Greens leadership: James Shaw 'quietly confident' he'll stay leader, but also quiet on possible 'magic' Chlöe Swarbrick challenge

James Shaw remains tight-lipped over whether any of his caucus colleagues - including high-profile MP Chlöe Swarbrick - will challenge him for the Green Party co-leadership, but has said he is "quietly confident" he will take the position.

He fronted media on Monday morning after more than 25 percent of party delegates at an annual meeting on Saturday voted to reopen nominations for the co-leadership role. 

Shaw, who was the only nominee going into the weekend, has spent the last 48 hours consulting with members and decided he will put his name forward again.

"I am standing to lead the Green Party into the next election alongside Marama Davidson so that together, our members and supporters across the country, we can transform New Zealand and create a country that works for everyone," he told reporters on Monday.

While Shaw said he took seriously the message the delegates' vote sent, he's also proud of the work his party has achieved since taking a role in Government in 2017. Internal polling shows the party has more support than at the 2020 election, he said.

Shaw has served as Climate Change Minister since Labour took office, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirming on Monday that won't change regardless of whether Shaw is in the co-leadership spot. 

"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."

Shaw said he had spoken to some local Green Party branches and had correspondence from members "that 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 will be returned as co-leader.

But he wasn't so open about what he's hearing from his fellow caucus colleagues. He spoke with them all on Sunday, but refused to tell journalists on Monday whether they had all expressed support. 

"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."

Newshub has been contacting Green MPs.

While Swarbrick is yet to announce anything, Golriz Ghahraman, who entered Parliament in 2017, told Newshub she will not be seeking the co-leadership. Elizabeth Kerekere, from the 2020 intake, says she will likely put out a statement after caucus meets on Tuesday. Eugenie Sage says she "strongly supports" Shaw to be co-leader, and won't be standing herself.

Some Green Party members Newshub spoke to over the weekend suggested Swarbrick, the Auckland Central MP, is the only viable option to run against Shaw. One former member said the prospect of Swarbrick becoming leader prompted them to join again on Sunday.

James Shaw wants to be co-leader again.
James Shaw wants to be co-leader again. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Shaw said it was "entirely their prerogative" for either another MP or a member to put their name forward for the co-leadership. He doesn't "necessarily give any credence" to rumours suggesting some MPs in his caucus have been organising against him.

"It's politics and for every rumor that's true, there are 15 that aren't so I don't particularly pay attention to it," he said.

He praised Swarbirck as an "extraordinary political talent".

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

"I am not going to speculate on what some hypothetical scenario is, but it is clear that she does bring a constituency to the Green Party. It's obvious in her win in Auckland Central, which was historic, that she has something that the vast majority of other Members of Parliament don't have. I think she's magic."

One of the delegates who voted to reopen nominations told Newshub on Sunday that they wanted a "more engaged, sustainable impact for the climate, and a more progressive leader"

Some former MPs have called for more action from the Greens. 

"Our Government, led by James as Minister, has been shown not to be reducing emissions, not to have ambitious mandatory targets, but to actually be weak," former Green MP Catherine Delahunty said.

"You have to remember you're in the Green Party - you're not here to placate Labour and necessarily stay in power for the sake of it."

But another former senior MP said the move from the party was "moronic".

"I think that there's always been a strand within the Green Party who thinks it's preferable to be in Opposition. I think that's politically nonsense."

Shaw told reporters that what he's achieved as Climate Change Minister "dramatically" outweighs what else has been done on climate change over recent decades. 

"The fact that we now have an enduring settlement on the direction of climate change policy is historic. We're one of the only countries in the world that has got the 1.5C temperature threshold baked into our primary legislation," he said. 

"You only need to look across the ditch at Australia to see what a mess climate change policy is when you don't have that broad-based consensus and you get these flip-flops, which means you don't get any traction at all.

"I believe that I am the person that has actually been able to make that possible. Has it gone as far as I would have liked? No. But the solution to that isn't to walk away from Government. It is to get more Green MPs and to exert more influence on the next Government. That's not a reason to can it. It's a reason to try harder and that's what I am here for."

Shaw said his intention as leader has always been to take the Greens into Government with ministers and then "safely out the other side", a "mission" that is not yet finished. If the Greens aren't part of Government after next year's election, he said he would look at his options. He wants to stay as Climate Change Minister even if he's not re-elected co-leader.

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