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Despite MMP, and list MPs, having been part of New Zealand’s political landscape since 1996, a section of the general public still has a hearty dislike of ‘‘listies’’, perceiving them as party hacks and somehow less worthy than electorate MPs.
The view that because list MPs do not have electorate responsibilities means they have a light workload would run contrary to almost every list MP’s personal experience.
Whips often grant leave to electorate MPs due to their hometown obligations, in preference to list MPs, so they can end up shouldering a heavier load in the House.
Also many list MPs, Dunedin’s National list MP Michael Woodhouse being a good example, choose to operate as a quasi-local MP, being a local spokesman on issues in a city where their party otherwise has no representation.
Liz Craig, who flies Labour’s flag in the National seat of Invercargill, is another obvious example: Dr Craig has been highly active in local issues such as vocational education reforms and the future of the Tiwai Point smelter.
Ms Brooking, however, lives in a city which on this month’s election results is as Labour as can be, and which has two electorate MPs resident in it.
David Clark has a very busy electorate office in Dunedin, and new Taieri MP Ingrid Leary has inherited an equally as active local team from retired Dunedin South MP Clare Curran.
They might welcome the help of a new local MP, or alternatively they might wish that Ms Brooking plough her own furrow.
Ms Brooking will not have to look too far afield if she wants to find an area to tend in her own right: Southland and Waitaki remain National seats, but with Labour’s recent electoral gains in both areas, having an MP presence in those seats may be of assistance with 2023 in mind.
Labour has faced the issue of what to do with a Dunedin list MP before, when David Parker lost the Otago seat he briefly held but returned on the list, via which he remains in Parliament to this day.
Mr Parker, however, was a leading Labour figure and a Cabinet Minister, so had plenty to occupy his time, while Ms Brooking is a novice in the field of politics.
What she does have though is an impressive CV, and it may be that Labour opts to utilise her expertise in environmental law and the Resource Management Act as it reforms that vexatious piece of legislation.
More creatively, Labour might want to capitalise on Ms Brooking’s strong ties with the University of Otago and use her in a tertiary education role.
Those decisions await, as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern decides on the shape of her government, how to allot Cabinet portfolios, and how best to harness the energies of her huge new crop of backbench MPs.
Safe and sound
Dunedin-based former Green MP Gareth Hughes has already found a new role away from politics, although it promises to be highly political.
Mr Hughes, his party’s former animal welfare spokesman, has joined the board of directors of Safe - Save Animals From Exploitation.
One of the more fun things MPs get to do is act as tour guides when a local school visits Parliament.
This week Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean, as well as sitting down with National leader Judith Collins to discuss her future role within the caucus, got to show pupils from Holy Family Catholic School her workplace.
Another second place for unsuccessful National Taieri candidate Liam Kernaghan, although this one he was much more pleased about - Mr Kernaghan was runner-up in the New Zealand open solo bagpipe championship, to his former teacher Stuart Easton.
Mr Kernaghan did retain one of his individual titles and pick up another, so he did get to enjoy some success this year.