'I couldn't work for McCully any longer': Greens add three more high-profile names to books

Combining her musical schedule with politics, Bridget Walsh is planning to campaign in Switzerland, Sweden, France, ...
Eclipse Photographic

Combining her musical schedule with politics, Bridget Walsh is planning to campaign in Switzerland, Sweden, France, Canada and the US, Mexico and Australia through her vast network.

A Birmingham-based singer, an entrepreneur, and a former diplomat who couldn't stand working for Murray McCully a second longer are among the latest high-profile names to join the Green party ranks.

A former UN climate change lawyer is the third to round out the latest intake of internationally-successful women the party has added to its books. 

Bridget Walsh, Leilani Tamu and Teall Crossen all have different outlooks, different motivations and different pet issues, but they do have one thing in common. 

UK-based singer/songwriter Bridget Walsh is throwing her hat into the ring to stand as an overseas-based candidate for ...
Liz Smalls

UK-based singer/songwriter Bridget Walsh is throwing her hat into the ring to stand as an overseas-based candidate for the Green Party. She'll be campaigning specifically for the expat vote.

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In three separate interviews, each detailed their own version of a "world on fire" and their desire to protect New Zealand from a regressive push for nationalism. 

"I was in Birmingham for Brexit and that was devastating to wake up to that morning," said Walsh. 

Greens candidate hopeful Leilani Tamu, with her two-year-old son Luka.
Julie Zhu

Greens candidate hopeful Leilani Tamu, with her two-year-old son Luka.

Speaking from Auckland, where she has been back visiting since January, the former front-woman for The Electric Swing Circus said Brexit and Trump's election were both events she never thought would actually happen. 

Both events appeared to have prompted a boost in Green Party membership and were a catalyst for Walsh to dive into her next challenge. 

"I think in this time, where global politics permeate every aspect of people's day-to-day lives, it's something that everyone is mindful of and you can see the effect of these kinds of policies and attitudes." . 

Former UN climate change negotiator and environmental lawyer Teall Crossen wants to stand for the Greens in the Rongotai ...

Former UN climate change negotiator and environmental lawyer Teall Crossen wants to stand for the Greens in the Rongotai electorate.

Tamu, who is seeking nomination to stand in New Lynn for the party, said she did not believe New Zealand was heading the way of the United States and some European countries, but complacency was not an option.

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Teall said the election of Trump "appalled" her. 

"I'm appalled with the things he's said, and the ban on Muslims, the misogynist comments and all of the things he does are appalling and it makes me more inclined to be a part of our democracy - we can't let those things happen here." 

All three are among the hopefuls to deliver their pitches to the wider party, when it holds its candidates conference in the coming weeks.

They've joined other big names, including broadcasting personality Hayley Holt, one-time Auckland mayoral candidate Chloe Swarbrick and human rights lawyer Golriz Gharahman seeking selection. 

Bridget Walsh:

She's amassed her own international cult following as the front-woman for Electric Swing Circus, and kickstarted her own social enterprise.

Now Walsh, 31, has her sights set on being an overseas-based candidate for the Greens - dedicated solely to campaigning for the expat vote. 

Born, raised and schooled on Auckland's North Shore, Walsh got into the habit of over-achieving early when she attended Auckland University from age 16.

"I studied popular music, because that's apparently a thing you can study." 

Following her degree and a stint in commercial radio, Walsh began a post-gradutate diploma in teaching at Victoria. But when her grandfather became ill Walsh was forced to pull the pin on her second semester with the intention of picking it up again. 

But with a year to fill, Walsh found herself with family in London in 2009, and quickly became immersed in the London music scene. 

When she became one of the frontwomen for the Birmingham-based band Electric Swing Circus in 2013, an internal crisis ensued. Walsh was being paid to do the thing she loved, but she felt guilty as the time spent took her away from her causes. . 

"How am I supposed to reconcile these two things? But then I realised that the way people were responding to me, when I was my best self, was giving me far more of a platform to reach people."

It was one of the things that perhaps in part, spurred Walsh to set up INDHE (pronounced Indie) - a kind of Linkedin for artistes. 

With little knowledge early on of what she was trying to achieve herself, a kickstarter campaign spawned into a social enterprise, linking top artistes globally, within a month. 

"Within a couple of weeks it became pretty clear that as well as building a tangible product, we needed to build some sort of platform that wasn't just a snapshot in time,  what these creative people were up to, but an ongoing conduit for people to be able to find each other going forward." 

Now, alongside her music, she is chief executive artiste at INDHE.

Combining her musical schedule with politics, Walsh is planning to campaign in Switzerland, Sweden, France, Canada and the US, Mexico and Australia through her vast network, both in the artistic community, and through the Greens' own international community to turn out the overseas vote at the September 23 election. 

It's a workload Walsh says she can handle, and although she's "all in", Walsh is not necessarily expecting to become an MP at the end of it. 

"The cool thing about the Greens is that, I'm a busy lady; it's an album year - I'm recording an album - I'm working on building INDHE this year, and the Greens rounds out my holy trinity of Bridget."

Arts, education and a particular interest in how the "universal basic income can reframe the debate around the economy", were areas in which Walsh hoped to drive more discussion. 

"For me the most important thing at this juncture, is getting people to understand how easy it is to vote; making sure people are registered, making sure people know that if they've been home in the last three years and they have access to the internet - they can vote." 

Leilani Tamu:

Mum and dad came to New Zealand from Samoa in the 60s, dad was Pakeha and a New Zealand league legend.

Tamu is candid about her father's struggles with gambling addiction. Following a controversial incident in which an Auckland woman accused Mad Butcher Sir Peter Leitch of making racist remarks towards her, Tamu penned a high-profile blog detailing her father's own dealings with him. 

"I guess I've always been a bit of a fighter in terms of standing up against injustice."

The first in her family to go to university, Tamu gained a masters in history. Afterwards she began work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, working in Wellington before being seconded to DFAT in Australia. 

After giving birth to her first child, Tamu and her family moved to Tonga to take a posting there in 2010. After two years working at the New Zealand High Commission in Tonga, Tamu said she was "fed up". 

"I got quite frustrated and fed up with working under the National-lead Government - I was quite disillusioned with their general approach to development in the Pacific." 

The controversial Saudi sheep farm incident resonated with Tamu, because it was the same approach she said she saw happening in Tonga. 

"In terms of the minister saying he wanted something done, he wanted it done quickly and then just expected a contract for services to be rustled up.

"So I quit - I left MFAT, which was a pretty big decision. I loved my job there, it was a fantastic organisation to work for, but I just couldn't work under McCully any longer." 

Now blogging, freelance writing, mum to two children, and in the process of publishing her second book - the product of a Fulbright fellowship to Hawaii - Tamu says she's "pretty determined, and I just go".

Returning to Auckland, it was a shock to see "how apparent the gap between the haves and the have nots had become". 

"Green Party policy did always resonate with me, but I did decide initially to join the Labour Party ... but I found over time that the ideas coming out of the Greens were more in line with my own. 

"That wasn't easy, but in some ways the MOU (memorandum of understanding between the two parties), did make it easier. The policies around housing and security and looking at renters' rights and making sure rentals are safe, dry and warm - really simple stuff, it resonated with me." 

Tamu's intention is to start door-knocking in New Lynn from the first weekend in March. 

"I want to hit at least 6000 households in New Lynn myself. If you want to represent a community, you've got to go out there face-to-face." 

Teall Crossen: 

Throwing her hat in the ring to stand in Wellington's Rongotai electorate, Crossen said she had been an environmental lawyer and activist most of her life. 

Her lengthy career boasts stints working for both Forest and Bird and Greenpeace International, as well as a climate-change negotiator for the Pacific Islands, based at the United Nations in New York. 

"When I was at the negotiations, working for the Pacific, I had to hear the New Zealand Government announce an emission reduction target that would initially mean the demise of countries like Tuvalu and Kiribati. 

"That's when I decided I wanted to return home and join the political party that was campaigning for real climate solutions - there's no reason why New Zealand can't be a climate leader." 

Crossen expects to expand on the party's success in her home electorate of Rongotai - she would be campaigning for the party vote in the area which Labour has already confirmed it will stand Wellington Deputy Mayor Paul Eagle in place of veteran Annette King, who will move to the party's list. 

"I want to campaign on climate change - when you do that locally, it translates into things like transport. Wellington has huge transport problems, and our emissions from transport are about 60 per cent of all our emissions."

Crossen had her campaign plans in place, and had gained experience working on party co-leader James Shaw's Wellington Central campaign in the 2014 election. 

"I can't wait, elections hold the possibility of change, and the possibility of a better future, and I've been part of creating that." 

 - Stuff


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