By Alex Tarrant and Jenée Tibshraeny
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei has resigned from the position and announced she will not be standing on the party list at this year's general election.
Turei and male co-leader James Shaw made the announcement in Parliament Wednesday evening. Shaw will solely lead the party into the 23 September election, with another female co-leader to be elected at the party's next general meeting.
Turei at the party's AGM in July revealed she had committed benefit fraud in her 20s by not declaring the correct number of flatmates she had while receiving the domestic purposes benefit. More recently, she admitted to have enrolled in an electorate she did not live in when she was 23, in order to vote for a friend standing in that seat.
Her resignation comes after two Green Party MPs, Kennedy Graham and David Clendon, on Tuesday withdrew from the Greens' caucus after a demand that Turei stand-down from the leadership was not met. Shaw told media on Wednesday that the two rebel MPs would not be allowed back into caucus, as they had brought the party into disrepute.
Turei said she made the decision to stand down while travelling between two meetings in a taxi this afternoon. She said the reason she had stood aside was due to intrusion into her family's life; she said she could take the political heat that had been thrown at her, but that the decision was purely down to the effect coverage was having on her family.
Turei also said she did not want to be a distraction for the Green Party's election goals.
Shaw said he had not put any pressure on Turei to resign. He supported her in the decision due to the family factor, he said.
Turei said she was bouyed that her admission had sparked a debate over how beneficiaries in New Zealand were treated by Work and Income.
Read a statement from the Green Party below:
Metiria Turei has resigned as Co-Leader of the Green Party this evening.
Since opening a conversation about the reality of poverty in New Zealand and the solutions to it three weeks ago, Metiria Turei and her family have been under extreme scrutiny.
“I knew that by telling my personal story, it would help people hear and understand the reality of poverty. And that has happened – thousands of people have contacted the Green Party with their stories, and many have come forward to tell these in the media as well,” said Mrs Turei.
“I also knew that it would open the way for people to criticise me – and I knew the risks of that - but the intensity of those attacks has become too much for my family, and they are now getting in the way of our ability to communicate our solutions – not just for poverty, but for water, climate change and the environment.
“Resigning as Co-Leader is my decision. The party did not ask me to resign and as recently as last night the executive gave me a vote of confidence,” said Mrs Turei.
Green Party Co-Leader James Shaw has thanked Metiria Turei for her long years of service to the Green Party.
“Metiria has been a servant for the party, the environment and for our people for many years. Her dedication and commitment have been unparalleled. As I have said, she chose to tell her story in order to open a conversation – and she has done that,” said Mr Shaw.
“I urge everyone who believes in the environment and our people, including those who have come forward in the last few weeks, to continue with their support. It is more important than ever that we change the government,” said Mr Shaw.
Metiria Turei will no longer be on the Green Party list but will campaign for the party vote only in Te Tai Tonga.
James Shaw will be the sole co-leader for the election. This is consistent with the approach when Co-Leader Rod Donald died ahead of the 2005 election. The Green Party will select a new female co-leader at a general meeting.