Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Nats' man working to make safe even safer

Simon O'Connor makes himself known to voters. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Simon O'Connor makes himself known to voters. Photo / Paul Estcourt

Behind him a twinkling blue ribbon of sea matched the colour of his lapel rosette, but Simon O'Connor was taking nothing for granted yesterday on a stroll through the St Heliers Bay shops.

The 35-year-old National candidate for Tamaki, one of the country's most staunchly blue seats, was meeting all the people he could on the street and in the shops.

To people clad in T-shirts and shorts, he apologised for his formal suit.

He had come from the funeral of Allan Peachey, the MP for Tamaki who had held the seat since 2002 and last time won with a majority of 17,000 votes.

A residents' protest about the building of a three-storey commercial building on the village waterfront, with banners saying "We have had enough", had ended by the time Mr O'Connor arrived.

But he did not escape. In the bookshop he met Julie Graham, a resident of 25 years, who told him the village "has been wrecked by developers" and she would like to speak to him some time.

The health insurance executive's four university degrees and natural politeness stood him in good stead for his next encounter.

His attention was diverted to Super Fund savings by Tamaki voter for 47 years, Gerry Breen, who said he could not vote for him because National had scrubbed Labour's super scheme in the 1970s.

"If there are no savings, there can be no equality of wages with Australia," said Mr Breen.

Deeper into St Heliers Mall, with the affable and experienced Tauranga MP Simon Bridges in tow, Mr O'Connor listened sympathetically as shop owners told him their trade was "very quiet" during the Rugby World Cup.

"Why were the visitors taken in a bus to Sylvia Park to shop when they would have loved being driven along the waterfront and coming here?" said Christine Young, of the Georgina fashion store.

In the St Heliers Barber Shop, Stan Rose, a resident of 60 years, told him he had taken on "a heap of responsibility" with the huge National majority inherited.

"You have big shoes to fill and the election ought not go wrong."

The gentle scoldings that Mr O'Connor received in the shops was a far cry from the heat colleagues felt on Tuesday night at a Glen Innes protest meeting on state rental housing plans. Mr O'Connor was at another meeting.

He said he was only two weeks into the campaign after his selection, on October 26, and was looking forward to getting involved with the people of the electorate.

- NZ Herald

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