This story first appeared on RNZ and is republished with permission
The Green Party’s in-fighting leads to a defection by MP Elizabeth Kerekere ahead of a damaging inquiry into her behaviour towards colleagues and staff
Under-fire MP Elizabeth Kerekere has resigned from the Greens after earlier hitting out at the party’s co-leaders over their handling of an investigation into her behaviour.
Kerekere – a first-term MP – has been under internal review since last month when she was caught speaking ill of her colleague Chlöe Swarbrick in a message sent to the wrong group chat.
Since then, multiple sources close to the party have spoken to RNZ anonymously, criticising Kerekere’s broader treatment of caucus colleagues and staff.
In a statement issued to media late Friday night, Green co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw said Kerekere tendered her resignation shortly after 8pm.
“Dr Kerekere has notified the Green Party caucus of her intention to sit as an independent MP until the general election, when she will retire,” the statement said.
The co-leaders said they would not use the waka jumping provision to eject Kerekere from Parliament, in keeping with the party’s position when the law was passed.
“We have been informed that Dr Kerekere made a number of statements whilst addressing party members tonight, that we consider to be untrue.
“We do not intend to address these tonight, but will do so over the coming days.”
The development comes after Kerekere spoke to party members in a conference call on Friday evening and accused Davidson and Shaw of dragging out an investigation into her behaviour.
In a roughly 10-minute address, the Tairāwhiti-based MP criticised the weeks-long process and said the co-leaders were making it very difficult for her to continue working in the party.
She claimed a fellow MP had purposely leaked the group chat messages and said the Greens’ processes were not well-suited to “bad-faith actors”.
Kerekere told members she had apologised unreservedly to Swarbrick for her remarks and admitted she had been envious of her colleague when she wrote: “Sucks that her bill goes through during list ranking!”
But she said her follow-up comment – “omg what a crybaby” – had been misinterpreted and was meant in a self-deprecatory manner towards herself.
RNZ has been leaked a new screengrab of the group chat conversation which shows one of Kerekere’s initial responses on the night: “I am sorry I wrote down crybaby.”
The comment goes on: “I am jealous Chloe [sic] has a bill going up during list ranking because it’s great timing and I genuinely hope my bill gets pulled tomorrow.”
Speaking on Friday evening, Kerekere told members she categorically denied any allegations of bullying.
She said no one had gone on the record to back their claims and described that as a breach of natural justice.
Kerekere said she had not been approached by any other party to join them – seemingly a reference to the recent defection of former Labour MP Meka Whaitiri to Te Pāti Māori.
Members were not given the opportunity to ask questions. Kerekere had been invited to speak by the party’s co-convenors Aroha Lowe and Rōpata Moore.
In their Friday night statement, Davidson and Shaw said they had been committed to overseeing an internal review which was fair “to everyone involved”.
“Our first priority as co-leaders of the Green Party is to our kaupapa, values, members, and our caucus.
“On 5 April 2023, Dr Kerekere sent messages to a group of Green Party MPs and staff that appeared to fall short of these values.
“We were concerned that these messages were not isolated, but part of a pattern of behaviour towards staff and caucus colleagues. We requested that a formal caucus process be carried out to consider the matter.
“Before that process could conclude, Dr Kerekere resigned as a Green Party MP and Green Party member.”
RNZ understands Kerekere had engaged the services of employment lawyer Steph Dyhrberg.
Dyhrberg declined to speak to RNZ on Friday. Kerekere has not responded to RNZ’s request for comment.
Members are currently voting on the final ranking of the Green Party list which will help determine which MPs and candidates make it into Parliament this election.
Kerekere’s supporters last week sought to delay voting, arguing members deserved to know all the facts, but they were unable to garner sufficient support from the membership during a last-minute conference call.
A draft list, devised by delegates, had ranked Kerekere in fourth spot, one place below Swarbrick, but above other senior MPs. The final list was expected to be published at the end of May.