Green Party co-founder Jeanette Fitzsimons has defended Metiria Turei and described her admission of benefit fraud as "courageous".

Today Turei said she would not resign as the Green party co-leader or as a member of Parliament for the Greens but said she would not seek a ministerial position in any new Labour Green government.

Fitzsimons said the benefit fraud Turei admitted to this week was more than 20 years ago and her discussing it had opened the door for public debate.

"I think her admission of hiding information from social welfare was a courage one," Fitzsimons told Rachel Smalley on Newstalk ZB.

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"She didn't have to tell anyone about that but it opened up the public debate about the meanness of the social welfare system, especially to children."

"Many beneficiaries are saying 'yes that is me and that's what I had to do to survive'."

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei answers questions about benefit fraud at Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei answers questions about benefit fraud at Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

Turei this week admitted she had provided false information about her living circumstances when she was on the domestic purposes benefit.

She defended her actions, saying she did it to provide for her child.

Turei also said she had enrolled at an address where she did not live in order to vote for a friend running in the Mount Albert electorate in 1993. This, Fitzsimons said, was harder to defend.

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei will not be seeking a role as a minister should the Greens form part of the next government

"Breaking electoral law is not a wise thing to do and I understand she has paid the price today with not seeking a ministerial position," Fitzsimons said.

Green Party co-founder Jeanette Fitzsimons said Metiria Turei's admission of benefit fraud was
Green Party co-founder Jeanette Fitzsimons said Metiria Turei's admission of benefit fraud was "courageous". Photo / Michael Cunningham

When asked by Smalley if that was enough of a sacrifice Fitzsimons said it was.

"Giving up the chance to be a minister is huge."

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Fitzsimons went further and said there would be few New Zealanders who could look back 20 years and say they hadn't broken the law.

She said Turei's credibility hadn't suffered and said "the substance of what you are trying to do for people" was more important than appearances.

"How much damage does it do to people now that she committed a misdemeanour all those years ago when she was young."

"I'm not saying it's all okay, it's that I think we need to put it in perspective."