Politics

Diary of a politician’s spouse, aka SuperHusband2000

In a departure from usual service, the second candidate diary entry by the National Party’s East Coast Bays hopeful Erica Stanford is not written by Erica Stanford at at all.

Dear Erica’s diary,

Kane here, her husband.

She doesn’t know I’m here but I read her emails and txts anyway so a diary doesn’t seem too different. I’ve gotta say there is a lot less about me in here than I’d hoped.

Anyway, I know that she is currently fretting about her first TV appearance on The Nation in a couple of days’ time, and saw she hadn’t entered a diary piece for a while, so I thought I’d throw something together for her. But from my point of view.

This next sentence should be read at an increasing pace, with one breath, for maximum impact.

Here’s what she’s done since the last diary entry…

  • Launched her campaign
  • Hosted public meetings in the electorate on Education and Health with great support from Nikki Kaye, Hekia Parata and Jonathan Coleman (or Jonno Cman as her phone contact says)
  • had “lively” discourse with a large group of parents who are very passionate about the effects of vaccines
  • participated in a back benchers debate at legendary Auckland student pub Shadows
  • Cleaned up a spill on Browns Bay beach in her heels
  • visited truckloads of local businesses
  • knocked on tonnes of doors
  • visited almost all the local schools
  • faced her first haka at Vanguard military school
  • been exposed publicly by the media for dying her roots
  • helped clean up / restore a creek
  • spoken at an ANZAC service
  • spoken at a seniors meeting
  • spoken at a Korean meeting
  • Hosted three café catch-up meetings where locals can pop in and grill her about issues or offer to help
  • Delivered flyers to the whole electorate twice
  • Put up hoardings, pulled down hoardings
  • Ensured that our kids are doing great and school and keeping on top of their homework
  • looked after the kids by herself for two weeks while I was overseas drinking all the cocktails.

So she’s been pretty busy. Even when I’m here she is on calls, teleconferences and organising the next thing. It feels like we are passing like sheep in the night sometimes.

I’ve always said that Erica is SuperMum2000. I couldn’t be prouder of how she is running a family and a campaign at the same time. And it’s the mum part I thought I’d talk a bit about here and how that all fits in.

Parents are primary caregivers of the future. And that gives them a unique insight how the world really works. For example, between Erica, our kids and me, and over more years than I care to admit, we have been to a total 11 schools and preschools in the electorate. You get to know the local kids, parents, teachers, sports groups, music groups, community groups community initiatives, new parks, new facilities and get a real firsthand experience of the vibe of the community. You understand the issues, the opportunities and the key players that stand up and make stuff happen.

That it’s those people that stand up and make change happen is one of the things Erica loves about the East Coast Bays… the thousands of small community groups that get together because they love this community and they want to make it an even better place to live. And working with them, giving them a voice, advocating for them, or even just helping connect them to other groups is something she relishes.

Be they residents’ associations, environmental groups, volunteers, clubs, or charities – they are the heart and soul of this place. It’s hard not to be constantly blown away by their passion and drive. It’s inspiring.  And I’m only in the background, holding Erica’s handbag at these meetings. E’s been getting around as many of them as she can in the past months to learn about the issues that matter to them and to let them know that they have her ongoing support. Especially for those who have wine at their meetings. (Long Bay Residents’ Association, I’m talking about you.)

Some of the environmental causes are especially close to her heart. She’s a Blue-Green and avid member of a few groups who are working to protect the Long Bay – Okura marine reserve and native bush. They fundraise, plant, weed, kill pests, count birds, and take developers to task when they dump sediment in to the marine reserve. It is very easy to take what we enjoy in the East Coast Bays for granted and to forget about the hard work of local community groups who fought for years to protect what we have today.

In the 1980s locals saved the Okura Estuary, now a pristine marine reserve, from a proposed rubbish dump. They lobbied local MP Don McKinnon who rescued the Okura native forest from being felled. What is now considered an absolute jewel in our backyard, to be treasured for generations would have been wiped out if not for these community groups who fought and fundraised for a decade to protect what tens of thousands of Aucklanders enjoy today.

And Erica sees that as a massively important role of a local MP. To work with those local groups and to give them a voice. So, when she heard about a group that has been working to clean up and restore Deep Creek in Torbay, she was there in a heartbeat, dragging me and the kids along to help. She mucked in at a clean-up day, gave them my support and sorted them some sponsorship from a local business (shot Deep Creek Breweries!).

To be honest, it is inspiring to watch her in action. People seem genuinely excited by her passion and commitment to making this the best place to live in NZ. She’s local, she’s connected, she’s hardworking and she’s relatively normal. People are responding really to her which is awesome.

This is what mums (and dads) do. They get involved in the community, they make a huge difference, they are connected, they care. And there are thousands of these mums and dads in every community making great differences every day. They have all these great traits. Great traits that belong to people that all too often don’t make it to parliament. It’s hard to be a young, female parent and an MP. That’ll be a challenge for sure. But those who know Erica know that she eats challenges for breakfast. And that’s what makes her different and will make her a great MP. And I hope that she can be an inspiration to other parents to get involved, get more involved, vote, stand, run, speak up, represent your community… to have a go despite the challenges.

And it’s a challenge that we are totally prepared for. We are super lucky to have great family close to us, super supportive friends and we have a plan to make it work. And it’s an amazing opportunity for Erica to be (even more of) a role model for our kids. Seeing your mum’s face on cars and hoardings is funny at the moment, but I know they’ll be super proud of what she does.

They also say that if your marriage is not 100% rock solid then it’ll be unlikely to survive politics. But we’ve been together for 20-plus years and we are nothing short of rock solid. And after she finds out that I have taken care of this diary entry for her, I will be SuperHusband2000.

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