Green Party sources accuse MP Elizabeth Kerekere of bullying

By Craig McCulloch for RNZ

The Green MP at the centre of a party investigation, Elizabeth Kerekere, has been accused of ongoing poor behaviour - including badmouthing and undermining her caucus colleagues and staff.

Five individuals close to the Greens - including current and former staffers - have spoken to RNZ under the condition of anonymity after Kerekere accidentally sent messages to a group chat which were unsupportive of Auckland Central MP Chlöe Swarbrick.

The Greens launched an internal review into Kerekere's conduct after the messages were leaked to RNZ showing her complaining about Swarbrick's good fortune to have her legislation be debated at the same time MPs were being ranked on the party's list.

Kerekere also wrote "omg what a crybaby", but later denied the jibe referred to Swarbrick.

Those spoken to by RNZ said the messages were characteristic of the Tai Rāwhiti-based MP's behaviour since her arrival at Parliament in 2020.

Many were unhappy with Kerekere putting her own interests ahead of the party, and wanted the inquiry widened to cover her broader behaviour and for it to report back before the party list was finalised.

Approached for comment, a Green Party spokesperson said new revelations would be taken "extremely seriously" and the review would include a "thorough analysis of all relevant information".

Kerekere declined to be interviewed by RNZ.

'General mean girl behaviour' - source

One source told RNZ Kerekere had exhibited "bullying" and "general mean girl behaviour" throughout this term.

"Elizabeth has a tendency to call people 'racist' if they disagree with her," the source said. "People walk on eggshells around her."

The source said people had not spoken out before now because they were concerned about the reaction from Kerekere and her supporters within the wider party.

"They don't want to bear the brunt of her wrath... I absolutely cannot stand bullying and bad behaviour... it needs to be dealt with."

The source said Kerekere had poor relationships with multiple staff and MPs, but that she had particular enmity for Swarbrick.

"She would often make off-hand comments in front of others that Chlöe was entitled and a drama queen," the source told RNZ.

Swarbrick declined RNZ's request for comment.

One member described Kerekere as "not a team player" and said she would openly shoot down or dismiss Swarbrick's contributions during caucus meetings.

"She has been awful to Chlöe... she makes people feel like s**t."

That member said Kerekere's behaviour was "distressing" for staff, while another source said parliamentary staffers would actively avoid her at work.

Yet another individual told RNZ that Kerekere's bad behaviour was extensive and ongoing.

"The co-leaders need to loop the staff into the investigation and make sure they have a chance to give feedback before the party's list ranking closes.

"The members need to know if there's an MP who is not working to Green kaupapa."

Prior to this month's leaked messages, Kerekere was most well-known for breaking Covid-19 isolation rules in early 2022 by flying from Gisborne to Wellington while one of her household members had tested positive.

Kerekere stepped down from her Covid-19 portfolio, but was reportedly unhappy with how the matter was handled. At the time, [

Stuff reported] that Kerekere had strongly complained internally about a statement issued by the Greens and threatened to go to the media with her side of the story.

Green Party musterer [whip] Jan Logie and chief of staff Robin Campbell are conducting the investigation into Kerekere's messages.

A spokesperson for the Greens told RNZ the process would resemble "what people would expect in any workplace conduct matter".

"Green Party MPs are working tirelessly to deliver positive change for Aotearoa, and when information like this comes to light, we take it extremely seriously.

"At its core, the process will reflect Green Party values of fairness and appropriate decision-making and will include a thorough analysis of all relevant information.

"At this stage, we will not be commenting further in order to uphold the integrity of the process and to ensure it is fair for those involved."

'OMG what a crybaby'

The leaked messages showed Kerekere complaining that Swarbrick's member's bill was being debated - and so receiving coverage - at the same time Green members were considering what order MPs should be ranked on the party list.

While Swarbrick was speaking in Parliament late at night, Kerekere fired off a text: "Sucks that her bill goes through during list ranking! Please Universe, pick my bill tomorrow".

She then added: "omg what a crybaby".

The messages were inadvertently sent to a group chat of Green MPs and staff.

Kerekere later apologised to members of the group: "I wrote an inappropriate message on here which was not meant for this thread."

Contacted by RNZ the following day, Kerekere denied calling Swarbrick a "crybaby" but gave no other explanation for her remarks.

Members are soon to vote on the final ranking of the Green Party list which will help determine which MPs make it into Parliament after this election.

A draft list, devised by delegates, was distributed in early April with Swarbrick ranked third and Kerekere fourth. The final list is expected to be published at the end of May.