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Q+A Holmes IVs Melissa Lee & David Shearer

Sunday 10TH May 2009: Q+A’s Paul Q interviews Melissa Lee & David Shearer
Points of interest:
- Melissa Lee unable to say yes or no on Waterview tunnel
- Both candidates reveal they’re currently living outside the electorate
- Lee: law and order big issue
- Shearer: the tunnel is issue number one
- Shearer says six lane highway will “split Mt Albert in half” and bulldoze 600 houses
- Lee: Labour “scaremongering” in Super City
- Shearer: government consultation a sham
The interview has been transcribed below. The full length video interviews and panel discussions from this morning’s Q+A can be seen on at,


PAUL When she held it for over two decades Helen Clark's Auckland electorate of Mt Albert was as safe as a house, but the National Party vote at the last election was in fact only a couple of thousand behind the Labour Party vote, so National candidate Melissa Lee rates herself a chance, especially with the Greens Co-leader Russell Normal entering the race in Mt Albert and possibly splitting the left vote, but Labour's candidate is quality too, David Shearer has most recently been the United Nations Deputy Chef de Mission in Baghdad and they don’t give that kind of a job to a mug.

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Later in the campaign I want to make this clear to you too, we are going to be speaking to other candidates for Mt Albert, we will be addressing other candidates on the campaign on Q+A but today we have David Shearer for Labour, Melissa Lee for National. Right who are you both 30 seconds each, David Shearer who are you?

DAVID SHEARER – Labour Candidate
I'm an Aucklander born and bred here, went to school here, went on to play Rugby, Cricket, Auckland University, and then I took a turn to look at help and assist with people overseas in conflict areas and as you said before my last job was in Iraq it was trying to help bring communities back together there, build hospitals, schools and really print the foundations for peace there. Coming back here is a fantastic opportunity for myself and my family to be back into Auckland and raise my kids as Aucklanders, and so really looking forward to it.

PAUL Where do you currently live?

DAVID I'm living with my mother at the moment, I just got back about a week ago so I'm looking to come back, it's Mothers' Day today so that’s kind of nice, and come back and be the MP for Mt Albert, actually I'm the only non MP that’s actually running in this race as well.

PAUL You live on the North Shore, you live in Baghdad and on the North Shore don’t you?

DAVID No I'm not living on the North Shore, I've actually got a house in Kingsland, I lived in Kingsland, lived in the electorate and I'd like to come back to it.

PAUL Melissa Lee you're already a National MP but who are you?

MELISSA Well I am somebody who was actually born overseas but for the last 21 years I've been living in and around Mt Albert, my son was born 10 years ago and I've been playing in Gribblehurst Park every since, my son wants to attend Mt Albert Grammar, I'm looking for a property right now to actually move back to the area. Yeah so I've been around for 21 years, unlike my opponent here.

PAUL Yeah but you haven't been living in Mt Albert have you?

MELISSA No but I've been living off Dominion Road, very close and I've been shopping in St Lukes, virtually every weekend I'm in Kingsland cafes and restaurants every week.

PAUL What is special about Mt Albert?

DAVID Well as the tape just showed it's a place which is really in many ways a microcosm of the rest of New Zealand, extremely diverse it's got old communities, very old settled communities, it's a place where people have come into New Zealand, new arrivals who've come to New Zealand, it's got wealthy areas, it's got poorer areas, but it's got a wonderful independence about it, a number of different communities but a wonderful independence about people who identify themselves as being from these various communities inside of that.

PAUL And most of them are safe Labour voters, I mean it's a safe Labour seat isn't it?

MELISSA Ha ha, for 63 years it has been Labour but people are aspirational you know, a lot of people have actually told me on the street when I've been door knocking and actually meeting them on the street that they want a better life for themselves, they're concerned about some of the issues you know like Waterview and Super City, but the major thing that they're concerned about is the safety in their homes and on the street, it is a major issue for these people and they want to get a better life, and that is what I'm actually hoping to represent them and actually get for them.

PAUL Did you say the other day law and order is not the priority for people of Mt Albert?

DAVID I said that when I'm in the streets talking to people their key priorities is the tunnel, they desperately want the tunnel to be put through because they're really worried about the fact that there could be a six lane highway running right through the middle of Mt Albert.

MELISSA But you’ve only been there for the last week as he said, he's only come back just a week ago, I've been there for longer than that and people are telling me – people are telling me that they're concerned about safety issues, I mean as you know Paul I have been a victim of a home invasion, I had a gun pointed in my head, don’t tell me that law and order issue are not actually a big issue for people of Mt Albert, just look at what happened in Napier.

PAUL Well to be fair to Mr Shearer he has had a bomb go off 25 metres behind him when he was sleeping.

MELISSA True, but I mean maybe that is the reason he doesn’t think law and order is a big issue in Mt Albert, but it certainly is, 50,000 law and order issues, I mean reported cases in last year alone in Auckland City, 50,000 and don’t tell me 50,000 is a lot of numbers.

PAUL Alright then Mr Shearer is hearing tunnel, and I know signs have gone up in the electorate now people are really starting to campaign for a tunnel rather than a six lane highway. The fact is can we afford a tunnel now, we're going to hell in a handcart.

DAVID No I think we can, we've budgeted for it, it's there, if we have a six lane highway we effectively split the complete community of Mt Albert in half, people don’t want their community split in half, the bottom line about the recession at the moment is that we need, this is budgeted in 2015 dollars it's going to be spread over a long period of time, overseas what people are doing is investing in infrastructure, investing in trading, investing in job creation so that we're able to come out of a recession better than we went into it.

PAUL But he's right isn't he…?

MELISSA Does he even know where it is actually going because it doesn’t actually split Mt Albert electorate in half at all.

DAVID Melissa are you saying that there is going to be a road or is there not going to be a road, because at the moment people don’t know whether there's going to be a road or not, when I was out in Waterview the day before yesterday people were desperately worried what's going to happen. You can imagine somebody who's sitting there with the possibility of a six lane highway running through the middle of their house.

MELISSA You were there a day before yesterday, I was there yesterday looking at the place, and it is not cutting Mt Albert in half.

DAVID Did you speak to anybody Melissa?

MELISSA Yes I did.

PAUL So are you now supporting a road, is that it?

MELISSA Well the decision will have to be made but the thing is that this has been going on for decades, people in Mt Albert area knew where that planned – joining of State Highway 20 which connects to north western motorway ….and it will be done.

PAUL There's got to be something, road or tunnel, yes or no Melissa Lee candidate for Mt Albert – yes or no, road or tunnel?

MELISSA Something that is reasonable something that works.

PAUL Road or tunnel?

MELISSA For me it's something that works, something that is cheaper.

DAVID They both work. Tunnel, tunnel a 100% tunnel, we've been behind it from the very beginning and we need that to keep our community together.

PAUL How many houses though are going to have to be pulled down, I mean how many houses are going to have to go is you do road?

DAVID Six hundred – 600 have to be destroyed and a whole lot more will …

MELISSA Are you now saying that tunnel is not gonna destroy any homes because it does?

DAVID No I'm not saying that but what I am saying that 600 homes will be destroyed and the road will go through the middle of schools, shops…

MELISSA How many homes if it's tunnel?

DAVID A little more than a 100 and they already know that, they’ve known that for a long time.

MELISSA What about the pollution, the environmental consultants they're trying to say that tunnel is a clean green option, it is not, where are the carbon gonna go.

PAUL Are you going into this election campaign suggesting you're quite happy with 600 houses going because of the road, cos you won't spend the money on the tunnel?

MELISSA Look it is tough economic times, alright we need pragmatic solutions to something that’s been going on for decades, we need a solution and you know what, Labour government has been there for nine years previously what did they do about it.

PAUL They were trying to keep peace.

DAVID The motorway is there – I was on the motorway yesterday in fact, the motorway goes nowhere at the moment, the motorway is going to the top of Stoddard Road and it empties its cars onto Mt Albert streets, the tunnel needs to go in and then we can tunnel them through the north western motorway.

MELISSA That is why we need a new option so that we need to get the traffic jams moving off Mt Albert streets.

PAUL But see when you say well the tunnel's a very expensive option these are tough economic times, it's not the price of the tunnel because there's going to have to be a tunnel or a road anyway, both are gonna cost more than a billion, the real issue there on tunnel versus road is the difference in the cost isn't it?

MELISSA That’s right.

PAUL Which might be affordable.

MELISSA Affordable is something we want, we want something practical.

PAUL Let me move on to the makeup of the electorate, 25%...

MELISSA Twenty four.

PAUL Well 24, 25 nice simple number, a quarter of the people of Mt Albert are of Asian origin, in fact 40% of those were not born in New Zealand, is that gonna help you in Mt Albert do you think?

MELISSA Do you know, I advertise with them, I mean I was born overseas but the thing is that 53% of the population is actually European, and what I'm hoping to do is actually represent all of them, you know because the electorate MP and represent all their concerns and all of their issues.

PAUL There was something quite amazing the other day, a newspaper reporter found you canvassing and you came to an educated man, a chemist, he said you’re a very nice person but I'm not voting for you because you're Asian, and you're very difficult people to deal with, how do you cope with that?

MELISSA Well one, I don’t think I'm actually a difficult person to deal with.

PAUL Mr Shearer might.

MELISSA But you know you're gonna find that a lot of people will have their prejudices and that’s fine but I want to represent the people of Mt Albert and their concerns and that’s the issue here.

PAUL But you are quite prepared to bowl over houses Minister.

MELISSA You know a lot of people have known their houses are gonna be bowled over if that was the option, but what we need to think about is that it's a practical option for Mt Albert, I mean look at the traffic jams that we're actually sitting in, trying to get in from Mt Albert, it takes forever.

DAVID The traffic jams are fine but actually the other thing that we don’t have is a real plan for public transport, and the big thing about becoming the Super City is that the people are now feeling that the Super City will come in and take away their decision making power for their own communities, it's gonna be concentrated ….

MELISSA But this is typical of Labour.

PAUL Your job has been made very difficult hasn’t it with the entry of Russell Norman of the Greens which could well split the left vote in Mt Albert.

DAVID We've got ACT coming in might split the other side as well.

PAUL They're very fine candidates in Mr Russell Norman and Mr John Boscowan, the ACT candidate.

MELISSA Do you know what the percentage of the vote support for ACT was I mean compare to Green last election.

DAVID Look I think the bottom line is that this really as much as we want to paint it some other way this is really a two horse race and I think the people of Mt Albert are aware of that and while – I mean while there's some support for Green definitely I think a lot of people would rather have a Labour member of parliament in Mt Albert than a National one to be quite honest.

MELISSA It's changing, I'm hoping to change their minds.

PAUL Well in fact the difference between Labour and National in terms of the party vote in Mt Albert last time was about 2000 votes wasn’t it, but in past elections the majority was huge but of course the party vote quite different. A couple of quick questions, Super City yes or no?

MELISSA Super City well it makes sense to me, what matters is that people actually like the idea of one city, one rates bill, one council, but the thing is that the concern is how Mt Albert people are going to be represented in those council and you know there will be submissions there will be consultation and you know I'm hoping to make sure that Mt Albert people have a voice.

DAVID Super City's going to be rammed through parliament this week under urgency, why can't we actually have a discussion about it.

MELISSA Excuse me it's not going to be rammed through parliament.

PAUL But this discussion has been going for years.

DAVID We've got a proposal put in front of us now and people really haven't had a chance to look at it, they don’t understand it and they feel that their power of being able to plan for their own communities is being taken away from them.

PAUL When you say consultation do you want some kind of a poopy idea….

DAVID We did have a royal commission, that royal commission came up with a report, the report was binned and we got a pamphlet that basically told us what was gonna happen, now people haven't had a chance to …

MELISSA Look this is scaremongering, this is absolute scaremongering by the Labour Party …
DAVID It's the reality Paul.

MELISSA … and they're actually saying that people are not gonna have a chance for consultation, they will, it will go out …

DAVID Look the decision's already been made by Rodney Hide, he's already made that decision.

MELISSA … to actually determine how they will be represented in those councils, you know a lot of people that I've talked to on the street like the idea, as I said one council, one mayor, one rates bill, it's smart, and you know what …

DAVID People are very worried that their own community is not gonna be served by one council, one mega council is gonna represent more than ….

MELISSA Exactly but you know what …

DAVID And there definitely needs to be some integration with the public transport for example.

PAUL Perhaps you haven't been here enough in recent years to understand how frustrated people are with Auckland governance.

DAVID Well I do know because I mean if you want to get on to a ferry and then get on to a bus or get on to a train you’ve gotta buy three tickets, I mean this is just a very simple example of what we need to do in terms of integration.

PAUL Again a Super City, Maori seats or no Maori seats?

DAVID I think that Maori seats definitely need to represented in the city.

PAUL Mr Hide and Mr Key do not think so.

MELISSA We'll do you know it is a big city and we need to remember that more and more cities are competing from around the world, we need to get this right and whether we decide there will be Maori seats or not it's up for consultation.

PAUL But when's the consultation process, how's it going to be formalised, when are we gonna consultation?

DAVID Consultation basically is – I mean the decision has been made, I mean Rodney Hide has decided that this is the way it's going to be, he's gonna push it through regardless and we can consult … but this basically is going to be the reality.

PAUL So just to wrap it up in terms of who you both are so the people of Mt Albert watching this can get a feel for you this morning, what do you do on your days off, what's your hobbies? You have a child.

MELISSA I have a child, I try and spend as much time I can outside of parliament with my son, I'm at Gribblehurst Park you know he likes the flying fox there, we go to the movies, I cook, he loves food.

PAUL Are you married or a single mother?

MELISSA No I'm a single mum.

PAUL Okay, and so when you're not spending time with your child what would you like to do? Do you read women's magazines?

MELISSA I don’t have a heck of a lot of time left now that I'm in parliament.

PAUL No, what magazines do you read?

MELISSA Not many magazines, I seem to be reading a lot of select committee papers on law and order issues as well.

PAUL If you get in of course Ken Calder goes in as well.

MELISSA That’s right.

DAVID Who's Ken Calder?

PAUL Cos you're already…

MELISSA He doesn’t Ken Calder, he was an MP for two weeks but what's important, is that’s it's not about who I can get in it's about I'd like to represent the people of Mt Albert and I think Helen Clark did a great job for Mt Albert and yeah well apparently so according to the people and you know I'd like to become the next MP for Mt Albert and I think you know it's gonna be a hard battle you know because it's coming into a seat that’s been 63 years in the Labour.

PAUL Is this going to be – I'm going to ask you about yourself David shortly, Mt Albert of course is it really winnable do you think for Labour this time or is this going to be a referendum about, if it's a referendum about Mr Goff, a referendum about Mr Key National leadership, your hopes wouldn’t be too good at the moment would they?

DAVID First of all we're not taking the seat for granted, as you said I mean Helen Clark has gone and we are going out running a pretty intensive campaign but the second thing is I think that it's not an election, I don’t think it is a national referendum I actually think it's really going to be fought over local issues, and I think that this is the first chance where people are going to have a real say on the issues that we just talked about, the tunnel and on the Super City.

PAUL Who are you, I mean what do you do in your time off in your days off?

DAVID` I've got two children, a 10 year old and a 12 year old, I'm married, I spend as much time as I can with them, they're pretty keen on sports, they both do Tai Kwan Do, they're into that sort of thing.

PAUL It might get the Korean vote.

DAVID Well you never know, I'll do anything I can.

MELISSA I'm probably teaching it.

DAVID I like – I actually do a lot of surfing, I surf, I like to sail, and anything on the water. Surfing, you know it's a tough sport.

MELISSA I can't believe you have time for surfing.

PAUL What magazines do you read?

DAVID The Economist, I'm sorry it's a boring ….

PAUL Boring, grey, university educated white man.

DAVID I'm very interested in international affairs so I actually do pick up a lot of that sort of thing.

PAUL All the best and well done to you both, David Shearer and Melissa Lee, the Labour and National candidate respectively for Mt Albert, that bi-election come up


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