29 May 2009

Fitzsimons steps aside as Greens co-leader

10:05 pm on 29 May 2009

Jeanette Fitzsimons has given her final speech as Green Party co-leader, bringing down the curtain on 14 years in the role.

Ms Fitzsimons addressed about 150 party members in Dunedin on Friday night, ahead of Saturday's selection of a new female co-leader.

She said the Greens have become a permanent part of the political scene because of the party's grassroots, rather than its leadership.

Ms Fitzsimons said in her 12 years in Parliament attitudes to issues such as climate change and home insulation have changed, but there's still much to do.

She said she believes she has made no progress in challenging the overriding commitment to growth and the use of more resources every year in a finite world.

Co-leader election

Party members will on Saturday choose between list MPs Metiria Turei and Sue Bradford to succeed Ms Fitzsimons.

Ms Turei is "quietly confident" she will become co-leader, while Ms Bradford acknowledges she is the underdog.

Party members are holding the election at the Greens' annual conference in Dunedin.

A Radio New Zealand political reporter says both have a stronger background in social justice than environmental issues - the forte of Ms Fitzsimons.

Ms Turei, 39, says her leadership style is focused on the grassroots, and would represent a "steady as she goes" approach.

She says she has a reputation for placing a Maori analysis on Green issues, and would work to draw a link between environmental concerns and social justice.

Ms Bradford says she is the underdog and some party members see her as "too controversial."

She is best known for championing controversial changes to child discipline laws.

Ms Bradford says she is proud of the repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act, but accepts it has affected her public image.

Ms Fitzsimons is to retire at the next general election. She has been a Member of Parliament since 1996.