Green co-leader Metiria Turei has survived a welfare scandal and is being backed by her caucus to remain in leadership even if she cannot be a minister after the election.

Turei responded to the growing controversy over her benefit history by ruling out a ministerial role if Greens are in power, all but putting an end to her dream of holding the social development portfolio.

She considering resigning yesterday after new revelations emerged about her living situation while on the domestic purposes benefit 20 years ago, but instead said she would stay on as an MP and as co-leader.

That could leave her in the unusual position of leading the party from outside Cabinet if the Greens form a Government with Labour, with less senior Green MPs becoming ministers in her place.


At this stage, her decision is yet to cause any disquiet within the Greens. One party source said they were surprised by how united the caucus was about it.

Another said Turei was so popular within the party's membership that a resignation would have caused a "meltdown" at a critical time - just before an election.

The idea of a co-leader outside Cabinet is not a foreign concept to the Greens. In its planning for Government, the party has proposed such a role to keep an eye on backbench MPs.

Co-leader James Shaw backed Turei yesterday, saying that "everyone is entitled to a past".

Her decision to forgo a ministerial role appeared to be partly influenced by new Labour leader Jacinda Ardern, who said that she would not have been happy having Turei in a Labour-Greens Cabinet.

Ardern's comment had the potential to test the Labour-Greens relationship, but a Green source said there were no hard feelings toward Labour yesterday. The Memorandum of Understanding between the two parties remains intact.

Turei ruled herself out of a Cabinet position after coming under pressure over new revelations about her past as a solo mother on the domestic purposes benefit. She revealed that she was once registered to vote in an electorate she was not living in so she could vote for a friend, and that she was living with her mother while she was on welfare - though she claimed the two were financially independent.

While the new claims were no more serious than her admission last month that she might have committed benefit fraud, they gave the impression she had not been completely up-front. The ongoing controversy also threatened to overshadow the left-bloc's new-found momentum following Ardern's selection as Labour leader on Tuesday.


Turei insisted yesterday that New Zealanders could still trust her, and that there were no more skeletons in her closet: "I have nothing more. This is it."