Stranger things have happened
Taupo electorate Labour candidate Jamie Strange considers himself the determined underdog heading into this year’s general election. Petrice Tarrant reports.
The ‘‘underdog’’ hoping to represent South Waikato/Taupo in the New Zealand Government is making his voice heard.
Hamilton resident Jamie Strange will stand against National MP Louise Upston for the district’s seat in this year’s general election.
The 37-year-old Labour party member said it is time for the South Waikato to see red.
‘‘ A Labour MP would look after, and represent all people living in the South Waikato, rather than just those at the top. National has stopped listening to New Zealanders,’’ he said.
Upston has held the majority in the district since 2008 and Strange admitted it will not be an easy turnover.
‘‘I am certainly the underdog, but so were the Black Caps in the recent test series against India, and all sports fans remember what happened there. So who knows – stranger things have happened.’’
The last Labour MP to win the seat was Mark Burton who held the fort from 1996 to 2008.
Strange said the South Waikato needs strong leadership on issues such as legal highs.
‘‘The Government has bungled the implementation of the Psychoactive Substances Act. They rushed it through Parliament and failed to consult with local councils about the role they would have in regulating legal highs. Understandably councils feel they have been put in a very difficult situation.’’
The father of four said he supports people like Julie King, who is strongly campaigning in the district.
And the South Waikato people need an MP who is familiar with their struggles, he said.
‘‘I believe MPs need to live among the people they represent. This is why I would shift into the electorate if I win the seat. It’s also best if they have real-life experience of the issues people are facing. Many families in the South Waikato are doing it tough. The parents are working hard, but can’t seem to get ahead.’’
The school teacher said that is one challenge he knows too well.
‘‘My wife and I are getting by on one medium-level teacher’s salary. Once you pay for accommodation, power, rates, petrol, there is often not a lot left to live on. And when the car breaks down, or you need to visit the dentist, things can get very tough indeed.’’
If elected, Labour will raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour immediately, and then raise it again in 2015, Strange said.
‘‘ I spent four years on the minimum wage while studying in my early 30s. During this time my wife and I had two children. It’s very tough to eke out a living on this sort of income.’’
Throw a botched up Novopay system on top of that and you have a recipe for disaster, he said.
‘‘I think it’s time to pull the plug. If Steven Joyce can’t fix it after spending a year working on it, one has to ask whether Novopay can actually be fixed, or whether it’s time to move to something else. My own fortnightly pay was down $ 300 three weeks ago.’’