New MP Cam Calder's decision 25 years ago to quit being a dentist and become a doctor instead was confirmed soon after by a freak accident in which he lost the sight in one eye.

It takes some persuading before he reveals details, but eventually out comes a tale of a trip to the beach with some friends in France and bottles of corked beer. He insists it was an "abstemious" occasion, but warm beer was put in a bucket of ice and then Dr Calder knocked the bucket and one of the corks shot out and hit him in the eye, blinding it.

It made dentistry impossible, so he finished his medical degree instead. But "I was never that good at sutures".

He noted, however, that it was suitable for politics - "most politicians are one-eyed".

So yesterday he was packing his bags and flying to Wellington, where he will be sworn into Parliament today, leaving his work as a clinical research director for a medical and sporting equipment company.

Before that, after getting his medical degree at Cambridge University, he worked in hospital accident and emergency departments in England and then New Zealand.

He also takes credit for being among those "importing" petanque to New Zealand, setting up the NZ Petanque Association.

He discovered the sport's pleasures on his big OE in the 1970s, when he hitchhiked around Australia, then travelled through Europe to Britain, where he lived for 13 years.

He returned to New Zealand to bring up his family. His children are now older, at 16 and 19 - "so there is less amount of Dad's input required".

Dr Calder first stood for Parliament last year as National's candidate for the South Auckland Labour safe seat of Manurewa.

He came to Parliament at 58 on the list for two short weeks before the counting of the special votes went against National and sent him home again.

Dr Calder says he would have preferred not to re-enter Parliament at the expense of Richard Worth.

His decision to enter politics was because he was concerned about the future his children would inherit. He chose National, partly because he saw John Key as being inclusive.

He says he will do whatever the powers tell him, but has a particular interest in men's health. One of his wishes is for men to be offered "man-ograms" - similar to the breast-screening scheme - to increase testing for prostate cancer.

Asked if he will be setting up a parliamentary petanque team to stand alongside its rugby team, he laughs. "It's not high on my list of priorities. I'm not there to sing songs."