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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard

MARAMA DAVIDSON (Co-Leader—Green): I seek leave to move a motion without notice on the passing of Jeanette Fitzsimons.

SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that course of action being taken? There is none.

MARAMA DAVIDSON: I move, That this House mark the passing of Jeanette Fitzsimons, the Green Party’s first female co-leader, celebrate her contributions to Aotearoa New Zealand, and express deep condolences to her whānau and friends.

[Authorised Te Reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]

[Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]

It is my honour to stand with my co-leader, James Shaw, and all of our Green MPs here in this House to celebrate the life and acknowledge the passing of our much beloved first female co-leader of the Green Party of Aotearoa, Jeanette Fitzsimons. I acknowledge and send deep aroha to Harry and her children, Jeremy and Mark, and all of their mokopuna. I am thinking particularly of Rod Donald and family at this time, and especially of our friend Holly Donald, who works here in this House. I know that the loss of Rod while Jeanette was a co-leader had a massive impact on her and indeed on all of us.

I am standing here thinking deeply of all of the past Green MPs and particularly those who served with Jeanette in this House. I am thinking of our founding members of the Green Party movement of our party—those who have had a long association with her. Those people are really feeling the loss at this time very deeply, and I want to acknowledge their mamae. I am thinking of Metiria and Russel, with whom Jeanette had a close impact and working relationship. I am thinking of the Young Greens, who held their summer camp just recently in February, as we do every year on Jeanette and Harry’s farm, and were privileged to spend that weekend with her on her beloved riverbank, on her beloved campsite.

I am thankful for the people who have messaged us their love and their thoughts—the many organisations, the many individuals who have had a long association with her over generations and over decades. This kōrero that I stand with much honour to give now is on behalf of James and I and our Green MPs, and I acknowledge James will also be speaking later.

As I start to talk about her achievements, I note—ironically—that one of the biggest is she is noted for her humility, that people recall that her work was never about her as an individual, that she was very clear she was simply doing a job for the wellbeing of our planet and for our mokopuna and generations to come. She was part of the founding movement of our Green Party, right back from the days of the Values Party, through to The Alliance, and then to become the Green Party that we have today. I wanted to start her achievements by recalling her own words, in that her mokopuna have been the touchstone of much of her work. She, of course, was the only Green to ever win an electorate seat, in 1999—ground breaking and still, to this day, the only Green to win an electorate seat.

She also was the Government’s spokesperson—a quasi-Minister, in her own words—who, in 1998, introduced the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act, establishing energy efficiency and solar water heating frameworks, and the legacy of which we are still working through today, thanks to her pioneering. She, of course, helped to bring the climate change conversation into Parliament. She was a leading voice for a new, compassionate, ecologically sustainable economics that has influenced the Government’s new wellbeing approach to this very day. In her valedictory speech, she called this an economy based on respect for people and for nature—simple, but something that to date had not been called for yet. She expanded legal aid for environmental cases and funding for community conservation groups. She, of course, also chaired the Local Government and Environment Committee for six years, in her words, scrutinising the executive, listening to the people, and knocking the silly corners off bad legislation.

Over the weekend, our councils of the Green Party met for a weekend hui that we had long planned, and we started by having a round and reflection for the impact that she had on all of us. Whether you were someone who knew her for decades and generations or whether you were someone who hadn’t yet had the privilege of meeting her, we talked about the fabric of experiences that all of us hold and the marvel and achievement of the work that she led and the person that she was.

There is very much a grieving sense of loss. As I continue to say, I thought we had her for quite a bit longer. I took for granted that she was going to continue to be around to mentor me as co-leader, to mentor us as Green politicians, and to hold us, as the Green Party, to account. I really did think that we had her for a lot longer.

I want to acknowledge and respect that a beautiful funeral, a small family and community and private affair, was held in Coromandel yesterday and respect and acknowledge the beauty that took place. We will be organising a wider, more public event here in Wellington in the weeks to come; I understand people are waiting for that.

I remember her telling me the time when one of our MPs rang her from this House to tell her that he was voting differently to what had been agreed. It was one of the funny stories when she was sitting me down as I was about to take up the mantle of co-leader and saying there is no job description, there is no expectation for what you might expect in doing this role, Marama, but one thing is for sure: you can expect the unexpected.

I recall Harry talking about her trying so hard but failing—after she left Parliament—to get arrested for protecting our marine environment against fossil fuel exploration and drilling. This is only a testament to her work never stopping long after—and to the very end of her life. She was a champion for a progressive vision that would protect our children, our people, and our planet. And she put herself on the line to exemplify exactly that.

Jeanette’s face keeps flashing up in front of me. I was very privileged, at that young Greens summer camp that I mentioned, to stay the night with her on her farm, to have a political huddle—that sort of time was special then. That sort of time with Jeanette was valuable to me in and of itself then. But right now, it’s feeling even more special than I realised it ever was going to be. It was a huddle that confirmed her clarity of purpose for what we—as humans of this world—need to be taking responsibility for, need to be working together for, need to be seeking the change that is indeed going to protect our future, our planet, and our communities. It was an affirmation that she maintained her commitment to those political visions right through to the very end.

Many people have many personal relationships and stories and reflections on her life. I’ve enjoyed reading through a lot of them and hearing a lot of them over the weekend, and there will be more to come. For my time here in this House today, I simply wanted to signal our deep gratitude for her commitment to a kaupapa that was going to be for the good of all of us. There is grief and loss in the gap that has been created, but there is hope in the legacy and the commitment that she maintained and an added drive for all of us, particularly for us in the Green Party and movement, to continue to be steadfast on our principles and our values and to do good in this world. Once again, I send my love to Harry and her children, all of her friends, and her family. Tēnā tātou katoa. Kia ora.

MIL OSI