Green Party co-leader James Shaw was bashed in an unprovoked attack as he walked to work yesterday, but still turned up to an important meeting to discuss climate issues before going to hospital to have his injuries checked.

Those attending the Environment, Energy and Climate Cabinet Committee yesterday morning were told Shaw, who is the Minister for Climate Change, had been assaulted and that he would be late for the 11am meeting.

Shaw was "hell bent" on attending the meeting, and his items were pushed back so he could speak, a source told the Herald.

When he did arrive he had a black eye, a bloody nose and a box of tissues.

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He didn't volunteer any information about his appearance when he got to the meeting just before it ended.

Shaw was attacked as he walked to work in central Wellington just before 8am yesterday.

A man confronted him as he walked near the entrance to the Botanic Garden on busy Glenmore St.

The spot is only a short distance from Parliament and also from the Prime Minister's official residence further down the road.

A spokesman said Shaw was wearing headphones when the man grabbed him before punching him a number of times in the face.

The man appeared to recognise Shaw and they had a brief but "random" conversation.

Shaw asked the man to let go of him before he was punched.

"He's feeling a bit tender and a bit shaken up," the spokesman said

He said Shaw did not know the man, and he did not see where he appeared from.

Passers-by went to Shaw's aid and he was helped at the scene by ambulance staff and spoke to police before he carried on to work.

It was only following the meeting that Shaw went to Wellington Hospital to have his injuries checked.

He was kept for observation, but it was understood he was released last night and spent the night at home with his wife Annabel.

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson told reporters yesterday Shaw was shaken by the attack.

"We are all upset for our friend, but we are all pulling together."

Green Party co-leader and Climate Change Minister James Shaw was attacked as he walked to work. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Green Party co-leader and Climate Change Minister James Shaw was attacked as he walked to work. Photo / Mark Mitchell

She said there was no indication the attack was linked to Shaw's work or that of the Green Party.

Politicians from across the political parties expressed their shock at the attack and offered their support to Shaw and the Greens.

Many commented on the fact that the attack was possible only because New Zealand's MPs were so accessible to the public.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the attack showed New Zealand couldn't take that for granted.

"We have an environment in New Zealand where politicians are accessible - and that's something we should feel proud of. We are after all, here to serve people. But today's events really show we cannot take that for granted," she said.

Davidson said she also valued that freedom. "I would hate to see that go."

Fellow Green MP Golriz Ghahraman said she hoped it was not indicative of a trend.

National co-leader Paula Bennett said politicians should be able to go about their business in public without such attacks.

"You shouldn't be walking to work and have an unprovoked attack like that," she said.

Bennett said she could recall three occasions when she was a minister when she felt under threat of a physical attack and called police.

"There is no doubt about it that there are some people who are filled with rage and sometimes they can see politicians as people they can take that out on," she said.

Trade Minister David Parker, who chairs the Cabinet committee, said Shaw had told him the man had been shouting about the United Nations. He criticised the role of social media in spreading extreme opinions that fed political biases.

"We need to reflect upon what's going on in society that causes people to be so extreme in their reactions to things they disagree with," Parker told reporters yesterday.

Justice Minister Andrew Little agreed that social media was becoming more toxic.
"It's kind of got to the point where it's almost a parody of itself. You go on Twitter to bathe in the toxicity and putrescence of it," he said.

A 47-year-old man will appear in Wellington District Court today charged with injuring with intent to injure.