Helen’s heart at home
SHE might be moving to the other side of the world, but former prime minister Helen Clark’s heart still lies in her beloved Mt Albert electorate.
Miss Clark was confirmed on Wednesday by the United Nation’s General Assembly as the new administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and is due to start on April 20.
The 59-year-old says she will be sad to resign from the Mt Albert seat she has held for 27 years.
“My home is in the electorate and always will be.
“There’s been so many associations through all levels of the Mt Albert community, which is one of the saddest things about going,” she says.
These relationships include being patron of the champion Mt Albert Rugby League Club, along with extended associations with the area’s many bowling clubs and schools.
She says the support she’s received since last year’s election has been amazing.
“I still can’t go out the front gate or down to the dairy without meeting quite a few wellwishers, which is lovely.”
Miss Clark says two of the major issues that face Mt Albert include maintaining the heritage feel of the suburb and whether a tunnel as an extension of State Highway 20 goes ahead.
“Mt Albert people love their local environment and don’t want to see a huge motorway flowing through the middle.”
She wouldn’t be drawn on who would succeed her as the local MP but is confi- dent Labour will fight hard to hold the seat.
“They’ll be looking for someone who’s making a long-term commitment to serving the local community,” she says.
Miss Clark says she is unsure whether she will be able to make it back from New York for the byelection, but will hit the campaign trail if her schedule allows.
Labour Party leader Phil Goff says he’s delighted at Miss Clark’s appointment.
“She’s got superb skills for the job in every respect.”
In a speech to Parliament Prime Minister John Key told the House of his admiration for Miss Clark and her appointment.
“Although we have had our disagreements, Helen, I say this, viewed from the world stage our differences are not great.
“I am sure all New Zealanders, no matter their political beliefs, know that your achievement today warrants the putting aside of politics.”
A spokesman for Mr Key says no date for a byelection has been set.
Mr Goff says he expects nominations for potential Mt Albert candidates to open this weekend.
National Party general manager Mark Oldershaw says the party was aware Miss Clark might be leaving before the end of the month, with local delegates responsible for selecting a candidate.
Electoral rules state a byelection can’t be held within three weeks of a seat becoming vacant.
After that period the prime minister will decide the date for a byelection.