The Green Party believes it's closer than ever to helping form a government, despite a disastrous past month that included the loss of a leader and a huge drop in the polls.

Surveys now have the Greens hovering around 5 per cent, the threshold for entry to parliament. Support was measuring more than twice that in July.

However, leader James Shaw said he thinks idea of an environmentally friendly, progressive coalition - without the need for Winston Peters - will be compelling enough to shift "soft" voters to a Green-Labour bloc.

"I know we've taken a hit. But we are that close," Shaw said, holding his fingers an inch apart. "And I take a lot of heart in the last couple of polls that say we are doing better."

Shaw believes the Greens will get enough votes to form a government with Labour, despite polls hovering around 5 percent. Photo/Dean Purcell
Shaw believes the Greens will get enough votes to form a government with Labour, despite polls hovering around 5 percent. Photo/Dean Purcell

Speaking to the Herald a month after co-leader Metiria Turei's resignation amid her benefit fraud scandal, Shaw admitted he'd had to "really step up" after her departure.

Not only was it his first campaign as leader, but also his first as an MP, meaning a steep learning curve. Turei's portfolios had been dished out among the other MPs, but Shaw has been doing the campaign events solo.

However, he said although the travel is extreme - including five centres in the past week - he was loving the variety of experiences.

"In the last week I've been knee deep in a freshwater spring near a marae and then in a finance debate," he said. "Call me weird, but the stuff that I'm doing is awesome."

Apart from his schedule, little else had changed in the party since Turei's departure, Shaw said. Despite concerns there would be less of a focus on child poverty - Turei's passion - Shaw said it was still among the three core priorities, alongside water quality and climate change.

"Obviously every co-leader we've ever had has their take, their angle, but the party is in many ways the same party I joined in 1990," Shaw said.

4 Sep, 2017 7:30pm
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"The party has always been bigger than any one person. When Rod Donald died, people wrote off the Green Party and said that was the end and then Jeanette Fitzsimons retired and they said that was the end but we are probably the party with the most stable leadership. I am only the fifth leader since it began."

Green Party leader James Shaw says he's had to
Green Party leader James Shaw says he's had to "step up" since co-leader Metiria Turei's resignation. Photo/Dean Purcell

Shaw said it was clear many of their voters were switching allegiances to Labour's Jacinda Ardern, whom he called a "vacuum cleaner" for votes.

He congratulated her on lifting Labour's game, and said the rise of someone so young was a sign of how times were changing.

That gave him hope the Greens' climate-change policies - particularly their aim of zero carbon by 2050 - would finally get across the line, as younger people tended to be more focused on the environment.

"It means the leadership we've shown will take, where we've found resistance before," he said.

Shaw said the zero carbon target would be his priority in the party's first 100 days. He thought it could become the defining moment of a new government, allowing business to shift its focus, creating a high-value economy and world-leading technology.

"Climate change is complex but the things that New Zealand can do are within our grasp," he said. "As I keep saying it's the greatest economic opportunity in at least a generation."