak on behalf of my colleagues," Shaw said. "I think that's unfair to them and they should be able to speak for themselves.

"The conversations that we had were in confidence between us. I don't want to betray any of those confidences, and I also don't want to put words into their mouths so you will have to talk to them about what their views are."

He also acknowledged the message being sent by delegates, some of whom believe Shaw hasn't advocated strongly enough for Green Party values.

But Shaw, the Climate Change Minister, said he's achieved a lot since the Greens took a role in Government in 2017.

"Like many of our members, there are times when I have been deeply frustrated that we have not yet gone as far as we could or as fast as we should," Shaw said.

"The machinery of Government is glacially slow, and as yet, does not match the speed or the scale of the climate crisis. The solution to that is to get more Green MPs into Parliament, and for us to exert more pressure on the next Government and the decisions that shape the future that our kids will inherit from us."

He praised Swarbrick as an "extraordinary political talent".

"That is immediately obvious to absolutely anybody," Shaw said. 

Nominations for the co-leadership position will remain open for about a week. Members will then have time to assess any contenders before delegates vote in several weeks' time.