METIRIA TUREI: Greens raring to go in election year

Election year has well and truly begun. For the Green Party it’s getting off to a great start.

Last weekend we held our state of the nation event jointly with Labour. It’s the first time the Greens and Labour have come together to give state of the nation speeches and it shows how serious we are about working together to change the government.

There was so much energy and positivity in the packed hall in Mount Albert, Auckland, with Labour and Green supporters spilling out the doors. I think after nearly nine years of a National Government that has done what’s easy instead of what’s right, people know we need a change.

I spoke to the crowd about the mana wahine, the strong women, who have inspired me and who continue to inspire me to work for a better New Zealand. Fierce women, women who stand up for what they believe in, who protect and care for our people, for our rights, and for our planet.

People like Helen Kelly, the union leader who we sadly lost to year to cancer, who never gave up fighting for fair pay and the right to be safe from injury at work. And people like Jeanette Fitzsimons, the former Green Party Co-leader, who is still standing up to protect our environment from those who want to pollute it. A fortnight ago, she and other grandmas chained themselves to Fonterra's fence to protest the huge amount of coal they use to dry milk powder.

I also spoke about the inspiration I get from women who aren’t public figures. The women who knit booties for our tamariki and who protect families from domestic violence. The solo mums and the working mums. And the thousands of Kiwi women who took to the streets recently to show they wouldn’t let the new American President bring them down.

It’s no coincidence that our state of the nation event was in Mount Albert, where two amazing young women are campaigning in the by-election. Green Julie Anne Genter and Labour’s Jacinda Ardern are showing that our parties can work together. We are not the same as Labour but our visions for New Zealand are aligned.

Another highlight for me so far this year has been the launch of our commitment to see te reo Māori taught universally in all public schools. The feedback so far has been positive. Learning a second language from a young age has huge benefits for children, and if that language is te reo it also helps strengthen our nation’s bicultural identity.

I grew up speaking English and have only recently begun my journey to learn te reo. It’s challenging but it’s also hugely rewarding. Last year I began speaking te reo in Parliament and it’s something I’m looking forward to taking up again when Parliament starts sitting for the year this coming week.

Our commitment to te reo is just the first of many policies we’re planning to launch this year, all of which I’m excited about. Over the next few months, we will give New Zealand a clear idea of how much better life can be with a different government.
We won’t shy away from the hard decisions to fix the housing crisis and end child poverty. We won’t allow our rivers and beaches to become even more polluted, because it’s every Kiwi kid’s birth right to swim in clean water. And we will embrace the challenge of climate change to build a clean economy where everyone has a decent job and everyone thrives, not a just a privileged few.

With Labour, we will deliver for our children, our communities, our economy, and our environment.

So with one eye on the strong women who inspire me and the other eye watching the calendar as the election date approaches, I’m raring to go for 2017.