In the most one-sided electorate in the country, against a widely popular prime minister, Labour candidate Corie Haddock hopes to offer West Auckland a distinct alternative. Simon Day reports.
Around the time John Key was making his name in investment banking, Corie Haddock was failing School Certificate.
In 2000, a welder by trade, Haddock, 38, decided he was tired of getting dirty and went to university to study mental health.
Now he heads the social development agency Lifewise, taking innovative action on homelessness, and will run for Labour against Key in the Helensville electorate.
In 2011 Key won the electorate by 21,066 votes, a 60 per cent majority and the largest margin in the country. According to polls Key is the country's most trusted politician and one of the most popular prime ministers in recent history.
Haddock accepts he is heavily the underdog but refuses to be defeatist, an attitude he takes to his everyday campaign to get better support for Auckland's most needy.
"It is really difficult, it's John Key country. [But] I wouldn't be there if I'm there not to win. I would rather try and fail than not try at all. What chance do I have of ending homelessness?" he said.
Haddock credits a Labour education policy with giving him the opportunity to get a higher qualification after leaving school at 17 and moving from Taranaki to Auckland.
He joined the party in 2010 and was the campaign manager for Jeremy Greenbrook-Held, who received 4945 votes in Helensville in 2011.
"I became involved because the values of the party connected with my values and my past," he said.
Elevated to electoral candidate Haddock wants to represent the community he has lived in for the past 15 years.
Three years ago he and his wife bought a home in Huapai. His wife is a relief teacher at local schools. Haddock claims to understand the needs and wants of the Helensville community in a way Key never could from his Parnell home and Wellington office.
"I experience what they experience every day. The traffic congestion, the challenges around a lack of infrastructure as they build more housing, the frustration around the limited public transport."
Haddock still remembers the date, St Patrick's Day 2008, when he first saw the true extent of poverty in Auckland. On his first day at the Methodist Mission he saw 70 people come in off the streets needing food and shelter.
"I saw the reality of what it was like for people on the street. I did two things . . . I went and had a Guinness and I went home and cried. First I got upset, then I got angry and said what are we doing to address this," he said.
Haddock is frustrated by the lack of Government support for the homeless. No single department is responsible and he believes Government policy is contributing to the problem.
He wants to see Child Youth and Family take responsibility for youth beyond the age of 17 and more done to ease Auckland's housing crisis. It's difficult for someone in Key's tax bracket to understand these problems, Haddocks says.
"We struggle to pay our mortgage. If we hadn't bought it when we did three or four years ago we wouldn't get into the market now. Things have changed so significantly," he said.
For Haddock, running in Helensville was never about taking on Key, it was about ensuring his community had an alternative voice.
He wants Westies to have reliable public transport to commute to the CBD. He wants to get more people off the roads by increasing local job opportunities. He wants to help schools cope with increasing populations.
"I wouldn't run anywhere else. This is about representing my community and being in a place where I can respond to the issues I see in that community," he said.
Sitting 53rd on the Labour list and challenging for the Prime Minister's electorate, Haddock won't realistically have a seat in Parliament. But he will be back next election, challenging for the Helensville and a place in Wellington.
"To me it is the start of something bigger. This election won't be the end for me. My plan is to be representing Labour in Helensville for the next election."
- Sunday Star Times
Would you cast a tactical vote against your preferred party?Related story: Fringe parties look for deals