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PoliticsMay 14, 2018

From house to house: the NZ MP with the longest commute


Commute week: For Sarah Dowie, the commute from Invercargill to work in Wellington typically eats up at least half a day.

The most fascinating thing about National MP Sarah Dowie comes in a tantalising line from a since deleted Young Nats post: she is a “a one-time member of a travelling dance troupe in Russia”. Alas, this isn’t Dance Week on the Spinoff, however, but Commute Week, and so we’ll instead focus on another of her remarkable attributes: as member for Invercargill she is the NZ parliamentarian with the longest commute to Wellington.

Along with the rest of parliament, Dowie needs to be in Wellington from Tuesday to Thursday when the house is in session. Her journey begins on Monday with a drive to the airport – the easiest slice of the commute at 15 minutes. The most efficient option, if she can make it in time, is the direct flight aboard a twin-engine turboprop that leaves mid-afternoon, and takes just over two hours. The alternative is an early evening flight to Christchurch, with a layover of 45 minutes before continuing to the capital. Then it’s a taxi to her flat in the city, which in itself can take on epic proportions in Wellington.

And back south? “If I’m lucky, if the whips have taken pity on me, on a Thursday I get to leave half an hour earlier than when the house rises [at 6]. Then I can get the direct flight, that’s two and a half hours in the air, direct to Invercargill. But if I don’t get leave then I have to get a 7.15 to Dunedin, and then I get to Dunedin and I have a taxi driver waiting for me and she drives me from Dunedin to Invercargill. So I can get home anywhere between 11pm and 12am on Friday morning.

“But I do that because I find it’s better to get home and be in your own bed, and I get to see the kids in the morning. And then I’ve got a full day.

“My travel is really challenging. Flying regional around the country is really challenging.”

The bulk of Dowie’s constituents live in Invercargill City, but it reaches as far south as Stewart Island, and in entirety takes “over a day to get around it, do really do it justice”.

At least when she’s working in Invercargill the commute is a doddle. “We don’t have a rush hour. We have a rush minute in Invercargill.”

Read more from Commute Week here.

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