The Green Party co-leaders have sought to quash rumours that any leadership changes are afoot after members voted to scrap its male co-leader requirement and add one to ensure Māori representation.
Commentators have suggested that such a move could pave the way for popular Auckland Central MP Chloe Swarbrick to replace co-leader James Shaw, with the party reaffirming its leaders each year at its AGM.
Both Marama Davidson and Shaw made clear there were no plans to change the leadership.
Under the new constitution, the two co-leaders now need to constitute one woman, and one person of any gender (providing leadership pathways for non-binary and intersex). One co-leader also needed to be Māori.
Shaw, who first became co-leader alongside Metiria Turei in 2015, confirmed he was committed to standing at the 2023 election, and did not feel threatened in his position.
"I said when I took on the leadership in the first place back in 2015 that I wanted to lead the Green Party into government for the first time and then safely out the other side."
The party's male and female co-leader requirements began with Jeanette Fitzsimons and Rod Donald in 1995, followed by variations including Metiria Turei and Russell Norman, and now Marama Davidson and James Shaw.
Asked how he felt about the requirement for one co-leader to be male being removed, Shaw said it reflected how the understanding of gender had evolved.
"This doesn't exclude me. I'm going to continue in my post for as long as people will continue electing me.
"When we first said we wanted to have a male and a female co-leader back in the early 90s that was in recognition of the fact that there were very, very few women in political leadership. Although that situation has changed, it's still not 50/50.
"We want to continue that tradition and say that at least one of our co-leaders must be a woman in order to continue to send that message to women, that the Green Party continues to be a place... that stands for the role of women's leadership in Parliament."
Shaw said the party had a commitment to Te Tiriti "for a long time" but had not really put it into operation.
"Our understanding of what it means to be a Treaty-based organisation and our understanding of gender have both evolved considerably over the course of the last 30 years.
"So I'm actually really pleased that the party has finally kind of grappled with those issues."
Davidson said despite "some speculation" the co-leaders were remaining in their place.
"The Green Party leadership, co-leaders, that will stay in place, as we had always planned.
"The whole point, though, is about better representation, more inclusive expectations for leadership, and upholding Te Tiriti."
Party co-convenor Penny Leach said of the changes that politics had never provided a "level playing field" for Māori and Pasifika peoples, people of different genders, rainbow communities, and women.
"We see this in the way most political parties choose to structure their organisations, and we see it too in the way these groups are represented – or not represented – at all levels of government."
The only other party in Parliament to have co-leaders is Te Pāti Māori, which requires one tāne and one wahine. The party constitution does not specify if any are required to be Māori.
Despite not previously having the requirement, honouring te Tiriti o Waitangi had long been in the Green Party charter and there had been a Māori co-leader for almost 15 years, through Turei and Davidson.
"Enshrining that in our constitution is an important step on the journey to restoring the mana of te Tiriti in Aotearoa," Leach said.
The party's co-leaders must be re-elected at the annual meeting. Any member can be nominated to challenge a sitting co-leader, in advance of the meeting.
Other changes to the constitution included adopting a te ao Māori organisational framework, and establishing a new kaunihera (council) and member assemblies to provide democratic input for internal decisions, while disestablishing the party's executive.
Leach said the changes put the party in a good space to continue its support, with it being the only small party to increase its support after going into Government with a larger party.
The party had also formally recognised the work of Green members on local councils, with local government elections this year.
"Our Green local government representatives are already making huge changes in their communities and our new constitution empowers them within the party's internal structure."