Politics | Green Party

Darleen Tana and Greens destined for waka-jumping showdown after party ejection, leaving future as MP in doubt

Darleen Tana said she did not have “natural justice” through the inquiry process.
  • Darleen Tana left the Green Party and may sit as an independent MP after refusing to resign.
  • Tana disputes the findings of a report alleging her link to migrant exploitation at her husband’s company.
  • The Greens may use controversial waka-jumping legislation to remove Tana, risking member backlash.

After spending 114 days, more than half her Parliamentary career, suspended, Darleen Tana was defiant after she left the Green Party over the weekend, jumping before she was pushed.

She remains as an MP for now, unless she heeds the plea of Green co-leader Chlöe Swarbrick to “please resign” from Parliament altogether, or the Greens decide to invoke the waka-jumping bill, controversial among party members – and which the Greens had tried to repeal as recently as three years ago.

After going to ground, Tana released a statement on Monday evening, saying she did “not accept” the findings of an independent report into allegations involving her connections to alleged migrant exploitation at her husband’s bike company. Tana said she was “deeply concerned” by the way the Greens had summarised its findings.

“The report does not say that migrant exploitation has occurred, let alone that I am responsible for it in any capacity,” Tana said.

Tana said she did not have “natural justice” and the party had a “pre-determined view” of what it wanted to do with her. Tana quit the party after a long caucus meeting on Sunday at which she was given the chance to respond to the conclusions of the report. Swarbrick said the report showed Tana’s conduct fell “far short of the expectations” set for Green MPs.

Tana then left the meeting to allow the caucus to debate and decide on her fate. Before the caucus could decide, Tana quit.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters told Newstalk ZB’s Andrew Dickens that the scandal was a “disgrace”.

He said he thought she “probably won’t” leave parliament, and would instead join the Te Pāti Māori.

“She’s still there, and she should not be there, in the sense that everybody should be accountable and she’s not.”

Peters claimed the Greens were “not doing everything they can” to ensure she leaves Parliament.

”They could expel her… they could make it very clear that she is no longer a member of their party.”

Should Tana decide not to quit as an MP, she will sit as an independent MP, following in the footsteps of fellow former Green MP Elizabeth Kerekere, who also left the caucus when it appeared possible she might be expelled.

The party has one lever it could pull: invoking the relatively new waka-jumping legislation, which would involve one or both of the party’s co-leaders, Swarbrick or Marama Davidson, writing to the Speaker, saying they believed Tana’s actions had altered the proportionality of Parliament and that she should be removed as an MP and a new Green brought in. The party opted not to invoke the waka-jumping legislation in the case of Kerekere.

Tana would be the first to be expelled under the legislation since it was brought back by the Ardern Government. Using these rules would be a challenge for the Greens, who supported the legislation only because it was a bottom line for NZ First, a member of the Government with the Greens at the time.

Waka-jumping is a deeply divisive issue for Green members. The party’s founding co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons appeared at the Greens’ 2018 AGM to tell the party how much she disagreed with the leadership’s decision to back it. Swarbrick herself spoke in the debate on the failed effort to repeal the legislation in 2020.

Green co-leader Chloe Swarbrick leaving the conference where she announced Tana had been expelled. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Invoking it to eject Tana could put the party on a collision course with members, whom they will face later this month for this year’s AGM in Christchurch. Green members are not shy when it comes to telling the party’s leaders what they think. Just two years ago, then co-leader James Shaw was temporary dismissed from his role after a revolt from members.

Swarbrick said whether the party would “waka-jump” Tana had not yet been discussed.

Tana did not appear to be at her Waiheke Island home on Monday. One neighbour described her husband as a “nasty guy”, saying he never said hello and was difficult when working out neighbourly disputes.

Alex Kersjes, who represented former bike shop workers Nick Scott and Charles Simpson, said his clients felt “vindicated”.

“We hope that given the [Employment Relations] Authority has found fault and now an independent investigator has found fault that they finally accept responsibility and pay our client what he’s owed and we can cease the liquidation proceedings.”

Kersjes said he hoped Tana “does the right thing and steps down”.

Thomas Coughlan is Deputy Political Editor and covers politics from Parliament. He has worked for the Herald since 2021 and has worked in the press gallery since 2018.

- NZ Herald