Chlöe Swarbrick

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Chlöe Swarbrick

Chlöe Swarbrick headshot.jpg
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Green Party List
Assumed office
23 September 2017 (2017-09-23)
Personal details
Born (1994-06-26) 26 June 1994 (age 26)
Auckland, New Zealand
NationalityNew Zealand
Political partyGreen Party of Aotearoa New Zealand
WebsiteGreen Party profile

Chlöe Charlotte Swarbrick (born 26 June 1994) is a New Zealand politician and entrepreneur.[1] Following a high-profile but unsuccessful run for the 2016 Auckland mayoral election, she became a candidate for the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, standing in the 2017 New Zealand general election[2] and was elected as a member of the New Zealand Parliament at the age of 23.

Swarbrick is Green Party Spokesperson for Mental Health, Drug Law Reform, Education, Arts and Heritage, Tertiary Education, Small Business, Broadcasting, Youth and Local Government.[3]

Early life[edit]

Swarbrick was born in Auckland in 1994, and went to Epsom Girls' Grammar School. Her parents separated when she was young and she lived with her mother in the UK for six months and then with her father for 18 months in Papua New Guinea. She said her father taught her how to formulate an argument when she was practising her first speech at age seven. During high school she spent a week at a time with each parent.[4] She entered the University of Auckland at age 17, and graduated with a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy. She says she didn't want to be a lawyer but wanted to know "how our system runs... I had to go to law school to learn about the Treaty of Waitangi."[5][6]


In 2012, Swarbrick opened her first business, a New Zealand-made fashion label called The Lucid Collective, with Alex Bartley Catt.[7] Around the same time, she began working in the newsroom at the student radio station 95bFM as a news writer and news reader, before becoming a producer and eventually host of The Wire. In April 2016, she resigned from her position as a regular host.

In 2014, Swarbrick wrote her first piece for What's Good magazine. She became editor, and an owner.[8] Later that year, The Lucid Collective held a New Zealand Fashion Week side-show at the Gow Langsford Gallery and participated in the "Youthquake" exhibition at the New Zealand Fashion Museum.[9] The label went on to be stocked across Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch,[10] before Swarbrick and Bartley Catt closed the business.

Swarbrick launched The Goods, an offshoot of What's Good, in late 2015. The project opened a pop-up store in St Kevin's Arcade on Karangahape Road.[11] Swarbrick won a New Zealander of the Year Local Hero Award.[12]

In 2016, Swarbrick and Bartley Catt started a digital consultancy and artist management agency called TIPS. The pair also opened a cafe and gallery, Olly, now listed permanently closed, next to the Crystal Palace theatre in Mount Eden.[13]

In May 2019, Swarbrick received the Jane Goodall Trailblazer Award.[14] The award recognises individuals who have demonstrated dedication to the prosperity of animals, people, or the planet through their work.

Political career[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate List Party
2017–present 52nd List 7 Green

Swarbrick ran in the 2016 Auckland mayoral election, coming in third place, with 29,098 votes—almost 160,000 votes behind the winner, Phil Goff.[15] In 2016 as a mayoral candidate, she gave a speech at a human blockade (organised by Auckland Peace Action) that briefly interrupted a New Zealand Defence Industry Association Forum.[16][17][18][19][20]

Swarbrick said she entered the mayoral race as a form of protest after interviewing “uninspiring” potential candidates while working as a journalist for bFM and discovering that only 34% of the electorate had voted at the previous mayoral election.[21] Swarbrick gained significant media attention largely due to her age. After losing the mayoral race, she joined the Green Party.[22]

Soon after joining the Green Party, Swarbrick announced she would challenge sitting Green MP Denise Roche as the party's candidate in the Auckland Central electorate for the 2017 general election. Her challenge was unsuccessful, as the local branch selected Denise Roche to stand in the seat again.[23] Swarbrick was selected instead to stand for the Maungakiekie electorate, and placed 7th on the party list.[24] She is the youngest politician to enter Parliament since Marilyn Waring in 1975.[25][26]

Parliamentary career[edit]

Election access[edit]

After the 2017 general election, Swarbrick lodged the Election Access Fund Bill (a member's bill originally drafted by Mojo Mathers) in the members ballot[27] and in February 2018 this bill was drawn from the ballot.[28] This piece of legislation aims to "establish an Election Access Fund to be administered by the Electoral Commission and used by any disabled candidate to cover disability-related costs of standing in a general election, by not-for-profit bodies to cover costs of making election education events and materials accessible, and by registered political parties to support access needs of any members to allow them to participate within the party."[28] The Bill passed its first reading in May 2018 with unanimous support.[29] It passed its second reading in December 2019, and its third reading in March 2020.[28]. The unanimous passing of the Bill is particularly significant, as it is the first Green Party Bill to achieve this.[30]

Drug reform[edit]

Swarbrick also inherited the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis and Other Matters) Amendment Bill[31] from fellow Green Party MP Julie Anne Genter.[32] Swarbrick gained endorsements from former Prime Minister Helen Clark[33] and Grey Power[34] for this piece of legislation. This Bill was however voted down in January 2018.[31] Swarbrick has since negotiated changes to David Clark's Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Act including the inclusion of local native strains of cannabis in New Zealand and a guarantee that the medicinal cannabis regulations this bill empowers be made public and functioning within a year.[35][36] She is also a staunch campaigner for the legalisation of recreational cannabis.[37]

Swarbrick took on the Green Party's Drug Law Reform portfolio in January 2018.[38] In response to New Zealand's synthetics crisis and more than 50 associated deaths,[39] Swarbrick launched a campaign for an end to the criminalisation of drug users and addicts.[40] Within the government's Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill, Swarbrick negotiated[41] a formalisation of police discretion that requires police 'should not' prosecute unless it is in the public interest and the user would benefit from a therapeutic approach.[42]

During 2018, Swarbrick worked with other MPs across parliament to form a Cross-Party Group on Drug Harm Reduction, she repeatedly called on the New Zealand National Party to join this group. In response to a call from National MP Matt Doocey for cross party work on mental health, Swarbrick proposed creating a group merging the Cross-Party Group on Drug Harm Reduction and a mental health group, in August 2019, this group, the Cross-Party Group on Mental Health and Addictions was launched, with members from every party in Parliament.[43]

From the starting point of a parliament disagreeing on how to implement medicinal cannabis, Swarbrick has worked to establish a progressive medicinal cannabis regulatory regime. The regime allows local cannabis strains to be registered in New Zealand, and removes barriers to legal and high-value careers for people with former cannabis convictions.[44]

In 2018, Swarbrick launched the political podcast 'Authorised By' with Kiri Allan.[45]

Mental health[edit]

Swarbrick fought to secure and retain security for the community mental health services operating. In particular, she obtained extensions to funding for Te Whare Mahana Trust in Golden Bay and Te Kuwatawata in the Gisborne region.[46]

Swarbrick also worked to establish and expand the Piki pilot programme, which provides young people aged 18-25 with free mental health support.[47]

Climate emergency[edit]

In May 2019 Swarbrick attempted to obtain unanimous leave to pass a motion to declare a climate change emergency. This was unsuccessful due to the National Party's opposition to it.[48]

Fossil fuel divestment[edit]

Swarbrick has advocated for a mandate requiring public funds to divest from fossil fuels. She secured a public briefing into ACC, which has nearly $1 billion invested into fossil fuels.[49] Swarbrick has publicly challenged the Minister of Finance to use his discretion under the Crown Entities Act to ensure public entities do the right thing and take "action to prevent a climate crisis".[49] Her Member's Bill which directs the Government to shift away from fossil fossil fuel investment, currently sits in the ballot.

"OK boomer"[edit]

In November 2019 Swarbrick responded to then opposition spokesperson for climate change, Todd Muller with the phrase "OK boomer" after he interrupted her speech on climate change. Swarbrick was commenting on the Zero Carbon bill, which aims to reduce net carbon emissions in New Zealand to zero by 2050, when she used the phrase.[50][51] Although there was little reaction to her comment in Parliament, her two-word throwaway remark became a talking point in media around the world.[52] Writing in The Guardian, she said: "My 'OK boomer' comment in parliament was off-the-cuff, albeit symbolic of the collective exhaustion of multiple generations."[53]

Education Work[edit]

During New Zealand's COVID-19 response, the government released a tertiary support package.[54] This package was considered unhelpful by students and student associations.[55] In addition, several university halls of residence continued to charge students who left their accommodation during the nation-wide lockdown, to isolate elsewhere.[56] Swarbrick maintained her support of students and called for universities to "do the right thing" and stop these charges.[57] Her attention to the issue has seen some universities delay these charges.[58] Other universities have completely waived fees for unused accommodation.[59]

Swarbrick's advocacy on behalf of students, exposed a deeply under regulated sector. Swarbrick worked to obtain cross-party support to launch an Inquiry into student accommodation. Submissions for this opened on 04 June 2020.[60]

Personal life[edit]

On the topic of her sexuality, Swarbrick has said she "likes people", refusing to give a label. She says she didn't come out of the closet because she was never in the closet, echoing sentiment from a conversation she had with Scottish MP Mhairi Black.[61] In January 2020 it was reported that Swarbrick had been engaged to Nadine Walker for several months, but that they had remained private about their relationship.[62]


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External links[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Todd Barclay
Baby of the House