Departing Tamaki MP Allan Peachey's ambition of transforming the education sector was frustrated by his struggle with cancer and his party's reluctance to go to war with teachers unions early in their term of government he says.
The 61-year-old, whose marked pallor and hair loss have fuelled rumours about his health, this week announced he was standing aside at the November election. While Mr Peachey said his decision was down to his lack of confidence he could serve out another three year term as Tamaki MP, rumours have persisted he stepped down under pressure from party hierarchy.
Mr Peachey entered parliament in 2005 and his successful record as principal of Rangitoto College and his enthusiasm for National's education policies during the 1990s fuelled expectations he would pursue his vision for education when National formed a Government.
Yesterday he said he was "professionally gutted" when Labour came to power in 1999 and ended bulk funding for schools, and undermined policies such as greater leadership authority for principals and performance pay for teachers.
"I sometimes dreamed that maybe I was the guy to bring it all back again."
However he indicated his National Party colleagues were reluctant to depart significantly from the direction set by Labour because that would mean the new Government buying into messy battles with teachers' unions and sector interest groups.
"I think one of the problems with my vision was that it would have meant going back and fighting a whole pile of battles that had been won in the 90s that had been very hurtful to a lot of people."
Mr Peachey said he had the energy and mind to fight those battles but the opportunity never arose.
"The harsh political reality is that as soon as I got kidney cancer I was in a seriously weakened position."
That cancer was detected shortly after he was elected in 2005 and was successfully treated however the illness had robbed him of much of his previous energy.
Mr Peachey also said a comment by one of his colleagues who was also elected in 2005 and was now "doing well" as a cabinet minister had caused him to consider his role as a politician.
"She said to me: "You're different from the rest of us. You have an empowering nature about you. You want success for other people. You're a very enriching person whereas the rest of us have all come from backgrounds where we look after ourselves, you're not like that."."
During his political career, which included chairing the education select committee, Mr Peachey said he had " tried to be a strong parliamentarian before a strong party person".
He didn't have regrets about not achieving what he'd hoped for in the education sector and took "huge satisfaction" from representing Tamaki and looked back with pride at the very strong endorsement he secured from Tamaki in 2008 in the form of a 17,000 vote majority.
Meanwhile, former television newsreader Suzy Clarkson has emerged as Mr Peachey's possible replacement. The Herald understands Ms Clarkson, currently corporate affairs manager at Coca Cola, was recently approached by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett about seeking the nomination. Contacted by the Herald yesterday, Ms Clarkson said she had "no comment either way".
Auckland Councillor Cameron Brewer was yesterday still considering whether he would seek the nomination as was former Auckland City Councillor Aaron Bhatnagar.