Audrey Young

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

Controversy stays away as newest MP takes her place in House

New National MP Claudette Hauiti gives every indication she has had a crash course in how not to be controversial.

Given that she is replacing Aaron Gilmore, who went out in a blaze of controversy, that may be understandable. But when you are the most avowedly gay in National Party history, and used to being outspoken, it may be a struggle to stay strictly non-controversial.

So how long has she been out?

"I've been out my whole life."

And how long have she and Nadine Mau, whom she refers to as her wife, been together.

"We've been in love for 25 years."

The couple have a civil union and hope to get married next year.

From the moment it became clear that Aaron Gilmore was out and she was next in, Ms Hauiti has been tightly managed, giving no interviews until after her swearing-in yesterday.

Being non-controversial, she suggests the black-out was all her own idea and not the party's - "I really withdrew because as the Aaron Gilmore situation was unfolding it was not in anyone's interests to make a comment or be visible because I didn't know what was happening. I had no idea. It would have just got in the way."

As a broadcaster of many years standing, she is well known in the television industry, most recently for an award-winning documentary on women in gangs, and she produced Willie Jackson's Eye to Eye programme which thrived on controversy.

But as a National Party member since only 2009 (the Grey Lynn branch), at No 63 on the National list, and a candidate in 2011 for the safe Labour seat of Mangere, she is not so well known in the party. She lists former party presidents Michelle Boag and John Slater, respectively, as being her mentors.

She hasn't had to declare any skeletons in her closet to the party in recent weeks. "I'm pretty transparent. I've got an open closet."

Her father died when she was 16. He was Ngati Porou. Her mother is Ngapuhi. She went to school at Mt Roskill Grammar.

She says that as a former journalist she understands the scrutiny that MPs come under and believes it is necessary for accountability.

She has just 18 months between now and the next election to make her mark in Parliament.

- additional reporting Yvonne Tahana

- NZ Herald

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