Fired up for keen fight
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.