Patterson pays tribute to Peters’ leadership

Successful New Zealand First list candidate Mark Patterson. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Successful New Zealand First list candidate Mark Patterson. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
It takes an almighty effort for a smaller party to get above the 5% MMP threshold, and it takes an even bigger effort for a party to get back in once it has been dumped from Parliament.

Lawrence farmer Mark Patterson was a New Zealand First backbencher in 2017, but lost his seat in 2020 when the party missed the 5% benchmark.

He stayed loyal, toiled away behind the scenes to help re-establish the party, and on Saturday night quietly reaped his reward when NZ First received 6.46% of the electorate vote.

"It is dispiriting when you are out of Parliament and that makes it hard to rally the troops," he said.

"We had an intense period of soul-searching and went back to the members, then we had to take a fair bit of feedback on board. We decided that we were all committed to giving it another crack, and here we are."

Mr Patterson paid glowing tribute to his leader, Winston Peters, who had kept up a schedule of public meetings that would have daunted a person half his age, to keep NZ First’s presence up as a national political force.

"Winston was our talisman for that and he spoke to thousands and thousands of people right around the country, and the rebuilding of a party organisation doesn’t happen without leadership like that . . . but it’s certainly not easy."

Quite what role Mr Patterson and NZ First will play for the next three years remains to be seen.

Mr Peters yesterday refused to commit NZ First to any course of action until special votes have been counted (on November 3), and it remains a real possibility that the party could form an arrangement with the governing parties rather than sitting on the cross-benches or in opposition.

"It will be a very different Parliament. There has been a huge turnover of people from the one I joined six years ago," Mr Patterson said.

"I felt that New Zealand First still had a position on the political spectrum and our voice was needed. That was my main motivation.

"I’m not just going to fill a seat . . . we have been given another chance and we need to do something with it." , Political editor