9 Aug 2017

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei resigns

7:16 pm on 9 August 2017

Metiria Turei has resigned as co-leader of the Green Party and says it is "highly unlikely" she will return to Parliament after the election.

Mrs Turei told Checkpoint with John Campbell she has resigned as co-leader today, saying the "scrutiny on my family has become unbearable".

Follow a live blog of the latest developments here.

The Green Party co-leader announced last month that she committed benefit fraud over a period of three years in the early 1990s because she and her young daughter depended on the Domestic Purposes benefit to survive. She said last week she also committed vote fraud.

This afternoon Checkpoint put questions to Mrs Turei about her family situation at the time she was receiving the benefit. She declined to answer these and said she would be resigning.

Mrs Turei told Checkpoint she could no longer withstand the scrutiny and has resigned.

"I am resigning as the co-leader of the Green Party today ... the primary reason is because the scrutiny of my family is becoming unbearable.

"There have been lots of allegations so far, there will be more, there's no way that any family can kind of withstand that scrutiny and they don't deserve it. There's that reason, and the other reason is I am 100 percent committed to the project of changing the government and having the Greens come in to government and I think that if I continue on as co-leader I hinder that. I don't want to because I've spent 15 years trying to make that happen."

She was resigning to "protect my family as best as I can and protecting my party as best as I can".

She said she would take her name off the party list but would continue to stand in the Te Tai Tonga electorate.

"I believe in the kaupapa of the Greens and want to hold the mana of all of those people who have been supporting me over the last month. They have been asking me to stay and to remain as their voice, so I need to find a way to honour that. So I will continue as a candidate for the party vote in the election, but I am not intending to return to Parliament."

When asked if she was effectively resigning as an MP she said yes.

"I have no intention of returning back to Parliament and it's highly unlikely I would."

Metiria Turei and James Shaw, after the announcement Mrs Turei would resign as Greens co-leader.

Metiria Turei and James Shaw, after the announcement Mrs Turei would resign as Greens co-leader. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

People Checkpoint spoke to earlier had said Mrs Turei had sufficient support to mean she did not need to lie to WINZ about her circumstances.

"No life can really withstand the scrutiny, especially the political attack scrutiny, I mean, beyond that I told my story you know, to open this conversation," Mrs Turei said.

"Terrible things happen to people, terrible things happen to people on the benefit and somebody needs to talk about that. I offered up my life and my story for that conversation. Despite everything I still think it has been worthwhile doing given the public response and community response to it.

"But I also have a duty to both my party and to my family, and my family just don't deserve what's happening with them at the moment and I've got talk responsibility and control of that.

"And my party, we are actually on track to change the government and to be part of a new government, and that's the project I've given 15 years to and I want to make sure that happens and I think I'm an impediment to that now."

Mrs Turei told reporters at Parliament she made the decision to resign while taxiing between meetings in Wellington on Wednesday morning.

She said she was hindering the Greens' chances of being part of the next government.

"I was not asked to stand down... it is not about others. It's about me deciding that in the best interest of the party and my family, this is the right thing for me to do."

Mrs Turei said it was still worth going public about her past benefit fraud.

"We are still talking about poverty and what life is like for beneficiaries.

"It is now a major issue in this campaign. People are seeing what it's like. This is what I dedicated my professional career to."

Metiria Turei faces up to the media at Parliament after resigning as Greens co-leader.

Metiria Turei faces up to the media at Parliament after resigning as Greens co-leader. Photo: RNZ / Craig McCulloch

James Shaw will stay on as the party's sole leader until the election. A new co-leader to replace Mrs Turei will be selected at the Greens' next general meeting.

He said he had not asked Mrs Turei to resign, but believed she had made the right decision.

"I've seen the pressure that she is under, but more than that, the pressure that her family is under. That has gone futher than I had anticipated it would."

Mr Shaw paid tribute to Mrs Turei for all of her work and thanked her for her bravery and sacrifice.

"For the battles that she has fought, for the sacrifices she has made and for the lives that she has changed, the Green Party thank you."

Mr Shaw said Mrs Turei had started an important conversation which had made people uncomfortable - including some inside the party.

"We have paid a heavy price for that and Metiria has paid a particularly heavy price for that."

MPs Kennedy Graham and David Clendon this week pulled their support for Mrs Turei and yesterday asked to be taken off the Green list.

Mr Shaw said Mrs Turei's departure did not mean they could return.

"They've lost the trust of the caucus and of the party."

  • How it happened: Turei resigns as Green co-leader
  • Scars likely to linger for Greens
  • VIDEO: Metiria Turei on Morning Report
  • 'Outside opponents want to see us fail' - Metiria Turei
  • VIDEO: Rogue Green MPs withdraw from caucus
  • The dissenting Greens: Who exactly are they?
  • Toby & Toby on... Jacindamania and the Greens
  • Greens' Shaw refuses to give answer on benefit fraud