I’d always voted Green. But I only took serious notice of politics and joined the Green Party in 2011, while I was living in London. It was a bit of a quick ‘statement to the universe’ really, and I certainly never expected to be involved so deeply nearly three elections later.
Between myself and a few dedicated other volunteers, including the stalwart Simon Wood, we evolved the overseas presence that James Shaw had pioneered. We grew the London branch into an active and imaginative grassroots campaign targeting the overseas vote in the UK in 2014. Despite the frustrations of that election, we kept things ticking over so there would be an established structure to give the 2017 effort a head start.
Late in 2015 I received the news that my sister had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
I was luckily in a position to be able to completely pack up my UK life and head back to Auckland to be with her and my family for her last months. I thought that was the end of my Green involvement, and was given my first ever pounamu (which ironically has also now had a story of there-and-back-again) as a beautiful but bittersweet farewell gift from the London team.
Back in Auckland, my then 11-year-old nephew asked “are you still running the Green Party?” I said that was just in London, and in New Zealand I was nothing. He replied with a very definitive “You’re not nothing. You’re my uncle.”
I’d committed to stay in New Zealand for at least a year to be with the family following my sister passing away. But I was desperately seeking out familiarity and purpose. I was in the midst of not only grief but also reverse culture shock (it really is a thing). Being around South Auckland – especially Manurewa, where my sister had lived – was a big jolt from a London media lifestyle.
So once again I started championing the buildup towards an overseas campaign. Firstly as a way to keep connected with feeling like a global citizen, but also to put energy where it was still sorely needed. This time however I was able to understand how to get things done with the Green Party structure and people right at the source instead of 18,000km distant. Local branch and province meetings, joining the energising Fundraising and Marketing committee, and getting to know some of the Wellington office team in person instead of just by email, all gave me new insight and resource for overseas campaigning.
But being back in NZ gave me more than that. I got to properly meet and spend some time with MPs and the up-and-coming new candidates. From filming Marama Davidson for a Maori Language Week initiative, to racing around Mt Albert in the dark of night helping Julie-Anne Genter pull down her hoardings before the next day’s by-election, to drinking plenty of Chloe Swarbrick’s coffee at her new cafe, this exposure reinforced my gut instinct from the occasional meetings with James Shaw and others:
New Zealand Green MPs are a different type of politician. In it for real reasons. And the right reasons.
Of course New Zealand doesn’t have the extreme level of “career politician” manufacturing such as you see in the UK from the likes of Eton College, and I’m sure there are MPs in other NZ parties who are in it make a difference too. But the candidates and MPs I’ve met in the Greens have consistently and completely impressed me with their totally genuine passion for making life and the world better – and, well, absolute ordinariness.
Along the way also I got past my reverse culture shock, and rejuvenated a, shall we say more informed and perceptive love of New Zealand. So as 2016 rolled into a 2017 of intense election campaigning and political events, I got more involved than ever in the overseas campaign. Thanks to the energy of our international candidate Bridget Walsh, the dogged commitment of other volunteers, and the support of the Wellington marketing team, it has grown from being a UK-based effort into a global presence. We’re meeting and connecting with Kiwis all around the world online and in person like never before.
Outlining the overseas campaign plans to an Auckland Province meeting with Bridget
In July I returned to live in the UK again.
It’s been more than a bit odd moving back after the emotional journey of the last nearly two years. Things have changed. I’ve changed. But my enthusiasm for protecting Aotearoa is stronger than ever, and I believe a green heart in government is the way to do that. In a way, everything I’ve done with the Greens since 2011 has led up to this point and I’m committed (to the point of obsession at times) making this election the one where things really change for the better.
A lot of people said how good a person I was for dropping my UK life and going back to do what I could for my sister and family. But as much as I did for my sister nearly two years ago, it’s what I can do for her kids, my nephews and niece, and in fact the planet they live on, that feels like one of the most important and worthwhile things I’ve done.
Overseas votes can make a world of difference in Aotearoa. Make yours Green.