By Eileen Goodwin
Metiria Turei was the first leader brave enough to share her experience of the "punitive" welfare system and had come under "sustained attack" for doing so, Dunedin Green Party member Aaron Hawkins says.
Hawkins, who is also a Dunedin city councillor, said the Dunedin-based co-leader's resignation was a loss for the city.
"Dunedin isn't overly represented in Parliament."
It was also a major loss for the fight against poverty.
"For the first time in 25 years we've had a political leader brave enough to say our welfare system is punitive by design, and use their own lived experience to illustrate that point."
She was warm and generous, easily connecting with other people, Hawkins said. A good public speaker, she made it look "effortless".
"She had the capacity to be able to talk to people without talking down to them."
Cr Hawkins said there was a "degree of hostility" towards a "strong Maori woman who challenged the establishment".
Dunedin South MP Clare Curran said Ms Turei championed an end to child poverty and raised awareness of violence against women.
"I've worked alongside Metiria in Dunedin for nine years and will miss her warmth and genuine commitment to change," Ms Curran said.
Ms Turei is campaigning in the Te Tai Tonga seat but will not have a place on the party's list.
She resigned as Greens co-leader on Wednesday, saying the scrutiny of her historical benefit fraud and personal circumstances was too much to bear.
University of Otago law professor Andrew Geddis knew Ms Turei socially as a "nice, warm, friendly person".
The party enjoyed strong support in Dunedin and Ms Turei had previously stood as its Dunedin North candidate.
"I imagine there are a lot of party members and supporters feeling extraordinarily gutted.
"Social media has been a well of tears," Geddis said.
Ms Turei was a key campaign figure for the party, which would fight back but had been hurt.
If the party looked like it could fall below the 5 per cent threshold for remaining in Parliament, Labour would need to "throw them some form of lifeline".
That could mean joint events between Labour leader Jacinda Ardern and Green Party leader James Shaw.
Ms Turei was well liked, but faced ideological opposition from the right-wing.
"There's a segment of the population that saw her as being flaky and representing the worst aspect of environmental socialism," Geddis said.