19 Oct 2020

Labour's red tide sees its parliamentary diversity increase

4:12 pm on 19 October 2020

Diversity in the major parties has changed dramatically with National's taking a dive and Labour's skyrocketing after the votes were counted.

Incoming Labour MPs Ibrahim Omar (top left), Camilla Belich and Ayesha Verrall (bottom left). Outgoing National MPs Dan Bidois, Parmjeet Parmar (top right) and Alfred Ngaro (bottom right).

Incoming Labour MPs Ibrahim Omar (top left), Camilla Belich and Ayesha Verrall (bottom left). Outgoing National MPs Dan Bidois, Parmjeet Parmar (top right) and Alfred Ngaro (bottom right). Photo: RNZ / Supplied

Labour's red tide has seen the party pick up an extra 18 seats in Parliament, taking it to 64, while National has dropped 19 seats from 54 to 35.

National's diversity has dropped with its seats - of its 35 MPs who got back into Parliament, Dr Shane Reti, Simon Bridges and Melissa Lee, are the only three who are not Pākehā or European.

Here's who's gone from National

Harete Hipango

Hipango was National's MP for Whanganui, but lost her seat to Labour's Steph Lewis.

Dan Bidois

Bidois, who is of Ngāti Maniapoto descent, was National's MP for Northcote, but lost his seat to Labour's Shanan Halbert.

Bidois has said he is disappointed but is happy to go back to the private sector, although he has not ruled out another tilt at Northcote in 2023.

Dan Bidois.

Dan Bidois was National's MP for Northcote. Photo: Supplied.

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi

He was New Zealand Parliament's first Indian Sikh Member and was elected by way of the National Party list. He was a candidate in Panmure-Ōtāhuhu electorate but lost to Labour's Jenny Salesa.

National's Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi (left) and Agnes Loheni are both now out of Parliament.

National's Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi (left) and Agnes Loheni are both now out of Parliament. Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson

Paulo Garcia

Garcia became the first Member of Parliament in New Zealand of Filipino descent, following the retirement of National Party List MP Nuk Korako in May 2019.

Garcia is a solicitor-barrister and was a former Philippine Honorary Consul General in Auckland. Prior to migrating to New Zealand, Garcia had 10 years legal experience in the Philippines, primarily in commercial law, representing foreign and multinational investor companies and helping them establish operations.

Parmjeet Parmar

Dr Parmar became the first Indian born woman to be a Member of Parliament in New Zealand when she first got elected in the 2014 General Election.

Dr Parmar holds a PhD in Biological Sciences from the University of Auckland, as well as Bachelor and Masters degrees in Biochemistry from the University of Pune in India. Prior to entering Parliament, Dr Parmar worked as a scientist, businesswoman, broadcaster and community advocate.

Along with her professional background, her background as an immigrant gave her the opportunity to understand the importance of the rich and diverse cultures that creates a large part of New Zealand's identity.

Parmjeet Parmar

Parmjeet Parmar was the first Indian born woman to be an MP in New Zealand. Photo: Supplied / NZ National Party

Agnes Loheni

Loheni is of Samoan descent was born and educated in Auckland. She was declared elected on 31 January 2019, following the resignation of Chris Finlayson. She lives in Auckland with her husband and their five children.

Alfred Ngaro

Ngaro is a New Zealander of Cook Islands descent married to Samoan-Niuean Moka Fuemana with four children and two grandchildren.

Prior to entering Parliament, he was a consultant in community led development and governance with expertise in New Zealand, Cook Islands and Canada.

Alfred Ngaro

Alfred Ngaro is of Cook Islands descent. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Jo Hayes

Hayes was born and raised in the farming sector and is of Māori and Scots descent. Hayes is of Ngāti Porou, Ati Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, and Rangitāne ki Wairarapa descent. She had been a National MP since 2014 and was the party's spokesperson for Māori Development.

No caption

Jo Hayes had been a National MP since 2014. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas


Labour had 46 MPs during the last Parliament, and that number has gone up to 64.

So who are some of the new faces in the list that'll increase diversity in the party?

New MPs arrive at Parliament.

New MPs arrive at Parliament. Photo: RNZ / Te Aniwa Hurihanganui

Ayesha Verrall (17th on list)

Dr Ayesha Verrall is an infectious diseases doctor. She grew up in Te Anau and attended medical school at the University of Otago before working as a junior doctor at Wellington Hospital. She's done training in Singapore and research in Indonesia.

Verrall was one of the most prominent voices during the Covid-19 crisis and criticised the government's contact tracing programme before being brought in by the Health Ministry to review its work.

She did interviews endorsing the government's actions in getting the system up to speed after submitting her nomination.

Ayesha Verrall  (at podium)

Ayesha Verrall has reviewed the Covid-19 contact tracing programme. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Vanushi Walter (22nd), Upper Harbour

Vanushi Walters is from West Auckland.

A Sri Lankan New Zealander, Walters is a lawyer and advocate with national and international experience.

She has spent nine years in the community legal sector, six years as an International Board member of Amnesty International, and has worked in private practice, the public sector and the community sector.

She won the Upper Harbour seat, over National's Jake Bezzant, the replacement for Paula Bennett.

Camilla Belich (30th)

Camilla Belich was Labour's candidate in Epsom. While ACT's David Seymour won the seat by a landslide as expected, she makes it in on the list.

She's an experienced employment lawyer.

According to her Labour Party profile, at high school she campaigned for a youth health centre in Wellington, securing funding to establish Evolve, a dedicated youth health service still operating today.

While at Law School, Belich was elected co-president of the New Zealand University Students Association. In 2005 she led a successful campaign for a fairer student loan scheme, culminating with Labour's 0 percent student loans election policy.

She was a volunteer solicitor at Community Law for many years and has worked in the UK.

She has worked extensively on pay equity policy and on legal claims seeking equal pay for equal work.

Camilla Belich is to contest the Epsom seat for Labour.

Camilla Belich is an experienced employment lawyer. Photo: Supplied

Naisi Chen (38th)

Naisi Chen moved to New Zealand from Beijing aged five.

Her roles stated in her Labour profile are many and varied.

She's a choral conductor, the director of a business consultancy firm specialising in employment relations and HR matters, sits on the board of Foundation North, Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, and the Aotearoa Chinese Legal Support Foundation and also sits on the Youth Advisory Group of Philanthropy NZ.

She was standing in Botany, where National's Chris Luxon won, but makes it into Parliament on Labour's list.

Ibrahim Omer (42nd)

Ibrahim Omer's personal experience "makes him the real deal", Labour says.

He left his home country of Eritrea in 2003, making the dangerous border crossing to neighbouring Sudan. He spent years in UN-run refugee camps where he worked as an interpreter, until being detained on suspicion of being a spy, before the UN and he was offered the chance to come to New Zealand.

He worked nights to pay to for studies at Victoria University, where he got involved in politics.

Omer gets in on the list.

Ibrahim Omer, at podium.

Ibrahim Omer left his home country of Eritrea in 2003. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Rachel Brooking (46th)

Rachel Brooking has 20 years experience as a resource management and local government lawyer.

She's also worked for the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

She is committed to planning for climate change with both adaptation and mitigation, doing business better, reducing inequality, and embracing Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Brooking is married with three children, and gets into Parliament on Labour's list.

Barbara Edmonds (49th), Mana

Barbara Edmonds is a mother of eight and a specialist tax lawyer from Titahi Bay, Porirua.

Day-to-day, she's recently been a senior advisor to a government minister and was a key contributor to the government's law reforms after the 15 March terror attacks.

She's also been involved in the government's Covid-19 response.

Edmonds won Mana over National's Jo Hayes.

Angela Roberts (50th)

Angela Roberts is a secondary teacher in central Taranaki and past president of the PPTA Te Wehengarua.

PPTA President Angela Roberts

Angela Roberts Photo: PPTA

She grew up in New Plymouth and studied business at Massey University.

Labour says she's committed to the rebuilding of our rural services and infrastructure.

She lost the race in Taranaki-King Country to National's Barbara Kuriger, but makes it into Parliament on the list.

Neru Leavasa (52nd), Takanini

Dr Neru Leavasa has lived in South Auckland for over 30 years. He is married and has a seven-year-old son.

He's a bone cancer survivor and now a fellow of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners.

Labour says he's a keen humanitarian and has been worked in the Pacific with both the Red Cross and a doctors worldwide volunteer organisation.

He won the newly-formed Takanini electorate.

Arena Williams (58th), Manurewa

Arena Williams (Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Ngāi Tahu, Ngāi Tūhoe) is a lawyer and mother of two who has served as a member of the Waitematā District Health Board and on the Unitec Institute of Technology's Te Rūnanga Advisory Group.

She grew up in South Auckland and has a strong background as a community organiser.

She was involved in student politics and was a candidate for the Labour Party in Hunua in 2014.

Williams won Manurewa by a solid 11,696 votes over National's Nuwi Samarakone.

Ingrid Leary (59th), Taieri

Ingrid Leary is a mother-of-three with experience in law, journalism, and public service, according to Labour.

She's taking up the place as candidate for Taieri, after replacing Clare Curran and winning the seat.

Ingrid Leary

Ingrid Leary has won the Taieri electorate seat. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Sarah Pallet (62nd), Ilam

Sarah Pallett lives in Ilam with her partner, Andy and has two daughters. She won Ilam off the long-standing National MP Gerry Brownlee.

She's a midwifery lecturer at Ara Institute of Technology, having previously worked as a midwife at Christchurch Women's Hospital and as a rural midwife.

She is in her third term as president of the majority union of academic staff at Ara.

Gaurav Sharma (63rd), Hamilton West

Gaurav Sharma works as a GP in Hamilton and won the Hamilton West seat off National's Tim MacIndoe.

He's previously been involved in public health, policy and consulting in New Zealand, Spain, USA, Nepal, Vietnam, Switzerland and Mongolia.

He's a former board member of the Auckland Refugee Council, and he advocated for equal rights for non-quota refugees and the doubling of our refugee quotas before it became Labour Party policy.

Emily Henderson

Emily Henderson came close to unseating National's Dr Shane Reti in Whangārei - he only won the seat by a margin of 160 votes.

Henderson lives in Whangārei with her husband and four children. Her legal practice spans family court work to negotiating major criminal justice reforms both in New Zealand and internationally.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs