Two Green MPs quit over Metiria Turei admissions
Two senior Green MPs have resigned in protest at their co-leader Metiria Turei's refusal to step down in the wake of revelations she lied to obtain a benefit, essentially saying they couldn't condone her actions.
Kennedy Graham and David Clendon made the threat to quit in protest on Monday afternoon. It is understood their resignations were accepted and they will retire at the election. The pair, two of the longest-serving members of the Green Party, told RNZ while they respected Turei and her work, they could no longer support her leadership.
"We've got to a stage where the two of us think that we can not serve under her leadership... for the rest of this election campaign," Graham said.
Clendon said modern elections were "all about the leadership. We have a list, we have policies but ultimately the leadership is what determines outcomes... I believe Metiria's judgement has been somewhat flawed in choosing not to step down. I cannot in good conscience say I give whole-hearted support to our current leadership which therefore in my own mind disqualifies me from being a candidate".
Green co-leader James Shaw called a press conference at Parliament at 9:30pm.
The party has had a tumultuous three weeks, initially riding high off the back of the revelation offered by Turei herself, that she lied to Work and Income about her living costs - failing to inform them she had extra flatmates while a single mother receiving the Domestic Purposes Benefit between 1993 and 1998.
Her admission saw the Greens gain a massive bump in the polls and Labour plummet to dangerous lows. But further details emerged that Turei had at one stage been registered as living at the address of the father of her child, while she was collecting the DPB. Turei denies she was living there - rather, she was just enrolled there so she could vote for a friend standing in that electorate.
At another point she was living with her mother, who was a flatmate. Turei was forced to rule herself out of Cabinet contention, if the Greens made it in to Government, but she refused to step down as co-leader.
A source close to the party has suggested the two MPs threatened to go, and the party was prepared to let that happen.
Green Party general manager Sarah Helm said the pair had done very little in the way of campaigning, and suggested they had been disgruntled for some time.
"Neither of these candidates have been campaigning for us all year. David's made one phone call, and Kennedy's put in about three or four hours worth of calls.
"My understanding is that both of them were not happy with their list placings either," Helm said.
The party is understood to be furious at how the two MPs have handled it - going outside normal parliamentary channels to tell media of their plans.
In a statement, co-leader James Shaw confirmed Graham and Clendon had decided to withdraw their names from the Green's 2017 party list.
"We are disappointed they've made this decision, though we respect their right to do so. The Green Party is fortunate to have high calibre and energetic candidates on the party list, who are campaigning hard for the party," he said.
"With this decision, candidates including Hayley Holt, Teall Crossen, Teanau Tuiono, Leilani Tamu, Matt Lawrey and Elizabeth Kerekere all move up two places on the Green Party list."
He thanked the two for their service to the Green Party.
"We wish David and Kennedy all the best," Shaw said.