1 Aug 2017

Profile: Labour deputy leader Kelvin Davis

3:22 pm on 1 August 2017

Former teacher and school principal Kelvin Davis - elected deputy party leader today - came into Parliament in 2008 on Labour's list.

Caucus run 21/07/15

Kelvin Davis Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Just six years ago, he nearly walked away from politics altogether.

Disheartened and defeated, the Bay of Islands boy contemplated throwing in the towel after being knocked out of Parliament in a third bruising loss in Te Tai Tokerau.

But as the 2014 election approached, he once again put up his hand to contest the electorate.

The decision turned out to be the right one - in a shock result, Mr Davis won Te Tai Tokerau, finally ousting his long-time rival, Mana leader Hone Harawira.

Today, the former school teacher and principal was named Labour's deputy.

Mr Davis was nominated unopposed for the role by Grant Robertson - himself a former deputy leader and leadership contender.

The party's new leader Jacinda Ardern said she felt "privileged" to serve alongside Mr Davis.

"Kelvin's record stands strongly in its own right... He's an exceptional member of Parliament, but also an exceptional advocate for his community."

Mr Davis was most recently Labour's spokesperson for Corrections, Māori Development and Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations.

He has previously expressed a desire to be Corrections Minister, but has admitted to not being a "natural politician".

In 2015, he told RNZ he was better at working in the electorate than "being a firebrand in the House".

He did cause a stir that year, exposing violence at the privately run Mt Eden prison.

In Parliament, Mr Davis alleged an inmate had died after being thrown over a balcony onto the concrete.

Corrections ultimately took over the the day-to-day running of the prison from Serco in July 2015.

Mr Davis has also been highly critical of Australia's policy of locking up New Zealanders in detention centres while they wait to appeal visa cancellations.

He flew to the remote Australian territory of Christmas Island in 2015 to raise the issue's profile.

Mr Davis first entered Parliament in 2008 on Labour's list. He dropped out in 2011, but then returned - again on the list - in 2014 after Shane Jones' resignation. He is currently the MP for Te Tai Tokerau.

Born in the Bay of Islands, he currently lives in Kaitaia.