Election 2020 marks losers in National and winners for Labour

Wellington, October 19, 2020

The Winners: Incoming Labour MPs Ibrahim Omar (top left), Camilla Belich and Ayesha Verrall (bottom left) RNZ Photo

Diversity in the major parties has changed dramatically with National’s taking a dive and Labour’s skyrocketing after the votes were counted.

Labour’s red tide has seen the Party pick up an extra 18 seats in Parliament, taking it to 64, while National has dropped 19 seats from 56 to 35.

National’s diversity has dropped with its seats – of its 35 MPs who got back into Parliament, Dr Shane Reti, Simon Bridges and Melissa Lee, are the only three who are not Pākehā or European.

Outgoing National MPs Dan Bidois, Parmjeet Parmar (top right) and Alfred Ngaro (bottom right) RNZ Photo

Those gone from National

Harete Hipango: Hipango was National’s MP for Whanganui but lost her seat to Labour’s Steph Lewis.

Dan Bidois: Bidois, who is of Ngāti Maniapoto descent, was National’s MP for Northcote, but lost his seat to Labour’s Shanan Halbert. Bidois has said that he is disappointed but is happy to go back to the private sector, although he has not ruled out another tilt at Northcote in 2023.

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi: He was New Zealand Parliament’s first Indian Sikh Member and was on the National Party List. He was a candidate in Panmure-Ōtāhuhu electorate but lost to Labour’s Jenny Salesa.

Paulo Garcia: Garcia became the first Member of Parliament in New Zealand of Filipino descent, following the retirement of National Party List MP Nuk Korako in May 2019. Garcia is a solicitor-barrister and was a former Philippine Honorary Consul General in Auckland. Prior to migrating to New Zealand, Garcia had 10 years legal experience in the Philippines, primarily in commercial law, representing foreign and multinational investor companies and helping them establish operations.

National’s Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi (left) and Agnes Loheni are both now out of Parliament (RNZ Photo by Jane Patterson)

Parmjeet Parmar: Dr Parmar became the first Indian born woman to be a Member of Parliament in New Zealand when she first got into National List in the 2014 General Election. She holds a PhD in Biological Sciences from the University of Auckland, as well as Bachelor and master’s degrees in Biochemistry from the University of Pune in India. Prior to entering Parliament, Dr Parmar worked as a Scientist, Businesswoman, Broadcaster and Community Advocate. Along with her professional background, her background as an immigrant gave her the opportunity to understand the importance of the rich and diverse cultures that creates a large part of New Zealand’s identity.

Agnes Loheni: Loheni is of Samoan descent was born and educated in Auckland. She was declared elected on 31 January 2019, following the resignation of Chris Finlayson. She lives in Auckland with her husband and their five children.

Alfred Ngaro: Ngaro is a New Zealander of Cook Islands descent married to Samoan-Niuean Moka Fuemana with four children and two grandchildren. Prior to entering Parliament, he was a consultant in community led development and governance with expertise in New Zealand, Cook Islands and Canada.

Jo Hayes: Hayes was born and raised in the farming sector and is of Māori and Scots descent. Hayes is of Ngāti Porou, Ati Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, and Rangitāne ki Wairarapa descent. She had been a National MP since 2014 and was the Party’s spokesperson for Māori Development.

New Labour MPs arrive at Parliament on October 19, 2020 (RNZ Photo by Te Aniwa Hurihanganui)

New Labour MPs

Labour had 46 MPs during the last Parliament, and that number has gone up to 64.

So who are some of the new faces in the list that will increase diversity in the Party?

Ayesha Verrall (17th on List): Dr Ayesha Verrall is an infectious diseases doctor. She grew up in Te Anau and attended medical school at the University of Otago before working as a junior doctor at Wellington Hospital. She was trained in Singapore and did research in Indonesia. Verrall was one of the most prominent voices during the Covid-19 crisis and criticised the government’s contact tracing programme before being brought in by the Health Ministry to review its work.

She did interviews endorsing the government’s actions in getting the system up to speed after submitting her nomination.

Vanushi Walters (22nd), Upper Harbour: Vanushi Walters is from West Auckland. A Sri Lankan New Zealander, Walters is a lawyer and advocate with national and international experience. She has spent nine years in the community legal sector, six years as an International Board member of Amnesty International, and has worked in private practice, the public sector and the community sector. She won the Upper Harbour seat, over National’s Jake Bezzant, the replacement for Paula Bennett.

Camilla Belich (30th): Camilla Belich was Labour’s candidate in Epsom. While ACT’s David Seymour won the seat by a landslide as expected, she makes it in on the list. She is an experienced employment lawyer. According to her Labour Party profile, at high school she campaigned for a youth health centre in Wellington, securing funding to establish Evolve, a dedicated youth health service still operating today. While at Law School, Belich was elected co-president of the New Zealand University Students Association. In 2005, she led a successful campaign for a fairer student loan scheme, culminating with Labour’s 0 percent student loans election policy.

She was a volunteer solicitor at Community Law for many years and has worked in the UK. She has worked extensively on pay equity policy and on legal claims seeking equal pay for equal work.

Camilla Belich is an experienced employment lawyer. 

Naisi Chen (38th): Naisi Chen moved to New Zealand from Beijing aged five. Her roles stated in her Labour profile are many and varied. She is a choral conductor, the Director of a business consultancy firm specialising in employment relations and HR matters, sits on the Board of Foundation North, Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, and the Aotearoa Chinese Legal Support Foundation and also sits on the Youth Advisory Group of Philanthropy New Zealand. She was standing in Botany, where National’s Chris Luxon won, but makes it into Parliament on Labour’s list.

Ibrahim Omer (42nd): Ibrahim Omer’s personal experience “makes him the real deal,” Labour says.

He left his home country of Eritrea in 2003, making the dangerous border crossing to neighbouring Sudan. He spent years in UN-run refugee camps where he worked as an interpreter, until being detained on suspicion of being a spy before the UN and he was offered the chance to come to New Zealand. He worked nights to pay to for studies at Victoria University, where he got involved in politics. Omer gets in on the List.

Rachel Brooking (46th): Rachel Brooking has 20 years’ experience as a resource management and local government lawyer. She has also worked for the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. She is committed to planning for climate change with both adaptation and mitigation, doing business better, reducing inequality, and embracing Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Brooking is married with three children and gets into Parliament on Labour’s List.

Barbara Edmonds (49th): Mana: Barbara Edmonds is a mother of eight and a specialist tax lawyer from Titahi Bay, Porirua. Day-to-day, she has recently been a senior advisor to a government minister and was a key contributor to the government’s law reforms after the 15 March terror attacks. She has also been involved in the government’s Covid-19 response. Edmonds won Mana over National’s Jo Hayes.

Angela Roberts: (50th): Angela Roberts is a secondary teacher in Central Taranaki and Past President of the PPTA Te Wehengarua. She grew up in New Plymouth and studied business at Massey University. Labour says that she is committed to the rebuilding of our rural services and infrastructure. She lost the race in Taranaki-King Country to National’s Barbara Kuriger but makes it into Parliament on the List.

Neru Leavasa: (52nd), Takanini: Dr Neru Leavasa has lived in South Auckland for over 30 years. He is married and has a seven-year-old son. He is a bone cancer survivor and now a fellow of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners. Labour says that he is a keen humanitarian and has been worked in the Pacific with both the Red Cross and a doctors worldwide volunteer organisation.

He won the newly formed Takanini electorate.

Arena Williams (58th) Manurewa: Arena Williams (Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Ngāi Tahu, Ngāi Tūhoe) is a lawyer and mother of two who has served as a member of the Waitematā District Health Board and on the Unitec Institute of Technology’s Te Rūnanga Advisory Group. She grew up in South Auckland and has a strong background as a community organiser. She was involved in student politics and was a candidate for the Labour Party in Hunua in 2014. Williams won Manurewa by a solid 11,696 votes over National’s Nuwi Samarakone.

Ingrid Leary: (59th) Taieri: Ingrid Leary is a mother-of-three with experience in law, journalism, and public service, according to Labour. She is taking up the place as candidate for Taieri, after replacing Clare Curran and winning the seat.

Sarah Pallet (62nd): Ilam: Sarah Pallett lives in Ilam with her Partner, Andy and has two daughters. She won Ilam off the long-standing National MP Gerry Brownlee. She is a midwifery lecturer at Ara Institute of Technology, having previously worked as a midwife at Christchurch Women’s Hospital and as a rural midwife. She is in her third term as president of the majority union of academic staff at Ara.

Gaurav Sharma (63rd), Hamilton West: Gaurav Sharma works as a GP in Hamilton and won the Hamilton West seat off National’s Tim Macindoe. He was previously involved in public health, policy and consulting in New Zealand, Spain, USA, Nepal, Vietnam, Switzerland and Mongolia. He is a former Board Member of the Auckland Refugee Council and advocated for equal rights for non-quota refugees and the doubling of our refugee quotas before it became Labour Party Policy.

Emily Henderson: Emily Henderson came close to unseating National’s Dr Shane Reti in Whangārei – he only won the seat by a margin of 160 votes. Henderson lives in Whangārei with her husband and four children. Her legal practice spans family court work to negotiating major criminal justice reforms both in New Zealand and internationally.

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