Eco-warrior's work acknowledged

Jeanette Fitzsimons. Photo / Dean Purcell
Jeanette Fitzsimons. Photo / Dean Purcell

Jeanette Fitzsimons, the quiet eco-warrior, is made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

Ms Fitzsimons, with the late Rod Donald, was a driving force behind the Green Party as its co-leader and member of Parliament between 1996 and February this year, when she retired to live with her husband Harry Parke on their organic farm in the Coromandel.

"I see this award as a recognition of the contribution the Green movement, and the Green Party, has made to New Zealand both in politics and in raising public debate on the big issues that confront us," she said from Europe, where she is touring and studying environmental issues.

"I am very pleased and honoured to accept it on that basis, knowing that many others who have worked with me will share in it and feel their work has been acknowledged."

During her years in Parliament's debating chamber her passion for saving the planet shone through, although she rarely raised her voice and never responded to the insults that came her way across the floor.

When she left she felt little progress had been made, although she was able to drive through legislation that improved energy efficiency and made some other gains while the Greens worked with Labour.

"I'm glad I was able to make those changes but I have been sickened by the political point-scoring in Parliament," she said.

"I am quite willing to say I regret I was never a minister because I think I would have been a good minister, but the whole point about politics is you have to play the hand you are dealt."

At times it wasn't a good hand, and the Greens weren't part of the Government Labour formed, although the party worked closely with it.

As she departed, the 65-year-old MP said this was the message she wanted to leave:

"We can have prosperity without constantly using more. We can have a great way of life and be happy and meet all our needs and still leave the planet in good shape.

"But we can't do it if we believe the only measure of success is for the economy to keep growing forever, and if we believe the only thing that makes us happy is bigger incomes."

- NZPA

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