One of my first jobs was delivering the now extinct Flat White magazine around the streets of Ponsonby. It was as soon as I could read that I remember developing an obsession with magazines. I’d whittle down a small pile during fortnightly visits to the Leys Library with Mum, chuffed to have a briefcase-sized insight into the lives, stories and worlds of grown-up people in architecture, fashion, small business and sometimes, politics.
It’s not an insubstantial thing to now hold the privilege of a monthly column in our Ponsonby News as the local MP. As a teenager, I read meticulously through Nikki and Jacinda’s columns side by side in this same magazine, and wondered how actions translated to 600 word opinion editorials, and vice versa. Three years down this weird and wonderful rabbit hole in politics taught me that the glossy stories I navigated as a kid were a roadmap; we can choose to talk about the things that are hard, confront and change them; we can celebrate the things we love, and demand more of it; we can share values and exchange ideas and build a better society for it.
My priorities in the campaign set the foundation for the work I’ve begun undertaking in the nearly four months since the election results rang full and final. Core to the fibre of my politics is accessibility, itself key to accountability. We’re about to open our electorate office around the corner on Karangahape Road, despite some unofficial warnings that we might just get random members of the public walking in and asking for help (you know, exactly our point).
Since taking office, I’ve gone in to bat for small businesses struggling in difficult commercial tenancy relationships, personal guarantees held above their head as well as for families and couples separated by rigid and unfit-for-purpose immigration rules amidst a global pandemic. We’ve pressed to extend protection of our Hauraki Gulf’s marine life. We’ve fought for local residents aghast at the complexity and lack of bureaucratic ownership in solving the issue of asbestos uncovered in Ponsonby Intermediate’s fire.
I’ve built cross-parliamentary consensus on the need for greater transparency and fairness into university student accommodation relationships and contracts.
We’ve co-ordinated cross-agency response and planning to the ongoing emergent homelessness crises and changing street community’s emergent complex needs, turning up pressure on the ministries and departments charged with funding the solution.
In Wellington, I’ve grilled the Reserve Bank governor general and Treasury on the widening wealth gap, to make it ever clearer the political decisions in front of us as a country.
Any and all of these things are only as valuable as the outcomes we get from that advocacy. For that reason, we’ve turned the machine of a massive grassroots movement that helped us pull off this upset election win the good old fashioned way, into a creative, collaborative campaign hub to build the mandate for the work we need done in our community. My major lesson learnt in Parliament over the past term is that the power of the people is stronger than the people in power, and if we do what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we’ve always got.
We all know we’re facing colossal environmental, social and justice challenges. We might have some differences of opinions on how we got here and how we may get out of it, but the only thing guaranteed is we will stay stuck in the same mess if we don’t get out of our corners and thrash out solutions we can all get behind. That’s progress, and that’s what I hope we achieve in at least the next few years that I’m privileged to serve you: community-led change.
So please, don’t hold back. Drop by the office when it’s open. Come by one of the many public events we’ll be hosting for your input. Give my office an email or a call. Let’s make it happen. (Chlöe Swarbrick)
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