Arrival in Mana like coming home
Kris Faafoi says being with Winnie Laban as he meets people in the Mana electorate is like being in the presence of a ‘‘rock star’’.
The Labour Party’s byelection candidate is covering as much ground as possible between now and the polling date, expected in November.
Ms Laban’s popularity among her constituents is well-known, but Mr Faafoi says he has been blown away by the reception they have received.
‘‘ Winnie is a big part of Labour and Mana, and walking around with her, it’s like tripping around with a rock star. Kids shout her name. It’s an honour to follow that and I hope to do her proud. She has given me so much guidance and I’ll be happy if I can be half the MP she has been.’’
The 34-year-old former political journalist and press secretary to Phil Goff insists the move he’s making is not a huge mindshift, saying people take a lot of different paths into the political arena.
His has happened a lot swifter than most, only intimating to Labour leaders late last year that should a role become available, he was interested.
‘‘For me, it’s about public ser- vice and a real chance to reconnect with my own culture.
‘‘I think Mana is a great place and having Tokelauan parents, this is like a homecoming for me. The thing I love about Mana is the diverse community, with Maori, Pacific and Europeans living close by. There are so many different worlds coming together.
‘‘But it still has issues that other places do, like having enough jobs. People are struggling and I don’t think it’s going to get any easier.’’
Ms Laban won Mana with a majority of more than 6000 votes in the 2008 general election and it is viewed as a safe Labour stronghold.
Mr Faafoi, who says the selection process was a tough one, is savvy enough to know victory is not a fait accompli.
‘‘It was a huge relief [to win the candidacy], any one of those interviewed would have done a great job. There are systems in place and Winnie has a massive majority here, but we’re taking nothing for granted and will put the hard yards in. I’ve now got aspirations to be the lowestranked member of the caucus and there’s a cliche about just going and breathing through your nose in Parliament for a while. That’s me.’’
Christchurch-born and raised in a state house, Mr Faafoi is married with a young son. However, he has family in Porirua and spent a number of school holidays in this part of the country. Now living in Wellington, the plan is to buy a house somewhere in the Mana electorate, likely Porirua, in the near future.
If he wins, he acknowledges it won’t be easy as an MP with a young family, but he will get support from within the party and his wife is encouraging him to grasp this huge opportunity.
With a working life that has always involved politics, Mr Faafoi is confident he has the energy and knowledge of the issues to succeed.
‘‘You just can’t forget about people who need a hand up. Reward for hard work is something that I hold dear and I’ve done the work to get here.’’
New blood: Kris Faafoi is determined to meet as many people as possible prior to the by-election. He and his National counterpart, Hekia Parata, both attended the Hampshire St makeover last week.