Metiria Turei has returned to the election stage with a speech decrying how cruel and unfair New Zealand has become.

The Green MP spoke at an anti-poverty rally in the Otara town centre in South Auckland this afternoon - her first significant role in the Green campaign since she stood down as co-leader five weeks ago.

Around 200 people attended the rally, including actor and Green Party supporter Robyn Malcolm. Some in the crowd held signs saying "I Stand With Metiria" and there were loud cheers when Turei rose to speak.

"About two months ago I told the country my story and gave the country the gift of a story of a real life - the real life of what it's like to live on a benefit in this country," she said.


She became tearful when speaking about the response to her controversial admission that she once lied to Work and Income to hold on to her benefit - a revelation that later lead to her resignation.

"When did we decide that our country would be so mean? So unfair?" Turei said. "That solo mothers and their babies and the working poor grandparents taking care of grandkids should have to suffer so much just for a decent life?

"We never decided that. That was never our choice, was it? And now we've got the opportunity to fix it."

Turei said the Greens were the only party taking poverty seriously in New Zealand. In a subtle dig at National and Labour, she said her party would go further than just measuring or reducing poverty.

Turei declined to speak to media afterwards. Until now, she has mostly limited her campaigning to the Te Tai Tonga electorate she is standing in. Unless she wins the seat, she will leave Parliament at the election.

Malcolm also spoke at the rally. In a speech which veered between comedy and anger, she said the idea that New Zealand was prosperous and happy was a myth.

"Has anyone seen that stupid Air New Zealand ad that they play on the planes at the moment ... with some B-grade Hollywood stars representing New Zealand?

"I sit on the plane and think what country are they talking about? They're all wearing white and looking at rainbows and clear waters and clear streams and everybody's happy and lovely and everybody's got their happy, lovely plate of kale and we're all just a lovely bunch of wealthy, happy New Zealanders sitting down here at the bottom of the world.


"And it's bulls***."

She cited an Australian documentary-maker who recently visited New Zealand and said he had no idea there were so many homeless people in Auckland.

"I was reminded of one of those - I can't remember his name - ... from the Business Roundtable who made a big song and dance about the really poor people messing up Queen Street.

"I thought, this is not my country. These are not my people."