11 Dec 2022

'Don't do nothing, do something' - Hamilton West's newly minted MP starts work

5:57 pm on 11 December 2022

By Avina Vidyadharan of Stuff

Newly elected Hamilton West MP Tama Potaka (National) spends day after the election with family, left, Ariana Paul, Tiaria Potaka, Tama Potaka, and Aorangi Potaka.

Newly elected Hamilton West MP Tama Potaka spends the day after the election with family, left, Ariana Paul, Tiaria Potaka, Tama Potaka, and Aorangi Potaka. Photo: Mark Taylor / STUFF

National's Tama Potaka has got to the start line, now his focus is "to get things done" in his electorate, Hamilton West.

Potaka, on claiming a comfortable win in Hamilton West's by-election on Saturday, says he's made it through the 'turn-stop', but is realistic there's another test ahead with a general election less than a year away.

"What I need to do is demonstrate now that we have got to the start line, we need to get some things done."

The preliminary results from Saturday night show National's Tama Potaka had 6629 votes, compared to Labour's Georgie Dansey with 4344 - a margin of 2285.

ACT candidate James McDowall received 1462 votes.

The incumbent, Dr Gaurav Sharma, received 1156 votes after a spectacular falling out with Labour that saw him expelled from the party amid bullying claims and run as an independent.

Sharma said the result showed that "there's definitely an anti-government sentiment".

Starting his new job on Monday, Potaka would be getting his feet under the table and familiarising with the security on day one.

"Of course after that, I'll meet my caucus colleagues and into the hustle of Wellington."

New MP Tama Potaka with National Party leader Christopher Luxon

New MP Tama Potaka with National Party leader Christopher Luxon Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

Potaka said his number one focus would be to remain highly visible and engaged with his constituents.

"(I will) make sure people of Hamilton West know I am here, always ready to listen and show support, and carry their voices to the Parliament.

"Two of the biggest issues during the campaign, and what I found out even more walking on the ground, is crime, security, law and order, and cost of living."

Potaka, as during his election campaign, would continue to advocate around what he said was a rising problem of youth crime and press the Government to be an active listener around what's going on in Hamilton West and throughout the rest of the country, he said.

"Especially with serious youth offenders and making sure we are supporting them and not give up on them.

"Don't do nothing, do something, particularly around those areas of 14 to 17-year-olds, and to take action.

"Right now we don't see much action being taken around that cohort. Particularly when there's a group of people in that cohort heavily involved in some of the serious violent offending happening in Hamilton West."

"We would try to advocate and promote some ideas that those people need a pathway to success and a safe and prosperous life, and I don't think they have the pathway in front of them right now."

When asked whether winning the by-election seat meant anything for National's chances at the general elections, Potaka said it was a reflection of frustration in the community and concern with government direction.

"People want change, and they are not seeing any change.

"We are enthused by what's happened but also very humbled and wise enough to know it's not easy.

"There are going to be a lot of challenges along the way, and we will work as a team, and not just the National team, but multi-partisan team to get things done on the ground in Hamilton West."

Tama Potaka and his whanau at the National Party event at Novotel in Hamilton on the evening of the Hamilton West by-election on 10 December 2022.

Photo: Anneke Smith/RNZ

Potaka's wife Ariana Paul and three children were also energised by the big win on Saturday and the MP said his whānau were critical to him, his life, and aspirations.

"..if I am not doing this for them, who am I doing it for then?

"At the outset, I don't think having a family and being a Member of Parliament is mutually exclusive or binary, it is actually the part of the same kaupapa that I live by and subscribe to."

Potaka gathered with supporters in the central Hamilton Novotel Tainui hotel on Saturday night. As the result became clear, National leader Christopher Luxon told him it was "an encouraging end to the year and a great start to 2023".

In keeping with a long-standing Hamilton West tradition, Labour's Dansey visited Potaka at the Novotel and conceded as the vote became more definitive.

Sharma also visited late on Saturday night to concede.

Earlier, when Dansey arrived to cheering Labour supporters at Community Waikato's offices in Hamilton, she acknowledged things were not looking too good, nor was she surprised.

She said the results weren't what Labour wanted but weren't unexpected given polling putting National in front.

However, she told supporters she was "super proud of us and what we've achieved".

She confirmed she would be Labour's candidate at the general election.

On whether losing a bellwether seat was a sign of the times for Labour next year, she quoted former Prime Minister Helen Clark.

"[She] has said herself that by-elections are crazy beasts."

* This story originally appeared on Stuff.

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