Chloe Swarbrick says her extraordinary win in Auckland Central showed that "politics can work" for young people.
The Green MP was still pinching herself today after claiming her party's second-ever electorate seat and the first without a major party endorsement.
"It is phenomenal," she said today. "Everybody ruled it out, said it was impossible … but we made it across the line."
She said her team won National MP Nikki Kaye's old seat "the old fashioned way". It recruited 1000 volunteers and spoke to 10,000 constituents. She gave "every fibre of her being" to winning.
"We were visible, we were present, we had our boots on the ground," she said. "There was blood, sweat and tears."
Her election bid also had a point of difference, she said: "I don't think you can say another campaign did a drag show on K Road."
After the election event, Swarbrick celebrated in Whammy bar on K Road - the community where she lives and has become her spiritual home.
"This is a moment we need to savour," she told a crowd from behind a DJ booth. "Take a moment to be like 'Shit, we did that.'"
In winning the seat, Swarbrick defied warnings that she risked splitting the left-wing vote or losing crucial party votes in an urban, liberal electorate. In the end, she both won the seat and grew the party vote from 13 per cent to 19 per cent.
Labour had targeted her over the Greens' proposed wealth tax - Auckland Central includes the country's two wealthiest suburbs, St Mary's Bay and Herne Bay. But the electorate also includes many cheap apartments and some of the country's worst social problems, such as homelessness.
Swarbrick was the only MP in the race, in which Labour's Helen White placed second and National's Emma Mellow third. She campaigned on her ability to apply parliamentary solutions to local issues, such as working with Labour on commercial tenancies law to help tenants who were fighting landlords over rent payments.
The 400-strong crowd at the Green Party's election event last night
was predominantly younger people, including teenagers who were unable to vote yet.
"The stalwarts of the Greens were … saying that they'd never seen so many young people so actively engaged in an election campaign," Swarbrick said.
"What you are seeing here is that politics can work. Democracy is people's for the taking if they want to engage."
Having a young MP in Parliament helped with youth engagement, the 26 year-old said, but it was only one part of the picture.
"I think that representation is one element of it. If I think again if you were to reflect on the two biggest youth movements in the US and the UK over the past decade, they have both been two older dudes - [Jeremy] Corbyn and [Bernie] Sanders. So I think policy is another really important thing."
It was nonsense that young people were apathetic, she said. They cared about changes which needed to occur, they just did not believe New Zealand had a political system or politicians which could deliver it.
Swarbrick has often spoken of Parliament as a toxic, frustrating place in which MPs became disconnected from the people they represented and transformative change was difficult. But she said today that she had become more optimistic in the last three years.
Asked about how she kept up her passion for politics, she said: "As soon as that passion and zest for the idea of creative problem-solving dissipates, I should be moving along.
"If people stick around when they don't have that passion for change they probably don't belong in that House of Representatives."