Woe betide Green MP Steffan Browning, for who knew the Green Party could be quite so ruthless? Browning was given a stern reprimand and later stripped of his "natural health" portfolio after he dared to publicly muse about the use of homeopathy in Ebola zones.

His leaders were quick to distance themselves and deride it as cray cray talk.

That may have been an accurate assessment of Browning's apparent support for deploying Bach flower essences to Africa. But it must have taken Browning by surprise. This was, after all, the Green Party. The Green Party. The same party that actually had a spokesperson for natural health to begin with. To further Browning's bamboozlement, just the week before, newbie MP James Shaw got away with quoting Margaret Thatcher and announcing he was "a huge fan of the market" - and by "market" he did not mean the local growers' market.

The pillorying of Browning is a stark illustration of the evolution of the Green Party. It has had a Corinthians-esque conversion, deciding that now it has become a grown-up it is time to put away childish things. In many ways the Green Party evolution is a model for other small parties to follow. It might have grown out its fringe and lost some of its quaint charm, but is now more agile and efficient than Labour - and safely above the 5 per cent threshold. The Maori Party appears to be recognising it has to bushwhack a similar evolutionary path.


One big difference between the Maori Party and the Green Party is that the Green Party's bedrock of support has never faced the hardest test of all: Government.

Government has become a bit like the visiting the island of the Sirens for the smaller parties. They are lured in and emerge either not at all, or a mere shadow of their former selves. The Maori Party is proving no exception.

The big problem for the Maori Party was spelled out by Shane Taurima: National. Taurima asked why it was that Maori voters had flocked back to Labour while other voters were deserting in their droves. He answered that question: Maori did not trust National so the Maori Party had lost them.

The Maori Party did manage to outlive Hone Harawira's Mana Party. But no longer able to rely on the X-factor and mana of its founders Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia, the party must now evolve.

Its annual conference last weekend was the usual relaxed mix of robust humour and anarchy mixed with the requisite "kapu ti" (cup of tea) breaks - a recipe that has changed little since the party was founded a decade ago. But there were signs it was inching toward a more professional footing.

It had an almost complete handover of all the top roles in the party - from co-leader Marama Fox to the council. It has a general manager, Norm McKenzie. Businesswoman Susan Cullen was chosen as female vice-president after standing on a platform of fundraising abilities - another sign the reality of professional politics is sinking in. There are new, high-profile faces such Merepeka Raukawa-Tait who told them to stop faffing about with sausage sizzles and get some real fundraising work under way. Tainui leader and former NZ First MP Tuku Morgan is playing a greater role as support crew for Cullen.

The Maori Party is the only political party that does not exclude the media from any part of their annual meetings. Their gripes and triumphs are on full display. So it is that we know that in the last financial year they took in $253,000 in income and spent $228,677 - figures that help explain why the Maori Party was willing to hold its fundraising dinners with National in the lead-up to the election.

The trouble they had was getting the media there at all. Despite the upheavals and changes in the party there was very little media attention on its AGM. The Herald was among just four outlets who attended. One party member asked why it was that the party could not get the same level of coverage as New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. Afterwards Te Ururoa Flavell pointed out the price of getting that coverage was having to say the same things as Peters.


Sure enough, the very next morning it was not the Maori Party on the television current affairs shows. It was Winston Peters, renowned expert in West African communicable diseases. He had his prescription to stop Ebola reaching New Zealand as well: close the borders.

It was a field day for Peters. Immigration and exotic fatal diseases all tied up together in one glorious cornucopia of fearmongery. Someone pass the Rescue Remedy.