Chlöe Swarbrick to replace NZ’s outgoing Green Party co-leader James Shaw

Incoming new Green Party co-leader Chlöe Swarbrick
Incoming new Green Party co-leader Chlöe Swarbrick today . . . "Legacy politics is not working to serve people and the planet." Image: RNZ/Nick Monro

RNZ News

Outspoken MP Chlöe Swarbrick will be the Green Party’s new co-leader alongside Marama Davidson, as climate change specialist James Shaw steps down.

Last month, Shaw said he would be stepping down from his duties as co-leader in March.

Dunedin-based activist and conservationist Alex Foulkes had put his hand up too for the role but announced on Sunday that he had conceded defeat. Swarbrick received 169 votes from party delegates, Foulkes received no votes.

Speaking to media today, Swarbrick, the MP for Auckland Central, thanked both Davidson — who could not be at the conference because she had covid-19 — and Shaw.

She said the Greens were a party that would speak for all voices in New Zealand, and believed it could make changes for the better of all in New Zealand, sharing finite resources “justly and equitably” as well as protecting the environment.

“We know our environment is not an endless resource to keep drawing from — we know there is enough to go around.”

She said the Green Party “care a lot about whakapapa”, and described Shaw as a “giant” whose shoulders the Green Party stands upon.

‘No-one stands alone’
“We know as the late great Efeso Collins put it, that: ‘No-one stands alone, no-one succeeds alone, and no-one suffers alone’.

“James Shaw is one of those giants who have contributed decades to our movement, his enduring legacy of the Zero Carbon Act and establishing the Independent Climate Change Commission will hold this and all future governments to account on the scientific non-negotiables of a liveable planet.

Greens elect Chloë Swarbrick as new co-leader. Video: RNZ News

“We can take world-leading climate action that also improves people’s lives. We can provide a guaranteed minimum income for all, we can protect our oceans, we can have functional public transport, we can invest properly in our public services and housing, education and health-care, if we have the political courage to implement the tax system to do so.

“And the Greens have that political courage.”

Swarbrick also praised Davidson: “I have been inspired by her strength, the clarity of her conviction and her embodiment of our Green values every single day . . . ”

Green Party co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw
Chlöe Swarbrick praises co-leader Marama Davidson (pictured0, who could not attend today’s conference due to covid-19, and outgoing co-leader James Shaw. Image: RNZ/Angus Dreaver

Swarbrick criticised the government’s 100-day plan and said, as Green co-leader, she was equally as comfortable marching in the streets as she was in Parliament.

“The Greens’ see you, we hear you and we will represent you in the halls of power.”

Democracy can work better
Change would “require human cooperation on a scale we have never seen before”, she said: “Democracy can work better for all of us.

“Politics belongs to those who show up, and we need everyday people to not leave politics to the politicians or we’ll get what we’ve got”.

The Greens were concerned about a drift to the right side of politics in New Zealand, she said.

Change would not come “from top down vested interest”, she said.

“Legacy politics is not working to serve people and the planet.”

Swarbrick said both the “red and blue” parties were tying up votes in a duopoly, and not serving voters effectively: “I believe we are the leading voice on the left.”

In a statement earlier today, Swarbrick thanked the party’s members and reiterated the Greens’ vision for the future.

Decent life for all
“Aotearoa can be a place where everyone has what they need to live a decent life, and our natural world is restored and protected, on a foundation honouring te Tiriti o Waitangi. That is the Greens’ vision, and one we work to see realised every single day.”

Shaw said there was no-one else he would rather take his place as co-leader than Swarbrick.

“Ever since I first sat down to coffee with her after her mayoral campaign in 2016 she has struck me as a remarkable leader with an extraordinary belief in the power of people to make a difference.

“Her passion and strength is second to none, and alongside Marama, will lead the Greens to make even more of a difference in the future.”

Davidson said it was fantastic to be have Swarbrick by her side, leading their biggest caucus.

“Chlöe is an incredible MP, colleague, and friend. She has proven time and time again her unique ability to mobilise communities to push for the change Aotearoa needs,” Davidson said in a statement.

“It has never been more important for there to be a strong voice for an Aotearoa that works for everyone, where everyone is supported to live good lives, in warm dry homes, and where we take bold action to cut pollution and protect native wildlife,” she said.

‘Fighting for the future’
“Chlöe and I will be in communities up and down Aotearoa working with people to build an unprecedented grassroots movement fighting for the future Aotearoa deserves.”

Alex Foulkes
Dunedin-based activist and conservationist Alex Foulkes . . . only challenger. Image: RNZ News

Foulkes, who admitted defeat in the co-leadership race, congratulated Swarbrick and said she would do an incredible job.

“I am confident Chlöe and Marama will lead the party from strength to strength.

“I have enjoyed the debate with Chlöe and the party members and would like to commend and thank the party staff for the efficient organisation of the election and the members for their engagement and respectful, intelligent, and thoughtful questions throughout this process.”

He described her as “one of the most talented politicians in Aotearoa New Zealand”, and said he never expected to win against her.

“Indeed, someone suggested to me that I had more chance of spotting the fabled South-Island kokako than winning this election.”

However, he said his goal in contesting was to discuss and debate policies. Last month, he put forward a radical manifesto, outlining his vision.

Who is Chlöe Swarbrick?
Ranked third on the party list, the Auckland Central MP appeared to be the popular choice from when Shaw made his announcement.

After losing the mayoral race in 2016, she joined the Green Party.

Winning the Auckland Central seat in 2020 and becoming the country’s youngest MP in 42 years, she has proven her popularity from early on.

She is the first Green MP ever to hold on to a seat for more than one term after winning again in the 2023 elections.

Swarbrick denied leadership ambitions in 2022, when more than 25 percent of delegates at the party’s annual general meeting voted to reopen Shaw’s position.

She has regularly registered in preferred prime minister polls ahead of the party’s co-leaders.

Last year, she had to apologise to Parliament a week after saying in the debating chamber Prime Minister Christopher Luxon had lied — a breach of parliamentary rules.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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