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Jeanette Fitzsimons Statement

Jeanette Fitzsimons Statement – February 23

The time has come for me to step down as co-leader of the Green Party, at our annual conference in June this year. Unlike other parties, the Greens don’t change leaders with a coup in caucus; our leaders are chosen democratically by members of the party through a vote of branches at our annual conference. This decision is a personal one and is consistent with the intentions I’ve been signalling for some time now that I would not stand in 2011. I step down now with great confidence that the Green Party will have several very capable women to choose from as the new co-leader. I look forward to supporting her in the lead up to 2011.

The Green Party’s leaders are elected, or re-elected, every year, and each year nominations are open for anyone to challenge. I need to give the party notice that this year I will not be putting in my nomination but handing on the baton to a new co-leader. That will give her time to develop a partnership with Russel and political experience as leader before the 2011 election.

For myself, I will of course continue as co-leader until the June election. Then I look forward to the freedom of being a backbencher – something I never had a chance to do when I first came to Parliament. However I’m not promising to breathe through my nose for the next three years. There is a lot of portfolio work I want to focus on, a lot of experience and learning I want to build on.

It will be fourteen years this year since the 1995 conference when the Green Party voted to have leaders for the first time. Up till then we had four party spokespersons. That had served us well, with our 1990 vote being the highest ever. But the party felt that having leaders would make it easier for the media to know who to call.

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So Rod Donald and I were elected the first co-leaders of the Greens, and served together for 10 years until his tragic death. Seven months later Russel was elected as male co-leader and we have developed a great working partnership over the last 3 years.

In that 14 years the party has come from being a wholly voluntary organization with no parliamentary representation to being the third party in Parliament with an organised structure and professional staff.

That is not because of anything any one individual has done, and unlike some other parties who would disappear if their leader did, the Greens represent a new force in politics which is growing around the world and which is essential if the peoples of the world are to have a future. If all of us disappeared, there would be nine more to take our places.

Rod and I had the great privilege of being the first Greens to speak in the NZ Parliament, twenty five years after the formation of the first Green party in the world, the NZ Values Party, of which we were both members. We were acutely aware that we stood on the shoulders of thousands of New Zealanders who had worked throughout that time to see Green ideas and policies represented in our Parliament. As I hand the torch to another leader, I know there are thousands coming who will stand on our shoulders and take the party one day into government.

I know we will continue to get Members’ bills passed, which will make a difference to the lives of New Zealanders. I know we will continue to get amendments to government legislation to make it work better. I know we will continue to challenge governments of whatever hue when they propose bad policies, and to work with them constructively to help them implement good ones, and to avoid the petty point scoring and noisy barracking for which our Parliament is so unfortunately known. We are currently engaged in talks with the National Party that should see the Green Party working with the Government in some areas of common interest. These talks are at a very early stage, but they have been positive and I believe will bear fruit.

But most of all I know we will continue to be a voice in Parliament for those who have no voice – for Earth and all its disappearing species; for the unemployed, those with disabilities, children in poverty, refugees. We will continue to be a voice for a different political philosophy, a new value system, shared by neither National nor Labour, where our success is counted not by the size of our GDP and our incomes, but by the warmth of our relationships with each other and with Nature; by the health of our children and our elders and our rivers and our land. We want more people to share the secret of real happiness and satisfaction in life, which comes not from having more but from being more, and from being part of a society that values all its members, and values the land, the water and the other species with which we share them.

So it is time for me, and it is time for the Green Party. Russel has proved himself as co-leader and his new political “other half” will have time to develop her own style before the election.

I have a huge sense of gratitude to the party for the opportunities I have had in this work, for the confidence they have expressed in me in fourteen annual elections, for their love and their loyalty. I am hugely grateful to all the people who have helped and encouraged on the way – our wonderful staff, and just the people who come up in the street. I hope I can provide some of that love and support to the new leadership team.


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