Fitzsimons to step down

Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons expects to step down from politics before the 2011 election and could give up leadership of her party as early as next year.

Ms Fitzsimons said she had not made a final decision, but it was unlikely she would stand again in 2011.

If so, she would cede the leadership of the party earlier - probably at its annual conference next year or in 2010 - to give her successor time to settle in before election year.

She said her immediate priority was this year's election and getting the Green Party back into Parliament with a large caucus.

"It is unlikely I will stand at the next election [2011], but I will be announcing that later in the term.

"Never say never. I've got so much happening before that that I want to get stuck into. We've got 2008 to deal with at the moment."

Ms Fitzsimons, 63, has led the party since 1995. She entered Parliament with Rod Donald in 1996 after the first MMP election.

"I'm not going to still be around in Parliament when I'm 90. I intend to be on the planet when I'm 90 but I've got other things to do."

Ms Fitzsimons had expected to retire before this year's election, but agreed to stay on after the death of Mr Donald in late 2005 so the party would not be fighting the election with two new co-leaders.

"Rod and I thought we would stagger our retirement. And then he chose to stagger it the other way round.

"But when I thought about it, I wasn't ready to go and I look back on the last few years and think, 'Yes I've done a lot on the energy area that I'm glad I had the opportunity to do'.

"I would have been disappointed looking back if I hadn't had the opportunity to do it."

Russel Norman was voted the Green Party's male co-leader after Mr Donald's death, but he does not yet have any experience as a member of Parliament.

The Green Party constitution requires a male and female to work as co-leaders, who are elected by members at the annual conference. Ms Fitzsimons has not been challenged since she became leader in 1995.

Ms Fitzsimons said any of her three current female caucus colleagues - Sue Bradford, Metiria Turei and Sue Kedgley - would be capable replacements.

As well, party candidate Catherine Delahunty was high enough on the list to have a chance of entering Parliament in this year's election.

"I would have confidence in any of them."

Sue Bradford and Metiria Turei have previously been tipped as contenders and are ranked at number three and number four respectively on the party's list, which is voted on by members.

The party is the only minor party to consistently poll over the 5 per cent threshold, and Ms Fitzsimons said she was keen to increase its representation from its current six MPs.

 

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