The Young NZ First chairman always dreamed of meeting Winston Peters. Then one day on the main street of Dargaville, his dream came true. He tells his story in the first episode of Youth Wings, The Spinoff’s new documentary series about the youngest and most passionate members of New Zealand’s main political parties.
Jay McLaren-Harris can pinpoint the precise moment he fell in love with NZ First. It was during the Northland by-election in 2015, and Winston Peters was on the campaign trail in Dargaville.
As a student at Dargaville High School, where Peters once captained the First XV, McLaren-Harris (Ngāti Maniapoto) suggested to his principal that the NZ First leader should be invited to speak to the school. His principal declined – then days later, extended an invitation to National candidate Mark Osborne instead.
“I stormed straight to [his] office and said “hey, look, what’s going on?” McLaren-Harris remembers. “He basically turned around and said ‘Jay, look at the values on our wall.’ And he pointed to integrity and he said, ‘Winston doesn’t have integrity.”
“That was the moment I said, ‘no, that’s absolutely wrong. You are wrong.’”
McLaren-Harris skipped class and ran to Dargaville town centre to watch Peters speak. He ran back to school a NZ First supporter.
At 20 years old, he’s now the chairman of Young NZ First, working hard behind the scenes, attending party meetings and travelling the country to spread the word of his political idol Winston Peters at university orientation weeks.
At Dargaville High, McLaren-Harris’s classmates nicknamed him The Prime Minister. “Well hey, you never know,” he laughs. “One day we might.”
Youth Wings is made with the support of NZ On Air.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.