Although the Green Party has always aspired to be a mass participatory party it has done little to bring this about. The Greens have a relatively democratic party structure, but in practice involve few activist members in steering the direction of the party. Currently the party claim to have a few thousand members. [Read more below]
For most of the 1990s, Green Party members numbered only in the hundreds. Soon after the Greens joined the Alliance in 1992, the party was believed to have about 500 members and this number grew only slowly in the following years. When the Greens departed from the Alliance in 1998 they lost a significant number of their members and supporters who decided to stay in the larger party. Later in the year, after the Greens had undertaken a recruitment drive, the party could still only claim 861 financial members (Speden, 1998d: p.14).
Towards the end of the 1996-99 parliamentary term, the party was failing to make much of an impression on the electorate, and consequently membership numbers dropped. While the party told the Electoral Commission that it had 1348 members in May 1999, it later admitted that the number had dropped to 500 (NZPA, 1999l: p.2). Then, as the party began going up in the opinion polls leading up to the 1999 general election, people started joining in relatively large numbers. In the six months after the election of seven MPs, membership increased by about 50%. According to Rod Donald, in the few weeks following the election, ‘Over 340 people joined the party’ (Donald, 2000: p.56).
Numbers steadily grew, and by mid-2000 the Greens claimed 2500 members, and by the time of the 2002 general election, the numbers were up to 3370 (Tunnah, 2002). In 2003 the party had about 4000 members (Taylor, 2003a)
Although the Green Party has always aspired to be a mass participatory party it has done little to bring this about. The Greens have a relatively democratic party structure, but in practice involve few activist members in steering the direction of the party. For example, even campaign management has been an elite activity, as co-leader Rod Donald has explained: ‘In January 1999, a small group of us met to get serious about election year strategies. The group was made up of Wellington executive members and others outside the party who believed we could still make it back in’ (Donald, 2000: p.50). The selection of the Greens' party list does, however, involve the whole membership.
This history of the Green Party’s membership numbers in this blog post is informed by the estimations and statements made on the topic by commentators, politicians and the parties – of which I have about 15 recorded figures. These estimations and declarations – which are of varying reliability – can also be seen on a timescale scatter-plot in Figure 6.8. The trend line suggests steady upward growth in membership numbers.
[This blog post is to be updated – any feedback or further information is very welcome] T