web analytics

Justin Lester: Why Wellington, why Labour, and how did he make conference cry?

Written By: - Date published: 4:49 pm, March 12th, 2017 - 10 comments
Categories: labour, local government - Tags: ,

A really thoughtful profile of one of New Zealand’s new Labour mayors at Noted/The Listener.

Why Wellington?

“I grew up in Invercargill and hadn’t really left the South Island. We were playing a football tournament in Napier and we came in via Wellington and I was just astounded. There were skyscrapers! It was amazing.

“Lambton Quay: what a beautiful street the way it bends from the Beehive all the way down. Cuba St. The bucket fountain.”

The teenager had a crush. A few years later, there was a summer road trip in a Bedford van. He went surfing in Lyall Bay and watched the first one-day cricket international played at the Cake Tin (Roger Twose scored the winning runs against the West Indies in January 2000). Now, he was in love. “I thought, right, that is where I want to live when I finish uni.”

Why Labour?

“Sometimes people describe me as philosophically muddled because I run a business and yet I’m Labour. For me, the two go hand in hand. I see Labour as the party of ideas, prepared to reform and not happy with the status quo. National are doing a great job and they’re competent managers, but my criticism would be, if you have got this enormous political capital, then surely you can do more.”

Watching Helen Clark at an Otago ­University debate in 1999 sealed his fate. “I saw her in person and felt this ­enormous respect and I joined up straight away.”

And if you missed Lester’s speech at last year’s party conference, which had the room in tears, here’s what it meant being the son of a solo mum in the 90s.

Then I really blow it by saying his mum must have been proud when he won the mayoralty. “Yeah, she had a hard life. It is more the fact that no one really stuck up for her, acknowledged what she did. And I blamed her.”

And then he’s crying. He’s sorry. Why? Did you blame her? For what you missed out on? “Yeah.” Silence. “I blamed her that we didn’t have a father. That we were living with her. That we didn’t have any money.”

In December 1990, the new National Government announced that – because of a fiscal crisis and the bailout of the BNZ – they were cutting benefits. Lester had a paper round so he’d get the Southland Times for free and read it cover to cover.

“The media sentiment of the day was that if you were a beneficiary, you were a bludger. I could see Mum wasn’t, because she was trying. But she was broken. You could see it. She was a proud woman and refused charity but she was broken, depressed and anxious. I felt bad because I blamed her.”

10 comments on “Justin Lester: Why Wellington, why Labour, and how did he make conference cry? ”

  1. Anne 1

    “The media sentiment of the day was that if you were a beneficiary, you were a bludger. I could see Mum wasn’t, because she was trying. But she was broken. You could see it. She was a proud woman and refused charity but she was broken, depressed and anxious. I felt bad because I blamed her.”

    Yes. I was there… tears in my eyes. So did most of the women who were sitting around me. If they felt like me then they were angry. Angry because it still goes on today. Husband/partner walks out because he’s found someone younger and newer. They’re left to bring up the kids on next to nothing and on their own. Yet still society jeers at them. Because, you see, they’re to blame. Its always the woman who is to blame.

    Sorry for the rant but it’s so very true.

    • Mrs Brillo 1.1

      Don’t be sorry, Anne. No need to apologise for reacting with understanding and sensitivity.

      It’s the bastards who create and perpetuate female poverty, and the child poverty they refuse to acknowledge which accompanies it, who owe us all an apology.

  2. Ethica 2

    Interesting turn around by Guyon Espiner because he backed another of the candidates for the Mayoralty.

  3. Muttonbird 3

    Not sure people say he’s philosophically muddled because he runs a business yet he’s Labour. They say it because of statements like, “National are doing a great job”.

    I find it weird.

    • Barfly 3.1

      “and they are competent managers ” Jesus f’ing Christ no they aren’t

    • Chris 3.2

      Yes, then he’s talking about the benefit cuts and victim blaming – precisely what the current national government’s still into. It’s the silliness of mixing local and national politics. Mayors can’t criticise central government because councils rely on central government. The other side of the same coin, of course, is that Labour mayors are also into benefit cuts and victim blaming. Heck, Lester’s into Helen Clark FSS. But then further again, most Labour supporters haven’t got a clue about the fundamental damage the Clark government did to social welfare benefits. It’s about getting your history and politics right, Justin.

  4. Keith 4

    “National are doing a great job and they’re competent managers”, seriously Justin? That kind of shallow analysis brings tears to my eyes!

    They are idiots unless you think the great job of starving public services of money, nurturing a housing crisis, polluting the environment, setting up tax havens, practicing corruption, racking up debt and steadily assisting a growing wealth gap to name but a few is competent!

    Worrying comments from a so called Labour man!

  5. DoublePlusGood 5

    “National are doing a great job and they’re competent managers”
    Yeah, I’ll echo the calls of WTF at this line. Makes me scared for Wellington’s finances and infrastructure that he might adopt National’s management techniques.

    • Ethica 5.1

      To be fair to Justin that is Guyon Espiner’s interpretation about what he said. There could have been a lot more context or qualification that wasn’t printed. Justin also had to stand up to Brownlee very determinedly after the earthquakes so that comment wouldn’t have applied in that context.

Links to post

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Fast-tracked Northland water project will accelerate economic recovery
    The Government has welcomed the decision to approve a new water storage reservoir in Northland, the first of a number of infrastructure projects earmarked for a speedy consenting process that aims to accelerate New Zealand’s economic recovery from Covid-19.  The Matawii Water Storage Reservoir will provide drinking water for Kaikohe, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    59 mins ago
  • Tokelau Language Week reminds us to stay united and strong
    Staying strong in the face of challenges and being true to our heritage and languages are key to preserving our cultural identity and wellbeing, is the focus of the 2020 Tokelau Language Week. Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio, says this year’s theme, ‘Apoapo tau foe, i nā tāfea ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • NZ announces a third P-3 deployment in support of UN sanctions
    The Government has deployed a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion (P-3) maritime patrol aircraft to support the implementation of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions imposing sanctions against North Korea, announced Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters and Minister of Defence Ron Mark. “New Zealand has long supported ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Pacific trade and development agreement a reality
    Pacific regional trade and development agreement PACER Plus will enter into force in 60 days now that the required eight countries have ratified it. Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker welcomed the announcement that the Cook Islands is the eighth nation to ratify this landmark agreement. “The agreement represents ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Securing a pipeline of teachers
    The Government is changing its approach to teacher recruitment as COVID-19 travel restrictions continue, by boosting a range of initiatives to get more Kiwis into teaching. “When we came into Government, we were faced with a teacher supply crisis,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said. “Over the past three years, we ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Border exceptions for a small number of international students with visas
    The Government has established a new category that will allow 250 international PhD and postgraduate students to enter New Zealand and continue their studies, in the latest set of border exceptions. “The health, safety and wellbeing of people in New Zealand remains the Government’s top priority. Tight border restrictions remain ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • First COVID-19 vaccine purchase agreement signed
    The Government has signed an agreement to purchase 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccines – enough for 750,000 people – from Pfizer and BioNTech, subject to the vaccine successfully completing all clinical trials and passing regulatory approvals in New Zealand, say Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods and Health Minister Chris Hipkins. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • International statement – End-to-end encryption and public safety
    We, the undersigned, support strong encryption, which plays a crucial role in protecting personal data, privacy, intellectual property, trade secrets and cyber security.  It also serves a vital purpose in repressive states to protect journalists, human rights defenders and other vulnerable people, as stated in the 2017 resolution of the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Ministry of Defence Biodefence Assessment released
    The Ministry of Defence has today released a Defence Assessment examining Defence’s role across the spectrum of biological hazards and threats facing New Zealand. Biodefence: Preparing for a New Era of Biological Hazards and Threats looks at how the NZDF supports other agencies’ biodefence activities, and considers the context of ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New Approaches to Economic Challenges: Confronting Planetary Emergencies: OECD 9 October 2020
    New Approaches to Economic Challenges: Confronting Planetary Emergencies: OECD 9 October 2020 Hon David Parker’s response following Thomas Piketty and Esther Duflo. Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening, wherever in the world you might be. I first acknowledge the excellent thought provoking speeches of Thomas Piketty and Esther ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Kaipara Moana restoration takes next step
    A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed today at Waihāua Marae between the Crown, local iwi and councils to protect, restore and enhance the mauri of Kaipara Moana in Northland. Environment Minister David Parker signed the document on behalf of the Crown along with representatives from Ngā Maunga Whakahī, Ngāti ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • New Zealand and Uruguay unite on reducing livestock production emissions
    Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Uruguayan Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries Carlos María Uriarte have welcomed the launch of a three-year project that will underpin sustainable livestock production in Uruguay, Argentina, and Costa Rica.  The project called ‘Innovation for pasture management’ is led by Uruguay’s National Institute of Agricultural ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • 3100 jobs created through marae upgrades
    Hundreds of marae throughout the country will be upgraded through investments from the Provincial Growth Fund’s refocused post COVID-19 funding to create jobs and put money into the pockets of local tradespeople and businesses, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones and Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta have announced. “A total ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Health volunteers recognised in annual awards
    Health Minister Chris Hipkins has announced 9 teams and 14 individuals are the recipients of this year’s Minister of Health Volunteer Awards.  “The health volunteer awards celebrate and recognise the thousands of dedicated health sector volunteers who give many hours of their time to help other New Zealanders,” Mr Hipkins ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Community COVID-19 Fund supports Pacific recovery
    The Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio says a total of 264 groups and individuals have successfully applied for the Pacific Aotearoa Community COVID-19 Recovery Fund, that will support Pacific communities drive their own COVID-19 recovery strategies, initiatives, and actions. “I am keen to see this Fund support Pacific ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Community benefits from Māori apprenticeships
    Up to 50 Māori apprentices in Wellington will receive paid training to build houses for their local communities, thanks to a $2.75 million investment from the Māori Trades and Training Fund, announced Employment Minister Willie Jackson today. “This funding will enable Ngāti Toa Rangatira Incorporated to provide its Ngā Kaimahi ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Training fund supports Māori jobseekers
    Rapidly growing sectors will benefit from a $990,000 Māori Trades and Training Fund investment which will see Wellington jobseekers supported into work, announced Employment Minister Willie Jackson today. “This funding will enable Sapphire Consultants Ltd. to help up to 45 Māori jobseekers into paid training initiatives over two years through ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago