Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Defending Porirua!


Commentary: Lisa Stoneham, Unite Delegate, Porirua

As a Porirua local, I didn’t know much about the by elections that were coming up. When Omar mentioned the by election to me, at that stage I didn’t even think I was going to vote as at this time I did not know I couldn’t vote due to being on the maori electoral roll. I didn’t know anything about those running and I only thought it was Hekia Parata and Kris Faafoi anyway. All I saw around was billboards with their faces and party name.

I didn’t think anything else of the conversation with Omar or the by election.

Some time later Shanna said to me on facebook, watch the news tomorrow. She wouldn’t tell me why. I found out later on that night though. I can’t remember what my initial reaction was but I think I was a bit surprised in a good way.

As a member of Unite Union, my support for Matt McCarten from the beginning may have been biased but it was soon apparent to me and I believe to many others as well, this new runner to the by election wasn’t just running as a pretty face and campaigned for change. His billboards had his policies on them, the reason as to why people should vote for him. No other billboards had that.

It was only due to Matt’s campaign I became aware of how many and who was actually running in the Mana by election.

But only Matt's policies made a difference to working class people

Then during the campaigning, a public meeting was held outside my neighbours house. This is when the housing problem became apparent. Campaigners had counted many empty state houses while out door knocking. My parents live in my garage as Housing New Zealand has refused to help them.

This was when the house take over occurred with the original plan to stay in the house until election day although this was not meant to be due to a disgruntled local, rumor has it, it is the now unemployed, former deputy mayor of Porirua.

While this was the most out there thing done by campaigners so far, it got people talking.Some good and some bad but the Matt McCarten name was getting out there. And Matt was building a base of his own.

I was continuing to hear stories of what Matt's campaign had been doing, which included successfully getting 2 people into Housing New Zealand houses as they were on the waiting list with no apparent houses available. And Matt’s campaigners were pulling out protests all over the place, including outside Countdown for the GST Policy Matt had put forward.

I only got the opportunity to go door knocking once. I received no negative feedback from people. The biggest thing I came across was people not understanding how his policies could possibly work which was easily sorted.

In the last week of the campaigning I became sick so wasn’t able to help as much as I wanted too. But one particular day, campaigners were out in North City Plaza. Hekia Parata was having a meet and greet with ‘locals’, well John Key with Hekia Parata trailing behind him anyway as part of her campaign. When Matt’s campaigners confronted John Key and Hekia Parata about what they were going to do, John and Hekia avoided actual questions and quickly high tailed it out of North City Plaza. It was quite amusing to watch. It was the only time I actually saw Hekia campaigning. The only time I saw Kris Faafoi campaign was when he was standing by the roundabout holding a sign hoping for toots of support from the people driving by. I did not see anyone else.

So while Matt McCarten received 816 votes on the day, this is quite a good result for 3 weeks campaigning. But I believe if the Maori were able to vote, this number would have been a lot higher. There is a lot of support for Matt within the Maori community.

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