Marama Davidson, the Green Party candidate in Ikaroa-Rawhiti, will set out a jobs package proposal for the electorate today in a bid to blunt criticism that her anti-mining stance is also an anti-jobs stance.
Ms Davidson will release a package she said could create thousands of jobs in the electorate, including 1000 in reforestation, 400 in home insulation, 120 nurses in schools and jobs by developing regional industries such as wood processing and niche iwi businesses such as nutraceuticals from manuka honey.
All four of the main candidates - Ms Davidson, Labour's Meka Whaitiri, Mana's Te Hamua Nikora and the Maori Party's Na Raihania - have identified employment as the biggest issue - but all are also opposed to mining, claiming the sacrifice is too great for the number of jobs it would deliver. Ms Davidson said the Government's proposed expansion of oil and gas would create only about 200 jobs - not enough to warrant the environmental risk.
Ms Davidson, 39, conceded she was unlikely to win the seat, but had longer term goals and was hoping her efforts campaigning would be enough to impress the party into giving her a high list ranking. "The undertaking of this campaign is so huge that I need to at least put myself up on the list and look at having as high a placing as would be appropriate. I'm keen to do that. I want to have presented the party and myself as credible, serious and relevant and hopefully increase the percentage of party vote the Greens get here."
Ms Davidson has worked for the Human Rights Commission and is involved in the Owen Glenn inquiry into child abuse.
She was shoulder-tapped to stand by Greens co-leader Metiria Turei, who got to know her about a year ago.
"My first reaction was 'no way - this is not on my radar'." However, after reflecting and talking to others she decided she had to stand.
"I'd always tried to seek a platform for political issues as a Maori woman anyway. So to then be given an opportunity for a massive platform and refuse it would probably have been hypocritical."
Her campaign has so far impressed the Green Party - a senior Green Party source said a good list placing was likely after the strong performance, including in televised debates.
Ms Davidson is the daughter of Whalerider actor Rawiri Paratene but has resisted using that link too much. She said while her father was happy for her to use his profile for her campaign, she wanted to campaign on her own merits.
She has six children aged from 4 to 19 years old and said she had always worked or studied full-time.
"So I've always had the juggle of doing the best I can with the children. I have really good family support so I've been able to focus on this knowing they are well cared for."
She got involved in activism during protests over the Foreshore and Seabed Act in 2004.
"But I was born to two teenage urban Maori protesters who met on the steps of Parliament while protesting, so I guess it's in my whakapapa."
The campaign had been harder than she expected, and she acknowledged she might need to develop a thicker skin if she became an MP.
In 2014, she is likely to stand in an electorate but did not yet know which. She lives in Manukau, Auckland, but has iwi links to the Te Tai Tokerau and Ikaroa-Rawhiti electorates. Standing in a general electorate was also a possibility.