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Acceptance Speech: Election as Female Co-Leader

Tū kaha, tū maia, tū rangatira.

Ahakoa te aha, ahakoa ngā piki me ngā heke, ka haere tonu te mahi ki te whakamana i ngā whanau, ki te tiaki i te taiao, ki te hangaia tētahi huarahi hou mō tō tātou nei ao katoa.

E tū ana tēnei uri o Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi, me Ngāti Porou.

Tīhei mauriora!

Tēnā koutou katoa

It is the greatest honour of my life to have been elected as the Co-leader of the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand.

I want to begin by acknowledging Julie-Anne Genter. I have an enormous respect and admiration for her talents and skills as a politician and that has only grown stronger over the course of this campaign.

There could be no one better to have on your team than someone with the skills, experience and political nous of Julie-Anne, who is doing amazing work as Minister for Women and Associate Minister of Transport and Health.

I know Julie-Anne, that as well as the policies and change you will implement as a Minister, that your contribution to growing our movement will be absolutely essential.

While it is a great honour to have been elected, it is also an enormous responsibility and it is truly humbling that our members have confidence in me to help lead the Party.

The campaign has been a really positive process and I want to thank the party leadership for their work in organising the campaign, branch organisers and members all around the country who fed and billeted and transported us and welcomed us and then grilled us – you are the backbone of our party.

I also want to thank my campaign team and supporters, and acknowledge those members who did not vote for me.

I will be a leader who strives for consensus in everything I do. All of our contributions and views are essential in the work we have ahead of us.

To my family and my children – I will see you even less, and I know that this part of the job was already the hardest bit for us. But I also have one of the strongest family support networks that a mother in this role could ever have and so I know we will be okay.

And every day I will continue to use the privilege of my family support, to represent the many mamas who should also be in leadership positions but aren’t fortunate to have the support I do.

To those mothers, I will never forget your leadership and my responsibility to you.

As a party of government we are now facing a whole new set of opportunities and challenges.

History shows that smaller parties struggle to retain their support in coalition governments, lose influence and can sometimes fracture.

My number one goal as co-leader is to make sure that doesn’t happen to us.

We can’t clean our rivers, save our native species, lift our families out of poverty, build warm safe houses and new public transport if our party isn’t united and positive, governing and campaigning for change.

And there is a lot to change.

The National Government has left our country in a mess. It is worse than even we imagined.

Steven Joyce was right, there is a fiscal hole. We see it every day. In the sewerage in the walls of Middlemore Hospital where the Government was more interested in delivering a surplus than making sure our babies were born in safe conditions.

We see National’s fiscal hole in our homeless and unemployed,

In our impoverished families

In our lonely and isolated elderly

We see it our polluted rivers

In our threatened species

And in our climate pollution

But National didn’t just leave a fiscal deficit, they left a moral one too.

More than ever we need to deliver on our policy programme and stamp our mark on the Government with bold and effective Green solutions to the fiscal and moral deficit left by National.

More than ever we need to be strong and united. Backing our Ministers and MPs to lead lasting Green change and working with our coalition allies to go even further, be even bolder.

We can make the change Aotearoa needs and grow our vote, returning after 2020 with more MPs and influence.

I am a leader who, alongside James, can deliver that real change and grow the Greens by representing a broad cross-section of New Zealanders.

James has been incredible in leading our Party on his own for the last eight months, as we wrapped up a tough campaign and entered Government for the first time.

I am very much looking forward to working with James and with our different backgrounds, skills and experiences I think we will make a strong leadership team.

Between us we represent the broad church of green voters. Our different backgrounds and experiences mean we empathise and understand the cross section of issues from economic to social. From human rights to environmental sustainability. We are a team that can reach all.

James and I will work to regain the trust and support of those voters who left us in the last election, and we also need to be reaching out to new audiences.

In order to be a genuine and relevant voice for modern Aotearoa, we need to reflect its diverse reality.

We need more members from all backgrounds and communities.

We need to be present in multicultural, Māori and Pasifika communities, in provincial and rural communities, and in the suburbs, with women, young people and workers.

I have the connections and credibility in these communities. I’m proud to have helped lead the work to start to diversify the party over recent years and as Co-leader I will prioritise it.

I worked as a youth worker in South Auckland while a young person myself, and also served on the national board of youth workers.

I worked as an advisor at the Human Rights Commission for 10 years and then as Chief Panellist on the Owen Glenn Inquiry into Domestic Violence and Child Abuse.

As an activist for social and environmental justice, I stood with many communities on the frontlines of the climate change and inequality crises and the struggles for indigenous rights.

I have demonstrated the ability to pull together teams, inspire the best in everyone, and elevate the voices of those who are not otherwise heard.

And I intend to make that a defining feature of my leadership, elevating voices and working alongside our friends up and down the country campaigning for change.

We may be in Government, but we are still a party that relies in the passion and action of those at the grassroots without whom we are powerless.

It is that grassroots leadership that has always inspired me, and I am so proud to have worked to support so many community campaigns and movements.

Such as standing year after year on the banks of the Ōmaru River in Glenn Innes to restore the mauri of the awa.

Or standing with my whanaunga in the North and on the East Coast to oppose deep sea oil exploration and drilling, and with our Pasifika whanaunga who are fighting the rising seas.

Or working with groups calling for human rights here and around the world, and with advocates for economic transformation and social justice.

For too long those with the most power and the most to gain have had the loudest voice in our political debates.

I will make sure those without a political voice are heard, and I will be the only leader of a political party in Parliament that brings to the table deep sustained experience in these communities.

The talent, experience and skills that we have in our caucus is incredible. I’m committed to working alongside all of our MPs to support them in their work, and I will always be needing their guidance and honesty to keep me in check.

Each of our Ministers and MPs has significant portfolio depth, and unique profiles and audiences that will be crucial to our success of not just surviving, but thriving in Government.

As the most progressive party in Parliament, it is the role of the Greens to continue to be a loud and active voice on behalf of our communities.

In our Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Labour Party we commit that “together, we will work to provide Aotearoa New Zealand with a transformational Government”.

We need to be working every day to achieve that, recognising the urgency and scale of the challenges we face. I am looking forward to working even more closely with our colleagues right across the Government.

The next few years will be critical for Aotearoa and the world as we grapple with the crises of climate change, inequality and environmental degradation.

In this country, two men own more wealth than the poorest 30 per cent of the adult population.

The richest 10 per cent have more than half of the wealth, while 90 per cent of the population owns less than half of the nation’s wealth.

We are losing our indigenous biodiversity at an alarming rate - three-quarters of native fish, one-third of invertebrates, and one-third of plants are threatened with, or at risk of, extinction.

We have among the highest rates of homelessness, child poverty, suicide among young people, and incarceration in the developed world, alongside among the highest per capita carbon emissions in the world, and rivers so polluted you can’t even swim in them. 

These environmental and social crises are the direct result of a flawed and broken economic model.

Having grown up in South Auckland and the rural communities of Hokianga and the East Coast in the 80s, I witnessed first-hand the devastating effect the introduction of that economic model had on communities and what followed; intergenerational poverty and the tragic, direct legacy of suffering and suicide in our regions and urban centres.

We are still feeling that impact, here, now.

Parliament needs to turn our faces to the streets, to communities right up and down this country, and understand the hardship and struggle that so many of our people are facing.

I know what it is to struggle to find a house to rent. I know what it is to not have enough food for your tamariki. And I know that no parent should have to go through that.

I will continue to hold on to and champion those realities in the corridors of power.

New Zealanders have been waiting far too long for a fundamental shift in our politics, for the return of care and compassion, for a real commitment to our natural world.

For an economic system that measures its success by the wellbeing of the people and the environment, not simple GDP growth and the massive accumulation of wealth and power in the hands of a few.

That’s why it is so exciting that the Greens are a part of this new Government and so important that we do a good job of delivering on our priorities, especially in our Confidence and Supply Agreement.

The Green Party vision for Aotearoa would restore us as a world leader through the greatest challenges of our time.

It would ensure all children grow up in healthy, liveable cities, in warm, dry homes that are affordable for their parents.

And that they can swim in the local river and drink water from their tap without getting sick.

A vision for a country where all people have a liveable income and people don’t have to work two or three jobs just to survive.

And that recognises the central importance of honouring our founding document, Te Tiriti o Waitangi and celebrates our unique and vibrant diversity.

And while our challenges are daunting they are not insurmountable.

All around me I see green shoots of hope, and the inspiring leadership of communities who we need to help lead our country in a better direction.

Together we have never been in a better position to make change.

E ai ki te kōrero

Mā te kotahitanga e whai kaha ai tātou katoa

In unity we will succeed

And just quickly before I finish, I want to wish my dad a happy birthday. As per usual I did not buy you a present. But I got you this big venue for your party. And in light of this coleader announcement today, I also got you a whole new and exciting level of fatherly anxiety. Happy birthday!

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.