Brooke van Velden once accidentally gate-crashed an Act party - now she's their deputy leader. She talks to Amelia Wade about her meteoric rise through its ranks.
Accidentally joining an Act Party party led Brooke van Velden to join the Act Party.
"It was quite the chance encounter," she says.
The then 22-year-old was looking for somewhere to get a drink with friends after a singing performance in central Auckland and they happened to pick a bar also hosting an Act function. She already supported the party so got talking to members and leader David Seymour.
"It never crossed my mind before to join."
Now 27, van Velden was recently elected the party's deputy leader.
A committed social liberal, Van Velden was once a Green Party voter but made the switch to Act while studying economics at university. It led her to believe free markets could help the issues which concerned her - housing, climate change and poverty - but also the economy.
She stood unsuccessfully in Auckland Central in the last election but went to Parliament anyway and was given one job - get the End of Life Choice Bill passed.
The bill was in Seymour's name but van Velden was its champion behind the scenes. She lobbied politicians by catching them between meetings, helped draft it, toured 27 public meetings towns in New Zealand listening to Kiwis' concerns and hopes and read hundreds of the 39,159 submissions.
"There were just so many stories from people who had so much pain and suffering from the experience that their family had gone through with a bad death. And some of them did just make me cry. I even still get quite emotional even thinking about some of the stories."
While Van Velden doesn't have a personal story that drove her to dedicate a small chunk of her life to getting the bill through, she says she took on other people's stories.
"I spent so many hours working on that piece of legislation - I knew the whole thing off by heart, essentially."
Van Velden says her "baptism by fire" to Parliament means she knows the processes of the corridors of power intimately which would spare her the steep learning curve of any new MP.
"If I'm elected."
This time round she's standing in Wellington Central as she favours running in the electorate she lives in. But after being elected as the party's deputy leader a week ago, her campaign strategy was suddenly shaken up. She now also needs to focus on getting the party vote around the country.
She's already had a lot of people her age come up to her in Wellington, excited someone of her generation is standing. They've promised her their electorate vote.
"But that doesn't get me elected."
Unlikely to win the Wellington Central seat - she's up against Labour's Grant Robertson who's held it since 2008 - van Velden needs the party vote. But on Act current polling at 3.1 per cent and being number 2 on the list, she would be certain of getting in, assuming Seymour keeps his safe Epsom seat.
Though she's hedging her bets, qualifying answers with "if I get elected" and correcting the one time she slips and says "when I get elected".
Van Velden is hopeful other millennials will give her their support as there's no one quite like someone being of a generation to fight on its behalf. And she says with the Government borrowing $140 billion, it's important her generation isn't saddled with the debt.
"We already can't buy houses."
And van Velden's tried. She put a deposit on a new build in Wellington and had legal advice to make sure there was a sunset clause in the contract. But what she didn't realise was it was a two-way sunset clause so the developer could pull out of it as well. A year after she signed, they pulled out and put the house back on the market for nearly $100,000 more.
"People like me are desperate to even get on the ladder in the first place. And being one of the only homes that I out afford, I went out and took a risk. And it didn't work."
So what's van Velden's solution to the housing crisis?
"Well, I'll be announcing something at our campaign launch," she says.
Today, the party will kick off its election campaign in Auckland and van Velden will announce two policies - one on housing and the other on mental health which she's really proud of because she's written it herself.
"It's not the usual type of policy that experts put out. And so that's kind of what I'm bringing to the party."