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Terse Words And Praise From Departing Green MP

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Jeanette Fitzsimons
Jeanette Fitzsimons

By Chris Ormond of NZPA

Wellington, Feb 10 NZPA - Veteran Green Party MP Jeanette Fitzsimons signed off permanently from Parliament today with a mixture of terse remarks about the state of the environment, satisfaction at the party's achievements and gratitude to those who helped obtain them.

Ms Fitzsimons, who stepped down as co-leader last year, came to Parliament in 1996 and forged a reputation as an honest, hard-working MP who by-passed the jibes and mud-slinging and got on with the job.

In paying his respects, Finance Minister Bill English said she represented "the total integrity of message" and shared her regret that she was never made a minister when in partnership with Labour.

Ms Fitzsimons touched today on her nervous beginnings, a "bizarre" orientation session where new MPs were taught how to pack a suitcase, and amazement that Winston Peters was able to stall processes for 10 weeks while deciding which party to support.

She said her time as an MP was both satisfying and frustrating, and she was proud to help bring environment and welfare-based issues into the wider public arena.

"In 1996 many throughout the world were talking about climate change, sustainable energy policies, toxic chemicals, human rights, genetic engineering, and the failure of our current ways of measuring economic success. But this Parliament was not. Those are the issues I and my colleagues have brought here, and which are becoming mainstream."

But she said it was sad the big picture had not changed much.

"When my grandchildren Jasper and Isabella, here in the gallery today, are struggling to bring up their children in 30 years time amid the storms and instability of a changing climate, with little oil left -- and that being unaffordable -- what will they think of us at the turn of this millennium?

"What will they think of a Parliament more preoccupied with its own privileges than with the good of humanity? A Parliament that spent far more passion and energy on where Bill English parks his car than on where we will get the oil to run it; or on measures to reduce our climate emissions, the pollution of our waterways, the protection of our unique ecosystems and species from extinction? What will they think of governments who had all the information presented to them, who could not claim not to know, but who chose to do nothing?"

She said she had spent 13 years "weeping at the tragedy of so many people wasting the precious gift of life chasing the mirage of a bigger GDP".

Climate change was only a symptom of the greater issue -- an over-stocked planet with diminishing resources.

Ms Fitzsimons said her message 13 years ago was about the need to find better ways of measuring economic success and that the aim should be a better economy, not a bigger one, or one with a "dog-eats-dog" competitiveness.

She was proud of her three years as "quasi minister" leading work on energy efficiency and the solar water heating programme, and said her greatest concrete achievement had been persuading Labour and National that it was worthwhile investing in large-scale home insulation to better health, family wellbeing, employment, energy demand and carbon emissions.

Looking ahead, Ms Fitzsimons said she would take time out to clear her head and spend more time at home in the Coromandel, with her family, and following interests as well as spending three months visiting her son and old friends in Europe.

Goals of protecting people and the planet would remain.

She paid tribute to her husband, Harry Parke, party and Parliamentary staff who assisted and guided her, the MPs who worked hard doing something they believed in, and Green Party supporters and activists.

Her career low-point was the death in 2005 of co-leader Rod Donald.

Ms Fitzsimons will be replaced by Gareth Hughes and leaves the party in the hands of co-leaders Metiria Turei and and Russel Norman.

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