No easy time for new MP

Central Leader - - Front Page - By Heather McCracken

BE­ING elected MP for Maun­gakiekie has topped off the tough­est year of Pe­seta Sam Lotu-Iiga’s life. di­date ran a gru­elling cam­paign to win the seat pre­vi­ously held by re­tir­ing Labour MP Mark Gosche.

Mr Lotu-Iiga, also an Auck­land city coun­cil­lor, says he knew it would be a tough seat to crack.

“I was un­der no il­lu­sions, Maun­gakiekie is a se­ri­ous Labour area,” he says.

“But we worked re­ally hard to talk to peo­ple and en­gage with peo­ple on what their con­cerns were.

“I had peo­ple say­ing to me: I’ve voted Labour all my life, but I’m go­ing to give you a chance.”

He was dealt a blow ear­lier this year when he and wife Jules lost their first child, a new­born baby daugh­ter. “That was huge,” he says. “It’s been a tough year, prob­a­bly the tough­est of my life. It was sup­posed to be the best year, but it didn’t quite turn out that way.”

He says the cou­ple re­ceived great sup­port af­ter­wards from the Na­tional Party and the po­lit­i­cal di­vide.

“It’s nice that you can put pol­i­tics aside for things like that.”

He says he en­joyed meet­ing and talk­ing to con­stituents dur­ing the cam­paign, which in­cluded knock­ing on 7500 doors.

But Samoan-born Mr Lotu-Iiga says he of­ten bat­tled per­cep­tions that Pa­cific Is­lan­ders sup­port Labour.

The 38-year-old will be Na­tional’s sec­ond Pa­cific MP, af­ter Arthur Anae.

Mr Lotu-Iiga says it’s fair to say the party hasn’t al­com­mu­ni­ties, but will do bet­ter.

“But I’m not here to just rep­re­sent Pa­cific peo­ple, I’m here to rep­re­sent all the peo­ple of Maun­gakiekie.”

Mr Lotu-Iiga will con­tinue in his role as a coun­cil­lor, and plans to do­nate his $60,000 coun­cil salary to char­ity.

Pro­vi­sional re­sults from Satur­day put him 1800 votes clear of Labour’s Carol Beau­mont.

Ms Beau­mont, a for­mer Coun­cil of Trade Unions sec­re­tary, won the Labour nom­i­na­tion af­ter Mr Gosche stepped down for fam­ily rea­sons.

She will en­ter Par­lia­ment as a list MP, but says she’s dis­ap­pointed with the re­sults.

“The swing to the cen­tre-right ob­vi­ously had an im­pact, and you’ve got to re­spect the voice of the peo­ple,” she says.

Maun­gakiekie’s right-turn also saw Na­tional in­crease its party vote to 42 per­cent, last elec­tion.

Labour dropped to 39 per­cent, af­ter winning half the party vote in 2005.

It’s not the first time the seat has gone blue, with Na­tional’s Belinda Ver­non oust­ing Labour MP Richard Northey by a slim mar­gin in 1996. Mr Gosche won the seat in 1999 and held it for three terms.

Photo: JA­SON OX­EN­HAM

Dou­ble-billing: New MP for Maun­gakiekie Pe­seta Sam Lotu-Iiga will con­tinue in his role as an Auck­land city coun­cil­lor.

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