A busy first few days in parliament
With an inconclusive election outcome, the next 10 days or so will be a tense wait for local MPs looking to see whether they’ll be part of the government, or on the backbenches, for this parliamentary term.
Tauranga is fortunate to have three MPs from the electorate – one from the seat, and two from party lists, with a combined support of 93 per cent of votes cast on September 23.
SunLive caught up with the politicians to find out how the whirlwind of the last few days have gone.
For newly-minted Labour MP Jan Tinetti, it’s been an exciting time learning how parliament works with her fellow newbies.
“There are around 30 new MPs from Labour, National, New Zealand First, and Greens. We’re learning about how everything runs, from staffing to finances and how to speak in the house.”
She’s back in Tauranga now, but will return to Wellington next week to practice speaking in the chamber.
“It’s the most stimulating environment, and everyone wants to help. I’m just loving it,” she says.
“At the moment I’m sharing an office with six other people, which is fine, because it gives us all a chance to get to know each other. Labour has 17 new MPs, so we’re calling ourselves the ’17 of 2017’.”
As for possible negotiations between her party and New Zealand First, Jan says she and her fellow first-timers aren’t privy to any of that side of things.
“We have full trust in our leadership team for those negotiations. Our main focus is actually on learning how to be an MP.”
Jan with fellow newbie MPs. Supplied photos.
She’s also bumped into some other locals in the halls of the Beehive.
“I’ve seen Clayton, Simon, and Todd down there, and they’ve all congratulated me, which is really nice.”
Clayton Mitchell, who’s entering his second term as a New Zealand First list MP from Tauranga, has been involved with leader Winston Peters and the rest of caucus looking at possible coalition options.
“In 2014 the government decided to run with ACT, United Future, and the Maori Party. So my focus then was on learning the ropes.
“This time we’re busy with caucus meetings, discussions, and planning for the next three weeks. There’s a lot of paperwork to do and manifestos to look through.”
National frontbencher Simon Bridges, who won Tauranga for the fourth time last Saturday, was already on a plane to Auckland on Sunday to meet with the Prime Minister and other senior ministers.
“After that I went down on Monday to Wellington for a cabinet meeting. Even though a new government is being formed, a caretaker government is currently in place. There are around 11 new National MPs too, who we’ve been talking to and getting to know as well.”
Parliament is currently sitting at the moment, and until a new government can be formed, there isn’t all that much to do. Simon himself returned home to Tauranga on Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s a chance to catch up on things I’ve been meaning to do for months, like jobs around the house. But it’s also important to keep an eye on politics, and as a frontbench minister I have to ready to help with negotiations.”
He says the party is ‘confident’ they can form a ‘sustainable, successful’ government with New Zealand First.
“It could be good for Tauranga, too – National is the dominant party here, but New Zealand First also has a long history in the city. That teaming up could be significant for Tauranga.”