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PoliticsOctober 18, 2020

The Greens are sprouting

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The Green Party last night represented a new era: the kids aren’t just all right, they’re in charge. Josie Adams and Sherry Zhang were there.

A very small child met us at the doors to GridAKL. “Are you here for the Green party?” she asked. Her name was Melanie and she followed protocol to a T: she got us to scan the Covid-19 QR codes, and took us to the media scrum. She also knocked every sign askew on her way, turning around and chuckling with purpose every time. “What if people can’t read it?” I asked, and she rolled her eyes. “It says ‘Green’.” She was not paid for her work.

Other parties have kids, sure; but the Greens’ kids aren’t there with families (except for Melanie, obviously). There are very few legacy Greens heirs. No, these kids were there to give birth to a new future. Renewable, gay, and plastic-free. Lourdes Vano and Luke Wijohn – organisers of the school strike for climate and both 18 years old – were running as candidates.

One volunteer, just 15 years old, said she campaigned for the Greens because their policies aligned with what she’d need in the future. “They’re the only party that really cares about the climate,” she said.

One of the MPs fighting for the future is Chlöe Swarbrick. Early in the evening, when it became clear she’d likely won Auckland Central, she took the stage. “We fought for something, and we might have just made it happen,” she said. “I want you to remember this moment when anybody tells you that it cannot be done.”

Chlöe Swarbrick during Auckland Central announcements (Photo: Sherry Zhang)

According to Swarbrick and her team, Auckland Central voting stations on Elliot Street and in Aotea Square ran out of special vote forms. “We had to ring up the Electoral Commission and remind them that maybe more people than they thought would turn up,” she said. 

She pointed out that, on the 11% they were polling at the time, her colleagues Ricardo Menéndez March and Steve Abel would get in. Abel smiled and raised a silent, humble fist in celebration.

Menéndez March – Maungakiekie candidate and a harbinger of the dreaded wealth tax – is now officially in parliament, and the crowd went wild when they heard it. No campaigning was allowed on election day, which he said was like a weight lifted off his shoulders. Earlier in the evening he’d dismissed the slightly more positive polls of Friday night. “It’s like your ex calling you at 2am,” he said. It doesn’t really mean they love you.

Ricardo Menéndez March talking to young Green supporters (Photo: Sherry Zhang)

Party co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw raced up the stairs when they arrived at 9pm, ready to celebrate their achievements. Davidson took the microphone first. “James and I and all of our wonderful MPs, we are thrilled to be able to say: we did it!” The crowd, already cheering, turned the decibel level up.  

“My utmost congratulations to my tungāne Peeni Henare in the Labour Party, who looks like he is ahead enough to be winning and retaining his electorate seat,” she continued. “I have enjoyed working with Peeni Henare and will continue to work with him to represent and get the very best for Tāmaki Makaurau. I also want to acknowledge John Tamihere, who did an outstanding job in the way that only John Tamihere can, bringing an unapologetic kaupapa Māori politics back to Tāmaki Makaurau.” When she thanked “his incredible co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer”, the crowd screamed with joy.

And then, we danced. They played ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’, the quantity of bread doubled, and a giant inflated unicorn came out. It was 9.30pm. 

A very welcoming dance circle invited The Spinoff to bust out some moves to the Pussycat Dolls’ ‘Don’t Cha’, and we accepted. Eliana Rubashkyn, a dance circle participant and advocate for intersex and rainbow issues, said she was excited at what she calls “the most rainbow parliament”. Swarbrick and Menéndez March are both openly queer, as is their party colleague Elizabeth Kerekere, who will be joining them in parliament as a new list MP. 

A unicorn at the Greens’ party (Photo: Sherry Zhang.)

When it became clear the results were settling in – at 7.6% and 10 seats – it was time for another speech. “We are the first support party in the history of MMP to have started and finished a term in government above the 5% threshold,” said Shaw.

“We have made history. You have made history. Chlöe, how’re you doing?” The crowd began to chant: Chlöe! Chlöe! Chlöe! She did a little dance. Shaw’s wife Annabel used the commotion to sneak away and return with a bottle of bubbles. 

“We cannot thank each of you by name, because there are 7,000 of you,” said Shaw. “But I do want to thank you through one person,” he said. “And that person is our extraordinary campaign director, Matt Thomas.”

Matt Thomas has been campaign directing from Australia, where Covid-19 has him locked down. Shaw and Davidson stared down the barrel of a camera: “Matt, thank you. Thanks, Matt.”

As they celebrated re-entry and two more members of parliament, Swarbrick stood next to Davidson and Shaw, a third head on the hydra of progression. The crowd danced again.

“Take care of each other over these days,” said Davidson. “And get some goddamn rest.”

James Shaw, Marama Davidson and Chlöe Swarbrick (Photo: Sherry Zhang.)
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