No Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, Ati hau nui a Paparangi, Rangitane me Raukawa.
A Green MP since 2002, Metiria was elected Green Party
Co-leader in 2009.
Metiria holds the Society, Justice and Maori Affairs
portfolios. Her focus is policy work that helps build a more equitable
She is a member of the Parliamentary Services Commission and
on the Maori Affairs select committee.
She's previously led campaigns to save our National Parks
from mining, protect the Mokihinui River, and has fought for greater protection
of marine animals and the marine environment.
With a law degree from Auckland, Metiria has previously
worked as a lawyer at Simpson Grierson and as an advocate for the unemployed
Metiria Turei may have become the Green Party’s Co-leader in June 2009 but even after the fact, she wonders when she developed such aspirations. It’s in these condensed moments of self-analysis that Metiria’s political personality is most obvious, and that you begin to gain insight into how the three-term Green MP has been able to exert such disproportionate influence in the House and in the community.
Metiria’s life is peppered with challenges that have been successfully converted into opportunities. She remains resolutely unbound to any particular ideology (“the dusty tomes of old, dead guys”) and developed her political theories alongside the practical application of dissent and organisation.
"It’s our time to seize the moment for the benefit of all."
Much of Metiria’s political action has centred on the rights of beneficiaries. She well remembers unemployed life as an 18-year old in Wellington and says that, after heading to Teachers’ College in Palmerston North, she continued to volunteer within the Unemployed Rights Movement.
“The work started as a social outlet but it soon became a full-time job,” she says. “I became a co-ordinator for the National Māori Beneficiaries Network and it was a tough role organising some very hardcore men, especially when my age and gender at that time were massive disadvantages in certain people’s eyes.”
Wiser and a little older, Metiria then moved to Auckland where she came into contact with three groups that would prove instrumental in developing her political conscience: the anarchist movement, NORML, and the McGillicuddy Serious Party.
“We had fantastic discussions on the exercise of power and crucially I came into contact with many young Pākehā who, just like my Māori contemporaries, felt disenchanted with the state,” she says. “The truth was there were lots of people excluded from Government.”
At just 22, Metiria became pregnant and along with the excitement came a sense of panic. “I thought ‘I can’t rely on a man or the state to look after us’, and coming from a poor family, there was no fall back plan. So, I had to come up with a way to ensure we could take care of ourselves.”
In true Metiria fashion, she applied to law school, (“A friend of mine had applied and I knew I was at least as smart as her!”), was accepted, and duly graduated, all while maintaining significant links with her political contemporaries.
“I pushed for law firms to engage more with Māori students when it came to summer clerking roles and I remember accepting a job with one particular firm purely because I was impressed that they asked me to interview,” she laughs.
Date of birth: 13 February 1970
Family: Married 10 years to my beloved, one lovely daughter 17, two wonderful grown stepchildren
Hobbies: täniko weaving, science fiction novels, performance art
Favourite NZ animal or bird: The käkä and the tuna
Favourite movie: I’m Not There
Favourite novel: The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson
Music I play on Saturday mornings: Cat Power, PJ Harvey, The Band
My never-fail recipe: Thai beef salad, with coriander dressing
Greatest sporting achievement: My first half marathon, major blisters, ridiculously slow, didn’t stop to walk once
Year entered Parliament: 2002
Green Spokesperson for: Social Equity, Electoral Reform, Children, Environment (mining)
First political action: Protest against unemployment in 1989
Most embarrassing political moment: Wearing a Frog Hat on national television. It was National Frog Day after all
Proudest political moment: Becoming Co-leader of the Green Party
Hero: Millicent Baxter, peace
activist, wife and mother
With legal professionals to complete, a certain wedding to attend (as the bride!), the acquisition of two extra children (by virtue of the aforementioned nuptials), and a fulltime law clerking role, Metiria decided that 1999 would be her year of political silence. What a year to keep her mouth shut.
“Nandor and Sue both became MPs that year and I just remember being fascinated by the success of the Green Party and by the fact that here were two people I knew who were having their ideas taken seriously enough to claim a list position that saw them enter Parliament,” she says.
Her first reaction was pure Metiria: “I mean, if their ideas could be taken seriously, so could mine!”
Sure enough, her year of political silence came to a swift end. She joined the Greens in 2000 and, instantly making up for lost time (“That first meeting I talked a lot!”), Metiria threw herself into Treaty of Waitangi issues.
“I was obviously keen for our charter to reflect the Treaty, but only in a meaningful way,” she says. “I spent two years travelling around the country discussing the issue with Party members, learning how to form consensus through shared information. When we passed the charter amendment in 2002, it was a wonderfully rewarding experience.”
Metiria’s work during this time also made her a well-known and well-respected member of the Greens and in 2002 she entered Parliament at number eight on the Party list. Her first act was, quite literally, to make a song and a dance.
“I sung part of my maiden speech – Blam Blam Blam’s There is no Depression in New Zealand in Te Reo – before the rules allowed waiata in the Chamber,” she says. “I can still remember the translator being deadly serious through the entire thing and thinking to myself ‘How did I end up here?’”
As has been the case through most of Metiria’s life, the self-doubt didn’t hang around too long and soon she was taking the daily grind of parliamentary life in her stride. Her background as a corporate lawyer, an urban activist and a politician who has spoken out on environmental issues such as preserving the wild Mōkihinui River has made her hard to pigeonhole, but she says the battle for credibility has been interesting.
Today, how she’s seen by the broader public is perhaps even more relevant than ever, but for Metiria the
Co-leadership is less about her personality and more about the changing face of the Green movement.
“This entire political landscape is changing,” she says. “Young voters are well-educated, ecologically aware and focused on social justice. Gone is the ‘me first’ attitude that prevailed in New Zealand a decade ago; so it’s our time to seize the moment for the benefit of all.”