Donald the Green behind the scenes

GREEN VALUES: Holly Donald believes her father, late Greens co-leader Rod, would be pleased with her career choice.
GREEN VALUES: Holly Donald believes her father, late Greens co-leader Rod, would be pleased with her career choice.

As Holly Donald walks the corridors of power in Wellington there are constant reminders of her late father, who forged the way for her and many others.

The Greens political adviser, eldest daughter of the party's former co-leader, has a familiar surname and gets asked about it all the time - but do not expect the political studies graduate to emulate her father and seek political office.

The 29-year-old is very happy behind the scenes, playing a small but pivotal role in the party as it tries to win power later this year.

But the surname and images of her father around Parliament are constant reminders to her and others of her roots and the impact Rod Donald still has, nearly 10 years after his sudden death.

Donald, who initially worked as an executive secretary for the party before becoming a political and media adviser after the 2011 election, said a role with the Greens felt "natural" and her father would have loved how she was working for the party.

Her key job included helping the party craft legislation and advising in specialist areas including electoral reform, security and intelligence, youth matters and tertiary education.

Donald also advises the Greens caucus and interacts with MPs daily.

The role is fast-paced, constantly changing and Donald said she loves every minute of it.

"I can see myself doing this for a lot longer. It definitely really is a fantastic job."

But that depends on a little thing called a general election later this year.

If Labour and the Greens fail to form a Government, Donald will stay in her role but "everything would change" if the two parties defeat John Key.

"I'm not sure what I would do but I would be working for the Greens," she said.

No doubt her father was her greatest influence. She and her two younger sisters were brought up with the Greens' values.

"We weren't hippies. But we had chickens, we composted and we biked to places. The values of the Greens were kind of at the heart of how we lived as a family."

Her father's role in electoral reform, which drove the New Zealand towards its Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) voting system, was what first stirred her interest as politics.

"Dad's work in electoral reform was my first political memory. MMP is what drew me to politics."

She admitted her first few months working at Parliament were emotional as there were constant reminders of her father and his political career wherever she looked.

A framed image of him is in the party's caucus room and his old office is now occupied by present co-leader Dr Russel Norman.

"Now it's not so emotional, but lovely, and Dad's presence is still definitely felt here. His legacy is really strong here in Parliament," she said.

Donald felt she was now "carving out my own path" and had started to step out of the shadows of being the daughter of such a prominent and popular figure.

Despite her busy role in Wellington, she tries to get "home" to Christchurch at least four times a year.

Her mother, Nicola Shirlaw and sisters, Emma and Zoe, still live there. Her mother keeps an active interest in politics and successfully managed Lianne Dalziel's mayoral campaign last year. She now works as Dalziel's community adviser.

But Donald has no aspirations to become a politician herself.

It is the one question she has constantly been asked for the last 15 years but the answer was straightforward, she said.

"I don't want to become a politician. I genuinely believe I would never become an MP."

Donald said she was not suited to such a high-profile role. "I love politics, I love Parliament and I love this side of politics but I love being the person behind the scenes that gets to help form what's going out there but not the person delivering it. I think I can safely say never."


Rod Donald was first elected to Parliament in 1996 on the Alliance list and was an activist his entire life.

Formerly a member of the Values Party and the Labour Party, he was an active member of the anti-apartheid protest movement that swelled during the 1981 Springbok tour.

He died suddenly at his Christchurch home on November 6, 2005 aged 48.

His love of the Canterbury environment was recognised when the Rod Donald Banks Peninsula Trust was formed.

The Press