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Campaign launch . . . Green Party MP Mojo Mathers (left) launched her campaign for the Rangitata electorate on Monday night, alongside former party co-leader and Te Tai Tonga Maori electorate Greens candidate Metiria Turei. PHOTO: GRETA YEOMAN

by Greta Yeoman

Increased public interest in climate change means climate policy can be introduced at a government level, former Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei told a Timaru audience this week.

The opposition MP spoke to about 50 South Canterbury residents at the Caroline Bay Community Lounge on Monday night during Rangitata Green Party electorate candidate Mojo Mathers’ campaign launch.

“When I told my own story [about being on the benefit], explosively as it turned out, as extraordinary as it seemed to some people, it was an ordinary story.” – Metiria Turei

Ms Turei, who recently confessed to benefit fraud in the 1990s and stepped down as party co-leader after the backlash, said clean rivers were one of the party’s top three election issues, alongside climate change and poverty.

“When I told my own story [about being on the benefit], explosively as it turned out, as extraordinary as it seemed to some people, it was an ordinary story.”

She now had people coming up to her daily to share their stories of being “forced” into similar situations by the amount given to people on benefits, both now and in the past, she said.

She was concerned the current welfare system was being used “as a weapon” against New Zealanders in poverty, Ms Turei said.

Ms Mathers told the audience, many of whom were Green Party members, that she was interested in water issues, along with poverty and being a parliamentary-level spokeswoman for deaf and disabled New Zealanders.

The country’s disabled community was “overrepresented” in poverty statistics and she had been working to change that since she became the country’s first elected deaf MP in 2011, she said.

“That is why Metiria’s work has been so important.”