Metiria Turei came into Parliament in 2002 after a colourful and often hard early life she once described as a "succession of failures."

She had failed all her school exams and was a university drop-out before she got pregnant with daughter Piupiu at the age of 23.

A solo mum, she has said she realised then she had to turn her life around. She started law school at Auckland University and got involved in politics on the sidelines, standing for the anarchical McGillicuddy Serious Party and Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party before joining the Greens.

In 2002, she left her job as a corporate lawyer for Simpson Grierson after she made it into Parliament at eight on the Green Party list.

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Metiria Turei at 23 in 1993 with daughter Piupiu Turei when she was 6 months old. Photo / Supplied
Metiria Turei at 23 in 1993 with daughter Piupiu Turei when she was 6 months old. Photo / Supplied

She had by then married Worik Stanton, who she met at law school.

Seven years later, the Greens' founding co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons decided to retire and Turei went for the leadership against her old mentor, Sue Bradford.

It was seen as a crossroads moment in the Greens history - a choice between the old-school experience of Bradford with her emphasis on social justice and successful track record passing bills such as the anti-smacking bill, or the more modern face of Turei.

Metiria Turei during question time in Parliament last August. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Metiria Turei during question time in Parliament last August. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Turei and her then co-leader Russel Norman oversaw major changes to the party - under their watch it shed its Morris-dancing image to become a more professional, slick and often effective team.

That saw Turei herself undergo a makeover - she was mocked by National MPs including Judith Collins scoffing at her for wearing Adrienne Winkelmann jackets while preaching about poverty.

Underneath the corporate wardrobe, Turei remained an enthusiast of performing arts - she had once been part of a performance group called the Random Trollops, liked the ukulele and was an enthusiastic participant in events such as medieval re-enactments at her Dunedin "castle" she lived in.

Metiria Turei outside her two-bedroom Dunedin
Metiria Turei outside her two-bedroom Dunedin "castle" in 2014. Photo / Craig Baxter

She was ambitious to be a minister after the Greens were blocked out of successive Labour governments.

Turei's political experience was also invaluable when Norman left after the 2014 election and rookie James Shaw took over.

Turei stood down yesterday after the outcry over her admission to welfare fraud in the 1990s - and now Shaw will have to fight his first election as leader without her guiding hand.

Metiria Turei goes through her wardrobe at her Waitati home in 2014. Photo / Craig Baxter
Metiria Turei goes through her wardrobe at her Waitati home in 2014. Photo / Craig Baxter