Greens' fresh faces put sitting MPs at risk

The Green Party's candidates were all smiles at Parliament - but some of their MPs are at risk from a focus on fresh faces. Photo: Sam Sachdeva.

The Greens have unveiled their final list rankings for the 2017 election - and youth has largely triumphed over experience. Sam Sachdeva reports.

The Green Party has its slate of candidates to compete on September 23 - and the party leadership appears happy with what it sees.

Announcing the final list at Parliament, Greens co-leader James Shaw said it had “a mix of experienced hands and also fresh new talent”.

“In terms of age, geography, ethnicity and professional background, this list looks a lot like modern New Zealand.”

The announcement was bereft of the last-minute drama that accompanied Labour’s list release - in large part because aspiring Greens lack the ability to sway their rankings at the last minute.

A draft list was released in April based on the preferences of candidates and delegates, before it was subjected to a nationwide vote by the party’s members which has resulted in some significant changes.

Auckland-based MPs are higher up the list, with five in the top 10 compared to three in the draft list - a sign perhaps that the party membership knows it must focus more strongly on capturing votes in the country’s largest city.

Shaw also highlighted the strong levels of Maori representation, while Teaunau Tuiono and Leilani Tamu have become the first Pasifika candidates to crack the Greens’ top 20.

Promoting young talent

Most striking, however, is the elevation of young women into winnable spots.

Golriz Ghahraman, a human rights lawyer who could become New Zealand’s first MP from a refugee background, has jumped into the top 10.

So too has former Auckland mayoral candidate Chloe Swarbrick who at 22 would become the youngest MP in over 40 years.

Pro snowboarder turned TV presenter Hayley Holt jumped 12 places, going from an unwinnable 29th to a plausible 17th.

Their promotions will allay consternation about their original placement on the draft list, with critics fearing the party was squandering an opportunity to bring in new blood.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the elevations were a sign that the party wanted “new and fresh talent in this caucus”.

“Our party’s already been very keen on fresh talent, on youthful representation, on diverse representation, and that’s what they have delivered to New Zealanders today.”

Sitting MPs at risk

That focus on youth does not come without a countervailing effect, with a number of existing MPs now at risk of losing their places.

At 15th and 16th respectively, Denise Roche and David Clendon will rely on the party bettering its performances at the 2011 and 2014 elections, while Mojo Mathers in 11th and Barry Coates in 12th could be at risk from any polling slump.

Shaw was bullish about their spots, saying a result of 15 per cent would deliver between 18 and 20 MPs, including those in the current caucus.

“If you look at the trajectory of our polling we’re heading in that direction, and we’re still yet to start the campaign, so the Green Party has a tendency of actually rising during the course of the campaign as well.”

However, the Greens have also had a tendency of underperforming their polling on election day, which means Roche and Clendon will be taking nothing for granted.

Definitely on their way out are current MPs Catherine Delahunty and Steffan Browning, who both announced late last year that they would be stepping down - perhaps to jump before being pushed.

'Necessary' change

The Greens have been somewhat conservative with their lists in the past, but have clearly seen the need to bring more fresh faces forward by demoting others - even if, as Turei said, it goes against their ethos.

“It’s not the Green way, we don't like having to do this, but it’s necessary under the system.”

She rebuffed a suggestion the candidates were too inexperienced, saying they brought other values to Parliament.

“Youth may not bring experience in terms of jobs and life experience but they bring experience of young people trying to make their way in New Zealand society under enormous strain."

The three stars of the day stuck dutifully to the party line: Holt said she was “really stoked” the Greens membership believed in her, while Swarbrick and Ghahraman both sought to emphasise the need for party consensus over any individual desires as would-be MPs.

Swarbrick was keen to back the idea that she and the other Greens could mobilise young Kiwis staying away from the polls, by “cutting to the heart” of issues that matter.

“If you compare the 18-year-old to 24-year-old bracket with the 70+ bracket, there’s only 10,000 more in the 70+ bracket but 150,000 more of them vote...

“We have this really gross cycle where we have a lack of expectation for what politicians can deliver on, therefore we don’t expect it and they don’t have to deliver, therefore we don’t expect anything, and voter turnout declines.”