Be­ing an MP is not just a job - Jac­qui Dean

Pub­lic ser­vice is not just an idea or con­cept for Waitaki MP Jac­qui Dean, it is a life­style and some­times a sev­en­day-a-week com­mit­ment.

Waitaki Herald - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS -

‘‘To be a good per­son serv­ing the pub­lic you have to com­mit ev­ery­thing to the task,’’ Dean ex­plains.

The Min­is­ter for Com­merce and Con­sumer Af­fairs and Min­is­ter for Small Busi­ness says she ‘‘lit­er­ally’’ has no spare time.

As an MP for the past 12 years she has to be com­mit­ted to be­ing avail­able seven days a week.

‘‘It’s noth­ing for me to get up on a Satur­day morn­ing and drive to Fair­lie, Roxburgh or Kurow for one sin­gle event then drive home and that might have taken the whole day.

‘‘If you are not pre­pared for that you are not fit for the job.’’

It is a job of com­pro­mise, she ex­plains, which re­quires un­re­quited support from fam­ily mem­bers. She cred­ited her hus­band Bill Dean as be­ing a key support for her and an ex­cel­lent cook.

‘‘I’ve for­got­ten to cook now. I don’t have time, I am on the run.’’

But be­fore Dean pur­sued pol­i­tics she was a stu­dent of the stage, and for a time, the star of a tele­vi­sion show in the 1980s.

‘‘I wanted to be an ac­tress since I was three-years-old. Ever since I was do­ing bal­let as a preschooler.’’

For three years Dean was on the silver screen as the host of chil­drens’ TV show Play School.

She was also an ac­tor for the For­tune The­atre in Dunedin and played roles in sev­eral of play­wright Roger Hall’s stage pro­duc­tions. She then worked for a time as a ra­dio pro­moter for the ZB sta­tion in Oa­maru.

But by her 40s Dean had ‘‘done all I wanted to do in ra­dio and TV’’ and started to move to­wards pub­lic ser­vice and paving her own path rather than pre­tend­ing to be some­one else.

‘‘I shifted from in­ter­pret­ing other peo­ples work to com­mu­nity ser­vices, then to be a coun­cil­lor, and now as a Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment.’’

After leav­ing act­ing she looked for some­thing else to give her ful­fil­ment.

The sixty-year-old said her path to be­com­ing a Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment started in pri­mary school class­rooms as a ‘‘mother helper’’ fol­low­ing the con­clu­sion of her act­ing ca­reer.

After see­ing the Waitaki mayor present Dean’s sis­ter with a cer­tifi­cate of ser­vice, Dean said she sud­denly re­alised she wanted to run for coun­cil­lor on the Waitaki District Coun­cil.

In 1996 she was made a coun­cil­lor and was made deputy mayor.

‘‘What I learned from be­ing coun­cil­lor and deputy mayor is that you have to stand for some­thing.

‘‘We went through a tough time through Project Aqua. It was a hugely con­tro­ver­sial topic.’’

She re­called tak­ing a stand with the mayor to in­volve Meridian En­ergy and ne­go­ti­ate the best bar­gain for mem­bers of the com­mu­nity dur­ing Project Aqua, a $1.2 bil­lion hy­dro­elec­tric­ity project for the lower Waitaki River that was even­tu­ally canned in 2004 after years of con­sul­ta­tion.

Dean cred­its two of her most mean­ing­ful suc­cesses to what some may think as ‘‘unas­sum­ing’’. Both in­volve road­ing.

She worked with the lo­cal busi­ness own­ers in Oa­maru’s north end and got NZTA to put traf­fic lights in.

‘‘It might sound like a small thing but the north end has been a dan­ger­ous place for years and years and shop­keep­ers raised the is­sue over a num­ber of years.’’

The other suc­cess was get­ting two, two-lane bridges to re­place two 133 year old sin­gle lane tim­ber bridges in Kurow which had fallen into dis­re­pair.

The $20.1 mil­lion project was no easy task but Dean said she was driven by the de­mands and pas­sion of the Kurow com­mu­nity to make it hap­pen.

They had been due to be up­graded but after Project Aqua fell short the bridges went on the back burner.

Dean ex­plained that a lot of her work as a rov­ing MP in­volved one on one in­ter­ac­tions with her con­stituents.

Over the years she said she had spo­ken with, and helped a lot of peo­ple in her vast elec­torate.

But one in­stance had stuck with her.

‘‘There was a young man in the late stages of a se­ri­ous and sub­se­quently ter­mi­nal ill­ness and he needed to go to Dunedin Hos­pi­tal for a scan and treat­ment.’’

Be­cause of his con­di­tion he was be­yond be­ing able to travel with his par­ents in a pri­vate car and re­quired trans­port by am­bu­lance.

‘‘We found a way to make it achiev­able for that fam­ily. I re­mem­ber talk­ing to them and it meant a lot to the fam­ily that their son was com­fort­able.

‘‘It meant a lot to me also that in a very small way that we were able to help make a small con­tri­bu­tion to their fam­ily.’’

‘‘It’s an ex­am­ple of those times, where as an MP you can open doors for peo­ple some­times. You can lis­ten, you can make sure you can get peo­ple what they are en­ti­tled to.

‘‘It’s truly about go­ing to the pub­lic to make a dif­fer­ence.’’

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