Audrey Young: McCarten spices up byelection

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Matt McCarten at his BBQ. Photo / Audrey Young
Matt McCarten at his BBQ. Photo / Audrey Young

It's a funny old byelection when the Maori Party endorses the National Party candidate and the Unite union candidate, and the Green Party candidate backs another candidate.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia endorsed National's Hekia Parata and Unite union founder Matt McCarten.

Green Party candidate Jan Logie also welcomed McCarten's entry into the contest in an interview on TV3's The Nation.

Logie herself has shaped up well as a candidate and combined with McCarten, will be putting pressure on Labour which holds the seat with a 6155 majority.

McCarten was in fine form at his street barbecue rally in Cannon's Creek, Porirua East, on Saturday.

He has an amazing capacity to fight the fight in an uncompromising way but with an immense amount of goodwill and humour.

It's not about personalities, it's about class.

He said if he got enough votes in the byelection this coming Saturday he just might stand again in next year's election, and pointing to one of the empty Housing New Zealand flats nearby, joked that he had found a place to live.

He had about 40 supporters there when I dropped by, making his speech through loud speakers erected on the back of an old Courier Ford ute, which also held the condiments for the barbecue.

The rally was outside a block of Housing New Zealand flats on the corner of Calliope Crescent and Iris Grove where a group of McCarten's supporters had been arrested last week for squatting in one of them with a couple who have been living in a garage.

There are four in the block and only one of them is occupied but in Housing NZ's defence - and even Matt's people acknowledge this - they are being vacated and the houses behind them demolished to make way for a new Housing NZ development.

The Nation had a fascinating piece on the electorate by Natasha Smith.

Among the locals she interviewed was a minister, Api Malu, who claimed to be the spokesman for about 40 ministers in the area.

He was highly complimentary about Parata, who clearly has strong recognition in the electorate. He was effectively inviting Labour not to take the ministers for granted and to go talk to them.

A quick google search shows that he himself was once a parliamentary candidate, with right leanings, in 1999 for Tau Henare's Mauri Pacific Party - garnering 3.37 per cent of the vote.

Former union official Graham Kelly held it, however, handsomely.

Kris Faafoi cruised into the byelection candidacy from Phil Goff's office and the growing speculation is that that irksome factor, along with Parata's stronger links to the area, and McCarten's visibility will make a close run thing for Labour.

I'm inclined to agree with Nine to Noon commentators Andrew Campbell and Mathew Hooton who this morning said it was most unlikely that Labour would lose it.

As Campbell noted, Labour's election day organisational skills are phenomenal.

Leader Phil Goff can't afford anything less than a decent win.

- NZ Herald

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