Russel Norman has announced that he will be standing down as co-leader of the Green Party at this year’s AGM in June. He will have served nine years as co-leader.
Russel and his co-leader, Metiria Turei, together led the Greens through the three most successful elections in our history, 2008, 2011 and 2014.
Although we were aiming for more and hoping to be in government, last year’s election saw more people voting Green than ever before – over a quarter of a million, for the first time ever.
That is in no small part due to the work that Russel has put in over the last nine years to develop the Greens’ credibility, particularly on economic issues.
I had been looking forward to working with Russel and, as a new MP with a number of economic and business portfolios, learning from him. I am very sorry to see him stand down, although I completely respect his reasons for doing so. Nine years is a long time to lead a political party. He has three small children to raise and another career to fulfil. I support him in his decision and wish him well on his journey ahead.
When the Greens left the Alliance to contest the 1999 election as a stand-alone party, many commentators predicted our demise. They did so again when our then co-leader, Rod Donald, died and Russel replaced him. And again when Jeanette Fitzsimons stood down as co-leader to be succeeded by Metiria. Rather than declining, the Green vote and number of MPs actually increased after each of these events.
Now well established as the third force in New Zealand politics, the Greens are greater than any individual – but Russel’s contribution has been extraordinary and he will be sorely missed.
Commentators will no doubt start speculating about Russel’s successor as co-leader. The election of a new co-leader is several months away. The party is stronger than it has ever been before and has many members with strong leadership abilities. Today is one to celebrate Russel's great contribution and that’s where the focus should be.
I for one want to thank him for the hope and inspiration he has provided to hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders over most of the last decade.