No easy time for new MP
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.
Double-billing: New MP for Maungakiekie Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga will continue in his role as an Auckland city councillor.