19 Sep 2017

Meet Auckland's likely new MPs

11:44 am on 19 September 2017

The retirements of long-serving MPs such as Maurice Williamson, Murray McCully and David Cunliffe mean there will be a host of new faces representing Auckland in Parliament after 23 September.

So who will be stepping into their shoes?

RNZ asked four of the candidates likely to end up in the debating chamber after the election to pick somewhere in their electorate for lunch.

Simeon Brown, National - Pakuranga

Simeon Brown, National's candidate for Pakuranga.

Simeon Brown, National's candidate for Pakuranga Photo: RNZ / Sarah Robson

Maurice Williamson became the MP for Pakuranga in 1987.

That was before his likely successor, 26-year-old Simeon Brown, was even born.

Mr Brown said his youth has been a talking point for some voters.

"When you knock on people's doors and they look at you, the funniest ones are when they have this little smirk and you wonder what they're about to say.

"You say, 'I know what you're thinking', and they'll say, 'What?', I'll say, 'You think I'm not even old enough to vote?'"

Mr Brown got involved with the National Party at university and joined his local residents' group.

He was elected to his local board in 2013 and stood for National in Manurewa in 2014.

He said his young age should not be such a surprise.

"The National Party has a history of supporting younger candidates in some of their safer seats, who have gone on to have quite successful careers. Bill English was 28 when he came into Parliament, Tony Ryall was a similar age, Nick Smith, Nikki Kaye."

Mr Brown said he was not worried about stepping into Mr Williamson's shoes.

"The day after I was selected, I went into his office.

"[He said] 'well there's 4000 things you need to know', and I think we got through three or four of them."

Lunch destination: Ara-Tai Cafe, overlooking the marina at Half Moon Bay

Why? "You've got views out to Rangitoto Island ... It really is just the perfect place to stop, relax and you're in your own little slice of paradise."

Erica Stanford, National - East Coast Bays

Erica Stanford, National's candidate for East Coast Bays.

Erica Stanford, National's candidate for East Coast Bays Photo: RNZ / Sarah Robson

Over the Harbour Bridge in East Coast Bays, Erica Stanford is the clear favourite to win the seat that's been held by Murray McCully for 30 years.

She has worked in Mr McCully's electorate office for the last four years, taking responsibility for a lot of the local MP duties while he was overseas as Foreign Minister.

But Ms Stanford said it was still a challenge getting her name out there.

"I've lived here my whole life, I thought I knew a lot of people, but when you door knock 20,000 doors, you realise that actually, nobody knows who you are.

"That was difficult, the name recognition, but the good thing is that it's a fresh face and people are interested."

East Coast Bays is the fifth-fastest growing electorate in the country.

But not everyone in the community is happy with the scale of the development

One of the issues dividing opinion in the community has been the environmental impact of some of the big housing developments in the area.

Ms Stanford lives in Okura, and her personal preference was to retain some of the green space in the area.

But she said it would be her job to navigate through the differing opinions on the issue and represent all sides.

"The job of the local MP is to make sure the council is doing its job, that the developers are doing their job, and actually to have a relationship with all sides."

Lunch destination: Scout in Torbay

Why? "You can't get a park for love nor money here on the weekends, these guys are packed ... That's really great to see that the area is doing well, these businesses are starting to do well again, and it's becoming a destination."

Deborah Russell, Labour - New Lynn

Deborah Russell, Labour's candidate for New Lynn.

Deborah Russell, Labour's candidate for New Lynn Photo: RNZ / Sarah Robson

Deborah Russell shifted her family from Palmerston North to west Auckland earlier this year after she was selected as Labour's candidate in New Lynn.

In doing so, she found out just how tough the Auckland housing market could be.

"We're renting a place at the moment, even that was interesting realising how hard it was to find a place to rent. Obviously it was a matter of how much we could pay, but more than that it was finding a place at all in the areas we wanted to be."

She said if she won New Lynn she would look to buy a home in the electorate.

In 2014, Ms Russell stood in the blue seat of Rangitikei in the Whanganui region - a vast, rural electorate, with long drives between events.

She said standing in a red electorate has been a different experience, with more volunteers and more people telling her they would give her their vote, because she was the Labour candidate.

Ms Russell said her predecessor, David Cunliffe, gave her the same advice that his predecessor Jonathan Hunt had given him.

"Remember that all going well, if I become the MP for New Lynn, it won't be because of me, it will because I'm Labour - I'm a Labour MP, this is not about me."

When she's been out doorknocking, Ms Russell said the issues voters were talking to her about were the same issues affecting all Aucklanders: housing, health and transport.

Lunch destination: The Old Woodshop and Corner Cafe, New Lynn

Why? "It's got that semi-suburban feel that a lot of New Lynn has. We obviously have shopping centres and the like, but to me the electorate is a series of small villages. This feels village-y, it's just a neighbourhood cafe, but there's a business out the back of it too."

Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Labour - Maungakiekie

Labour's Priyanca Radhakrishnan.

Labour's Priyanca Radhakrishnan Photo: Supplied.

Labour's Priyanca Radhakrishnan has a different challenge in Maungakiekie.

It has been held since 2008 by National's Sam Lotu-Iiga - who's retiring at the election - but before that it was held by Labour.

She's up against National's Denise Lee, who's currently on the Auckland Council, and the Green Party's Chloe Swarbrick.

Ms Radhakrishnan said despite concerns Ms Swarbrick could split the vote on the left, it would be a two-horse race.

"It will be between my National opponent and myself, and I think that's the message Green Party voters need to get as well. If they want a progressive MP, then give me their candidate vote."

But if Ms Radhakrishnan does not win Maungakiekie, she is ranked number 12 on Labour's list, which would likely still guarantee her a seat in Parliament.

Ms Radhakrishnan was born in India, grew up in Singapore, and came to New Zealand to study at Massey University in Palmerston North.

"I wanted to pick a country where I didn't know anyone and sort of survive on my own terms," she said.

After her studies, she worked for the women's refuge organisation Shakti, and also did a stint at the Ministry for Women's Affairs working in their violence prevention team.

It was that work that got her involved in politics.

"I joined the Labour Party 11 years ago, it never once crossed my mind that I might stand for parliament in this country."

Lunch destination: Mexican Specialities, Ellerslie

Why? "I love Mexican food. When I was at university, I joined the South American club, I taught myself Spanish for a short while and did salsa dancing ... Also the story of Mexican Specialities is a quintessential migrant story, a couple that came from Mexico and started this place."

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