Barbara Edmonds has worked as a tax lawyer for IRD and ministerial adviser before her first years as an MP. She reflects to Herald political reporter Michael Neilson on working on the Dawn Raids apology and learning about her own connections, and swatting away poaching attempts from the Opposition.
• Mana electorate MP, Labour
• Aged 40, born in Auckland, lives in Porirua
• Deputy chairperson of the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee, member of Standing Orders Select Committee, and associate party whip
• Interesting fact: She has a Spotify playlist named after her, "MP Barb"
Q: How have you found your first year in Parliament?
A: It's been a solid year. Learned heaps. As a new backbencher you learn by being observant, and trusting your team.
Being involved with Super Saturday vaccination drive was awesome, helping with vaccinations in Porirua and especially the Pacific community.
My proudest moment was to be able to support the Prime Minister, the Pacific caucus and ministers, with the Dawn Raids apology.
I had to emotionally prepare four weeks before the ceremony, knowing if I didn't I'd be a big sobbing mess.
That's only the start. For Pacific people, it really matters, those words and then the actions that follow from it.
I also have a bill in the tin at the moment, to allow those in realm countries – Niue, Tokelau and Cook Islands - to be able to declare their oath in their own language. Currently, it only allows English and Māori.
Q: You mentioned in your maiden speech, like many Pacific families, your house being a "transit lounge" for family members as they arrived from Samoa, even having 24 people living in your house at one time. Do you have any personal stories around the dawn raids?
A: I didn't think we did, but through the apology we began to hear about them.
People kept to themselves because they were ashamed. For the ceremony, I invited my dad and stepmum and then my uncle asked to come.
He got arrested one morning at work and three days later was sent to Samoa. My family could only see him for five minutes at the airport before he left.
He never shared this because he was so embarrassed, until the apology, and understanding actually it is the system that called for these people to come over and then treated them like that, that should apologise and be ashamed.
Q: Where did you grow up and what was it like?
A: I was brought up on the north shore of Auckland, in Glenfield. I was the youngest of four kids.
My parents came from the islands in the 70s. They built their first home on Auckland's North Shore.
Mum passed away when she was 35, from liver cancer. So my dad was 40 with four kids under the age of 11.
My father was on the DPB (domestic purposes benefit), and did an amazing job of bringing up the four of us. It was a good childhood, considering the trauma of losing a parent young.
Q: What is your earliest memory?
A: My mum being sick. The whole family from Samoa came over. My earliest memories were our family being home, and mum getting treatment. I was 4 when she passed away, and they buried her on my fifth birthday.
Q: Can you tell me a bit about your whānau now?
A: I live in Titahi Bay with my husband Chris and our eight children. They are pretty awesome. My youngest is 8 and eldest 17, she's just finished high school and off to university next year.
Q: What do you do to unwind from politics?
A: I never realised it, but I do like some time by myself. I like to walk down to my local beach Titahi Bay with music.
I used to surf, and that is a bit of a bucket list item to get back into. But for me, it is just being near water.
Q: What is something you are proud of pre-politics?
A: Raising my kids. I really don't know why we wanted such a big family. It was definitely tough when we were young and I was doing my degrees at university, but it's been awesome. Our goal is to raise some decent little human beings that help other people.
Q: What was your first job?
A: Coaching netball when I was about 14.
Q: You've worked as a tax lawyer for IRD under the National Government as a public servant, and then as a ministerial advisor with Labour last term. Why did you decide to throw yourself into politics?
A: To me politics is about people, about serving people. It came from seeing the poverty in my area, the lack of opportunities for some.
My husband and I have been involved in our local schools, local rugby clubs, a lot of community stuff, and that's where I met [former Mana MP] Kris Faafoi. He asked if I would like to run and I said no, I was already working as a ministerial adviser and spending a lot of time away from family.
Then a member of a local board I was on passed away and I had an epiphany.
I felt compelled after my mother passing away young, thinking life's really short, and then having these really strong community stalwarts pass away suddenly.
I thought this is one way to get to making more change for our community.
Q: You've worked with Judith Collins and Michael Woodhouse, albeit in an apolitical role, and Christopher Luxon said he'd pick you... was it always Labour?
A: Yeah. It's always been Labour, because that's where my values lie. Sometimes you just don't realise how strong they are until you reflect on them, which was part of my maiden speech.
Q: What are the biggest issues for 2022?
A: Housing. Another proud moment was getting the housing acceleration fund money, $136 million, for infrastructure in East Porirua so that we can build 2000 additional homes, because we couldn't build it without the pipes getting sorted.
Q: How do you feel after a year in politics and do you have any ministerial ambitions?
A: I'm in it 150 per cent, and you have to be, when you're representing your electorate, and when you're the sole income earner in your family.
My specialty lies in tax, finance, economics. But if [Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern] rings and asks, you don't refuse and give it your best shot, whatever it is.
Q: If you could take anyone to dinner – dead or alive – who would it be and why?
A: Can I take a couple? I would so take Michelle and Barack Obama, just because you know, it's them! And just because I am so curious, Jimi Hendrix, to be able to unpack that man. His music is amazing.
Q: Favourite place for a holiday in Aotearoa?
A: Karatu in Northland. We go up there as a family and have a massive camp. But the whole of Northland is amazing, and it is like Samoa, tropical.
And now some quickfire questions ...
Q: Beach or mountain getaway?
Q: Favourite beach?
A: Titahi Bay, when we could swim at it, but outside of here probably Rarawa in the Far North.
Q: Best road trip song/artist?
A: Anything by Sons of Zion.
Q: Red or white wine?
A: White in summer, red in winter.
Q: Tea or coffee?
A: One coffee before 1pm, otherwise I can't sleep.
Q: Dogs or cats?
Q: Favourite social media?
A: Facebook or Instagram, definitely not Twitter.