Parliament pauses to remember Efeso Collins

The empty seat of Green Party MP Efeso Collins in the debating chamber at Parliament. MP Celia...
The empty seat of Green Party MP Efeso Collins in the debating chamber at Parliament. MP Celia Wade-Brown can be seen crying at the right of the frame. Collins died during a charity event in Auckland this morning. Photo / Thomas Coughlan
The empty chair of Green MP Efeso Collins was draped in a siapo or tapa cloth, and his desk garlanded with a Tokelauan lei when Parliament met this afternoon to mourn the MP after he died while participating in a charity event in Auckland this morning.

Parliament had been scheduled to meet for a regular sitting day, including Question Time, but following Collins’ death this morning, MPs from all parties agreed to adjourn until next Tuesday.

Collins was taking part in ChildFund Water Run to raise funds to support local communities in the Pacific at 9am in Auckland’s Britomart when he collapsed.

Emergency services immediately responded with CPR and defibrillators to treat the MP and continued working on him for an hour.

An organiser for the event confirmed he had died at the scene.

Collins, 49, is survived by his wife Fia and two daughters.

Green party co-leader James Shaw, fighting back tears, led the tributes, saying he would be missed by the country, and the Green caucus.

“Aotearoa needed him, we needed him,” Shaw said.

“Efeso Collins was a good man,” Shaw said.

Efeso Collins. Photo: Supplied
Efeso Collins. Photo: Supplied
“He conducted himself quietly and gracefully ... and full of empathy,” he said.

Shaw said that Collins’ maiden speech, made just last week, would also serve as his valedictory.

Speaking on behalf of the three governing parties, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said he was shocked and saddened by Collins’ lost.

He said they had bumped into each other at Parliament recently and discussed the challenge of balancing family life with one’s obligations as a Parliamentarian.

“He was what I would call a true servant leader,” Luxon said.

“I think he had a promising political career ... I have no doubt he would have been very good for this place,” he said.

Gesturing across the House, Luxon extended his thoughts to the Greens and Labour, noting Collins had been a Labour MP before he became a Green.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins recalled meeting Collins as a student politician.

“He could break tension with just a few words,” Hipkins said.

Collins was a rugby fan and enjoyed the odd milkshake, Hipkins said, to a chuckle from across the House. Hipkins only spoke briefly, yielding the rest of his time to his deputy Carmel Sepuloni, who knew Collins better.

“He was and continued to be a force to be reckoned with,” Sepuloni said.

“Losing Efeso is a loss to our country and to our Pasifika community,” she said

“You lead through service, you were a leader and your legacy of service and leadership will be remembered,” she said.

Sepuloni said Collins, who started as a Labour member and moved to the Greens, had begun life in Labour’s fale, and moved next door.

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer paid tribute to Collins’ family.

“We can only imagine the gap he leaves,” she said.

Green MPs Chloe Swarbrick and Julie Anne Genter look on during to a tribute to Efeso Collins at...
Green MPs Chloe Swarbrick and Julie Anne Genter look on during to a tribute to Efeso Collins at Parliament in Wellington on Wednesday 21 Feb 2024. Green MP Efeso Collins collapsed and died while taking part in the ChildFund Water Run in Auckland. Credit: Hagen Hopkins.
Referencing Collins’ history of party hopping, Ngarewa-Packer joked that she sometimes wondered whether he might join her party one day, such was his love and warmth for all.

Parliament had been meant to sit today and for the rest of the week. However, leader of the House Chris Bishop motioned that it should rise for the rest of the week and resume on the next scheduled sitting day, next Tuesday.

It is rare to have such a long unscheduled adjournment, but it has been decades since a sitting MP died on a sitting day.

Former Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio spoke of the potential that Collins represented on many levels - particularly for young people, South Auckland and the wider Pasifika community - and his new role as an MP.

“So much potential, so much hope.

“I suppose you have to hope that others inspired by him will continue to be inspired by him.”

Aupito said he had known Collins and his aiga (family) since before politics.

In the early 90s, they were staunch supporters of the Labour Party and particularly of Taito Phillip Field, he said, who was the first MP of Polynesian descent in New Zealand.

Collins had moved to the Greens since, but Aupito said he was seen as a sort of uncle to the younger generation of Pacific politicians - no matter which party they represented.

When Collins decided to run for the Auckland mayoralty, he called on Aupito for advice.

Last week, when Collins gave his maiden speech in Parliament, Aupito said he listened to it proudly.

“When I listened to his speech, I was so pleased because what he said, the message and how he articulated it, I felt so confident that that’s going to inspire so many of our younger generation.

“And give them hope about the possibilities and hope that you can be whatever you want to be - and be confident, courageous and fearless as he was.

“I think that all of that hope, aspiration and inspiration makes his death so devastating and such a heartfelt blow.

“It’s so devastating today.”