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Rimutaka Marks future of NZ First

Nov 6th, 2008 | By | Category: Latest News, News

By Sinead Ogilvie & Carl Suurmond

The man with the most riding on a Rimutaka victory – New Zealand First’s Ron Mark – says Labour’s neglect of the electorate spells trouble for its newbie candidate Chris Hipkins.

If the high-profile Mr Mark, who has shifted into the electorate from Christchurch since the last election, can take a seat he could bring NZ First MPs with him in the event of leader Winston Peters’ failing in Tauranga.

While Mr Hipkins has been talking up his year of hard work in Rimutaka, Mr Mark doesn’t believe that confidence is warranted.

He draws attention to PM Helen Clark’s visit to Upper Hutt this week as a sign of “fear” that the seat is no longer safely in Labour hands.

“Why else would they bring the leader into Rimutaka in the ninth hour … to glad-hand and meet with the people? Gee, I guess they’re worried.”

Labour has taken the seat for granted, Mr Mark says.

“[Former Rimutaka] Labour MP Paul Swain’s office was looking doggy, tattered, rundown, and pretty much reflecting what people believe Labour’s view and attitude is toward them.”

He reckons the public will not respond well to Labour’s selection of Mr Hipkins

“With all due respect to young Chris, a young man that nobody knows, who does not look like them, sound like them, dress like them, behave like them to represent them, without consulting them … [The voters] are a little annoyed out there …

“It’s one thing to have a MP who’s a cabinet minister [Paul Swain], it’s another thing to have a brand-spanking new backbencher with no proven track record.”

Mr Mark’s number one policy for Rimutaka is putting the electorate first, including a focus on law and order.

His hard line on crime is also pedalled by Act party MP Rodney Hide, who pointed the finger at NZ First over undeclared donations.

“Act are schizophrenic,” says Mr Mark. “They are the true Jekyll and Hyde of our Parliament.”

Mr Hide should worry about questions about donations received by his own party, says Mr Mark.

An unknown quantity in Rimutaka is National’s Richard Whiteside, a businessman who has been part of community campaign against lead pollution from Exide Technologies’ Petone factory.

BELOW: Ron Mark (second from the left) in his days serving the Sultan of Oman (right).

Who is the man who might hold the future shape of government in his hands?

According to his Parliamentary website, Ron Mark was elected to Parliament in 1996 and is a New Zealand First list MP.

A former ward of state, he grew up in Pahiatua, attending Tararua College. As a young man he worked on farms, trapped possums and did scrub cutting.

At the age of 16 he joined the NZ Army and in the next 15 years he rose from a private, through the ranks to Captain. He spent 13 months from 1982-1983 peacekeeping in Israel and Egypt.

He left the New Zealand Army in 1985 and spent five years soldiering in the Sultanate of Oman. There he served in the Sultan’s Land Forces and the Sultans Special Force. He retired as a Major in 1990.

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