It’s a Right Roy-al con!
Note: this post originally appeared on ‘Douglas to Dancing’, a blog I maintained from 2007-9 on the ACT New Zealand political party. The blog was an extension of the thesis I wrote about the Act Party in 2007, From Douglas to Dancing: explaining the lack of success of ACT New Zealand and evaluating its future prospects (PDF).
The candidate ACT will be standing in Wellington Central, mysteriously foreshadowed last week and reported at this blog, is none other than….Heather Roy! Readers who take only a passing interest in ACT may be forgiven for not knowing who Roy is, but she is currently ACT’s sole list MP.
Douglas to Dancing will analyse the pros and cons of standing Roy in Wellington Central in greater detail later, but for now some raw data from this evening’s events:
– Roy has launched a personal website, http://www.roy.org.nz. The 1990s-style website design must be a deliberate ploy to subtly remind visitors of the last time ACT held the Wellington Central (Richard Prebble 1996-1999).
– A speech by ACT party president Garry Mallett was posted on the party website
– Roy herself gave a speech but of course this is not on her website or ACT’s. As a public service I will therefore reproduce it here:
Heather Roy To Stand For Wellington Central
Speech to ACT Wellington Candidate Launch; The Museum Hotel, Cable Street,
Wellington; 6:30pm, Tuesday [sic], November 22 2007
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for coming along this evening to be a
part of our Wellington Central candidate announcement. I’m delighted to
be contesting the Wellington Central seat for ACT in 2008 – without a
doubt, the most interesting seat in the country.
There’s a whiff of change in the political air, and this is likely to be a
boisterous election campaign, both nationwide and in this electorate – who
else has meetings like the infamous Aro Valley election meeting? I’m
looking forward to that.
So it is that, fully prepared for a battle of dirty tricks, I put my name
forward to represent an electorate that is effectively a political
barometer for the rest of the country.
You might ask what it is that makes me the right person to take up ACT’s
cause in a high profile seat in a rough and tumble election – I’m
sometimes described as ‘too nice’ for politics, and being nice doesn’t
bring media coverage.
The fact is that the personality politics of the past decade have been an
inevitable consequence of the lack of debate over the real issues facing
New Zealand. Labour has become a status-quo Party, and National has
openly taken positions that are the same as, or similar to, Labour’s.
Of late we’ve witnessed a vacuum around important issues like the lack of
economic growth and terrible domestic violence cases – instead, attacks on
individual performances have taken priority. In times of genuine crisis
such trivia as Trevor Mallard’s romantic interests should take up much
less attention. The lack of any real debate on New Zealand’s future
direction allows ideological parties like ACT to prosper as the electorate
inevitably looks for fresh new ideas and vision.
I have a heavy personal stake in future policy for New Zealand: I have
five children, and want them to be able to pursue their chosen careers
without having to leave New Zealand. I want them to travel the world as I
did – but I want New Zealand, their home, to be a viable option for them;
one that competes favourably with the other opportunities that will come
As I prepare to contest this election it distresses me to think that many
parents I talk to seemed resigned to the fact that, if successful, their
children will probably leave the country. It is this resigned acceptance
of polite decline that I want to tackle. When Mrs Thatcher became British
Prime Minister she was determined to arrest Britain’s decline and she did.
Some might say she grasped the nettle too firmly, but she successfully
reversed Britain’s relative economic decline. Here in New Zealand the
Labour Government of 1984 used the balance of payments crisis to tackle
our fundamental problem of excessive State intervention in the economy.
New Zealanders must re-capture a sense of urgency for change – the only
alternative is slow relative decline and loss of skills as people leave
the country because, in a global economy, people can vote with their feet
as well as at the ballot box.
While it’s often said that Wellington Central has the most educated
population in New Zealand, these ‘well educated’ are precisely the people
whose children are likely to end up in Sydney, London or Los Angeles. I
spoke recently to a woman who had four adult children, the closest was in
Sydney – so at 60, she was an orphan!
As ACT’s Wellington Central candidate you might like to know a little more
about Heather Roy the person. Know what has shaped me into the politician
standing before you.
I’m 43 and am joined this evening by my husband Duncan, a doctor at Hutt
Hospital, and a selection of my children – those who didn’t have a better
Looking back, I had a typical Kiwi upbringing: the eldest of six children,
born in the small rural town of Palmerston in Otago. I know ACT is
castigated as the Party of the rich, but my parents certainly weren’t
that: my father left school in the Fourth Form and had a number of jobs
while I was growing up; my mother was a Plunket nurse before becoming a
full-time mother; I shared a bedroom with my two sisters – who perpetually
complained that I read too late and that they couldn’t get to sleep with
the light on. My own daughters often feel that they are cruelly put upon
because they share a room.
My parents worked hard to provide us with extras like music lessons. I
attended the local primary and secondary schools – no choice available
but, like most of us, I had some teachers to whom I owe a lot to and
others I struggle to remember at all. My most inspiring teacher later
went on to become president of the PPTA. Fortunately politics wasn’t
present in the classroom or, goodness knows, I wouldn’t be standing here
now. Instead, she has instilled in me a life-long love of literature.
My sporting passion was netball and, although not the best player in my
senior team, I was proud to have been picked as captain. I confess to
having struggled more with the Silver Ferns recent loss to Australia than
with the All Blacks World Cup performance. At school I also became an
enthusiastic tramper and climber, and remained so until I met my husband.
My career path has been a little unusual in its course. I left school to
study Physiotherapy in Dunedin and, as I left, my mother cautioned me
against marrying a doctor on account of the long hours they work – I gave
Mum’s advice the weight accorded by most 18-year-olds. Duncan and I spent
three years in the UK where he completed his post-graduate study and I got
the very best experience at Stoke-Mandeville Hospital, an international
centre of excellence in the treatment of Spinal Injuries. Even there, New
Zealand physios were well-regarded for our high-quality training and work
ethic – in fact, all Kiwis benefit from this reputation.
We moved back to New Zealand – Timaru – just as the stock market was
crashing in 1987. I juggled bringing up small children with a bit of
physio work, medical research work and managing my kids’ private
kindergarten. Then, in 1996 when ACT contested that first MMP election,
Duncan and I became politically active – inspired by those values ACT has
always promoted: freedom, choice and greater prosperity for all Kiwis. I
contested the 1999 election and almost got into Parliament – but that had
to wait until 2002.
We became Wellingtonians in 2000, moving from the South Island for my
husband’s career. This is a move that has worked out well for me. I took
to Wellington like a duck to water, working for a time as publicity
officer for the New Zealand Portrait Gallery.
The first thing that struck me about Wellington is that people drive
politely, frequently giving way when not legally required to do so – that
doesn’t often happen elsewhere. More importantly, I found that
Wellingtonians judge you for you – who your parents were doesn’t cut much
ice, and what school you went to is of peripheral interest.
Wellingtonians were also very tolerant when I stood for the Western Ward
of the Wellington City Council in 2001 – a slightly cheeky bid when I’d
only lived here for a short time. But, as I campaigned, people were more
interested in the fact that I had a good grasp of local issues and that
I’d voice their concerns around the Council table; I missed out by just 34
I’d decided when I had children that I would always do one unpaid
community activity at any given time – something that has frequently
stretched to several voluntary jobs at once. With children attending
three different Wellington Central schools – as well as cricket, soccer
and running clubs – there’s plenty of choice, and any number of
fundraising activities to assist with. My major effort over the past
seven years has been my role of Gala Convenor for the Karori Normal School
Gala. Leading the team of enthusiastic parents to help raise our local
school over $40,000 on a Saturday every October is extremely rewarding and
great fun. Wellington Central communities of interest are strong and
combine to make our city a great place to live.
In keeping with this, last year I fulfilled a long-time dream of joining
the New Zealand Army as a territorial soldier. While Territorial’s do
receive payment, I donate all of mine to the RSA. I belong to 5 Wellington
West Coast Taranaki Battalion Group and am a Field Engineer. I enjoy my
training weekends enormously – it is very different from my day job and
keeps me in touch with ‘real kiwis’. I’m frequently asked what it is I
learnt from my Basic Training experience. The answer is simple: teamwork,
discipline, leadership and pride. Not bad principles to apply to life, and
principles I know are valued by the hard-working people of Wellington
I immediately felt at home in Wellington with its concentration on
education, focus on the arts – as well as sport – culture of promotion on
merit, and absence of a thug culture. ACT values are Wellington Central
values. People believe in the importance of choice, diversity, a level
playing field, taking responsibility, and looking after those less
Wellington Central is the electorate in which I live, and the one I want
to represent. It is the best educated electorate in New Zealand. While
it is the wealthiest, it is income rich, not asset rich.
Under a Labour MP Wellington Central is taken for granted by this
Labour-led Government. The result has been an obvious lack of investment
in infrastructure. This is also true of the wider Wellington region –
with all Labour MPs – barring Labour’s supporter Peter Dunne, making up a
sea of red – which routinely misses out on important central government
investment. As such, Wellington’s poor economic performance compared to
the nationwide average is no surprise. There was a lot of controversy
over the motorway bypass, but it was never intended to stop in the middle
of the city – the money ran out just before the 1975 election, when then
Works Minister Hugh Watt diverted his remaining budget to Auckland’s
spaghetti junction (co-incidentally smack bang in the middle of his own
marginal electorate). Some things, you might conclude, don’t change.
Wellington Central will continue to be overlooked as long as it is taken
for granted as a safe Labour seat. If you really want to be noticed, then
it is necessary to be a marginal seat. Wellington Central was best served
when former ACT Leader Richard Prebble was its local MP – Richard won the
seat because he took the people seriously and battled on their behalf.
I intend to do the same – telling people what to do is insulting and
patronising; it is listening to them, and campaigning for them, that is
important. It is through living in Wellington Central, and listening to
people, that has given me a true insight into what Wellingtonians need and
want; about what issues are affecting them and what THEY – not the
Government – feel is important. Issues like roading – notably inner-city
congestion and the ongoing saga of Transmission Gully; infrastructure; the
environment; public transport; rates; spending and leadership; crime …
the list goes on.
As part of my Wellington Central campaign, I am also launching a new
website, www.roy.org.nz. At this site you will be able to see what I have
been doing both in Parliament and around Wellington Central – as well as
what I plan to do, and ways in which you can take part. The website also
has a brief rundown on my campaign team, giveaways and allows you to let
me know what issues you feel are important to the electorate and the
region as a whole.
This electorate deserves an MP that is one of the people. Above all,
Wellington Central deserves to choose its MP from a fair and broad field.
I intend to promote that race by giving Wellington Central voters an
enthusiastic and able choice. We in ACT like nothing better than
Ladies and gentlemen: let the competition begin.