Green Party co-leader James Shaw has decided “with some regret” not to contest the seat of Wellington Central, where he has run as the Green Party candidate since 2011.
Shaw will nominate Tamatha Paul, a second-term Wellington City Councillor who joined the party prior to the 2022 local body election.
The news is a surprise, as recently as last Friday Shaw was saying publicly that he intended to “put [him]self forward for selection as the Green Party’s candidate for Wellington Central”.
Paul is not in the party’s candidate pool for a spot on the party list, meaning she will need to win the seat to have any shot at entering Parliament. Wellington Central is a safe-Labour seat.
Labour’s Grant Robertson won it with a 18,878 majority. Robertson announced last week he would also go list-only and Labour has not yet selected a replacement.
“Wellington Central has been the Greens’ highest polling seat for decades. With Grant Robertson standing aside as the local MP, it will be an open race with no incumbent.
“We showed in 2020 we could win electorates with the massive grassroots mobilisation in Auckland Central. In 2023 we can win Wellington Central too,” Shaw said.
Shaw said he stood aside with “some regret, but no doubt”.
“To borrow a recent phrase, I am not standing aside because I think we can’t win it, but because I think we can,” Shaw said, adding that as co-leader and Climate Change Minister he would be leading the National-level campaign.
Paul said that Shaw had “reached out recently” to ask her to consider standing in the seat.
“I don’t want to be an MP for the sake of being an MP. I want to amplify and advocate and represent our city to the fullest,” she said.
Paul said decisions made during her term on council were bearing fruit.
“I can see the real-life impacts that we have made together. We’re leading in the climate space and our action is transforming the streets. We’re making the city safer. We’ve unleashed the potential for new housing, many of our native species are flourishing and we’re about to dial up the vibrancy of the city enormously,” she said.
The party is hoping to repeat Chlöe Swarbrick’s upset victory in Auckland Central at the 2020 election and win the seat from Labour.
The seat is the Green party’s highest polling party vote seat. It has the fifth-highest proportion of renting households of any electorate in the country and the second-highest number of households that have no motor vehicle (nearly four times the national average).
It has the highest proportion of people who walk or jog to work and the second highest proportion of people who catch a bus to work.
None of the three sitting MPs who contested the seat in the 2020 election - Robertson, Shaw, and National’s Nicola Willis - will contest it in 2023, yet all intent to run either as list MPs or in other electorates (Willis has moved to neighbouring Ōhāriu).
Formal selection will take place on February 16.