Party faithful packed out the Auckland Irish Club on Friday night to kick off the Greens’ campaigns in earnest across the city.
Tiriti justice and climate action were common refrains from the 10 candidates present, as they appealed for volunteers and votes to increase the seats the Greens would have at the table in the event of a Labour-Greens coalition come October.
Co-leader Marama Davidson urged her supporters to push hard over the next few months, saying the results of this election would play a large role in New Zealand’s eventual track record in dealing with the effects of climate change.
“Now is the time. This election is the final opportunity we have to confront and avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” she said.
“This next election is the last chance we have to put down the roots that are going to dictate how we are going to do over the crucial next 10 years – but we need more of us.”
The party has 10 candidates running for seats in the 26 Māori and general electorates that overlap with the Auckland region.
And while many Green MPs run for electorate seats campaigning largely for party votes, this time around things are a little different in Auckland.
There’s Chlöe Swarbrick, who took Auckland Central for the party for the first time last election.
With a win already under her belt, a prominent profile and a spot often higher than her party leaders on poll results for preferred prime minister, she could feel positive about her chances against political newcomers Oscar Sims (Labour) and Mahesh Muralidhar (National).
But things were close last time, and in politics, nothing is certain.
Swarbrick put her last win down to having grassroots support behind her.
“They are going to tell you that it cannot be done,” she said. “But look around you – this is how it is done. In rooms like this, with people like this who go out and talk to their communities… people think of politics as a lot more complicated than it is, but it’s not. It’s about people, it’s about power, and it’s about movement building.”
She said three polls had told her not to expect a victory in 2020 in the seat she narrowly took by just over a thousand votes.
“Three polls told us [it couldn’t be done], but we said don’t watch the polls, we are the polls.”
Then there’s Ricardo Menéndez March, running for the age-old Labour stronghold Mt Albert. That was the electorate held by former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and her departure has left a vacuum that former Auckland Central contestant Helen White will attempt to fill.
For the first time since the 1980s, Labour doesn’t have a current or former leader going for the spot, possibly evening the playing field in a way that hasn’t been seen in a generation.
Menéndez March said more young families were moving into the electorate, many as renters. It’s a group he’ll be trying to attract the attention of with recently announced renter-focused policies behind him.
“We can ensure that the people moving into Mt Albert are well-kept and are supported, and together by holding the balance of power we’ll make it happen,” he said.
Appearing at the political pulpit for one of the first times since his failed run at the Auckland mayoralty last year was Efeso Collins.
“It’s nice to be back behind the podium again, because look at the mess our city is in,” he said.
A Labour-backed politician for most of his career in the council, Collins said he had been “liberated”.
“This is not the colour I was once used to,” he said.
Collins is running in Panmure-Ōtāhuhu, where Labour’s Jenny Salesa won with 77 percent of the vote in the landslide to Labour in 2020. Before that it was known as Manukau East, and it reliably voted for Labour.
Last election the Green candidate only took 650 votes (2.5 percent).
With an elevated profile and thousands of people already behind him after last year’s mayoral campaign, Collins would be expected to improve on that.
He wants to match Auckland Central party votes for the Green Party in his own electorate.
“I’m proud to be the Green Party candidate for Panmure-Ōtāhuhu, because that’s where we are going to continue to grow the vote,” he said.
In the Tāmaki Makaurau electorate, Darleen Tana is taking Marama Davidson’s place in the race. Davidson was third behind Labour’s Peeni Henare and Te Paati Māori’s John Tamihere last time.
Tana said Davidson had personally “shoulder-tapped” her for the role, calling her up at 10:30pm one night to float the idea.
She said she was “honoured, humbled, and freaking excited” to run.
The Green’s other Māori electorate contest is Te Tai Tokerau, where Ngātiwai Trust Board CEO Hūhana Lyndon will be up against Labour’s Kelvin Davis, who took just over half of the vote in 2020.
Much of the Greens’ electorate hopes rest on toppling Labour strongholds. Seventh on the list Golriz Ghahraman is contesting Kelston held by deputy prime minister Carmel Sepuloni in 2020 with around half the vote.
For some of the other candidates, things may be a bit tougher.
Dr Lawrence Xu-Nan admitted his run at the Epsom seat could be a “hard sell”, but came up with a strand of hope – that a growing young population of the area could change things in the ACT stronghold.
Epsom has backed the yellow side since 2005.