Fired up for keen fight

Central Leader - - Front Page - By Scott Mor­gan

THERE’S a huge con­trast be­tween Bagh­dad and Mt Al­bert, but it’s one Labour’s David Shearer is slowly get­ting used to.

Un­til re­cently, the man who is looking to fill for­mer prime min­is­ter He­len Clark’s shoes as the area’s lo­cal MP was the deputy head of the United Na­tions Iraq mis­sion, re­spon­si­ble for help­ing to re­con­struct the coun­try.

“It was tough. Our com­pound was rock­eted a few weeks ago,” he says.

“One rocket fell 20 me­tres be­low where I was sleep­ing and killed two peo­ple.” Mr Shearer has been sta­tioned in sev­eral of the world’s worst trou­blespots, in­clud­ing Gaza and Afghanistan.

Re­spond­ing to crit­i­cism that he’s not in touch with lo­cal com­mu­nity is­sues af­ter spending so much time over­seas, Mr Shearer ad­mits jump­ing straight into a by­elec­tion race has been a steep learn­ing curve.

But he says reg­u­lar trips back to New Zealand over the years and con­sul­ta­tion with mem­bers of the com­mu­nity since his re­turn mean he’s up to speed on lo­cal is­sues.

“The things I have learned there, I would like to use in the Mt Al­bert com­mu­nity.”

While the 51-year-old sup­ports the re­ten­tion of the Waterview tun­nel cur­rently un­der re­view by the gov­ern­ment, he’s ques­tion­ing the su­percity struc­ture for Auck­land.

Mr Shearer has lived in the elec­torate at var­i­ous times through­out the late1980s un­til the mid-1990s, still owns a house in the area and has a wife and two chil­dren.

He beat seven other can- di­dates for Miss Clark’s old seat, winning the nom­i­na­tion in a unan­i­mous vote on Sun­day.

Mean­while Na­tional list MP Melissa Lee won her party’s nom­i­na­tion in a se­cret bal­lot of lo­cal del­e­gates, de­spite a strong chal­lenge from two-time can­di­date Ravi Musuku on Mon­day.

Korean-born Ms Lee says she has strong links to the elec­torate and has lived in Mt Eden for most of her 21 years in New Zealand.

She shifted out of the elec­torate af­ter a trau­matic home-in­va­sion.

“I used to live here. I had to get out of Mt Eden. I could not live in a villa with mul­ti­ple ac­cesses.”

But she is keen to move back soon.

“My son wants to go to Mt Al­bert Gram­mar,” she says.

While Ms Lee ap­pre­ci­ates peo­ple in the elec­torate are con­cerned about lo­cal is­sues such as the Waterview con­nec­tion and the su­percity pro­posal, she says other mat­ters are just as press­ing for many vot­ers in the area.

“The ma­jor­ity of peo­ple are con­cerned about get­ting out of the eco­nomic down­turn and mak­ing sure New Zealand is a safe place. Law and or­der is a ma­jor is­sue,” she says.

As for her chances of winning the seat Labour has held for 63 years, Ms Lee says Na­tional’s pop­u­lar­ity means the party has never had a bet­ter op­por­tu­nity to turn the seat blue.

Other candidates in the run­ning for Mt Al­bert in­clude Greens co-leader Rus­sel Nor­man, Act list MP John Boscawen, the Kiwi Party’s Si­monne Dyer and the Aotearoa Le­galise Cannabis Party’s Dakta Green.

Mt Al­bert vot­ers will choose their new MP on June 13.

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