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Friday, 19 April 2019 08:18 pm

Kieran McAnulty – painting a region red

Mar 12th, 2018 | By | Category: Editor's Picks, Lead Story, News, Top Picture


Labour list MP for the Wairarapa Kieran McAnulty.

“Gidday, Mr Speaker.”

This blokey salutation was the opening line of Kieran McAnulty’s inaugural parliamentary speech, and reflects his strong Wairarapa identity.

Wairarapa’s new Labour list MP speaks of being a champion for one’s region, offering Tim Shadbolt as an analogy.

“He pushes Invercargill every single possibility and opportunity he gets. If you go down the street I guarantee you, nine out of ten people will know, if they know Tim Shadbolt, they’ll know Invercargill. The two go hand-in-hand.”

In his push to be a similarly active ambassador for his region, he must first wrest it off National’s Alastair Scott.

He bridged the vote gap by nearly 4000 since his first bid in 2014. Labour’s stronger party vote brought him into Parliament on the party list.

The large, traditionally blue Wairarapa seat stretches from Cape Palliser to the Central Hawkes Bay.

It has only gone for Labour three times since 1946, most recently under Georgina Beyer from 1999 to 2005.

Since then, boundary changes have swallowed up much of the Central Hawkes Bay.

“Whilst we have had a Labour MP win Wairarapa, it was a significantly different electorate then,” McAnulty says.

The Wairarapa electorate Kieran McAnulty is fighting to win. It is the fourth-largest in the North Island. PHOTO: Supplied.

It is winnable, he says, but the former TAB bookmaker must also overcome the strong third party candidacy of NZ First’s Ron Mark.

McAnulty won’t be drawn on the former Carterton mayor potentially swinging over Labour voters.

“You’ve got to play the cards you’re dealt,” he says.

Demographics indicate a Labour candidate would do well in Wairarapa. At the last census, over half of the population over 15 earned under $30,000.

Agriculture, fishing and forestry employ one fifth of the workers, and McAnulty believes he and Labour can offer more to them than National, despite the latter’s traditional rural base.

“National portrays themselves as the party of the provinces and the party of farmers but never backs it up.

“They give them lip service but never actually deliver,” he says, pointing to National’s abolition of the Minister of Rural Communities, which demonstrated a lack of understanding of rural areas.

Rural health, broadband, infrastructure, education and policing are too broad to all be dealt with by the Minister of Agriculture.

Neither are they new issues for McAnulty, who has been involved with the Labour’s policy council and rural and regional sector.

At Otago University, he decided his politics lay with Labour’s social democratic platform.

Why Labour?

Regional economic growth and investment in rural infrastructure and services are offered as reasons, as is a poignant reference to his grandfather.

“My grandfather once said to me something his father said to him: ‘When the working man is doing well, the whole country’s doing well,’ and that’s something I’ve always reflected on.”

Before nailing his political colours to the mast at university, McAnulty attended St Mary’s School and St Patrick’s School in Carterton and Masterton, then Chanel College. He was head boy in 2002.

His five tertiary qualifications include three in politics from Otago, and two from Massey in business administration.

“Not bad for a bloke who failed bursary, I suppose,” McAnulty laughs.

He played rugby in County Cork, a natural choice for a man of Irish stock.

“You never lose your connection to the homeland. It’s not the place you want to go if you want to save money, I’ll tell you that much for free,” he counsels me.

“But if you want to have a good time and meet some good people that are very much like New Zealand, that share a natural, shared suspicion of the English then the Irish mainland is where you want to go.”

He has to go to a meeting after this, he apologises. His focus at present is on his roles as junior government whip and his posting on the Primary Production Select Committee.

He does not have expectations for a higher job until he wins Wairarapa.

“When I achieve that, and I know that I’m in the best position to be the voice for my region, who knows, there might be some opportunities that flow from that.

“It’s a bit of a cliché Thomas. You’ll hear that from everyone I suspect.”

When asked to call the Wairarapa result for 2020, he muses momentarily before advising against predictions in politics.

“Things happen very quickly in this place. But, if I was to speak generally, I do believe that the Labour Party will be in a position to form another government.”

As for the makeup of that government, and Labour’s result, McAnulty declines to indulge his political science training and offer any other predictions.

“I learned in my time at the TAB that you should only ever make a call if you’re almost certain.”


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