February 25, 2017 will forever be a special day for me, for it was on that day that I was elected to be Member of Parliament from Mt Albert.
I express my sincere thanks to those who took the time to vote, placing their confidence in me.
I wanted to share some of the words from election night – they sum up how I feel about the by-election, and where we go from here.
At the end of last year, I doubt that any of us thought we would be here.
When my predecessor in Mt Albert, David Shearer decided to leave Parliament, I think that even he must have been surprised by his decision.
But his decision to take on a selfless but huge job (as the Head of the UN Peacekeeping Force in South Sudan) left a huge vacuum.
I know that because countless people during this campaign told me about the work he did in this community.
Countless people also told me of the work that had been done earlier. I went to places opened by former Mt Albert MP and Prime Minister Helen Clark and to places of which she was either the patron or the person who helped in building those facilities.
This community has a memory, and very high standards, and I will strive to preserve both. Of course, the tight time frames meant learning a lot about Mt Albert in a short time frame.
I learnt that I have almost as many electorate neighbours as it is possible to have. And what great neighbours they are too in Mt Roskill, New Lynn, Auckland Central and Kelston.
I learnt that it is helpful to have a by-election immediately after someone else’s by-election. It means that you can request that candidate into working for you – thanks Michael Wood.
I discovered that Dominion Road is an excellent boundary line, especially if you have already announced that you will be running light rail down it.
But I also learnt possibly the most important thing of all – that this is a community with a huge heart. One that was never short of things they wanted to improve, but not just for them, for their children, their neighbours, and New Zealand.
It did not matter in which suburb we live, whether people owned a home or felt comfortable, or if they did not own a home at all.
People are worried and are hopeful about the same things – decent homes, good jobs, strong communities.
One of the things that taught me that the most, were our street corner meetings. We had 55 in total, and people came to every single one of them.
I will always remember one such meeting.
We did our usual convoy with the caravan in tow. A gentleman came outside and asked what we were up to. We explained and then I noticed that he disappeared. He returned soon after with a table, water, cups and finally muffins to share with his neighbours.
He was a refugee and took great pride in introducing me to his kiwi-born daughter, and told me about the courageous and helpful labour MPs had that had served him and this seat. But he was also interested in what next.
And that is as it should be. Any seat with heart knows that we have work to do here.
One of our last meetings reminded me of that too.
A young man came to meet us as we moved around Owairaka.
He was a recent graduate with a student loan, trying to get ahead. He wanted to look after his ailing mother, and had recently changed jobs to try and boost his income, even though it meant travelling further every day.
But what was getting in the way was housing. In four years, his rent had gone from $300 to $410.
As he left, we talked about the by-election and he said to me, “Do not worry, you will be fine.” I replied that it wasn’t me that I was worried about.
That for me sums it up. I could sit here and go over the election results with you. We could talk about margins and what it means. But for people out there what matters is what we can do with it, and the change we can bring.
Here, in Mt Albert, there is so much to celebrate.
But we need to get back to some of the basics. They are (1) Affordable housing (2) The ability to get around our city (3) Green spaces for children to run and play (4) Water in which we can all swim without a 1 in 20 chance of being ill (5) Creating the best schools and the safest neighbourhoods.
I can advocate all these things, and I vow that I will, but real change comes when we change the government.
Jacinda Arden is Member of Parliament elected from Mt Albert Constituency at the by-election held on February 25, 2017. She is the Party’s Spokesperson for Justice; Arts, Culture and Heritage; Children; and Small Business. She is also Associate Spokesperson for Auckland Issues.