Win­nie La­ban talks to about life af­ter be­ing an MP, over­com­ing breast can­cer and see­ing the Pope in Rome.

Kris Dando

Kapi-Mana News - - FEATURE -

Is there a life af­ter pol­i­tics, Win­nie?

There re­ally is. I’m busy, but it’s a bless­ing and I’m thank­ful. I love what I’m do­ing here at Vic­to­ria.

What’s your role at Vic­to­ria Uni­ver­sity?

It’s about pro­mot­ing, as­sist­ing and pro­vid­ing pol­icy to aid Pa­cific stu­dents into ter­tiary life. I can’t speak highly enough about what the uni­ver­sity has done to cre­ate pathways for our Pa­cific chil­dren. I get out and meet them when­ever I can — they call me aunty and I love sup­port­ing this next group of Pa­cific lead­ers. See­ing kids achieve their dreams through uni­ver­sity life makes me happy and I talk at schools and in com­mu­ni­ties about it.

Did you see the power of ed­u­ca­tion as an MP?

I did. I’ve al­ways been in­ter­ested in ed­u­ca­tion and es­pe­cially how it can be a key to break­ing that cy­cle of poverty and pow­er­less­ness. Chil­dren can come to uni­ver­sity re­gard­less of their back­ground, if they are pre­pared to work hard. Twenty-six per cent of Porirua is Pa­cific and I want those young peo­ple to be in ter­tiary study – the num­bers are trend­ing up, but they could be bet­ter.

What are some of the ini­tia­tives for Pa­cific Is­land stu­dents?

There are clubs, a web­site, mu­sic – good plans are in place. Euro­pean and Asian stu­dents tra­di­tion­ally do much bet­ter at uni­ver­sity than Pa­cific Is­land stu­dents. Yet Pa­cific Is­lan­ders are a fast- grow­ing youth de­mo­graphic, so it’s im­por­tant that statis­tic im­proves and we give our fu­ture Pa­cific lead­ers the op­por­tu­ni­ties they need. Do you travel much? Vic­to­ria has a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing with Samoa and Pa­pua New Guinea, so I travel there of­ten. This is an­other way New Zealand can keep its ties with the Pa­cific Is­lands strong.

Do you miss the hurly burly of pol­i­tics and Par­lia­ment?

I miss the peo­ple of Mana most, those I worked with and worked for. I’m a pas­toral care type of per­son and be­ing the MP for that elec­torate, which is an ab­so­lute snap­shot of New Zealand life, was an amaz­ing time. The di­ver­sity was there, from Lin­den and Can­nons Creek to Whitby, Plim­mer­ton and Rau­mati – ev­ery shade of New Zealand is rep­re­sented and you need to be able to talk on dif­fer­ent lev­els to the dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties. Was it hard work? I was MP from 1999 un­til 2010 and gave ev­ery­thing I had to the of­fice. I left with no re­grets. You have to have the pas­sion and com­mit­ment to be an MP and be pre­pared to put in the hours and fight for the in­ter­ests of your elec­torate. As an MP, you’re paid to give your peo­ple a voice, not sit on your back­side.

Was there much com­pe­ti­tion to be Gra­ham Kelly’s suc­ces­sor?

Let’s just say it wasn’t an easy process, and it shouldn’t be. I beat [for­mer Porirua deputy mayor] Kevin Wat­son, who was a strong can­di­date.

Do you talk much to your suc­ces­sor, Kris Faafoi?

I see him now and again. It’s im­por­tant when you leave a job to let the new per­son take over and bring their own flavour to the role. The last thing he wants is me hang­ing around, but we catch up. As an MP, you have to serve, be rel­e­vant, and be ef­fec­tive, and Kris is do­ing that.

Do you keep an eye on lo­cal pol­i­tics in Porirua?

I do and I think Porirua City Coun­cil is do­ing a good job. I’m re­ally heart­ened to see Izzy Ford com­ing through the ranks — a real Pa­cific leader in her com­mu­nity. We need to en­cour­age peo­ple like her. It’s al­ways good to see new blood com­ing in.

What about Pa­cific rep­re­sen­ta­tion on the na­tional stage?

There are seven Pa­cific MPs in Par­lia­ment, three of them women, which is fan­tas­tic. It makes me proud.

How do you think Labour is go­ing?

You have to have an ef­fec­tive Op­po­si­tion to have a fully func­tional democ­racy. It needs to be a united team and Labour didn’t have that for some time. An­drew Lit­tle is do­ing fine and it’s im­por­tant Labour stays on mes­sage – on ed­u­ca­tion, sell­ing state as­sets, hous­ing – and away from dis­trac­tions. The public needs to be con­stantly re­minded what Labour stands for and its prin­ci­ples, in a sin­cere way and in plain lan­guage. Visit Porirua reg­u­larly and talk to peo­ple and you’ll know what’s go­ing right and go­ing wrong in this coun­try. Labour needs to con­vince vot­ers it is a gov­ern­ment in wait­ing.

How is your health af­ter the much-pub­li­cised breast can­cer is­sues you had in 2008?

The health is fine. I have regular check-ups. I could be fit­ter, that’s for sure. I’m 59 now, so I’m not get­ting any younger.

You went to Rome to see the investiture of John Dew as a cardinal. What was that like?

He’s a good friend of mine and it was a won­der­ful oc­ca­sion for him and for New Zealand. St Peter’s Basil­ica blew me away. We stayed with Ki­wis work­ing [for the Cath- olic faith] in Rome. It is so amaz­ing to see th­ese peo­ple work­ing tire­lessly for oth­ers. I ad­mire the work of Pope Fran­cis, so it was spe­cial to see him up close and hear him speak.

You’re the pa­tron of Welling­ton Rugby League. Do you get to many matches?

Not as many as I’d like. I give out the tro­phies on the grand fi­nal day, but I don’t see a lot of games be­cause of my work. Rugby league is go­ing well in Welling­ton and what we try to do with the Uni­ver­sity club, with its links to Vic, is cre­ate good role mod­els for kids. I’ve of­ten said rugby league is the peo­ple’s game. What else keeps you busy? I don’t have a lot of spare time, but I’m on a busi­ness net­work for Pa­cific busi­nesses in Welling­ton and on the arts coun­cil for Cre­ative New Zealand. Where do you live? I’m back in Wainuiomata. It’s where my fam­ily is. I get out to Porirua a lot, though.

If you could of­fer ad­vice to par­ents who want their kids to go to uni­ver­sity, what would it be?

Read, read, read books. You give your kids such a chance if you’re read­ing to them con­stantly at home, and en­cour­ag­ing them to keep read­ing when they get older.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.