Reclaiming Northland not an impossibility

The resignation of Mike Sabin as Northland MP provides an opportunity for the people of Northland to elect a representative that is capable of addressing the issues confronting the electorate. During the General Election period locals in Northland voiced as primary concerns: employment, sexual violence, health, education, housing and economic development. But these issues were emphasised as unique to Te Tai Tokerau, that is Māori, despite the reality that Northland in geographical terms falls within those boundaries and many Māori are on the general roll, and many non-Māori are concerned about the same issues.

In saying that, Northland is considered a safe National Party seat. However, no seat can ever really be said to be absolutely safe. If the ALP unseating of LNP Premier Campbell Newmann in Queensland, Australia is anything to go by, a swing is not entirely unheard of, nor is it indeed impossible.

Whangarei Child Poverty Action Group report that 49 per cent of children [in Northland] were identified as being born in the bottom two most-deprived deciles – the highest child poverty rate in the country. Sabin’s resignation presents an opportunity for opposition or indeed minor parties to show the electorate that they are an important part of our social fabric and that parties do care about providing strong representation to confront this and every other issue in the region despite the neglect shown to the region in the past. Leaving the seat uncontested or putting up a candidate simply for the sake of it smacks of bad faith and is just not good enough for the people in Northland, especially given the politically and economically sensitive environment that currently prevails.

Willow Jean Prime was formally confirmed as the Labour Party’s candidate to stand in that seat. Prime ran during the General Election, and while she did not win it by a sizeable majority, that she is committed to running again illustrates her enduring commitment to the region.

There is some hinting that Winston Peters intends to stand in the seat or at least a representative of NZ First. Peters rightly pointing out the social and economic issues afflicting the region remain unresolved and overlooked for far too long.  Colin Craig has also contemplated having a crack at the Northland seat, while Hone Harawira has unequivocally ruled out standing after his defeat in the Te Tai Tokerau seat by Labour’s Kelvin Davis, but has suggested he has someone in mind to represent Mana. Arguably, Northland needs a candidate that can work in a mutually supportive relationship with Davis if any serious ground is to be made on the issues confronting the electorate.

But what about the other parties? NZ Greens, Māori Party, Internet Party.  Barely even a whisper. Yet this is an opportunity for these parties to put their politics where there mouth is and prove they are serious and viable alternatives to the macro parties.

I was wondering about who might be viable candidates in the Northland seat. My reckons are below.

Marama Davidson, NZ Greens. She is next on the Party list, is connected to the region, is incredibly passionate about representing the most vulnerable groups in society and if she still has billboards, she could recycle them. If any party can get away with recycling signage it’s the Greens.

Chris McKenzie, Maori Party. Although he hails from Tokoroa , he is third on the party list and has a raft of skills that he showcased during the General Election particularly with regard to eocnomic development and working with business and iwi sectors.  And if he’s changed his mind about standing as a candidate, then Dr Lance O’Sullivan is surely worth approaching following his endorsement of the party? He has made significant contributions to the many families in Northland and is highly respected and committed to the rohe.

Annette Sykes, Mana Movement. She is second on the party list, is the strongest candidate in the party and presumably has a solid rapport with Northland given her exceptional Tiriti work.

David Currin, Internet Party. He lives in the far north, stood in the seat in the General Election has a unique technology advantage and if the Internet Party intend on sticking round into next election, then its a way to keep the party momentum.

Many wonder why National and Labour remain the duopoly of political power in Aotearoa New Zealand. In short, they are always present. In less eloquent terms, they are like rabbits: they leave their political droppings everywhere. They both take opportunities for publicity seriously. The reality is that National do have the greatest chance of retaining the seat based on habitual voting patterns.  But put up a candidate that can win the minds of Northland, and that just might change.