Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

The backbenchers: Andrew Williams, NZ First

Andrew Williams discusses with political editor Audrey Young his first year in Parliament as a NZ First list MP.

NZ First MP Andrew Williams was formerly Mayor of Auckland's North Shore City. Photo / Mark Mitchell
NZ First MP Andrew Williams was formerly Mayor of Auckland's North Shore City. Photo / Mark Mitchell

What has been the highlight of your first year in Parliament?

Having NZ First back in Parliament is the major highlight and the fact that people are commenting that the Opposition certainly has a lot more steel and a lot more backbone with Winston and NZ First there.

What have you personally found most rewarding?

I've been on the local government and environment select committee and that's been a very busy committee with a huge number of bills coming through. Those included things like the exclusive economic zone, the local government review, ECAN, the Manukau prostitution ...

Is it better fun being in Parliament than being a mayor [for the former North Shore City]?

It's totally different, really. A mayor is 24/7 and you can never get away from it when you are a mayor because literally people expect you every day of the week to be at their beck and call.

I think MPs have a little bit more ability to get out there without being under daily scrutiny.

Has there been a low point?

No not really ... I've got about 10 portfolios and there's so much on you don't have time to think half the time.

Maybe Brendan Horan leaving might have been a low point?

It probably is, but I haven't had anything to do with that at all.

What is the most frustrating thing about working at Parliament?

Well, it's a little bit being on the Titanic heading towards an iceberg in that it is a long, slow process and it is frustrating. When you are a mayor you can certainly move things along a lot faster than in Parliament. It does surprise me how some bills that are coming before the House right now were introduced originally under the Labour Government or are three or four years old. The process seems to be a very arduous one.

Which MP outside your party impresses you and why?

There's a lot of them. I've always had a lot of time for Phil Goff. He's a very, very [hard-working], long-serving MP. Over in the National benches I have been very impressed with Nathan Guy because I am veterans' affairs spokesman and I've had some very good discussions with Nathan, and he has been very accommodating and very helpful on particular issues I have raised with him. And I've been impressed with Russel Norman.

Do you have a bill in the private members bill ballot?

I'm preparing one allowing superannuitants to get tax relief for maintaining their health insurance and for fringe benefit tax to be removed from health insurance for companies, to encourage companies to maintain a health insurance programme for their staff ... They don't have to actually pay for it.

Do you engage in Facebook, Twitter or other social media?

I don't Twitter but I do have an official Facebook page which my staff maintain for me.

What is your position on the same-sex marriage bill, and why?

Our position is we want to have a referendum and that's my position as well. We felt that 121 MPs shouldn't be making the decision on behalf of the country, and because it is such a major social issue, we think there should be a referendum and let the people decide.

Name one of your heroes outside politics.

Russell Stewart is one of my heroes. He was president of the Whenuapai Airport Action Group. He was one of the leaders who stood up to stop Whenuapai Airport becoming a commercial airport and over many, many years put a huge [amount] of his personal time and resources into it. My heroes tend to be people who give of their time as volunteers, and there are so many like that.

What books are you reading or planning to over the summer?

I'm going to be reading Richard Prosser's Uncommon Dissent: the Evolution of a Kiwi Nationalist. Richard [a NZ First parliamentary colleague] gave it to me as a Christmas present the other day and I said I'm going to take it away in the campervan and read it and enjoy it.

What's one of the best shows or concerts you've been to in recent years?

I went to the Hollies and loved that. Each year we go to the Mission concert in Napier, and Rod Stewart is probably my favourite concert in recent years. My wife Jane and I go to a number of concerts each year and she wants to go and see Cliff Richard when he comes.

How are you unwinding over summer?

We are going away, Jane and I, in our campervan heading up to Northland to camp for a week or so and then heading down to Taupo to visit Jane's parents and then probably over to Hawkes Bay - I grew up in Hawkes Bay - and spend a week or so there.

Was there a beach that was special to you during your childhood?

We lived inland, but my most special beach is probably Long Bay in that when I was a teenager I ended up living at Torbay, and Long Bay was our local beach, and my father was one of the volunteers that built the train that was on the beach. I was instrumental in [buying] over 110 acres of land on the edge of Long Bay when I was mayor, to protect [it] from the big housing development that was going in.

- NZ Herald

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