Green Party leadership hopeful James Shaw has rejected criticism from his main rival that he is a metrosexual, non-driving MP who would be out of place on a farm.

As part of his campaign to replace Russel Norman as male co-leader, Mr Shaw has promoted his broad appeal and his ability to grow the Green Party vote, based on his performance in the Wellington Central electorate.

The other top contender for the co-leadership position, Kevin Hague, has challenged him on these claims.

Mr Hague questioned whether Mr Shaw would be at home speaking on a marae, to trade unionists or to a group of farmers. He also said voters outside the capital might not relate to a metrosexual, Wellington-based MP who does not drive.


Responding to those comments this morning, Mr Shaw said: "I don't agree that I can't talk to farmers. I actually come from a farming family [in Opotiki]."

He would not "pretend to be a farmer" himself, but he said he had good rapport with the rural community because he did not take a judgmental stance on environmental issues.

The first-term MP said he has been urging his party to broaden its caucus to include more Maori, Pacific Islanders, and farmers.

Mr Shaw was less concerned about the "metrosexual" tag.

"A metrosexual is somebody who's comfortable in his own skin, a post-modern guy," he said. "I've probably used it myself in a joking way in the past."

And as for the criticism that he did not drive, "that is simply a statement of fact."

Aged 16, Mr Shaw decided he would not learn to drive for environmental reasons. He has maintained that stance while living in Wellington, Brussels, and London.

Now that electric cars are more readily available, the 42 year-old is planning to change his policy, and has gained his learner licence.


Mr Hague, a third-term MP, said he had a track record of campaigning in a provincial electorate (West Coast-Tasman) and speaking face-to-face "with both Federated Farmers and Forest and Bird".

He started the leadership race as the clear favourite. But with final votes from local branches now being cast, Mr Shaw has apparently drawn neck-and-neck.

Mr Hague has pitched himself as the candidate with the most experience in Parliament, and as a capable pair of hands for the hugely demanding co-leader position.