James Shaw

The Greens’ new constitution, which has just been filed with the Electoral Commission, offers a revealing insight into how the Party is changing and, therefore, why James Shaw may be losing support as co-leader.

Shaw confirmed yesterday he would stand again after he was required to stand down by a vote at the Party’s Annual General Meeting on Saturday.

Auckland Central MP Chloe Swarbrick said she would not stand, but list MP, Elizabeth Kerekere, said she would make a statement on her decision after today’s Green caucus.

Swarbrick is the Party’s most popular MP.

National’s pollster, David Farrar, yesterday released polling from last November, which showed that her overall favourability was 24%, but this increased to 29% for women and 32% for under 40s.

And she appealed to National voters; 16% of National voters liked her as did 36% of Labour voters and 22% of undecided voters. 

But hardcore Green members appear not to rate her; it was only when the party membership at large got to vote on the list at the last election that she got into a winnable position.

She would seem unlikely to be getting support from the Party’s Green Left network, which is playing a high-profile role in the current leadership debate.

One of the co-convenors of the Green Left network, Nicole Geluk-Le Gros, in a series of tweets, has made it clear she is questioning Shaw’s leadership.

The network’s Kaupapa, by implication, is critical of Shaw’s consensual approach to climate change.


“We recognise that we are all a part of the global ecosystem,” the Kaupapa says.

“As such, the fight for the planet is the same as the fight for the people, and the foundation of both is resistance to the concentration of and abuse of power.

“We reject “sustainable capitalism” as an oxymoron; we do not believe the market will ever be able to provide a genuine solution to climate change, and we indict the inherent violence of capitalism.

“We believe that climate justice demands the liberation of all people from oppression and coercion, including from economic coercion.”

Shaw’s critics single out his consensual approach to dealing with agricultural emissions and the Government’s continued embrace of free ETS units for some industries.

In a tweet yesterday, Geluk-Le Gros said: “James believes in greenwashing tools such as green investment and financing, the GLN (GreenLeft network) believes in anti-capitalism, which means the restructure of our entire economy and society.”

Kerekere, on the other hand, in both her academic work and activism, has focussed on rainbow issues.

Both Geluk-Le Gros and Kerekere represent the much broader range of issues that the current Green Party embraces.

That change in emphasis from being a purely ecological party is evident in the new constitution, which has just been filed with the Electoral Commission.

A new addition to the constitution is a section “The Tikanga of the Party.”

This says that the Party should be structured within an adaptable Te Ao Māori framework and embed Te Tiriti o Waitangi “in everything we do.”

It also calls on the Party to uphold international human rights instruments, including the  UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Yogyakarta Principles.

The Principles are described as “an authoritative statement of the human rights of persons of ‘diverse sexual orientations and gender identities”.

The Tikanga goes on to say that the Party should make space for members to be their best in the way that works best for them.

And it should strive for full inclusion throughout the Party by honouring intersectionality and combating oppression.

The Prime Minister yesterday made it clear that even if Shaw were to lose the leadership, he would remain as Climate Change Minister, a declaration to the Greens’ members that any change would actually accomplish no change to climate change policy.

“My decision to put him into that portfolio when we formed government wasn’t because we needed a relationship to able to form a government with the Greens strictly, although I do think it’s important to keep that going; it was because I actually believed he was the right person for the job,” Jacinda Ardern said yesterday.

“He has an incredible understanding, a very complex area.

“He works hard to build relationships in the area where we need this policy to stick for the generations to come and not change because of election cycles.

“And in my mind, he has helped us as a government to make the most significant changes and climate action that any government has made.”

Ardern has long argued that climate change needs to be sustainable and not able to be reversed by an incoming National government which is why Shaw has worked hard to keep National on board with both his climate change legislation and his regulatory moves.

So far, he has succeeded. But as the coming weeks unfold, we will get a better idea of what the cost of that consensus may have been to his own political career.